"Center of the Universe" as written by and Doug Martsch....
I heard what I said to you,
And it was so out of sync
With the way I wanted to
Make myself out to seem.
I don't like this air,
But that doesn't mean I'll stop breathing it,
Who doesn't think they're at the center of the universe being it?

Don't look now,
Just keep watching your TV,
Hating what's to see,
Waiting for someone to say something that's right!

I heard what I said to you,
Thought it was all understood,
But I wasn't getting through,
I'd go on if I could.
I don't like this air,
But that doesn't mean I'll stop breathing it,
Who doesn't think they're at the center of the universe being it?

Don't look now,
Just keep watching your TV,
Hating what's to see,
Waiting for someone to say something that's right!


Lyrics submitted by Lilsteier

"Center of the Universe" as written by Doug Martsch

Lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

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Center of the Universe song meanings
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12 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentOr, simply: 'I fucked up, I know. But don't give up on me, because eventually I'll do it right.'
    ponchopunchon July 16, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI can't believe there is only one posting for this song! In my opinion this is the best single ever released and maybe the most perfect pop song ever.
    Wish I wrote it.
    Kurt Russellon December 17, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthere is one thing you must try, listening to this song while jumping on a trampoline. I did it once. it was cool.

    On another note, I once left class early during school and went outside and drew a dot and labeled it the "center of the universe" after this song. I drew it right on the school side walk with yellow chalk so everyone saw it. but I bet no one knew it was acctually a masterpiece song written by the indie heroes of Built to SPill. youth today is so oblivious.
    nonnycrieson January 05, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti knew what you meant, nonnycries!
    abusingeddieon March 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General Commenthaha good history, nonnycries!


    o CENTER OF THE UNIVERSE
    gustavo_on July 05, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentBoth Built to Spill and early Modest Mouse were the soundtrack to the beginning of my manhood. I don't mean that in a biological sense, but more of the development of my perception of the world and where my place lies. This album, and specifically this song are so unbiased and truthful, yet realistically positive. It's not pushing any type of agenda or brandishing "opinions", but rather seems as if it is holding a mirror to the face of humanity and the sum of our choices. I am so thankful for this band.

    These are how I personally interpret these lyrics. Let me know if anyone feels the same way.


    I heard what I said to you,
    And it was so out of sync
    With the way I wanted to
    Make myself out to seem.

    A snapshot of a particular instance that encompasses a whole lot. I know that everyone knows this feeling. It's the feeling of meeting someone new, starting a new job, or maintaining small talk, anything. You would like to make yourself seem more like the mental image of what you should be: witty, serious, jovial, or what have you. However, it is sometimes hard to come across how you would like. I believe we all do this to some degree in all walks of life. It shows the uncertainty revealed by our perceived impression on other people It's comforting to me to sympathize with Doug.

    I don't like this air,
    But that doesn't mean I'll stop breathing it,
    Who doesn't think they're at the center of the universe being it?

    I am very fond of the first metaphor. It kind of piggybacks off of the first line and addresses the bigger picture. If one wishes to be successful, talk to that girl, nut up and say what's on your mind, or hell, even be a part of a humanity that they don't understand. You still need to continue and not quit; like breathing. Some of my friends have just quit. This line makes me think of them. The neutrality of "air" also brings to mind the blandness of it all. "eat your oatmeal" I like the message of not giving up as well. Also, who isn't selfish at their core? Everyone is just trying to get ahead eventually, and while relationships matter, everyone wants what they think is best for themselves. Charity and kindness to others seems like it only makes us feel good about ourselves (there's a bit of philosophical debate in that one). Also, making sacrifices for others sounds more like a compromise to me. There are very few in this world that truly put themselves second.

    Don't look now,
    Just keep watching your TV,
    Hating what's to see,
    Waiting for someone to say something that's right!

    Both Doug and Isaac Brock of MM have interesting ways of jumping around in their lyrics. It reminds me of a shift in conversation that still centers around the broad point. Anyways, these are the lines that I really appreciate in Doug's songwriting. It's almost a jab at the confirmation bias that is associated with politics, or anything else. It also highlights the bourgeois nature of the average American. In a lot of Doug's songs, he points out that there is much more going on that meets the eye in civilized society. Almost as if average Joe doesn't know what is behind the curtain, and he is not establishing what it is exactly. A lot of Doug's songwriting is very anti-establishment, but I think that it is in a good way. One thing that I've gotten out of Doug's songwriting, is that it's ok to live in a society that is controlled by a lot of negative factors, and that there is not a lot that you can do about it. Just focus on interpreting the world with an open lens, and to be true to yourself.

    And yeah, every one of their songs can be interpreted to be about a girl, but I don't think that is the case. In fact, I don't believe any of their songs are about love between the opposite sex.
    mathematicson June 26, 2014   Link
  • 0
    General Commentit's about "i'm an asshole but who cares we're all assholes"
    carriedthezeroon June 06, 2016   Link
  • -1
    General CommentThe meaning is pretty straight-forward. Who doesn't think they're at the center of the universe? We are all the center of our own little worlds. We have these ideas about what we think are "right" but nothing ever quite lives up to our own expectations. On the TV, no one ever seems to be quite what you want. But even you, even yourself, you're not what you want either. The words that come out sound so out of sync, they don't make sense, you're not getting through.... You don't like the way things are but it doesn't mean you're gonna just stop. You're not gonna kill yourself, you're not gonna change it. You'll just keep going, because you're it. You're the center of your universe.
    narsilon September 14, 2002   Link
  • -1
    General CommentMy take on this song is pretty much what narsil said, but in a bit of a different context. It's (the songs, that is) kind of a half-apologetic attempt to explain himself and his words/actions to someone (maybe a girl, maybe a friend or family member, who knows).

    "I heard what I said to you / and it was so out of sync / with the way I wanted to / make myself out to seem" (and the corresponding second verse) : 'Hey, I know I said these things, and I know how it must have sounded to you, but what you got from it was not the same thing I was trying to convey to you.' Trying to express oneself, trying to relate to someone so that they really understand you and where you're coming from is the hardest thing in the world.

    "I don't like this air / but that doesn't mean I'll stop breathing it" : Here he's drawing a very simple parallel - 'I don't like being misunderstood, I don't like how tough it is to interact with people if they don't have as much knowledge of and access to all the things I think and feel as I do. But that doesn't mean I'm going to stop living with people, it doesn't mean I'm going to become a hermit and avoid social contact.'

    "Who doesn't think they're at / the center of the universe and being it?" : We all experience life/the universe/everything only through ourselves. There's no way around this fact - I see with my own eyes, hear with my own ears, speak with my own mouth, and think with my own mind. In this sense, we are, by nature, alone.

    "Don't look now / just keep watching your t.v. / hating what's to see (what you see?) / waiting for someone / to say something that's right" : Again, don't give up. Keep struggling along, because even though the majority of your experiences with people may not be positive or you may not be truly understood by (or truly understand) everyone you meet, there's always that chance that you'll find someone who says something that you would say, someone who thinks like you do, a kindred spirit. And maybe they won't agree with you on everything, but to connect with someone on even a small level, even if only some of the time, is what's really important.

    To me, it's about struggling with my own fear that nothing outside myself is real (how can you ever know?) and the desire that creates within me to find someone who can truly know me.
    ponchopunchon July 16, 2005   Link
  • -1
    General CommentI read a review of Keep It Like a Secret where the guy knew what this song was about as if he had written it or something.

    It's just about being in your own world, not considering others enough, and the lack of communication that results.

    But really, who cares what this song is about? Gotta love that AIR pun.
    Clitoroidon January 29, 2006   Link

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