"A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free" as written by and Steven P. Smith....
I'm floating in a black balloon
OD on Easter afternoon
My momma told me,
"Baby stay clean, there's no in between."

All you ladies and you gentlemen
Between's all you've ever seen or been,
Fit poorly and and arrange the sight
Doll it up in virgin white.

You disappoint me
You people raking in on the world
The devil's script sells
You the heart of a blackbird.

Shine on me baby
Cause it's raining in my heart.

Sun rising on a chopping glare
Rain dropping acid blotter in the air
Distorted reality's now a necessity
To be free.

So disappointing,
First I put it all down to luck
God knows why my
Country don't give a fuck (fuck).

Shine on me baby
Cause it's raining in my heart.
Shine on me baby
Cause it's raining in my heart.


Lyrics submitted by ghost06, edited by Mellow_Harsher, ian1774721

"A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free" as written by Steven P. Smith

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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A Distorted Reality Is Now a Necessity to Be Free song meanings
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  • +5
    My InterpretationI think this song can be interpreted a lot of different ways, but to me it's about the use of street drugs and the use of anti-depressants/anti-anxiety medication.

    The first part is about how he was on heroin and his mom told him you're either clean or not. You can't be kind of on heroin.

    The second stanza is about how all the other people out there are "in between" because they're on mood altering drugs, but not addicted to a drug. If they don't quite fit, they must be abnormal and must need some kind of medication to alter their brains and make them fit in.

    The third stanza is about how he's disappointed by the people who are raking in the money because of the weakness of the world. My favorite line is:

    The devil's script sells you
    The heart of a blackbird

    Which to me means that the devil's script (prescription mind altering medication) takes your human heart away and makes your heart as cold and uncaring as a blackbird.

    His country don't give a fuck because they're all uncaring prescription pill zombies. Take the rest for what you will, but I think that the line:

    "A distorted reality's now a necessity to be free"

    is talking about how everyone thinks that to be free and happy they have to take medication which distorts their reality by making them happy or calm or whatever.

    Just my take on it. What do you guys think?
    jankouton September 22, 2009   Link
  • +2
    General CommentWow, what a song. Anyway, here's my take:

    In stanza two, three, five and six, Elliott addresses a few aspects of the world he feels are screwed up. For example, in stanza two, he describes all of the hypocrisy in the message people give him about his condition. He's told in stanza one there's "no in between", meaning that there's no middleground between what we consider good and evil. Essentially, if you're doing wrong, you're bad, and if you aren't, you're good. You either are or aren't. However, in the second stanza, he sings about what liars they are because they themselves are pefect examples of people who live mediocre, "in between" lives. They claim to be moral, good, and "clean" and yet they are all very superficial and phony. This is why he sings "doll her up in virgin white". He's describing how at just about every wedding, the bride wears white to represent her purity and virginity while in fact she has already had sex and is no longer a virgin. He's just throwing in a specific instance of fakeness.

    In the third stanza, he sings about how sold many people are just sell-outs and only become money leeches. All they strive for is to make a quick buck or two off of anything they can.

    Then in the fourth stanza he talks about screwed up the environment has become. We now have acid rain that has been "bought up" into the air because of the power and influence of wealth. If a company has enough money, then they can get away with polluting. Interestingly, this is where Elliott includes the phrase "a distorted reality is now a necessity to be free". I'll discuss that after a few more sentences.

    In the sixth stanza, he then goes on about how originally he had this belief that all of the problems of the world could be "put down to luck", as in, be attributed to coincidence and chance. That humans didn't have an ultimate say in what happens because of more powerful outside forces. However, he's realized that actually we do have the power to change things and have the say in our fate, and therefore, it's our own fault for letting the world become what it is rather than luck's. With this new realization, he finds us to be disappointing then. To believe that the all the problems in the world are a matter of chance and randomness, is to free humans from blame. However, Elliott now sees that we have the real say in what happens so that there is this ultimate element of free will. We have really been the ones who have made the decisions to have a messed up world. This is why he talks about his country not "giving a fuck". It's as if his faith in the world has finally been shattered.

    Anyway, with all these things in mind, he says, "a distorted reality is a now a necessity to be free," to mean that with all the madness in this world, you have to live in your own one to find contentment. It's as if his final judgement is that this is one screwed up place and the only way to be "free" or happy is to create a seperate one to escape. That is where the question of suicide arises too because it's ambiguous as to what Elliott feels the "distorted reality" actually is. Some might see it as suicide since because it seems to them that it's really the only way to be free and find liberation. It will remain an unanswered question most likely.

    Oh, and as far as the repeated lines "shine on me baby/ 'cos it's raining in my heart," he's expressing how the only thing from this world that seems to comfort him is his "baby", as in the person he truly loves. He can't help but be plagued by distress and misery from his surroundings, and all that really "shines" on his rainy "heart" is his the person, in my opinion girl, he loves. It's kind of like that feeling you get sometimes when everybody around you seems so insane and depressing and all you want is to be with the one you love.

