"Genius Next Door" as written by and Regina Spektor....
Some said the local lake had been enchanted
Others said it must have been the weather
The neighbors were trying to keep it quiet
But I swear that I could hear the laughter
So they jokingly nicknamed it the porridge
Cause overnight that lake had turned as thick as butter
But the local kids would still go swimming, drinking
Saying that to them it doesn't matter

If you just hold in your breath til you come back up in full
Hold in your breath til you thought it through, you fool

The genius next door was busing tables
Wiping clean the ketchup bottle labels
Getting high and mumbling German fables
Didn't care as long as he was able
To strip his clothes off by the dumpsters
At night while everyone was sleeping
And to wade midway into that porridge
Just him and the secret he was keeping

If you just hold in your breath til you come back up in full
Hold in your breath til you thought it through, you foolish child

In the morning the film crews start arriving
With donuts, coffee and reporters
The kids were waking up hungover
The neighbors were starting up their cars
The garbageman were emptying the dumpsters
Atheists were praying full of sarcasm
And the genius next door was sleeping
Dreaming that the antidote is orgasm

If you just hold in your breath til you come back up in full
Hold in your breath til you thought it through, you foolish child!


Lyrics submitted by lemonjuice

"Genius Next Door" as written by Regina Spektor

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Genius Next Door song meanings
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  • +19
    General CommentDROWNING
    "dreaming that the antidote is orgasm" - many believe that when a person drowns, they experience a euphoric sensation at the moment of death, comparable to an intense orgasm.

    I believe maybe the lake had a reputation- the teenagers would go there to party, and dare eachother to hold their breath a long time underwater, hoping to achieve the fabled orgasm while still surviving to tell about it. Instead, many drowned- but this did not keep the kids from going back. They were foolish. Perhaps they joked that those young men who died had ejaculated in those waters... inspiring the humor in the consistency of the lake itself. The townspeople obviously did not find it appropriate to talk about what went down at the lake.
    "The neighbours were trying to keep it quiet
    But I swear that I could hear the laughter
    So they joke, and they nicknamed it the porridge
    Cause over night that lake had turned as thick as butter"

    now the geek "genius" thought he'd try the theory out himself, without anyone knowing- he thought he was smarter than the drunk boys and would be sober enough to save himself, but he drowned alone in the lake, still hoping to acheive his orgasm, not realizing that there was no "antidote" to save him from death.
    juliaspaperbagson May 12, 2007   Link
  • +7
    General Commenti'm not sure if i'm correct, but it sounds like the genius commits suicide in the lake. it is his secret... in the chorus it's like she's telling him to hold in his breath until he comes back out of the water in full. instead, i guess he lets it go and dies. she thinks he is a foolish child.

    maybe he didn't value his life the way he should. the film crew and reporters come in to report what happened. and life goes on... like nothing happened... the kids wake up hung over, the garbage men etc. while the genius was maybe hoping something would come of his death. he was asleep "dreaming that the antidote was orgasm." i'm not really sure what that means, but i get the impression he had romanticized suicide somehow. he had made a mistake, but it was too late. he hadn't thought it through... a foolish child.
    fuzzyjellybeanon April 08, 2007   Link
  • +7
    General CommentBoys ejaculating in the lake as they die? WTF?

    I think people are reading too much into the line, "dreaming that the antidote was orgasm."

    The way I see it, the "genius" is someone of higher intelligence, who under different circumstances could have changed the world, but instead he is stuck "busing tables," leading an unfulfilled and meaningless life, which perhaps causes him depression. The first time he is mentioned we learn that he gets high and wades naked into the lake in the middle of the night, which makes me think that he is seeking some kind of epiphany or rush that will elevate him to a higher standard of living. Everyone's favorite line, "dreaming that the antidote was orgasm," also reinforces that idea - that the he has convinced himself that the cure to his depression and aimlessness is a short moment of bliss, aka A CLIMAX!

    I do agree with the idea that the genius drowned himself in the lake in his pursuit of a climax (not a literal orgasm). I also believe that the lake is a symbol for all the messy, everyday problems in the world that the neighbors try to keep quiet. The genius wading into it naked and eventually drowning in his desire for something greater is an incredibly powerful and tragic metaphor.

    "If you just hold in your breath, till you come back up in full/ Hold in your breath till you thought it through, you foolish child." The chorus I think is advising him to wait it out and settle for what he has in life - basically GET THROUGH life until he breathes again in death. In this part of the song he is referred to as a foolish child for giving up and abandoning his life even though the alternative (holding in your breath) does not sound too good either.

    This leaves open two possible theories: Either the subject of this song is a foolish child who could not handle mediocrity and over-intellectualized his life, or he really was a genius who found an escape from his trapped existence. After all, Regina swears she could hear laughter coming from the "haunted" lake. It could be in triumph.

