It's safe in the city to love in a doorway
To wrangle some screams from the dawn
And isn't it me, putting pain in a stranger?
Like a portrait in flesh, who trails on a leash
Will you see that I'm scared and I'm lonely?
So I'll break up my room, and yawn and I
Run to the center of things
Where the knowing one says:

"Boys, Boys, its a sweet thing
Boys, Boys, its a sweet thing, sweet thing
If you want it, Boys, get it here, thing
'Cause hope, Boys, is a cheap thing, cheap thing"

I'm glad that you're older than me
Makes me feel important and free
Does that make you smile, isn't that me?
I'm in your way, and I'll steal every moment
If this trade is a curse, then I'll bless you
And turn to the crossroads of Hamburg, as in

"Boys, Boys, its a sweet thing
Boys, Boys, its a sweet thing, sweet thing
If you want it, Boys, get it here, thing
'Cause hope, Boys, is a cheap thing, cheap thing"


[Part Two: Candidate]

I'll make you a deal, like any other candidate
We'll pretend we're walking home 'cause your future's at stake
My set is amazing, it even smells like a street
There's a bar at the end where I can meet you and your friend
Someone scrawled on the wall "I smell the blood of Les Tricoteuses"
Who wrote up scandals in other bars

I'm having so much fun with the poisonous people
Spreading rumors and lies and stories they made up
Some make you sing and some make you scream
One makes you wish that you'd never been seen
But there's a shop on the corner that's selling papier mache
Making bullet-proof faces; Charlie Manson, Cassius Clay
"If you want it, Boys, get it here, thing"

So you scream out of line:
"I want you! I need you! Anyone out there? Any time?"
Tres butch little number whines "Hey dirty, I want you
When it's good, it's really good, and when it's bad I go to pieces"
If you want it, Boys, get it here, thing

Well, on the street where you live I could not hold up my head
For I put all I have in another bed
On another floor, in the back of a car
In the cellar of a church with the door ajar
Well, I guess we must be looking for a different kind
But we can't stop trying 'til we break up our minds
'Til the sun drips blood on the seedy young knights
Who press you on the ground while shaking in fright
I guess we could cruise down one more time
With you by my side, it should be fine
We'll buy some drugs and watch a band
Then jump in the river holding hands


[Part Three: Sweet Thing (Reprise)]

"If you want it, boys, get it here, thing
'Cause hope, boys, is a cheap thing, cheap thing"

Is it nice in your snow storm, freezing your brain?
Do you think that your face looks the same?
Then let it be, it's all I ever wanted
It's a street with a deal, and a taste
It's got claws, it's got me, it's got you ...


Lyrics submitted by saturnine, edited by thither, Quinling

"Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise)" as written by David Bowie

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management, TINTORETTO MUSIC, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Sweet Thing song meanings
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20 Comments

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  • +6
    General CommentI very much agree with your posts. Mr. bOWIE was simply in a genius moment when he created the Diamond Dogs album. It's almost as if, in response to the disallowing of his Orwellian adaptation, he took it upon himself, in the paranoid and barren state that he was in, to compose an epic work that makes it's own mark in the expression of our most dark and apocolyptic thoughts. Bowie is again singing from the perspective of a young male hustler being preyed upon by the seedy city and at the same time using his sexual prowess (and in the process selling his soul) to help himself feel better about his lot in life. The overall suite of Sweet Thing and Candidate seems to be about how far people will go when they are at their darkest hour, approaching animalism in a tortured city landscape.
    davidbeauyon October 23, 2005   Link
  • +5
    General CommentSounds kind of like meeting with a prostitute and then falling in love with her...

    "It's safe in the city to love in a doorway" would describe their intial meeting. They're making love in the doorway of some old building, feeling safe because no one is around. The line "And isn't it me putting pain in a stranger" is very evocative- finding comfort and release through the act of sex with a stranger. I also love "Like a portrait in flesh that trails on a leash," as if through sharing his emotions, "putting pain" into her, he has turned her into a living work of art (as art is born from the artist's emotions). "Trails on a leash" could mean that she is expected to be obediant to him.

    My favorite delivery in this song is "Will you see that I'm scared and I'm lonely?" Amazing. The character is giving his reason for sleeping with the girl- he just doesn't want to be alone. "So I break up the room and yawn and run to the center of things" sounds vague, but makes me think of someone desperately trying to get rid of boredom and rushing out to find action somewhere- maybe another reason for visiting the prostitute, but it seems to relate to a different aspect of the character's life... The chorus is most likely what the women are telling the men to entice them. "Boys, it's a sweet thing... if you want it, get it here..." and I think "hope is a cheap thing" means that it's not hard for the women to make their customers feel hopeful, or it could be that no one is hopeful anyway so why not throw your life away with meaningless sexual encounters?