    I find this song quite touching really. He expresses his vunerability in it quite beautifly when he sings "shine on...." and so on.

    What a song, what a song. There will never be another quite like Elliott Smith; that's for sure.
    tranquilasadoveon October 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti don't think it's as simple as one thing or the other. some people say the distorted reality is referring to a drug-filled life. others say it's all about human hypocrisy or government corruption.

    my take on the distorted reality leans towards the corrupt government theme. it's like he's saying the only way to live in this world's most free country (or any democratic nation i guess) is to accept all the duplicity coming from our representative leaders by ignoring it or saying there's nothing we can do about it. thus, if you want to be free you have to play by their rules, which means giving up certain civil liberties. this perspective could also include the drug aspect. maybe he meant the only way he was able to manage living in such a fucked up world was to be fucked up on drugs all the time in order to help him forget that he didn't want to live in this kind of place. i could go on and on...

    the true brilliance of smith's music is the way he uses very few words to convey his thoughts and feelings elegantly. then he manages to give nearly every verse or line a double meaning, sometimes three or four meanings. almost everytime i listen to a song i get a new message from it.

    i'd try to decypher the other verses, but i'd probably be here all day. besides, i think the best part about lyrics is that we each get to interpret them in our own way. not only will smith live on through his music and our memories, but his music is alive and evolving _because_ we don't know exactly what meaning he intended to communicate.

    as badge said, 'fucking brilliant.'
    mellowdoodon July 12, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commenti know that smith was a huge fan of the beatles, so this might be a stretch but what the hell. when he says "the devil's script sells you the heart of a blackbird" he could be referring the song blackbird. meaning that the devil gives these people the chance to succeed in society but they are still uncaring and hypocrticical. as if smith is upset that these terrible people are making it in life, or at least they think they are.
    texamexicanon March 18, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI always thought he said "dollared up in virgin white" but it doesn't really matter:

    but all you ladies and you gentlemen
    between's all you've ever seen or been
    fit poorly and arrange the sight
    doll her up in virgin white

    I think he's singing about his experience on the Academy Awards, when he was woefully out of place among the Celine Dions ... he came out in an all-white tuxedo and played "Miss Misery" to the super-rich Hollywood crowd, uncomfortably, with an orchestra backing him. "Fit poorly and arrange the sight" seems to suggest that Elliott believed he didn't belong there.

    Considering his song was easily the most powerful, important one of the nominees, and that he lost to Celine Dion's piece of overwrought trash, I think he was right...
    loosegravelon March 25, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOh, by the way, sorry for such a long entry. I guess I got a little carried away... It's just such an amazing song.
    tranquilasadoveon October 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"I'm floating in a black balloon"
    going with the flow in emotional darkness and feeling threatend. Feeling threatend or scared because afraid someone might burst the balloon he is in. Black balloon could also mean mystery illusion or fantasy he is in and he wants to stay like that
    OD on easter afternoon could mean that he doesnt want to put his energies in good use he rather feel the way he does for some reason
    sweetxiuxiuon July 07, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentwell the first verse is obviously about drug use...

    im floating on a black balloon- heroin when sold in small amounts (to users not sellers) ussually is filld in a lil water balloon

    I just feel like this song is about the struggle with drug use, and the struggle to understand society and the amount of apathy society installs on people...its cool because I can always put my own story to elliots music, he painted pictures with his songs and the pictures always change

    we will never have another elliott smith
    4four2twenty0on September 08, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General Comment"Fit poorly and arrange the sight
    Doll her up in virgin white"

    Don't you think it could mean that they'll "arrange the sight", distort the sight on someone who has done wrong by making that person look innocent, as dressing him/her in "virgin white"?
    awryon January 24, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song addresses a couple of things, the first being the inherent hypocrisy of human beings in general, and then the more flagrant hypocrisy of those in positions of authority. Really, the first few verses may be seen as an autobiography of sorts; Elliott's struggle with substance abuse -- and his friends' various interventions -- probably inspired him to write something to the effect of, "Look, we're all a little screwed up, we all do things that are bad for us, so don't point the finger at me until you've cleaned up your act." There's a lot of truth in saying we all "doll up" our public faces in "virgin white," but, ultimately, I think Smith was using some classic junkie reasoning. Drugs had taken over his life at this point, people tried to help him, so he lashed out. More interesting is Smith's take on the people "rakin' in on the world." In this day and age, I think this probably means the bureaucratic hypocrites that lead us into unnecessary wars. Take the line "But God knows why my/country don't give a fuck" for example; I can only take this as a fairly direct allusion to what was going on in the U.S. at the time of Smith's death, the so-called aftermath of a supposedly "just" war in Iraq. If my assumption is true, it probably means that this is the most overtly political stance Smith ever took in his music. All in all, the "distorted reality" of this song refers to the justifications we make for the way we act on a personal and global scale.
    mfluder2676on October 21, 2004   Link

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