Win Butler said that the song was one of a few written entirely while in Jamaica. And most of the album, Reflektor, has obviously Jamaican undertones. But "We Exist" is one of the "least Jamaican-sounding...
They're walking around
Head full of sound
Acting like
We don't exist
They walk in the room
And stare right through you
Talking like
We don't exist
But we exist
Daddy it's true
I'm different from you
But tell me why they treat me like this?
If you turned away
What would I say?
Not the first betrayed by a kiss

Maybe it's true
They're staring at you
When you walk in the room
Tell 'em it's fine
Stare if you like
Just let us through
Just let us through
Na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na

They're down on their knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
Daddy it's fine
I'm used to 'em now
But tell me why they treat me like this?
It's cause we do it like this

Na na na na na na na
Na na na na na na na
Maybe it's true
They're staring at you
When you walk in the room
Tell 'em it's fine
Stare if you like
Just let us through
Just let us through

Let 'em stare! Let 'em stare!
If that's all they can do!
But I'd lose my heart
If I turned away from you

Oh Daddy don't turn away
You know that I'm so scared
But will you watch me drown?
You know we're going nowhere
We know that we're young
And no shit we're confused
But will you watch us drown?
What are you so afraid to lose?

Down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
You're down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
We exist!
We exist!

Down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
You're down on your knees
Begging us please
Praying that we don't exist
We exist!
We exist!
We exist!
We exist! Na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na, na na na na na na na

Maybe if you hang together
You can make the changes in our hearts
And if you hang together, you can change us
Just where should you start?


Lyrics submitted by afimrtl

"We Exist" as written by Win Butler, Regine Chassagne, William Butler, Richard R Parry, Jeremy Gara, Tim Kingsbury

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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We Exist song meanings
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11 Comments

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  • +8
    General Comment“There’s a song on “Reflektor” called “We Exist”, which is about a gay kid talking to his dad [“Daddy, it’s true, I’m different from you. But tell me why they treat me like this?”]. In dominant cultures there’s what’s normal, and everything else is abnormal. It’s one of the darker tendencies of humanity to think everyone should fit into a mould.”
    — Win Butler
    womanningon November 04, 2013   Link
  • +2
    Song MeaningLovers who won't let the judgements or opinions of others - friends, parents, peers, strangers, whoever - destroy what 'exists' between them. A simple statement of being in a relationship: we exist.

    The Salsatheque performance of this song was absolutely awesome.
    fifty__missionon September 30, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI think this song is about homosexuality and the struggle for equality.

    "They're walking around / Head full of sound / Acting like / We don't exist" - this refers to the anaesthetic of modern media which creates "sound" in everyone's heads to stop therm noticing what is going on around them. And the still-homophobic slant many media forms have, which leads many people to still refusing to accept or acknowledge gay people.

    "Daddy it's true, I'm different from you / But tell me why they treat me like this / You turn away, what could I say / Not the first betrayed by a kiss" - this references Judas' kiss of Jesus in a very clever way. In this song the homosexual kiss between two men reveals the protagonist as gay, it effectively outs him. The Daddy referred to here and in this song is, I suspect, God.

    "They're down on their knees / Begging us please / Praying that we don't exist" - refers to the intolerance religion still has towards gay people.
    niteflite01on October 26, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI feel the song is just about being self aware that you are different from everyone else within a given environment. What makes this a magical insight is the fact it is a group that is connected and can see what the others see, and are bonded together single minded.

    I also get a "Children of the Corn" feel for the parts where you understand how close and in-sync this group must be within themselves, and how this group must feel about how some people view them.