    After that, the narrator seems to be talking to a lover, maybe having fallen in love with the prostitute after seeing her more than once. I thought the line "I'm glad that you're older than me, makes me feel important and free" was ironic, but I realize that a younger person can feel important because the older person is in charge of taking care of him. He must have said this to the woman he's meeting with, because she reacts- "Does that make you smile? Isn't that me?" The most romantic line in the song follows- "I'm in your way and I'll steal every moment." He is really in deep with her, wanting to spend every moment in time with her. "If this trade is a curse, then I'll bless you..." refers to the woman's work as a prostitute, and how the narrator loves her anyway. The last line in the song is his mind wandering, as Candidate begins and he abadons his love momentarily for the promises that the candidate makes.

    This whole trio on Diamond Dogs is incredible. My favorite part of the album.
    EnduringChillon May 14, 2013   Link
  • +3
    General CommentI think this song is simply about the hollowness of casual sex. Prostitution definitely plays into that, but I think it's simply meeting someone in a night and running to the closest doorway to release their loneliness. After years of that, especially in the lonely life of a rock star who never gets to be at home with his or her family, constantly on the move, surrounded by strangers, or even just a drifter or bachellor/ette for too long, growing old while seeing their peers falling in love, having new lives and families... It's devastating and crippling of the soul and mentality of the person who's never had a closer, more intimate connection. A very sad song, a very sad, bittersweet album.
    mbdingoson March 22, 2011   Link
  • +3
    My InterpretationSo basically I think all 3 songs in the suite are loosely connected in terms of telling a basic story, just with a crap load of imagery. I don't think they're quite as political as people think. They're ultimately a cautionary tale of human interaction in the presumable post-apocalyptic world.

    In "Sweet Thing", a lonely man has a sexual encounter with a prostitute, and begins to love her. He fantasizes many things as a result of this love, like her seeing his love as a sweet, pure thing, starkly contrasting the apocalyptic environment they live in.

    In "Candidate", the two lovers, or candidates, spend time together, and eventually vow to live their lives to the fullest (drugs, concerts, etc.), and ultimately commit suicide as an act of rebellion against the government.

    In "Sweet Thing (Reprise)", drugs like cocaine have twisted the minds of the two candidates rather than helped them. They now apply the term "sweet thing" to the drugs they take, and their new lifestyle, rather than their initial love for each other. The crazy guitar thing at the end likely represents the crazy effects of the drugs on both of them.

    Wonderful suite by Bowie. About on the level of Cygnet Committee in terms of epicness.
    herecometherubbercopson April 24, 2017   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI love this song. I love the chorus, especially the last line, and the imagery of the first verse. It goes with the whole post apocolyptic image of "Diamond Dogs." I honestly think it's one of his more successful songs, in terms of pacing and style.

    Er, as to what it means, I have no idea. Something grungy and weird and feral in a city somewhere. But I love it!

    Mostly because it's absolutely AMAZING live.
    lauramarson May 08, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI just re-visited Diamond Dogs on a cassette in the car on a ride where I got to hear it end to end. When I first listened to it Sweet Thing was just a bridge from Diamond Dogs to Rebel...but now that is - together with Candidate and the Sweet Thing Reprise - the best part of the album to me. LM said something about the pacing and style, and I could not agree more.

    I tried to imagine creating/executing a song like it and it just would never occur to me. The sax is his best I think. Very soulful, emotive song. And the end of Sweet Thing Reprise is a wonderful chaotic noisy intro to Rebel Rebel. It fucking rocks!
    coo2kachooon June 01, 2005   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI always got the impression that this was about picking up a hooker. But I've been wrong before.
    Bonehead XLon June 03, 2006   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI LOVE THIS SONG.

    The organ stutter is my favorite part.
    Bowieon May 31, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI thought it was about a hooker too. the chorus is the hooker speaking, the verses are the john's thoughts. I like all these songs together.
    DJgifon June 19, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI'm listening right now and to interpret Bowie into words doesn't really work you have to experience it yourself by pouring it into a bath and soak in it. It's a bit like trying to explain and orgasm. You have to allow yourself to become a part of the experience. He paints such a beautiful picture well if a streetscape of an apocalyptic city is beautiful, yet you are there on this street with a bar at the end...

    You cannot listen to Sweet thing by itself as it flows into the candidate then "...jump in a river holding hands..." and then back to Sweet Thing reprise. There are other tracks that are worthy of praise "We Are The Dead", "Rock And Roll with me", "1984" and "Big Brother". One of his best.
    froggy59on May 03, 2016   Link

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