Since it was first performed in the 1936 film Born to Dance, Cole Porter's "I've Got You under My Skin" has proven to be an important pop standard for a wide range of artists, not the least of whom is Frank Sinatra. When polled, Sinatra's fans and critics frequently rank "Under My Skin" among the greatest ever Sinatra recordings. Commentators have tried to explain the song's immense appeal in terms of its supposedly straightforward, if feverish, sexuality. This essay suggests that a turn back to Porter's lyrics reveals a more complicated picture. "Under My Skin" is less about achieving heterosexual unity than it is about probing and confronting an interior multiplicity - much as the textual surface of Sinatra's recording reveals two constitutive but finally discrete and irresolvable American musical selves. This essay returns Porter's lyrics to their historical and literary context to argue that "Under My Skin" represents a popular expression of the modernist anxiety over the split self - a trope that characterizes many of Porter's great songs, which contain the high and the low, the bottom and the top, beneath the same shining skin.


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pp. 975-990
Launched on MUSE
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