"American Dream" as written by and James Murphy....
Wake up with somebody near you
And at someone else's place
You took acid and looked in the mirror
Watched the beard crawl around on your face
Oh, the revolution was here
That would set you free from those bourgeoisie
In the morning everything's clearer
When the sunlight exposes your age

But that's okay
And that's okay

Grab your clothes and head to the doorway
If you dance out, no one complains
Find the place where you can be boring
Where you won't need to explain
That you're sick in the head and you wish you were dead
Or at least instead of sleeping here you prefer your own bed, come on
You just suck at self-preservation
Versus someone else's pain

So you feel drained
And insane
And insane

He was leather and you were screaming
Swinging chains against the stage
And you couldn't know he was leaving
But now more will go with age, you know
So get up and stop your complaining
You know that you're the only one who's been destroying all the fun
Look what happened when you were dreaming
Then punch yourself in the face
So you kiss and you clutch but you can't fight that feeling
That your one true love is just awaiting your big meeting
So you never even asked for names
You just look right through them as if you already came
It's a drug of the heart and you can't stop the shaking
'Cause the body wants what it's terrible at taking, oh
And you can't remember the meaning
But there's no going back against this California feeling

Dream
(Sha-bang, sha-bang)
American dream
(Sha-bang, sha-bang)
American dream
(Sha-bang, sha-bang)
American dream
(Sha-bang, sha-bang, oh oh)


Lyrics submitted by Xim

"american dream" as written by James Jeremiah Murphy

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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American Dream song meanings
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  • +1
    My InterpretationA lot of the sentiments and passages in this song remind me of my first acid trip. I think the general sentiment of the song is reflecting on the experience of partying/doing drugs while aging and having depression. James Murphy has already touched on this vein before (e.g. "losing my edge") and I get the sense that he is very self-aware about himself aging in the rock/dance scene.

    Here's my line-by-line analysis:

    "Wake up with somebody near you
    And at someone else's place"
    [This evokes a typical morning-after-party environment.]

    "You took acid and looked in the mirror
    Watched the beard crawl around on your face"
    [Very explicit reference to taking acid and its hallucinogenic effects. FYI you don't have to have a beard to watch a beard crawl around on your face. Also looking in the mirror while on acid is one of the scariest things ever.]

    "Oh, the revolution was here
    That would set you free from those bourgeoisie"
    [I think it's a typical trope that young people doing psychedelics think of themselves as revolting against the bourgeoisie in a hippie/communist way.]

    "In the morning everything's clearer
    When the sunlight exposes your age
    But that's okay
    And that's okay"
    [I think the clarity refers to realizing that the narrator didn't do anything particularly revolutionary, maybe even that he's too old for that, but he's telling himself that it's okay to be hold and not a young activist/revolutionary anymore.]

    "Grab your clothes and head to the doorway
    If you dance out, no one complains"
    [Again, reminiscent of the morning after a typical young person's party scene. I don't think the narrator actually dances out, but the lyric is a nod to the notion that young people will still feel happy and optimistic the morning after, whereas he is depressed (see next stanza).]

    "Find the place where you can be boring
    Where you won't need to explain
    That you're sick in the head and you wish you were dead"
    [As someone diagnosed with depression, this seems to be an obvious reference to experiencing a depressive episode, which can easily be caused or exacerbated by an acid come-down. There's the desire to do nothing, be your miserable self, alone and silent, and not needing to talk to anyone or explain your behaviour and suicidal thoughts to anyone.]

    "Or at least instead of sleeping here you prefer your own bed, come on"
    [I've had this exact feeling before as a depressed introvert coming down from acid at someone else's house. The "at least" refers to a compromise: if he can't commit suicide or live like a complete hermit, at least he could just spend the night in his own bed with his familiar creature comforts instead of at this party with a bunch of young happy party people.]

    "You just suck at self-preservation
    Versus someone else's pain"
    [To me this is a direct reference to the suicide dilemma: you'd be less miserable if you were dead, but you'd make other people miserable by killing yourself. If the narrator sucks at it, that means he can't help wanting to commit suicide even if it means it will cause other people pain.]

    "So you feel drained
    And insane
    And insane"
    [Very typical feelings associated with depression and acid come-downs.]

    "He was leather and you were screaming
    Swinging chains against the stage"
    [This sounds sexual to me, maybe mildly BDSM.]

    "And you couldn't know he was leaving
    But now more will go with age, you know"
    [I think this is a reference to relationships not lasting, and continuing to fail again and again as you get older. Stats show this is typical.]

    "So get up and stop your complaining
    You know that you're the only one who's been destroying all the fun"
    [This evokes the tug-o-war battle between blaming your problems on things outside your control, like aging or romantic partners, and on yourself for not pursing your own happiness but wallowing in your own misery. Again, typical of depression and probably just maturation too.]

    "Look what happened when you were dreaming
    Then punch yourself in the face"
    [I'm not quite sure about this line. It might be about opportunities that passed you by and the regret and self-hate that comes from realizing that you didn't seize those opportunities.]

    "So you kiss and you clutch but you can't fight that feeling
    That your one true love is just awaiting your big meeting
    So you never even asked for names"
    [This refers to the process of looking for love, and while you keep starting relationships with people, you never give them your full 100% (including not even bothering to ask their name during a one-night stand, for instance) because you think your perfect soul mate has yet to enter your life. There's a differentiation between love and sex in this stanza.]


    "You just look right through them as if you already came
    It's a drug of the heart and you can't stop the shaking
    'Cause the body wants what it's terrible at taking, oh"
    [Following on the previous stanza, these lines refer to sex, with orgasm being a drug of the heart (literally a flood of serotonin on your brain, not unlike psychedelic drugs) that causes you to shake and look through your partner while, for a brief moment, you can't really focus on anything else but your own pleasure. I think what the body wants but is terrible at taking is a real earnest connection with someone else.]

    "And you can't remember the meaning
    But there's no going back against this California feeling"
    [I think James Murphy means you can't remember the meaning of love and sex, but there's no going back against the blissful pleasure you get during orgasm.]

    Dream
    (Sha-bang, sha-bang)
    American dream
    (Sha-bang, sha-bang)
    American dream
    (Sha-bang, sha-bang)
    American dream
    (Sha-bang, sha-bang, oh oh)

    [To me the American Dream that James Murphy is referring to is having it "all" (e.g. happiness, love, sex, eternal youth) and the desire to have it but knowing that it's impossible at the same time, also the self-sabotage in achieving this dream is evident throughout the lyrics (e.g. "you're the only one who's destroying all the fun").]

    In all, a thoughtful, complex expression of some of our deepest fears and desires, with specific references to sentiments of aging, psychedelic drug usage, and depression.
    jescapadeon December 06, 2017   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhat a great song from a great band. Glad to hear they still have it in them. This song reminds me of growing old and experimenting with drugs specifically hallucinogenics (2CI) The trip is one thing but the come down makes you reflect about life and all of its regrets, as if the best times have passed you by...but you are still ok .... similar to the current state of America.
    RAWHEADon September 03, 2017   Link

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