September 20, 2014

10 Poignant Lyrics from Modern Day Musicians. ~ Robert Pistor

Beverley Goodwin/Flickr

In today’s iTunes generation, music is less about the lyrics and more about the catchy chorus.

There used to be the Bob Dylans, Joni Mitchells and Paul Simons of the world who reinvented song writing and made their words bleed on the page. However, if you keep your ears focused, there are still some songwriters out there that would make even them proud.

1) Ray Lamontagne – Empty

Well, I looked my demons in the eyes
laid bare my chest, said “Do your best, destroy me.
You see, I’ve been to hell and back so many times,
I must admit you kind of bore me.”

There’s a lot of things I don’t understand
Why so many people lie
Well, it’s the hurt I hide that fuels the fires inside me

The writer reaches the peak of exhaustion and is finally brave enough to face his past in a coming to Jesus moment. You can almost envision him screaming at his demons in the mirror, begging them to finish him. Instead, they back off as they always do when confronted. He chooses to keep moving forward and uses this hurt to motivate him. The kind of lyrics that makes any writer envious.

2) The Lumineers – Stubborn Love

It’s better to feel pain, than nothing at all
The opposite of love’s indifference
So pay attention now, I’m standing on your porch screaming out
And I won’t leave until you come downstairs

A plea to a fearful woman to be vulnerable in love. Like any relationship, the future cannot be predicted and there are no guarantees. Although there may be pain down the road, it’s a risk that has to be taken, for the avoidance of love leads to a trivial life. A tribute to John Cusack’s Radio in the Rain rounds out the chorus perfectly. He’s not ready to give up on her.

3) Death Cab for Cutie – I Will follow you into the Dark

In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me,
“Son, fear is the heart of love.”
So I never went back

If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the “No”‘s on their vacancy signs
If there’s no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark

Even the fear rooted religious dogmas associated with love cannot convince this young romantic to give up on his dreams. If these are the decisions that the afterworld has made on love, he won’t be visiting either heaven or hell. Instead, he will accompany his love into the dark, wherever that might be.

4) Blink 182 – Adam’s Song

I never thought I’d die alone
I laughed the loudest who’d have known?

I never thought I’d die alone
Another six months I’ll be unknown

Give all my things to all my friends
You’ll never step foot in my room again
You’ll close it off, board it up
Remember the time that I spilled the cup
Of apple juice in the hall
Please tell mom this is not her fault

A song inspired by Mark Hoppus’s own loneliness on the road and a suicide note left from a fan to his parents. The song seems to jump from Mark’s own life to that of this young suicidal stranger. It speaks to how quickly life can change from days when you’ve laughed the loudest to not wanting to laugh ever again. Is there a more heartbreaking line than “Please tell mom this is not her fault?”

5) The National – Slow Show

I wanna hurry home to you
Put on a slow, dumb show for you and crack you up
So you can put a blue ribbon on my brain
God I’m very, very frightening, I’ll overdo it
You know I dreamed about you
For 29 years before I saw you
You know I dreamed about you
I missed you for, for 29 years

A song about insecurity in love. It speaks to the baggage we bring into our relationships and the self-sabotage that happens from dangerous overthinking and feelings of unworthiness.

An awkward, lonely man finally meets the woman he’s dreamed of his entire life. He’s scared of messing it up. He’s scared that he’s out of his league. His feelings of inadequacy can’t escape him.

6) Phosperous – Song for Zula

So some say love is a burning thing
That it makes a fiery ring
All that I know love as a caging thing
Just a killer come to call from some awful dream

And all you folks, you come to see
You just to stand there in the glass looking at me
But my heart is wild, and my bones are steel
And I could kill you with my bare hands if I was free

To some love is grand, to the writer love is a cage. Love has imprisoned him and rubbed his face in the dirt with its ghastly hands. It is a “killer” that has infected him with its rage. Successful lovers stare at him in his glass cage pitying him. If he could get out, he’d kill all of them so that they too can feel the pain that love has bestowed on him. He swears, “I will not open myself this way again”

7) Tool – Laterus

Over thinking, over analyzing separates the body from the mind.
Withering my intuition, missing opportunities and I must
Feed my will to feel my moment drawing way outside the lines.

I embrace my desire to
Feel the rhythm, to feel connected
Enough to step aside and weep like a widow
To feel inspired, to fathom the power,
To witness the beauty, to bathe in the fountain,
To swing on the spiral
Of our divinity and still be a human.

“Laterus” is a journey into the maturation of one’s mind and body and explores how overthinking and analyzing prevent us from breaking through into enlightenment. Maynard promises himself that he won’t stifle his own development and plateau at anything less than metaphysical.

By thinking, we lose the ability to feel and by doing so, we lose touch with our own spirituality and become disconnected. This is a calling to the young to live life out loud and be open to the inspiration that the world continuously provides.

8) Arcade Fire – Wake Up

If the children don’t grow up,
Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up.
We’re just a million little god’s causin’ rain storms turnin’ every good thing to rust.

A modern day anthem that speaks to the wounded inner child in all of us. We all inevitably grow up physically, but if we don’t keep up mentally, we’ll be stunted. We’ll screw up every beautiful thing that life gives to us because we haven’t come to terms with our lost innocence. If we can’t come to grips with the trauma or lies that were fed to us as children, we will never truly be able to live a satisfied life and our “summers will turn into dust.”

9) Blue October – Hate Me

And with a sad heart I say bye to you and wave
Kicking shadows on the street for every mistake that I have made
And like a baby boy I never was a man
Until I saw your blue eyes cry and I held your face in my hand
And then I fell down yelling “Make it go away!”
Just make her smile come back and shine just like it used to be
And then she whispered “How can you do this to me?”

Hate me today.
Hate me tomorrow.
Hate me for all the things i didn’t do for you.
Hate me in ways,
Yeah ways hard to swallow.
Hate me so you can finally see what’s good for you.

A powerful song about the unconditional love of a mother. The writer has dealt with addiction his whole life. Throughout the ordeal, she never stopped loving him even through his darkest moments. The song deals with the guilt of losing his mother and not being able to thank her for this unrequited love. His guilt is so heavy, that he screams for her to hate him for all the things he didn’t do. The phone message at the beginning of the song is so real and hauntingly beautiful.

10) Soko – We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow

I don’t want to judge
What’s in your heart
But if you’re not ready for love
How can you be ready for life?
How can you be ready for life?

So let’s love fully
And let’s love loud
Let’s love now
‘Cause soon enough we’ll die
‘Cause soon enough we’ll die
‘Cause soon enough we’ll die
‘Cause soon enough we’ll die
‘Cause soon enough we’ll die
‘Cause soon enough we’ll die

While many writers like to show their genius through cryptic ambiguity, Soko lays it out very clearly for the listener. If you are not loving, than you are not living. We all face our impending death by either fearing it alone or fearing it together. The writer clearly desires to face the unknown together. She questions whether her lover has really even started living, implying that life begins once you’ve decided to love fully.




Love elephant and want to go steady?

Sign up for our (curated) daily and weekly newsletters!



Editor: Emily Bartran

Photos: Beverley Goodwin/Flickr


Read 6 Comments and Reply

Read 6 comments and reply

Top Contributors Latest

Robert Pistor