    Sorry if this is a more depressing take on it than diddling ghosts.
    theneedtoexpresson November 17, 2011   Link
  • +4
    General CommentI think most of you are taking one line in the song and using it to define the entire thing.

    I think the first verse is just an intro, setting the scene and introducing the lake. I think the 'porridge' line is just that the lake is scummy and I think it happened long ago because she makes it sound like the teens have been swimming in it like that for a while. The genius next door is probably a smart teenager with a high school food service job, very antisocial and secretly very depressed. I think the rest is fairly straightforward, he decides to commit suicide in the lake, which is ironic because it's the same lake that other teens hang out at a lot, but he is not part of that crowd. He goes in the middle of the night and drowns himself. I think the orgasm line may have to do with potentially having an orgasm when you drown, but that is not the focus of the song. I like the idea that maybe he was really just looking for love, and that the orgasm may relate to that if he only had found love he would have been happy.

    Overall, Regina is the narrator here and she says he's a foolish child because even though he's apparently a "genius" of some sort, he really doesn't realize that there's so much more to live for.

    I think the chorus is amazingly beautiful,

    "If you just hold in your breath
    'Til you come back up in full
    Hold in your breath
    'Til you thought it through"

    But in the end, she's just telling a story and the poor boy dies. Life goes on, and basically nobody even notices that he's gone. I think the "secret" that he might be keeping is that he's so unhappy. People may think he's so satisfied with his life being smart or something, but really he's very lonely and depressed.

    I also really like the concept somebody proposed that he wanted to make a big scene, and that he just wanted to be noticed. It's sad really.

    As ridiculous as some Regina songs can be I just can't see her writing a song about a porridge-like lake and meaning it is filled with sperm, in a sad story of a boy drowning himself for an orgasm. It just doesn't seem as probable as a song about suicide and a depressed teenager. But like I said, there are some strange Regina songs too, so who knows.
    d15on July 03, 2009   Link
  • +3
    My Interpretation"Some said the local lake had been enchanted
    Others said it must have been the weather
    The neighbors were trying to keep it quiet
    But I swear that I could hear the laughter
    So they joke, and they nicknamed it "the porridge"
    Cause over night that lake had turned as thick as butter"

    My interpretation of this song is that the lake is a metaphor for worldly problems, or more specifically:the problems that the youth faces today(drug/alcohol addiction? teen depression? violence? disease?risky behavior?), that society chooses to ignore and in doing so the problems accumulate thus turning the lake thick as butter. They continue to downplay its importance and take the problems lightly.

    "But the local kids would still go swimming, drinking
    Saying that to them it doesn't matter"

    The kids probably know these problems are harmful to them but still choose to play with it because like society,they also choose to downplay its importance, possibly for their own sanity since these are problems that they must face. Spektor seems to add "drinking" as a sidenote to possibly signify that the alcohol helps them to cope with these problems. Or maybe it is used as a metaphor to show that the teens are trying to force themselves to be apathetic/ignorant/blissfully unaware of the "porridge" and possibly forget that it is harmful to them.

    "If you just hold in your breath
    'Til you come back up in full
    Hold in your breath
    'Til you've thought it through
    You fool"

    I am not exactly sure how to interpret this just yet but I think it might be Spektor warning people that since it is too late to get rid of the "porridge" the best thing they can do is hold their breaths and dont try to jump into it and just think it through before you do something that will harm you.

    "The genius next door was bussing tables
    Wiping clean the keptchup bottle labels
    Getting high and mumbling German fables
    Didn't care as long as he was able
    To strip his clothes off by the dumpsters
    At night while every one was sleeping
    And wade midway into that porridge
    Just him and the secret he was keeping"

    The genius next door probably represents an innocent intelligent youth, a "neighbor" who no one would expect. His intelligence is wasted by "wiping clean the ketchup bottle labels." He is unfulfilled and the world fails to recognize his talents. He gets high and even in his lack of sobriety he is still able to recall literature further emphasizing his intelligence. His unfulfillment causes him to willingly make himself vulnerable to the "porridge" by stripping his clothes. His secret could be his misery, or whatever made him miserable. Another guess is that his depression caused him to get into heavy drugs and he went into the "porridge" every night, only this time he overdosed and died (or it could have been on purpose). So his secret may have been his drug addiction.

    "Hold in your breath
    'Til you thought it through
    You foolish child"

    Spektor seems to be directing her warning to this genius, but this time it seems to be more of a chastisement. She elongates the word fool and then seems to add on "-ish child" as an afterthought and there appears to be anger/dissapointment in her voice. It is almost as if she is warning a group of people, trying not to point out anyone specific and then after a while she is overcome with so much anger/dissapointment that shes like "screw it, im talking about you foolish child" haha. She calls the genius a fool (paraodox) signifying that algthough he had a lot of intelligence he was not smart enough to avoid his fate of "drowning in the porridge." He did not think logically and he was childish, foolish, and immature in his actions.

