"Brilliant Disguise" as written by and Bruce Springsteen....
I hold you in my arms
As the band plays
What are those words whispered baby
Just as you turn away
I saw you last night
Out on the edge of town
I want to read your mind
To know just what I've got in this new thing I've found
So tell me what I see
When I look in your eyes
Is that you baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

I heard somebody call your name
From underneath our willow
I saw something tucked in shame
Underneath your pillow
Well I've tried so hard baby
But I just can't see
What a woman like you
Is doing with me
So tell me who I see
When I look in your eyes
Is that you baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

Now look at me baby
Struggling to do everything right
And then it all falls apart
When out go the lights
I'm just a lonely pilgrim
I walk this world in wealth
I want to know if it's you I don't trust
'Cause I damn sure don't trust myself

Now you play the loving woman
I'll play the faithful man
But just don't look too close
Into the palm of my hand
We stood at the alter
The gypsy swore our future was right
But come the wee wee hours
Well maybe baby the gypsy lied
So when you look at me
You better look hard and look twice
Is that me baby
Or just a brilliant disguise

Tonight our bed is cold
Lost in the darkness of our love
God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he's sure of

Lyrics submitted by oofus

"Brilliant Disguise" as written by Bruce Springsteen

Lyrics © Downtown Music Publishing

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Brilliant Disguise song meanings
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  • +5
    My InterpretationI remember being puzzled when this album came out -- why was Bruce, who had just gotten married and was presumably happy, writing songs about unhappy relationships? Well, I guess we now know why. Anyway, this is one of the most painfully bleak songs about a failed marriage I've ever heard. And just a note since I haven't seen anyone mention it yet -- I think when Bruce mentions "the gypsy" he's talking about his friend/bandmate Steven Van Zandt, who's well known for dressing up like a gypsy pirate on stage. I wonder if Bruce put that reference in there on purpose to sort of signal the autobiographical nature of the song.
    PantsMcCrackyon October 23, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentDefinitely one of the best Boss tracks..

    Its meaning is definitely attached to his failed marriage and the consequent "Tunnel of Love" album. When marrying his first wife their background had been completely different and probably was unsure if it was really "true" love at all? He references this in these lines, im assuming referring to his wedding day.

    "I hold you in my arms
    as the band plays
    What are those words whispered baby
    just as you turn away"

    Seems that "those words" could be about anything but my guess is "I love You" as she turns away to deal with "more important" matters.

    When you first meet someone and fall in love with them what you see is not always what you get, but rather a disguise designed to entice the other party. We all do this to varying degrees and as a relationship progresses and ages, those realisms begin to surface. That in essence is the "brilliant disguise" hes talking about.

    As this disguise is lifted and the cracks in a relationship begin to appear, naturally self doubt begins to surface as you start to wonder why this woman you were so in love with at one time is suddenly is not looking the same and is not looking AT YOU the same. You try and make it work as you "play the faithful man" and she plays the "loving woman" but in the end all that's created is a loveless relationship filled with constant self doubt about yourself. As those doubts begin to surface as you start asking yourself if it is you thats the problem never really realizing that its the relationship was doomed to begin with.

    "And then it all falls apart
    when out go the lights
    I'm just a lonely pilgrim
    I walk this world in wealth
    I want to know if it's you I don't trust
    'cause I damn sure don't trust myself"

    In the end, relationships like this do not work and just leads to the lack of loveless relationship/marriage which both parties are to "nice" to do anything about it. It takes time to get past someones true disguises, as we all have plenty of them.

    "Tonight our bed is cold
    I'm lost in the darkness of our love
    God have mercy on the man
    Who doubts what he's sure of"
    CarbonChrison November 29, 2011   Link
  • +2
    General Commentagree with jtwlhhb the song is about ones own self doubt and how it transgresses to others in relationship through the projection of ones feelings onto others. it is a brilliant song.
    ukguyon February 09, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song "Brilliant Disguise" came out on the "Tunnel of Love" album in fall of 1987. Right before its release, Bruce Springsteen had been newly married to actress Julianne Phillips. Shortly after, the two were divorced and Springsteen took up with Patti Scialfa. He's been with Scialfa ever since. Given these biographical facts, it's hard not to consider what was going on with Bruce while he was writing "Tunnel of Love." Several songs seem to reflect the mindset of a man filled with doubts and regrets. Also, the video for "Brilliant Disguise" is stunning. It simply shows Springsteen singing the song with a guitar as the camera pans closer and closer to his face, revealing things that aren't visible from a distance. Marriages are like that. No one really sees what goes on from the inside, sometimes not even the husband and wife. That's why I feel slightly uncomfortable when I listen to this album. It's like a house of cards, ready to collapse at any moment.
    mark36on April 10, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General Commentaczinke...I'm pretty sure hes not calling the minister a gypsy but rather he is referring to "madam marie" from his song 4th of july(Sandy). The couple (bruce and julianne) probably went to the fortune teller on the Boardwalk in Asbury Park to see what she saw in their future. She probably told them what they wanted to hear and now hes guessing she might have lied given their current situation of questioning if they are meant to be with each other...Great song!
    bcaseyecason December 21, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI love this song because I'm kinda of a similar situation right now.

    The songs starts out with him falling for a girl that he believes is too good for him. As he gets her to begins to question whether she really likes him or is she just using him for something hence he was struggling to do everything right. As he wonders about how she really feels, he starts to lose feelings for her so now he has to put on a disguise.

    "God have mercy on the man
    Who doubts what he's sure of"

    All along he's been sure that she doesn't love him but he's lost in her love so he doubts himself.
    jahakon April 12, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt is about your lover faking it..And you also play along in masquerade.. It is a sad situation when people closest to each other are not totally honest with each other!!
    letitrockon October 18, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti love this song. one of my favorite bruce songs
    crash&burnon November 02, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this song is about a man who is questioning his lover's love of him. When she tell him, "I love you," does she really mean it? He questions this by singing, "So tell me who I see when I look in your eyes. Is that you baby or just a brilliant disguise." In other words he is asking do you really mean you love me for me or is it just out of habit.

    When he asks the retorial question of, "Well I've tried so hard baby but I just can't see what a woman like you is doing with me." He ponders the notion that she only loves him for his wealth and not for him.
    lobopaulon November 06, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIs it possible that this song is at least partially about the added strains on trust in relatinships that being famous involves? In other words, he's rich and famous, so he has to be extra careful with love, and it's much more difficult to trust someone.

    In any case, it's a great song, one I've always loved.
    therealsvendenon November 09, 2004   Link

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