"On the Sly" as written by and James Shaw Emily Haines....
Wipe it up you're capable
Of putting back
A few when you have to
Memorize the history
Of your body like a virgin
Ladies night, Eighties night
The kids get high and eat TV
So do we, for Halloween
I want to be Lenny Bruce

I want them to hate
I want them to hate
I want them to hate
I want them to hate me
So you can love me on the sly

My old flame broke the twelve bar blues
Just to prove he could
He pays the airline DJ's now
He is everywhere

I want them to hate
I want them to hate
I want them to hate
I don't feel so far away from you lately
Love me on the sly

Fill me in on horrible
How much is there
Where else can I live
The dirty sugar factory
On the water, on the water
Should smell sweet

I want them to hate me
I want them to hate me
I don't feel so far away from you lately
Love me on the sly

I want them to hate me
I want them to hate me
I don't feel so far away from you lately
Love me on the sly

I want them to hate me
I want them to hate me
I don't feel so far away from you lately
Love me on the sly


Lyrics submitted by oh_doctor_doctor

"On the Sly" as written by James Shaw Emily Haines

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

Lyrics powered by LyricFind

On the Sly song meanings
Add your thoughts

21 Comments

sort form View by:
  • +5
    General CommentThis song is about the repercussions of an artist becoming popular. Here are a few themes that stand out in particular.

    Lenny Bruce is a counter-culturist from the 60's and is specifically mentioned at the beginning of the song to set the tone of the theme.

    Her friend that broke the 12 bar blues and now pays the airline DJs can be interpreted as a sellout artist.

    The sugar factory that should smell sweet refers to the idea of corporations trying to manufacture musicians and her opinion on that idea.

    Finally, throughout the whole song she says she wants you to love her on the sly. So it's almost fan-appreciation and a promise to us she'll never sell out and more specifically intentionally focus on not becoming popular.
    cmerickon June 28, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwell when tryign to figure it out i looked up a couple of things that i didn't understand, like:
    Lenny Bruce: An American counter-culture icon from the 1960s, Lenny Bruce's obscenity-laced social satire paved the way for modern stand-up comedy. (anwsers.com)
    12 bar blues: is a chord progression, typical of blues and later, blues-influenced, music. the kind of "my baby left me..." songs.
    (And finally the idiom ) on the sly: In a way intended to escape notice

    So from that we get... that she wants him (her current love interest) to hate her, so she can secretly love him (the other man). She sees him everywhere "He is everywhere" I guess b/c of being a DJ, but also because she can't stop thinking about him.
    So to me, it means that latly shes remembering him more and more, and she wants him to love her secretly just like she loves him.
    aber22on March 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"the kids get high and eat TV,
    so do we."
    I love that line... I could live in that line
    StephRoxon January 10, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI agree with the relationship interpretation. I think she's infatuated with someone that's not her current lover but wants her current lover to hate her so she doesn't feel guilty.

    I also think the sugar factory may be referring to the sugar factory in Williamsburg because she lived in Williamsburg, Brooklyn around the time this was written.
    brightoutburston November 19, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentnothing in her past matters as much as him loving her now
    angelundergravity11on February 02, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentUmmm I think you may be right actually, but I've always hear this song and thought about my current boyfriend. I get so wrapped up in him I want other people to hate me. Life without him is merely interlude ( cookie for whoever knows what song THAT is from). The whole "on the sly" part, we haven't told anyone we are seeing each other. If we do, there is such a stigma with relationships when everyone knows. If you keep it quiet, then that person is your one respite from the world. Your one escape. That's kinda what this song is to me.
    LindseyD4563on May 10, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think, "He is everywhere", means the songs he plays are all around. Music being constant and all.
    pinkTeaon October 15, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMetric is so amazing.
    There are no words for them.
    "The dirty sugar factory on the water should smell sweet." - I love that line.
    Surcease Of Sorrowon February 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThe first section of this song seems to disenchant the idea of growing up. "Putting back a few" could be a reference to getting drunk, I'm not sure. The rest of this verse/intro is about growing up and getting older.

    Her old boyfriend isn't a DJ he's a musician who revolutionized music somehow "Broke the 12 bar blues" and is very rich and popular because of that "He pays the airline DJs now. He is everywhere". I don't think this actually happened to the singer as there is no mention of it on wikipedia.

    I find it hard to say exactly what this song is about but I find it very depressing/amazing at the same time. It is definitely about some sort of love affair and being disenchanted about growing up in a north American consumer culture as metric has written other songs criticizing American culture.
    tempguyon May 11, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think 'the dirty sugar factory on the water' is referring to the old abandoned redpath sugar factory on the water at queens quay in toronto. just a guess. this song is amazing, i agree it's about the joy of loving someone secretly, it's never spoken, but you know deep down they feel the same.
    paul_bankson May 24, 2007   Link

Add your thoughts

Log in now to tell us what you think this song means.

Don’t have an account? Create an account with SongMeanings to post comments, submit lyrics, and more. It’s super easy, we promise!

Back to top
explain