Somethin' filled up
My heart with nothin'
Someone told me not to cry

Now that I'm older
My heart's colder
And I can see that it's a lie


Children, wake up
Hold your mistake up
Before they turn the summer into dust

If the children don't grow up
Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up
We're just a million little god's causin' rain storms
Turnin' every good thing to rust
I guess we'll just have to adjust


With my lightnin' bolts a-glowin
I can see where I am goin' to be
When the reaper he reaches and touches my hand

(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)
(Oh-oh-oh-oh-oh, oh-oh-oh-oh-oh)

With my lightnin' bolts a-glowin'
I can see where I am goin'
With my lightnin' bolts a-glowin'
I can see where I am go, goin'

You better look out below

Lyrics submitted by drinkmilk, edited by shinylib

Wake Up Lyrics as written by Win Butler William Butler

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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Wake Up song meanings
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  • +36
    Song Meaning

    Most of you guys are right about this song being about the loss of innocence. However, you've all missed the significance of the first stanza. The song is about trying to reach all the people who have suffered through some sort of traumatic experience as children in order to caution them about what will happen if they do not confront their past traumas.

    There's a particular "something" that "filled up [the narrator's] heart up with nothing". It's not a general, continuous process of maturation he's referring to. This "something" could be some sort of trauma, whether emotional, physical, or sexual. Presumably, the narrator was a child when this happened, and the authority figures in his life did not want to acknowledge that the "something" had happened. Instead, they punished the child for expressing his despair over the trauma by "telling [him] not to cry".

    One of the only ways people who have experienced traumatic events can continue to function in life is to block out the memory and the emotions associated with the event. They end up being detached from a crucial part of who they are, leaving them feeling that their life is a lie. Because they "see [their life] is a lie", they do not benefit from the warmth of other people's company.

    Another symptom of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is that seemingly insignificant things can conjure up memories of the trauma and send the sufferer hurtling back into the terror they experienced at the time. So, you end up with "children [who] don't grow up" emotionally. Their bodies mature and "get bigger", but their already damaged hearts continue to "get torn up" by new situations that remind them of the past trauma.

    Even when these individuals do manage to form relationships, they end up having seemingly extremely irrational reactions to everyday life that make it difficult for partners and friends to handle. Because of the significance a friend or partner takes on over the course of a relationship, a person does almost become god-like in that one person's actions can greatly influence the other's mood or outlook. So people with PTSD from childhood trauma end up feeling like "little gods" whose difficult behavior drives away the people with whom they've formed a relationship, "turning everything good into rust".

    To wrap up the accounting of the symptoms of PTSD described in this song, a sufferer's brain is so consumed with replaying and worrying about the past trauma, that it has no time or resources to think of the future. Intense bouts of panic from triggers can come on like "lightning bolts". Sufferers lose the ability to imagine a future. "[They] can't see where [they're] going to be...[They] can't see where [they're] going", aside from knowing that they will die like everyone else "when the reaper, he reaches and touches [his] hand".

    To understand this song, all that is left is the stanza where the narrator tells the "children [to] wake up". He is telling the emotionally-stunted children hiding in the bodies of grown ups that they need to confront and examine the "mistake" that happened to them as a children. If they don't, the "they" who traumatized these individuals as children will win and continue to torment them for their entire lives, until their "summers turn to dust".

    For as long as traumatized people don't take the steps necessary to heal, they're going to be a danger to everyone with whom they get close. The final "look out below" is a warning to the people who will be the partners in these future relationships.

    distopiandreamguyon September 18, 2009   Link
  • +31
    General Comment

    To me it's about lost innocence and those things you bury inside just to carry on, the things which slowly eat you up, leaving you unfeeling and cold. It's urging the innocents to be honest with themselves and confront those things which, if ignored, could leave them bottled up and emotionless. But the end of the song seems to be about the explosion of emotion that comes when the unfeeling ones come to life again.

    Idedaluson October 20, 2004   Link
  • +10
    General Comment

    Yeah, you grow up and you see the adults around you repressing things, not talking about the things that haunt them -- and that's just wrong. It just breeds more pain.

    I love the end of the song. It's like, when my hour is up, I don't want to have any leftover shit on my mind, I just want to be right there and happy with my life.

    Fucking great song.

