Shaggy’s Sixth Sense

‘It Wasn’t Me’ is a Shyamalan Style Ghost Story

(spoilers old enough to drive ahead)

On August 6, 1999, The Sixth Sense hit theaters and scared America senseless. It introduced us to M. Night Shyamalan, who went from horror genius auteur to uh, After Earth; and Haley Joel Osment, who went from “next DiCaprio” to “8th lead in the Entourage movie.” While some of the parties involved didn’t reach the predicted peaks of their career trajectories, the impact of The Sixth Sense is undeniable. It’s a terrifying ghost story wrapped up in a coming-of-age tale married to a family drama with a twist ending that no one saw coming (stop it, no you didn’t). The psychological horror story with a twist ending had been done before, although not as effectively, and it’s been done since (Shyamalan, bless his heart, is still chasing that high), but Sense remains the Apex of the genre. Its tentacles go well beyond the silver screen

Just over a year after we all found out that Bruce Willis HAD BEEN DEAD THE WHOLE TIME, America met Shaggy, the lovable Jamaican-American reggae musician. We met him by way of his first single off Hot Shot¸ “It Wasn’t Me”.

“It Wasn’t Me” is ostensibly a song about a man caught cheating by his girlfriend while (literally) in the act. Lyrically, the song is a back and forth between English singer Rikrok and Shaggy, with RikRok asking Shaggy for advice on how to escape blame for the situation despite overwhelming evidence of his involvement.

As the story goes, RikRok (our subject), is explaining to Shaggy (our antihero), that while having sex with the girl next door, his girlfriend walks in and catches them red handed. According to the song, she seems them “banging on the bathroom floor”, “on the counter”, “on the sofa”, and “in the shower”. Think about that for a moment. It’s at this point of the song that you realize that RikRok hasn’t been caught cheating at all. He’s not in trouble. He’s heartbroken. RikRok’s peeping girlfriend is dead.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself as the most intense, passionate lover in the world. Imagine yourself lost in the company of a beautiful partner. It’s easy to imagine, in this scenario, that at first you may not notice the opening of a door, the quick pitter patter of footsteps creeping towards you, and the sudden presence of another human being as you lie tangled on the floor of your bathroom. Now, even in your wildest dreams, can you imagine not noticing that person in your periphery as you and your partner move out of the bathroom into the kitchen? What kind of a floor plan does this imaginary house have? How many doors are in that bathroom? Would you not pass the intruder on your way out of the bathroom to the kitchen? Would you again not notice her as you moved from the counter to the living room sofa? From the sofa to the shower? Of course you would. Maybe, if you’re RikRok, you have noticed her. It’s your partner that hasn’t. Maybe you haven’t walked past her. You’ve walked right through her. It’s because your intruder, this scorned girlfriend of yours, is a ghost. She’s there, and she’s not.

On first listen, Shaggy’s advice to RikRok appears to be tips on how to keep his side girlfriend hidden to avoid this sort of relationship drama. A closer examination of the back and forth between RikRok and Shaggy reveals an emotionally tortured man who has finally begun a new relationship after the death of his previous girlfriend. “Shaggy” isn’t a friend of RikRok’s at all, he’s RikRok’s conscience, debating within himself whether it’s appropriate to move on from his deceased partner or not, on whether his new girl will understand his grieving. A sample lyric:

Shaggy: “You know she not gonna be worrying ‘bout things from the past, hardly recollecting then she’ll go to noontime mass, wait for your answer, go over there.”

Translation: You’re new girlfriend is a wonderful woman. She’s not going to worry about your previous relationships, just as she trusts you not to worry about hers. She’ll understand the pain you are going to feel. She may even go to church with you to pay respects. God will have your answer there.

After RikRok again explains that his (deceased) ex had been literally following him around the house undetected while he had sex, he breaks down, lamenting all the things he never got to tell her before she died, “Gonna tell her that I’m sorry for the pain that I caused, I’ve been listening to your reason it makes no sense at all, I want to tell her that I’m sorry for the pain that I caused…you may think that you’re a player but you’re completely lost.”

Towards the end of the song, RikRok and Shaggy again become one. They move on, heartbroken together, and wonder how they’ll move forward. It ends on a single haunting image, straight out of the Shyamalan canon,

All this time she was standing there. She never took her eyes off me.”

She stood there and watched him. She never looked at the new girl. Shaggy takes this as a sign of anger, as aggression. I see it as something beautiful. She just wanted one last look at the man she loved. She just wanted to say goodbye. She had to complete her unfinished business while he completed his.

I hope they found what they were looking for.


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