|Vampire Weekend – Unbelievers Lyrics||3 years ago|
This song has a few themes. It is a manifesto of the speaker's personal philosophy, which contains elements of skepticism and fatalism. He also acknowledges the existence of other belief systems, and plays with the idea that everyone is an "unbeliever" in someone else's personal philosophy or religion. There are double meanings that could be applied to words throughout the song that expand on the idea of differing viewpoints, and he explores the idea that we are all unified in our unhappiness. Normally I hate when people say songs could have different meanings for different people, but in this case, the ambiguity is intentional. It expands on the speaker's theme of multiple viewpoints. He also reflects on his romantic relationship with a "believer," and he directly addresses her in the choruses. He and the girl have opposing philosophies. They are both unwavering in their ideas, but the speaker suggests that their opposing viewpoints complement each other in a beneficial way. Here it is line by line. I'm going to skip around a bit.
In the first verse, there could be multiple meanings of "got a little soul." He could mean a small soul, meaning a nonspiritual person. He could mean some soul, meaning a spiritual person. A person is also said to "have soul" when they are a singer, so the speaker could be referring to himself, and all artists, who have to be philosophers in many ways. These multiple meanings are intentional. No matter how you interpret it, "the world is a cold, cold place to be." Believers, nonbelievers, philosophers are all in the same boat.
Everyone is seeking "a little warmth," some refuge from the cold world. He also wants the warmth of belief, but he is a skeptic. This is the first of many verses that end in a question, reflecting his need to question everything. The question he asks indicates he is skeptical of more than just religion. He is also skeptical of the romanticism and magic of love. The verse also plays into the complementarity theme. He wants warmth and is looking for someone to provide it for him. He's missing belief, so maybe he is seeking a believer to complement him. The verses about grace and light are very similar, and all reinforce these same themes.
If he's "born again" he knows "that the world will disagree." No matter what belief system he adopts, most people are going to disagree with him. Also, if he returns to faith himself, he knows that eventually he will go back to skepticism, because, to him, the world reinforces his current belief system. This also indicates his belief in destiny, or fatalism. He is a skeptic, and even if he wanted to change, he'd just be forced back on the track that the world has planned for him. This could be expanded to apply to anyone's belief system, which develop from a person's own experiences in the world.
The speaker sees the sun going down, and knows that the night is deep. I think this is about the brightness, optimism, and naive belief that we have in youth, which has developed into a kind of depressing skepticism of everything for the speaker. I think it's also about feeling pressured to find a romantic partner. He's getting older, and here night is the prospect of being alone, and the setting sun is his ticking clock to find a lover.
In the chorus, he says "we know the fire awaits unbelievers." The one thing we know is that everyone else is wrong. There is double meaning in both fire and unbeliever here. Fire could refer to hell, but in other verses the speaker wants warmth and light, both of which are provided by fire. Unbeliever could mean an atheist/ skeptic, or it could mean anyone who doesn't agree with your own life philosophy. We often think other people are happier than us, but we also think that they are wrong. We think that both happiness and damnation await those who disagree with us. "All of the sinners the same" expands on this. We think of those who don't follow our own moral code as happier than us, but we condemn their actions. "Girl, you and I will die unbelievers, bound to the tracks of the train." This draws on the fatalism theme. No one is going to change their mind, they're stuck on a track. There is no choice, and they're going to die being unbelievers in each other's personal philosophy. Even in the last moments before death (if he was tied to a railroad track), he will remain a skeptic, and she will remain a "believer."
The speaker is not excited, but wonders if he should be. He has a pessimistic view of the world, but thinks that this view is justified. He sees the world as it is, and there is not much to be excited or happy about. I think he is also wondering if other people are as happy as he thinks they are from the other side of the fence. He wonders if he is already living in hell when he asks if this is the fate that half of the world has planned for him. "Believers" say he's going to hell, but perhaps hell is just the unhappiness that comes with the pessimism of his skepticism. This also draws on his belief in fatalism. He refers to his own fate, and indicates that the rest of the world has control over it.
He knows he loves this girl. Despite his skepticism, he has found love. She loves the sea. She is a romantic, a "believer." He loves her but not in the fantastical way that some people view love. He asks what holy water contains a drop for him. In what belief system could he find happiness? I think the sea is also a metaphor for potential mates, and the drop of holy water is the one for him. He's referring to, and questioning, the idea of "soul mates."
|Mumford & Sons – Below My Feet Lyrics||4 years ago|
This song is about a death causing a crisis of faith and rejection of an old belief system, which is followed by a new view on religion and life, which is described in the chorus.
The first stanza addresses the dead person, who is "cold as the blood through your bones." But he also describes the "light which led us from our chosen homes" as cold. He resents the light (referring to the light people are alleged to follow into the afterlife) for taking people away from the lives that they build for themselves on Earth. This death has caused resentment for God and the afterlife. He is lost, without his loved one and without his faith.
The second stanza builds on this. He sleeps and cries. All he knew (his previous belief system) is steeped in blackened holes. He sees holes in his religion. They are black. This is a dark time. He doesn't want to see these holes or have these doubts, but they're there. He is lost.
(I'll get to the chorus at the end)
The next two stanzas are accompanied by a louder and more defiant beat than the first two, which are slow and sad.
He is still. He's surviving, kind of dealing with this death. But he's under someone's "spell." I think he's referring to a preacher or someone else who indoctrinated him in his old belief system. The choice of the word spell clearly indicates that he has a negative view of this person's influence, under which he was convinced that Jesus was telling him all his well. He sings the last line "so all must be well" with a tone of sarcasm and anger. He was being calmed (I was still) by this old belief system, but it was like a drug, a sedative.
Just give me time. Leave me alone. Now he's telling this preacher that he has different desires than him. He is rejecting the old belief system. The person he is addressing wants to wrap his flesh in "ivy and in twine." Ivy brings to mind images of ivy covered churches and an aged smothering feeling. Twine is also negative, controlling. We wrap meat in twine. This is all a reference to the typical Christian rejection of all things related to sex. He is rejecting this attitude. Again "for I must be well" (by being wrapped in ivy and twine) is spoken sarcastically and defiantly.
Now the chorus. It's a prayer that sums up his new requests of God. Keep the Earth below my feet. Keep me alive. But also, perhaps, keep me down to Earth. For all my sweat, my blood runs weak. Despite all his efforts, he gets closer to death every day he lives. He's giving up his fear of death, or perhaps asking God to take it away. Let me learn from where I have been. Help me continue to become a better person. Keep my eyes to serve, my hands to learn. I don't completely get this yet, but I love it. It's a reversal of what you would expect. Perhaps it's about him wanting to live, to learn by acting and making mistakes. It could be viewed as a reversal of the traditional Christian view of learning by watching and listening to your parents and preachers, and then serving God and others through your actions which conform to these teachings. He's going to learn by doing, and serve by watching and listening, because what better way to serve people than to make them feel watched and listened to. I think it's also about humility. We usually think we're smarter than those we help because we've learned by watching, and we can help others by doing what we've learned. But he is suggesting that we can better serve those people by listening to and learning from them, and we can better learn by doing.
There's so much more to this song, from the subtle nuances of word choices, to the chanting, the changes in musical tempo. It's packed with meaning.
Their songs are often religiously motivated, but never preachy. They're about personal experiences, usually struggles, with religion. I love it.
* This information can be up to 15 minutes delayed.