Meaning of “Man I Am” by Sam Smith

Atlantic Records made “Man I Am” publicly available on 21 July 2023 as part of “Barbie: The Album”, which is the all-star soundtrack to the Barbie film that came out on that same day. Fans of the project knew about this song’s forthcoming about a week or two in advance, as earlier in the month it was announced and then later teased by Sam Smith.

Smith was enlisted to contribute to the LP by Greta Gerwig, the director of Barbie and Mark Ronson, the executive producer of the album. Ronson accordingly acted as the co-producer and co-writer of “Man I Am”, as did Ricky Reed. And its other co-author is Sam Smith themself.

The Lyrics of “Man I Am”

Of course it is a bit unusual – for lack of a better word – that Smith, who is widely known for being gay or more specifically non-binary, would drop a song titled “man I am”. And that is something which a few netizens have pointed out. 

Moreover, in the pre-chorus the vocalist puts forth that they are “not gay”. And with that in mind, this piece, all things considered, can be a bit confusing to digest at first.

For instance in claiming they’re “not gay” for instance, supposedly Smith is taking on the role of “Ken”, i.e. the male counterpart to “Barbie”. That’s why the singer further goes on to claim that they’re “the groove catcher, hottest thing” with a “six-pack and tight G-string”. 

But as generally depicted in the Barbie franchise, “Ken” may match those characteristics, i.e. being very fit, attractive and trendy, though he doesn’t come complete with a G-string.

“‘Cause that’s the man I am
Baby, treat me right, I’m free tonight
That’s just the man I am
Super sleazy, born to be easy
And all the papers say that there’s no Ken without Barbie
But, baby, there’s no woman who could possibly stop me
That’s just the man I am
Super sleazy, sexy and freaky Ken tonight”

So with that in mind and as implied at the end of the second verse, Sam is not the “Ken” but rather a “Ken”. Or as the singer puts it in the chorus, he’s a “super sleazy, sexy and freaky Ken tonight”. 

What that means, in overall context, is that this “Ken” is not attached to a “Barbie”, as the character is conventionally presented. Instead he’s a romantic freewheeler if you will, even if “not gay” being sexually liberated along the lines of the type of persona that Sam Smith usually displays in his songs.

Indeed, it is quite interesting to note that when it came time for Gerwig and Ronson to choose the final artist to participate on the Barbie soundtrack, they went with Sam Smith. The movie, according to some critics, features a fair share of LGBTQ+ references – so many reportedly that some viewers are even threatening to boycott it

That is to say that, traditionally speaking, the Barbie franchise has never been sexualized to begin with, but, as generally understood, its characters, such as “Ken”, are indeed heterosexual. But the more we research the songs associated with the movie, the clearer it becomes that the flick may not necessarily be children’s fare, as many presume given that Barbie is a toy-based franchise. For instance, a song like “Man I Am”, which lies smack-dab in the middle of the soundtrack, can definitely be considered adult in nature.

Man I Am

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