"What's a Boy To Do" as written by and Mathew Kearney....
'm sure that I'm moving to St. Louis
Three long years wondering here in New York City
I guess I'm looking for the right way to do this
I guess I'm looking for the right things to call pretty
Young boys playing in the park turning their backs to take a shot
You know I'll stay sharp around here'cause they're stoning and leaving type
It's the kind of love that comes and goes when there's company coming around
What's a boy to do who knows no man now?
What's a boy to do who knows no man now?

Daddy's been looking down his nose at all of them
And I've been looking round for someone to tell me who I am
He kept saying I was too young to finish a fight
I'd die each time they came I never got to draw my knife
Well it was just a pair of shoes in a middle school room with the world watching in
An angel is crying I'm dying just a little inside as they ran away
Funny which words stick around 20 years down when you're driving alone
What's a boy to do when there's no man at home?
What's a boy to do when there's no man at home?

Well I'll stack all my books into perfect rows
From the biggest down to the smallest ones
And I buy all the perfect clothes
Bullet proof and black, where I look like a son
Well it was just a rainy night at his house
A bottle spinning around the room
And everybody's singing and slipping down the bottom of a halfway rush of blood
And I was grabbing Missy but I was trying to find the light switch in the dark
What's a boy to do with no man in his heart?
What's a boy to do with no man in his heart?

It's all quiet for the first time
With no voices left to fall
I saw a boy at the bottom of the bridge
His car was left there on the top
It's four o'clock in the morning
Didn't need to be like this
There's a white sheet left to cover up
What should have been a holy kiss
It's not like those days
It's not like I'm scared of you
What's the Son of Man and a boy to do?
What's the Son of Man and a boy to do?

Lyrics submitted by New Year's Project

"What's a Boy to Do" as written by Mathew Kearney

Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

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What's a Boy To Do song meanings
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  • +1
    General CommentThe whole song is about Mat's search for a handle on life. The entire song is really summed up in the last couple of lines of the first verse. At first he remembers the past, when he was a kid and faced all the things he faced. He remembers his father telling him he'd never make it through, that he'd always fail. He remembers the ridicule from his peers and the ever pressing desire just to fit in.
    Then, the song seems to switch gears. In the second half of the song Mat's older and he comes upon this horrific scene. You can even notice the change in how the music sounds. He's struck by how easily that could have been him. The jeering voices have quieted now for him, but he relates to this kid who's taken the other option, suicide. But, he remarks, it's not like those days when his father looked down on him. I think it's a bit sarcastic, though and he's saying that really not that much has changed. He's actually still afraid of his dad, he just doesn't have to admit it anymore. Instead of going to a friends party and landing a "holy kiss," he could've went out to the bridge.
    Jag3892on February 06, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General Commentso here's the deal, i joined this site just to write about this song, so hopefully someone, anyone will read this.

    poetry relies heavily on double meanings, so much of the song is a double meaning, based off of the last words. there are some lines that apply only to the present boy, but many of them apply to the "son of man" as well.

    from what i've heard, kearney is a Christian, and that informs a lot of this song, there's quite a few people who have hit on a few good things in here, so i won't talk about those, but here's a couple

    "young boys turning there backs to take a shot"
    i think this is talking about gossip, the song deals a lot with verbal abuse, it could be purely a physical shot, but then turning their backs makes no sense, it only makes sense in the context of the verse if it's talking about even young boys, already turning their backs and picking on him.

    "they're the stoning and leaving type"

    stoning is the old testament way of execution, happens in the new testament too, but it's become colloquial for persecution of any sort, it's come to refer to any act where a group of people gang up (often unnecessarily) on another individual and "kill" him, or abuse him in some way.

    "it was just a pair of shoes in a middle school room with the world watchin' in"

    ah middle school, those days when everyone hates everyone, the awkward years. this line is all about the humiliation that we get from people, if you look at the context about lining up books and buying all the perfect clothes (even if they are black and bullet proof) it's about trying to find acceptance, but he can't find it from anyone around him, evidenced by that they were mocking him for having the shoes he did.

    i think the 20 years comment is just a really great commentary on the way we hurt by the things said to us.

    the next stanza is only about the boy, and you can see that because of the ambiguity of "man" afterwards "what's a boy to do with no man in his heart" it's a Christian belief to say that a person becomes the "temple of God" after "salvation" so ultimately, i see "no man in his heart" as almost a literal statement of what is a boy supposed to do without the son of man, or Jesus, in his heart. and by the way, in 1 John in the new testament, light and dark is the predominant imagery for having the son of man, or not having him.

