"I actually didn’t come into the studio with that idea. I always tend to write sadder songs and this song was very crucial for me mentally. I really at the time needed to get this out of my system " (Grace on Genius.com)
In the Genius.com video, Grace provides a detailed breakdown of the song:
“I always escape through relating to music, and there are hateful songs, there are lovely songs, but I couldn’t really relate to any of those, and I really needed something where it’s like: I have so much respect and I truly love you, I have love for you, I just hate you so much, like – you – I don’t like you, but I love you. Like, I would take a bullet for you, obviously, but like, just don’t talk to me. So, I walked in, I was in an angsty mood. I normally like to just play music and just kind of riff off, almost like a jam sesh, like a freestyle rap, like you’ll take a line and then someone else takes a line, and you’re like “Oh!”, they’ll take a line. It’s kind of the same thing, except – POP!”
Verse 1: It’s so frustrating when you’re in a confrontational, toxic relationship with someone. After so many times of the tension building up, then screaming, the crying, saying it’s never going to happen again, tension building up, then you scream, the you cry, say it’ll never happen again. After a while, once you get to the tension building up, screaming part, you’re just like: I already know what’s going to happen next. We’re going to cry. We’re going to say it’s never going to happen again. It’s GOING to happen again. It’s exhausting. I’m over it. In the process of the screaming to the emotions part, I can feel physically that transition. My hands will go tingly, and I can feel my face getting hot, like I can feel the blood rushing to my face, and when I look down, I can almost like feel the pressure under the skin around my eyes. I get really puffy eyes when I get emotional.
The insecurities from both parties in a toxic relationship affects it greatly and can intensify the whole toxicity of it. If feel like it’s because it’s that same underlying tension that kind lingers through every situation, every room you guys are in, and I feel like those insecurities feed into that so much, ‘cause it’s those little things you pick up, like: “on Tuesday, you didn’t look at me when I was talking to you” and like that’s an insecurity, that comes from the other person because I was probably not even thinking about it, and that will just add to that build up until it explodes again.
Chorus: I want you to be happy. I want you to thrive. I don’t despise you. I don’t hate you. It’s just like – go away, you know!?
Verse 2: I can’t even talk to you, because every time we talk, we can’t talk about anything. It’s like “Hi, how are you?” And then five minutes later, all of a sudden, I’m crying, you’re crying, and I’m thinking in my mind: “How did this even escalate this quickly?” And all of a sudden, we are talking about how: “You didn’t look at me two weeks ago, when I was telling you my story about what I saw on the news channel!”; and it’s like: “well you didn’t blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.”. And it’s like, “How did this even – we were just talking about lunch”. Like, I’m thinking in my mind, like getting aware of the situation, I don’t even know how, why, whatever, like why is this happening?
The whole tug of war thing, that was really a frustrating line to write because I really wanted to say that, because I really loved the image that it put in my mind of:” you get a little comeback and then you get a little comeback, and it kind of never ends if you both have the same strength. I tend to, if I am in a toxic relationship with someone, they tend to be a lot, lot like me. If I’m right, I’m right! You know what I mean? That is the statement. That is the fact. I’m right, so you can’t tell me anything otherwise. So, I if meet someone just like that , it’s almost a tug of war because you have the same strength. It was really frustrating though, because it was like a “tug of war of words”, so we needed to figure out how to make it sound normal singing it.
Bridge: I will not back down. Even if the argument is over, I am going to walk away knowing that I was right, and I feel if someone else is like that, it’s just … I don’t know. I don’t have the words for it. It’s endless. It’s like we both will refuse to lose, so what’s going to happen?"
(Grace Vanderwaal "I Don't Like You" Official Lyrics & Meaning | Verified, for Genius.com, Dec. 17, 2019)
"There was this one [comment] that I don’t know why stuck with me, but it did. And someone was like, “This perfectly explains my divorce,” and I’ve never been divorced. I’ve actually never been married. Fun fact about me, bet you’re super surprised. I feel like when I thought about it in that perspective, I’m like, “Wow, they really understood the song,” because I once again, have never been divorced, but like it’s so clear to me from their perspective, how it would relate to that. And that is exactly how I was putting my emotions.
(Grace on Genius.com)