    Gamaon December 24, 2004   Link
  • +8
    My Interpretation

    My interpretation:

    Something filled up My heart with nothing (the death of a loved one)

    Someone told me not to cry (at the funeral someone said, "don't cry they're in heaven now")

    But now that I'm older My heart's colder And I can see that it's a lie (heaven is a lie)

    Children, wake up Hold your mistake up (renounce the existence of heaven and religious beliefs that were ingrained in you from childhood)

    Before they turn the summer into dust (belief and worship of heaven cheapens life on earth, rots away at life in wasted time and produces fear and guilt)

    If the children don't grow up Our bodies get bigger but our hearts get torn up (when death occurs around us, religion confuses with "reasons" for a loved one's death. it tears at our heart because there is so much pain, how can there be a "reason" or a plan for this? there isn't.)

    We're just a million little gods (god is created in man's image. instead of one God, it is really all of us individually personifying "God" and pretending to know what he wants us to do and how to act. it is only people, no God.)

    causing rainstorms Turning every good thing to rust (God does not bring destruction and retribution, people do. these things occur in the natural world as well, but it is not malicious, it is just nature. we blame and give credit to God for so many things, rather than investigate the true cause and take action to improve life and prevent destruction.)

    I guess we'll just have to adjust (?)

    With my lightning bolts a-glowin' I can see where I am going to be When the reaper, he reaches and touches my hand (acceptance that people are "God", that we have power while we are alive, and that we will all someday die. it is not punishment, or God's gift, it is simply natural. With this realization and the release from fear of death, comes the strength to rely on yourself to make an impact on the earth while you are alive.)

    With my lightning bolts a-glowin' I can see where I am going With my lightning bolts a-glowin' I can see where I am going (I am through grieving, I know better who I am now, I am at peace with the death of my loved ones and at peace with my own eventual death, I know where I am and what I want to do.)

    You better look out below!
    (watch out world, get ready for me to make an impact.)

    tj7on July 08, 2011   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    "I thought it was 'If a body catch a body,'" I said. "Anyway, I keep picturing all these little kids playing some game in this big field of rye and all. Thousands of little kids, and nobody's around— nobody big, I mean— except me. And I'm standing on the edge of some crazy cliff. What I have to do, I have to catch everybody if they start to go over the cliff— I mean if they're running and they don't look where they're going I have to come out from somewhere and catch them. That's all I'd do all day. I'd just be the catcher in the rye and all. I know it's crazy, but that's the only thing I'd really like to be. I know it's crazy."

    lemonaderainon October 20, 2005   Link
  • +5
    General Comment

    I think that the first 6 songs on this album are about how sad and lost humanity is, but this song is saying that we just need to soldier through it and support others who are down so we can all grow emotionally and live happy lives.

    wnk1111on September 12, 2012   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    This song is so beautiful.. every time I hear it it makes me cry. To me this song is about lost innocence and how when you grow up everything becomes harder and the world seems colder than it did when you were younger.

    phroobinon October 17, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I find it interesting that most people are saying that the "nothing' is religion. As a religious person, I've always thought that the "nothing" was a lack of religion/faith. Nothing=empty promises of pleasure and temporary satisfaction and "love." That being said, this is one of my all time favorite songs. "We're just a billion little gods causing rainstorms, turning every good thing to rust.."

    therhymeon October 24, 2012   Link
  • +2
    Song Meaning

    Purely going by the lyrics, this is what the song turns out to mean. It looks like he contradicts himself at the end, but I think that it's meant to be a twist...

    At first he talks about empty promises being told to him as a child, so that he doesn't have to cry. Blind hope, faith. Something filled his heart up with "nothing." This makes me think he's talking about religion, since most of that stuff is just imaginary, passed down. "Nothing", so to speak.

    "Now that I'm older, I can see that it's a lie."

    I think he wants people to be more aware of their own faults so that they can prosper into future. I say future, because it seems like he's talking about how the last few generations soiled everything.

    The next verse is self-explanatory. He sympathizes with what is happening to new children being born, but then goes on to compare humans to "little (isolated) gods causing rainstorms, turning everything good to rust." Which is at least partially true. Even in places where people are prosperous, the human or social conditions can be absolutely terrible, nullifying everything that is good.

    The next verse: the master of his own personal rainstorm, he knows where he is going to go when he dies--to Hell.

    The twist is that he is still religious, he just lost faith in mankind, and is ready to go to Hell.

    GhostlyNinetyFiveon August 04, 2012   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    I find it interesting that near the end the riff sounds a lot like Iggy Pop's "Lust For Life". My brother noticed it too.

    superdamon December 27, 2004   Link

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