    Finally, yes, i think it's a suicide, and this is just a guess, but it makes sense, the next time his family would have seen him would have been under a white sheet, as they came to identify the body. the next time any "friends" would have seen him, he would have been politely covered up. so their greeting is a white sheet, covering death, when there should have been a holy kiss instead.

    what's the holy kiss? in the New Testament, again, paul says to greet one another with a "holy kiss" it's a sign of acceptance and affection between friends, between those who fellowship together. So in saying there should have been a holy kiss, it didn't have to be this way, he's saying that rather than acceptance and love, signified by the "holy kiss" his only greeting was a white sheet when he was dead.

    The final line about the son of man and a boy shows the likeness of the two, that the son of man went through the same sort of thing, being an outcast, not receiving acceptance, to the point of his death, his greeting to the world wasn't a holy kiss, but the kiss of death.

    this makes sense of the stoning line, since the son of man also felt the same thing, they tried to stone him, and it was the love that came and went, even from his human family it came and went as can be seen when he enters jerusalem and they're singing hosanna, only to shout even louder crucify him at the end of that same week.

    This song isn't just about a father, the image of a father is used, but it's for the broader purpose of looking at pain and acceptance, which even saying that cheapens the meaning, it's about an intimacy in experience with the "son of man" who stood silent like a lamb before the slaughter, and the boy who died every time he couldn't draw his knife to retaliate, even though he may have been "fully capable".

    there are a lot more of things like that in this song, but i think i've written more than anyone will want to read
    rokforeveron November 05, 2007   Link
  • +1
    General CommentOk so personally I think that this song has to do with two people. Similar stories though. The father isnt there, and the kid suffers from that. Its like " what am I supposed to do when my own father doesn't want me? What am I, a BOY supposed to do when I'm expected to be a man?" like, he never really learned what a man really was. When the father was supposed to listen never cared that he was bullied. He relates to someone in the same situation, that's why he talks about the suicide. Someone with the same problem killed himself. Why not him? What's a boy to do when he was never taught to be a man, and he's forced to deal with these adult problems? He acts like he's a man but he "has no man in his heart" meaning he has no faith in his father and he is not ready to be a man. That's my interpretation. And how could it be about god? Does god's love come and go when company comes? I don't think so. There may be Christian references but I don't believe its all about god.
    lalalalainey12on January 07, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentAlso, I don't think the 'father' being referred to is God. I know it's a Christian song, and Mat Kearney is Christian, so I don't think he would be saying that God's love is conditional.
    paranoiafairytaleon January 23, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti think this song is beautiful, but i can't figure out its meaning...
    tbug3on December 04, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI'm get all of this song up until the end when theres a white sheet covering something. I think someone died but I'm not really sure?? I mean its following this guys life, but what happens at the end its driving me crazy???!?!?!
    coolmel12on December 28, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMaybe I`m wrong, [i probably am] but isnt the end about A boy who jumped off a bridge, and the white sheet is the thing they place over a corpse, and he`s saying, "it didnt have to be like this--" like it was preventable? thats my best shot at it.
    RulesOfEngagementon January 02, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think this is the only song that he has that has a problem presented and no solution; every other song gives some sort of hope, but this one just asks questions and gives excuses.

    anyway, the song goes through a young man's life, chronicling how his father has never truly paid attention to him. "Its the kind of love that comes and goes when there's company coming around." The father never approved of his son's life, his friends or his reactions to people making fun of him, but he could never retaliate "but i never got a chance to draw my knife"

    the boy tries so hard to gain his father's approval, doing everything "perfectly," but his father never pays attention. The father and the son apparently fight a lot. "its all quite for the first time" after the boy decides to jump off of bridge and kill himself. mel, the white sheet is the sheet that they cover the corpse with. the narrator thinks that it never had to be this way, but one can just imagine him shaking his head when he says "what's the son of man and a boy to do" (the son of man meaning Jesus).

    i do have some questions myself:
    i don't understand the first and fourth verses, they utterly confuse me
    what is a "halfway rush of blood" and who is Missy?
    what is the "holy kiss"?
    what is "not like those days, its not like i'm scared of you"?

    thank you
    labgurl123on January 04, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMissy is some girl he hooked up with before he killed himself. Spinning of hte bottle, than fumbling for the light. I def think he hooked up with her. I thought he killed himself too, but I wasn't sure cuz the Son of Man part.

    The holy kiss maybe represented what he could have had and what a great kid he might have been?? I'm not sure though.

    No clue what the part means about not being scared anymore.
    coolmel12on January 06, 2007   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think that the verse about Missy is trying to show the ways that he tried to escape. I think that it was a party, that obviously involved spin the bottle, but when he was "grabbing Missy" and really wanted to leave, because he didn't really like her. So therefore, he wanted to just turn the light on and leave. I still don't get the "halfway rush of blood" part...

    Don't know about the "holy kiss." It still really confuses me...Why holy? Why a kiss?

    Maybe, he's not scared of his father anymore...?
    labgurl123on January 07, 2007   Link

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