A devastating backstroke
All the way from France
With shiny, shiny cuff links
A shirtsleeve to enhance

The pin-striped men in mourning
Are coming for to dance
With pure Egyptian cotton
The kids don't stand a chance

You criticize the practice
By murdering their plants
Ignoring all the history
Denying them romance

The pin-striped men in mourning
Are coming for to dance
Forty million dollars
The kids don't stand a chance

I didn't like the business
But that was at first glance
Your pillow feels so soft now
But still you must advance

The pin-striped men in mourning
The partners in the dance
The paper's shot to pieces
The kids don't stand a chance

Lyrics submitted by prayingmantis84

The Kids Don't Stand a Chance song meanings
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  • +6
    Song Meaningspinner.com/2010/03/09/vampire-weekend-ezra-koenig-rap/

    Later during the discussion, an audience member asked about 'The Kids Don't Stand a Chance,' which is also from the first Vampire Weekend album. Koenig responded that the song was born from him figuring out what he was going to do after graduation while his other friends were going to work in finance.

    "Part of me wanted to look down on that, like 'That's total bulls---.' But I had to be honest with myself that there was a part of me that was also jealous of the idea that somebody would be making real money out of college. I was questioning myself about 'How do I judge these people?' Ultimately what I came up with is that it was hard for me to judge them."
    characterdrivenon March 10, 2010   Link
  • +5
    General CommentThis song is an excellent criticism of life at Columbia and the struggle in choosing a career. There is enormous pressure to take jobs in finance, symbolized by the men of morning with expensive shirts and cufflinks. They dangle millions in front of college students, who don't stand a chance but to take it. At first, there is some hesitation, but the "pillow" begins to feel softer and one begins to advance.
    sled23on April 24, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General CommentI actually think that it may be about cotton and the child labor used in Egypt and Uzbekistan to produce it. In Uzbekistan, they shut down schools and make the kids sleep in the fields during cotton picking season. Families in Egypt with cotton farms just can't afford to have their children not work. That would explain the references to pillows and Egyptian cotton, and perhaps the shirtsleeve.

    I think the lines about history and romance do refer to the drug trade, because as far as I know, no one is murdering cotton in protest of child labor.

    So, I think it is a statement on how western consumerism and the new appetite for luxury items is no better for third world citizens, especially children, than the drug trade.

    I have no idea what to think of the France except that it is typically the start of most fashion. But I think "shiny, shiny cufflinks" is more important than that.

    I'm also pretty clueless on "pin stripe men in morning," unless it's another fashion reference. "paper's shot to pieces" is another one lost on me.

    Finally, I have to point out the shift in viewpoints. The first verse completely lacks a subject, so we assume the subject would be from the chorus--"Pin-Striped Men iof Morning." The next verse imoves to second person,"You," and the third verse is first person--"I didn't like the business." Not sure if it's on purpose, but it brings home the point about how we're ultimately responsible for a lot of what happens.

    Great site---was clueless on the songs on this album, which I just found last week and fell immediately in love with.
    bayberryjennon July 15, 2008   Link
  • +2
    General Comment"Sled23" got it.

    The song is about how recruiters come to colleges and try to persuade kids to select a certain career. "Forty million dollars," "pure egyptian cotton," and "shiny, shiny cufflinks" are the enticements the recruiters use, showcasing their wealth. Hence, "The kids don't stand a chance" - they're mesmerized by the wealth and opulence of the lifestyle, and are drawn to it.

    ihateyoukennyon December 02, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentTo me, I don't know about you but this song is about either the drug trade or globalisation as the 'devil' (I agree with Fierce Bear its Devil swam a backstroke) who wears 'shiny cuff links' i.e. an affluent business man arrives and the 'Kids stand a chance': He makes his business deal and the local people and children can go rot in hell.

    The fact that they're 'pin striped men of mourning' supports this idea that they are bringing with them death and destruction.

    The third verse I believe is aimed at someone who believes that best answer to destroying the drug trade is by 'murdering the plants' and in doing so leaves the local economy ruined. Isn't this destruction of opium plantations going on in Afganistan at the moment?

    The fourth and 5th verse kind of somes up how everyone's caught up in the drug trade and can't escape: Even though the rich business man who vaguely knows what he is doing is wrong ('I didn't like the business') is settled and his piilow is 'soft' He must still advance or carry on what he is doing because of outside pressures from gangs etc. As the pin stripe menin mourning (merely 'partners' in the greater dance) arrive possibly to collect the crop they discover that 'the paper's been shopt to pieces' Its been destroyed and the only people who truly suffer are the local people or 'the children'.

    Overall I'd say this song was about the battle between rich businessmen and distant people's good intentions and the only people who lose out are the actual producers stuck in the middle.
    I love this song one of my favourite Vampire Weekend Songs- i love the way its written from the eyes of someone who makes no oppinion on what's going on, possibly one of the uncomprehending workers? The song is so clever as it puts quite a melancholy meanings against a quite cheerful lyrics against an even more cheerful song!

    I hope someone agrees with me :)
    Windy4englandon March 18, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General Commentbefore i read these lyrics, i believed it was about the current "war on terror" as well as the damage we're doing to our planet. the song title "the kids don't stand a chance" conveyed to me that it was telling the tale of the young men and women in the war who will die young and how the future generations will never know how beautiful this place is because our previous and current generations are destroying it.

    "You criticize the practice
    By murdering their plants"
    i'll go ahead and take this literally...we're killing the planet and using it up, showing no concern for our kids and theirs.

    "Ignoring all the history
    Denying them romance"
    will war ever make this place we live in more harmonious? let's go ahead and send or children to this ridiculous war to have them die and never let them experience falling in love, having kids and growing old.

    i think the pin-striped men are all of those in power who work w/ each other to safe-guard their wealth even if it means exploiting the poor to have their will stand. they also come to those young, idealistic men and women who they know will have a role to play in the future as politicians to mold them and seduce them w/ wealth and power.

    ok, gotta go back to work.
    kevin arnoldon September 17, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentIt's about child labour behind Egyptian cotton

    You can read all about it here:

    FullFilledon January 16, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti have no idea what is it all about, but it sounds really great! especially in a takeawayshow
    fakeaheartattackon February 17, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentthis songs great
    as well all of theirs
    a devastating backstroke
    insideininsideouton February 24, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General Commentaccording to the album lyrics it IS devastating backstroke
    And it's MORNING not MOURNING (although maybe meant as a double entendre?)

    It just occurred to me that possibly the pin striped men of morning dancing with the pure egyptian cotton is a poetic image of morning sunlight on bedsheets and that this is most likely a morning after song.

    An amazing night somewhere dressed to the nines and then later some devastating maneuvers, and in the heat and magic of the moment it is nothing but momentous, but come the morning, it is apparent that nothing else will/could come of this triste, hence the kids don't stand a chance.

    dont know about the business or the practice or the 40 million maybe it's the plot to another independent film.
    twocenton March 22, 2008   Link

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