"Fake Empire" as written by and Matthew D. Berninger Bryce D. Dessner....
Stay out super late tonight
Picking apples, making pies
Put a little something in our lemonade
And take it with us

We're half awake in a fake empire
We're half awake in a fake empire

Tiptoe through our shiny city
With our diamond slippers on
Do our gay ballet on ice
Bluebirds on our shoulders

We're half awake in a fake empire
We're half awake in a fake empire

Turn the light out, say goodnight
No thinking for a little while
Let's not try to figure out everything at once
It's hard to keep track of you falling through the sky

We're half awake in a fake empire
We're half awake in a fake empire


Lyrics submitted by lampada, edited by AmericanMary

"Fake Empire" as written by Matthew D. Berninger Bryce D. Dessner

Lyrics © BUG MUSIC OBO HAWK RIDGE SONGS , BUG MUSIC OBO VAL JESTER MUSIC

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Fake Empire song meanings
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  • +16
    General CommentBrilliant song! Here's a thought about the meaning. I wonder if this song is about finding a new love. There's a purity in the feeling of happiness when you initially fall in love, that 'honeymoon period', when you're like children - 'making pies', 'lemonade', 'tiptoe through the city', 'bluebirds', not worrying about what others think about your public displays ('do our gay ballet on ice').

    You know the real world is out there and approaching (when honeymoon period is over, also your 'real' regular lives which are not as much fun as what you're experiencing when together). You're on such a natural high, you try to postpone the inevitability, try to ignore it ('no thinking for a little while') . 'Half-awake in a fake empire' could mean that you want to and try to have some control your life (your 'empire') but you know it's only partly true. You're trying to lie to yourself that you can stay in this happiness though you know you can't (you're 'half awake'). Seems to fit in a lot of ways, also in the emotional tension which does seem to leave a sense of optimism from the piano, drums, guitar and finally trumpet in the ending that the inevitable is okay, just enjoy the ride while it lasts. What do you think?
    thenewspiriton April 24, 2007   Link
  • +8
    General CommentI think that this song is about the USA (fake empire) & the people here distracting themselves with trivial superficial things cuz they don't want to think about or can't deal with any big issues in the country or world.
    voodoodollyon April 08, 2007   Link
  • +8
    General Commentthe first couple lines are heartbreaking.

    "stay out super late" - for me that's pure nostalgia, especially coupled with the sweetness of "picking apples, making pies"

    then the dagger:
    "put a little something in our lemonade and take it with us"

    if the lemonade here is intended to suggest the lemonade made in the axiom about life handing you lemons, it's crushing to think that even that most optimistic outlook is so bleak that we might "put a little something in our lemonade" - i.e. liquor it up to numb ourselves, to stay only "half-awake" so we don't have to admit it's a fake empire.

    one way or another, this song is about the bit of sadness in everything - it's an empire, sure, but it isn't real - it's lemonade, of course, but it isn't enough - it's a shiny city and we've got bluebirds on our shoulders (woopsay: i definitely think that's a tongue-in-cheek shot towards "zip-a-dee-doo-dah") but the emphasis is on quelling thoughts and ideas, hiding them behind glitter and pretense. there's definitely some questioning of identity, or at least "genuine" identity.

    this theme returns in the next song:
    "you get mistaken for strangers by your own friends"

    such remarkable melancholy...
    artformsnowon May 31, 2007   Link
  • +4
    General Comment"The song is a commentary on a generation lost to disillusion and apathy. Vocalist Matt Berringer explained to The Quietus that it is about "where you can't deal with the reality of what's really going on, so let's just pretend that the world's full of bluebirds and ice skating."

    This is what I read on the artist's intepretation on the song, but that's what's so great about music. You can interpret anything anyway you want, to whatever strikes a chord inside of you, and be right. For me this song was more about America as a whole and how we live through the motto "ignorance is bliss." So I guess my interpretation was similar to Berringer's; in the same book but not on the same page, so to speak.
    brygy24on September 02, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentTruly a beautiful song. It's clearly a relationship song--the entire album is an exploration of an individual's experiences reliving a bittersweet relationship, and this one starts it out...

    The lyrics are sad and nostalgic, and they position a romantic relationship by using politicized language. Relationships are about losing and regaining personal sovereignty, and creating--upon a given landscape--a kind of psychic map...think of it as geographic waypoints significant to a couple's existence. The "Fake Empire" is the relationship as projected out into a city...it creates a significant landscape that is meaningful to the singer, but is ultimately just a construct, not real in any formal sense. It's the territory of the couple's own making...both real and imaginary.

    The song is a little bit ironic, even sarcastic, with its opening images of domestic bliss and disney-esque happiness. The singer is revisiting this earlier idealism from a point of confusion and inquiry...but ultimately he can't sort things out & there's a detente...the only thing possible is an agreement to not over-analyze the situation, to let it be, to wait.
    kalapua_kickon September 19, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General CommentAn interview that can be found at aquariumdrunkard.com/2008/07/10/matt-berninger-the-national-the-ad-interview/:

    AD: Many of the reviews of Boxer called it a war record, focusing on tracks like “Start a War” and “Fake Empire,” but the more I listen to those tracks, the more they seem to be about crumbling relationships. To what extent are those songs “war” songs?

    Matt Berninger: Neither were every really songs about war. “Fake Empire” has political allusions but it’s also just a song about going out and forgetting your troubles. If anything, its more about trying to avoid thinking about the state of the world.

    AD: I’ve spoken with several artists who have begun to write purposefully ambiguous lyrics because they know that their songs are going to be interpreted differently by different people; to what extent do you do the same? How do you feel about the way your songs are interpreted?

    Matt Berninger: A song sticks with me more if its a little ambiguous. It allows for flexibility and leaves the windows open. It’s easier for me to stay connected and interested in something if I’m not 100% sure what it’s about.

    There you go.
    amarchlionprinceon January 29, 2010   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI think the first part of the song is meant to describe the simple life for the Americans in their empire. There's a very laid-back feel to both the words, actions and Berninger's voice.

    The last part of the song tells of the current state of the empire.
    "No thinking for a little while" - we allow things to happen without really thinking about them. We postpone whatever consequences there might be.
    Polsteron April 11, 2007   Link
  • +2
    General CommentYeah, I agree with the love aspect. I doubt that it's a political statement because their lyrics seems to be more abstract. In "all the wine", they talk about a birthday candle in a circle of black girls. I think they go for more imagery than blunt messages.
    delaon April 27, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentWhat made me think it was about America is the first few lines relation to the phrase "as American as apple pie"
    coyote78on April 13, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commenthe could have taken the oportunity and made it about love and america, all at once. there is clearly the political message (dela, i'm sure of it, so as in 'all the wine' he is actually talking about wine - and the image of a birthday candle is not to be taken literally but it is to be taken visually, it isn't some obscure association).

    think about america right now, how could he not be talking politics and accidentaly mention a "fake empire"? it's dead clear.

    as for love, i see it politically too, as a metaphor. i wouldn't say love as much as childhood and happiness. a naivety concerning the state of affairs and political issues. or a carelessness. being happy and young and living your life merely in a fake empire. voodoodolly, polster, upthera44 and phocid kind of said it all before.
    lampadaon April 30, 2007   Link

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