One, two, one!

Two scientists are racing
For the good of all mankind
Both of them side-by-side
So determined

Locked in heated battle
For the cure that is their prize
But it's so dangerous
But they're determined

Theirs is to win
If it kills them
They're just humans
With wives and children

Upwards to the vanguard
Where the pressure is too high
Under the microscope
Hope against hope

Forging for the future
But to sacrifice their lives
Both of them side-by-side
So determined

Theirs is to win
If it kills them
They're just humans
With wives and children

Theirs is to win
If it kills them
They're just human
With wives and children

Lyrics submitted by BobSaget666, edited by Milkybarkid212, MDwaddle, StrikerX22, VacuousRoad

"Race for the Prize" as written by Steven Drozd Michael Ivins

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Race for the Prize song meanings
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  • +5
    General CommentIt has been a while since anyone commented on this, I am sorry to say you are all off.

    The first three songs on here are about the creation, and explosion of the atomic bomb. The scientists they are speaking of are the dudes involved in the Manhatten Project. The atomic scientists even have a publication called "The Atomic Bulletin" , this is where the doomsday clock comes from.

    Anyways..."Race for the Prize" pretty much chronicles the creation of the bomb while "Spoonful Weighs a Ton" is totally obvious in its imagery of nuclear power.

    And though they were sad (they were sad they created such a destructive force)
    They rescued everyone (ended the war)
    They lifted up the sun (the atom bomb had the power of the sun)
    A spoonful weighs a ton (atomic warheads are super small with enormous power)
    Giving more than they had
    The process had begun (allusion to tremendous pressure and sacrifice that was a result of the project including radiation exposure to the scientists)
    A million came from one
    The limits now were none
    Being drunk on their plan, they lifted up the sun (obvious allusion to atomic explosion)

    The last song in the trilogy is "The Spark That Bled". To anyone who has studied the Hiroshima/Nagasaki incidents the lyrics pretty much describe someone who is on the outside peripheral of the explosion.

    I accidentally touched my head
    And noticed that I had been bleeding
    For how long I didn't know (Everything happened in a flash and survivor accounts are just like this, there was a flash and nobody even knew what the f happened)
    What was this, I thought, that struck me?
    What kind of weapons have they got?
    The softest bullet ever shot (totally obvious....a single bomb dropped from one plane, slowly making its way down to the ground)

    The rest of the song goes on to allude to the end of the war and even the "atom- mania" that swept the nation in the late 1940s/1950s even using phrases such as "chain reaction". The end simply says that "in reality, there was no reaction" which if you have ever read the book "Hiroshima" pretty much sums it up.

    Additionally, if you are really not convinced by now, listen closley to the beginning and ending of the song as it pitter/patters in the sound of a Geiger Counter, which is a tool used to measure radiation.

    The rest of the album, I don't know if any of that is in reference to the atomic bomb, but it seems like it might be more about the world shifting under foot.
    meatwad24on March 07, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commentfor some reason, this happy-sounding song makes me so sad
    the price of discovery..
    beulahrawkon June 09, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song feels so great to listen to, and so fitting of the Lips, to have songs feel opposite of their lyrics. However, the phrase "Upwards to the vanguard" is just gets me feeling powerful every time.
    ZeroOneon May 16, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis is one of my favourite songs. The strings and the drums... so exhilarating.
    ReActoron October 27, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentgreat song. reminds me of the polyphonic spree, a bit.
    kozoon June 24, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentYeah, it's about how ordinary human beings, with ordinary problems and concerns, wives and children, can do extraordinary things.
    DevastatorJr.on December 30, 2005   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song, but i'm a bit of a cynic - for me this song says something about the frivolity of progress, it's something to work towards but that there are more important things; however much you want something there's always something else there.

    Think there's something about academic competition, that although they may be racing towards something that may be for the good of all mankind, there's still a sizable amount of selfish motive in what they are doing. Also the competition aspect says something unfair about the world of science in that although people may put the same effort into something, the prize is still won and lost and losers are often forgotten
    moomoosnakeon January 16, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commentgood comments moomoosnake
    as with most Lips tunes on the last few albums, the pretty music deceives a bit of negativity in the lyrics...even though it sounds positive on first listen, digging a bit deeper shows the underlying realism.

    often times folks who strike to help improve the comfort of living for strangers do it at a cost to their own well being as well as those close to them
    tomautoon January 16, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMy feeling is that the scientists are cooperating in their struggle. They're racing, but it's not necessarily against each other. Against time, against danger. The term "side by side" is usually used for allies... in a competition it would be "neck and neck" or "head to head." That makes the song a lot happier to me!
    inhumandecencyon March 31, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentTo me, this song is about overambition. How we are always aiming for perfection that will probably never be achieved.
    The scientists in the song want to discover the cure, save the world, become superheroes. They'll do anything to achieve their goals. But no matter how far they try to climb, after all "they're just humans, with wives and children."
    onestepbeyondon January 16, 2007   Link

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