    It must be weird to sing this song live while staring out at the crowd... Very interesting and intellectually challenging
    Alexander3417on October 31, 2013   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationLike other users, I too interpret this song as a reminder that homosexuals exist. So many closed-minded people walk with a hot head and a pole stuck up their butt when it comes to "accepting" gays in our society. After listening to this song over 100 times, what lyrically grabbed my attention the most is how Win holds the "s" in "this" when he sings, "It's cause we do it like thissssssssssss." Many homosexuals are criticized and harshly laughed at for stressing their "Ssss" in sentences and I notice Win alludes to such behavior in his performances. On the SNL AF Special Win dramatically holds his hand in front of him while holding the "s;" at the LA Halloween show Win made a point to announce something like, "Can we just legalize gay marriage already or what?" Subliminally or not, I think Win acted these ways for a reason (unless he simply put his hand up because he is a Reflektor Rock and Roll God).

    Indeed, this song reminds us that brainwashed people can get down on their knees and pray all they want to their picture-perfect god that gays don't exist and that gays are confused but it won't change who they are-- people are who they are. By the end of the song the message, to me, tells us that our society won't get very far unless we make the changes in our heart to be accepting towards everyone, gay or not. Be yourself and other individuals who aren't ok with another's sexuality can stare all they want... because we all exist equally.
    bruinbabeon November 19, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentSeems to be about the cold and far-off way critics and music fans in general treat bands, especially in a digital age where it's so easy to judge things far away from you (perhaps Arcade Fire are talking autobiographically here). "Walking around head full of sound" seems to be about a listener absolutely consumed by the music, critiquing every bit of it, judging the band solely on the music and not on who they are or anything about them. The result is very cold and inhuman, almost as if the musicians have been reduced to mere fantasy. People talk about them as if they weren't human at all ("talking like we don't exist"), and in the end Arcade fire feel like they're just a fantasy to their fans, something that people worship but something they'll never get to know personally ("Maybe it's true/ they're staring at you/when you walk in the room").
    Radioheadfanaton October 22, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationDefinitely got the homophobia theme the first or second listen. I find that interpretation lends the most power to the final verse:

    You know that we're young
    You know that we're confused
    But will you watch us drown?
    What are you so afraid to lose?

    It's a desperate and somber plea to one's parents (or to all of society) for acceptance. And it feels very real, because Win's tone betrays the inevitably bitter and accusatory tone of anyone who's been shafted by the world.
    Jalamookoofooon October 29, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"They're down on their knees, begging us please, praying that we don't exist...."

    I love this lyric. It says so much about the hypocrisy of organized religion in one simple line.

    While the religious types get down on their knees and pray to their god which they are convinced exists, they also simultaneously get down on their knees and use their religion to pray and argue against equality for gay people - praying that 'we don't exist'. Pretty ironic, isn't it.
    justareflektoron November 08, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI read in 1 of the comments that this was about homosexuals and their struggle to "exist", especially in some cultures.

    However my initial interpretation of the song was that it was about kids in the 1970s and 80s, who were different from their parents before them. They were more rebellious, adventurous, open, wore different kids of clothes, were into different types of music and, in the end, gave rise to a new kind of social culture. So I can imagine this song being about a teenager during that era, struggling to explain his way of life to his parents and society in general.

    Overall though, the song can be just about any socially victimized or outcasted group. The struggles they all go through are, in a general sense, much the same and the song never goes into any details for us to make out who exactly he is referring too.
    Cyberghoston April 25, 2014   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationThis song isn't about a gay man, it's about a transgender kid, asking their father to accept them.
    The fact that this meaning goes straight over everyone's head, shows the meaning of the song. Barely anybody recognizes the struggle of trans people, even though it's in the acronym LGBT. Trans people have to struggle just for people to realize they exist, let alone how other people look at them. Hence the people staring at them.
    It also explains the way people pray they don't exist. People pray their kids don't end up "cross-dressing freaks", or that they'll be cured of being trans.
    Gay rights is important, but it's also one of the biggest issues of today's rights. Gay people don't have to scream "we exist", because everyone already knows. The comments on this already prove it, you hear of a man turning away from his son for being different, and you automatically think he's gay. Gay marriage and gay rights is all anyone's been talking about, and while that's a good thing, trans people are still silenced every day. That's what this song is about.
    bargrimon May 06, 2014   Link

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