    "In the morning the film crews start arriving
    With donuts, coffee and reporters
    The kids were waking up, hung over
    The neighbors were starting up their cars
    The garbageman were emptying the dumpsters
    Atheists were praying full of sarcasm
    And the genius next door was sleeping
    Dreaming that the antidote is orgasm"

    Here it seems as if no one cares about the death of a "neighbor" who was also a genius. The film crews are basically distracted by coffee and donuts, people are going about their daily lives, and the atheists use this as an opportuniy to mock faith, basically saying there is no God because he did not prevent the genius from "sleeping"(dying). About the antidote being an orgasm I might be stretching it a little but ill say it anyway: an orgasm, although there are other ways, is produced with another person. So maybe an orgasm is a metaphor for love and a human connection. The genius was alone and ignored in this song and if he was given some happiness and attention he would not have had to wade into the porridge. So maybe he wished the world were a little nicer to him or just nicer in general and not as apathetic and ignorant to all the problems that are right under their noses.

    I probably could have explained all this a little better but I hope this at least makes a little bit of sense im kind of just rambling :p
    sweets6738on January 20, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI feel as if there's still more to it.. but at the same time thats all there is to it.
    sophiacloveeon February 13, 2008   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI agree with the auto-erotic asphyxiation interpretation. “If you just hold in your breath till you come…” is sung orgasmically and would suggest as much.

    This song is about masturbation as an accepted antidote for youthful boredom. The adults (neighbours, others and locals) don’t want to talk about “the porridge” and the kids are also dismissive “saying to them it doesn’t matter”. The genius next door verse expands on this; his dismally drab job didn’t matter “as long as he was able to strip his clothes off… at night… just him and the secret he was keeping”.
    I think the genius is one of the local kids, not an older man as some here have suggested. He busses tables and gets high, he’s probably just come back from a gap year around Europe (mumbling German fables whilst high).

    The suicide/death concept which many people on here seem to have commented on doesn’t fit in here, for me. I recognise the suffocation theme but I don’t get the notion of a literal death. Note the French phrase “La petite mort” or “the little death”, an idiom for orgasm, pertaining to a breathless post-climatic exhaustion (sounds fun, eh?).

    Perhaps the little town where these kids live is suffocating them; bussing tables is very boring. The stagnant atmosphere could be responsible for suicide, but more likely for a littler death. The song suggests that swimming in a lake of “porridge” is a foolish pursuit and the young people are wasting their lives. Think of the way genius is used sarcastically; these young people should be pursuing wisdom.
    Whatever reason the cameras and reporters turn up (perhaps a metaphor for “the morning after” questioning that the kids will face as they wake up), it seems the situation is unlikely to change. Talking about it won’t stop it from happening.

    There seems to be no effort to clear up the mess; garbagemen clean the dumpsters, but this is a cycle of dirty and clean. The prayers (think of a “God help us!” sort of parental exclamation) are both cynical and sarcastic. The neighbours (representing parents) start up their cars — they’re running away from the town and it’s issues.

    The genius is still sleeping and therefore not becoming any wiser. His dreams (not just night time images but also his aspirations for the future) are for more orgasms.
    The cycle continues, but it’s not as bleak as it sounds. Kids wont make porridge of their lives forever; they will eventually realise the dangers of living for pleasure and the stifling result. Porridge is a fairly fast perishing food, it wont be left to stagnate in a skanky lake forever.
    CrankyKidon August 23, 2011   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI like the way it seems to be a little folklore-y, with the "Some said a local lake had been enchanted". But then that's just me. I also like the way she plays on "trying to keep it quiet", being both the rumours, and the lake itself, in that she can hear laughter.
    Elenaiaon December 27, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti'm not sure if i'm correct, but it sounds like the genius commits suicide in the lake. it is his secret... in the chorus it's like she's telling him to hold in his breath until he comes back out of the water in full. instead, i guess he lets it go and dies. she thinks he is a foolish child.

    maybe he didn't value his life the way he should. the film crew and reporters come in to report what happened. and life goes on... like nothing happened... the kids wake up hung over, the garbage men etc. while the genius was maybe hoping something would come of his death. he was asleep "dreaming that the antidote was orgasm." i'm not really sure what that means, but i get the impression he had romanticized suicide somehow. he had made a mistake, but it was too late. he hadn't thought it through... a foolish child.
    fuzzyjellybeanon April 08, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI like the drowning/orgasm theory, but I have another one I prefer, mostly because it seems a thousand times more common.

    Imagine a guy who lives what seems like a normal life, all the while secretly hoping for greatness - seeking fulfillment in any way possible. To everyone around him, he's normal - better than normal - in fact, he's doing fantastic. But he can tell that he's not. He can tell that he's secretly drowning in his secrets and his desires and his disappointment.

    Anyways, that's all I got right now. I was inspired by an ex who actually makes me sick to my stomach these days...
    dance|with|meon July 12, 2007   Link

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