Was an honest man
Asked me for the phone
Tried to take control
Oh, I don't see it that way
I don't see it that way
We shared some ideas
All obsessed with fame
Says we're all the same
Oh, I don't see it that way
I don't see it that way

Raised in Carolina
I'm not like that
Tryin' to remind her
When we go back

I missed the last bus, I'll take the next train
I'll try but you see, it's hard to explain
I say the right thing, but act the wrong way
I like it right here, but I cannot stay
I watch the TV, forget what I'm told
Well, I am too young, and they are too old
The joke is on you, this place is a zoo
You're right it's true

He says he can't decide
I shake my head to say
Everything's just great
Oh, I just can't remember
I just can't remember

Raised in Carolina
She says, "I'm not like that"
Tryin' to remind her
When we go back

I say the right thing, but act the wrong way
I like it right here, but I cannot stay
I watch the TV, forget what I'm told
Well, I am too young, and they are too old
Oh man, can't you see I'm nervous? So please
Pretend to be nice, so I can be mean
I missed the last bus, we'll take the next train
I'll try but you see, it's hard to explain


Lyrics submitted by mudfly

Hard to Explain Lyrics as written by Julian Casablancas

Lyrics © BMG Rights Management

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Hard To Explain song meanings
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90 Comments

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  • +11
    General Comment

    This song talks about the steps and actions taken by people who make it musically. He talks about how most musicians go about it as if they're just in it for the fame but he's not like that. The most interesting line found in the bridge "raised in Carolina, I'm not like that" could possibly be a reference to Fred Durst who was raised in North Carolina and a further statement of how they are not like every other "look at us aren't we awesome" band. The chorus is just a great big statement of how he's going through all the right channels but keeps a sense of humor, "I watch the TV forget what I'm told" - He sees how everybody thinks things should be but refuses to go that route. Then more about all that. And the last lines "I try but you see its hard to explain" mean he's trying to make it but not sell out but he finds it hard to explain what is the right way exactly. I think this can all be proved in their response to making videos. At first they sought a contract in which they wouldn't have to make videos but got to a point where they knew they would have to make one to reach the whole world. Their main problem with the video was that they were against lip-synching but agreed to do a live taping for MTV. ROCK AND ROLL COULD SAVE THE WORLD BUT WHO'LL SAVE ROCK AND ROLL?

    anakin821on June 14, 2002   Link
  • +4
    General Comment

    I have to point out that because The Strokes are American the lyrics should be "cuz this is a zoo" not "cos this is a zoo." Not that it matters. I've always thought this song was about ennui and desperation, but that's just me.

    Sol Rothon October 29, 2008   Link
  • +4
    My Interpretation

    I think rosa a had a really good interpretation, and it's probably a little confusing to some but I completely get it

    I can really relate to this song, I think it's about not being who you try to be and doing things that come naturally because you let yourself do them even though you don't want to.

    I say the right things But act the wrong way

    -I think this is because to him his personality when he interacts with people is him as he wants to be so he says all the right things but when it comes to actions he acts upon all of his insecurities and selfishness and apathy and things that he doesn't like about himself. It's like when he says "Pretend to be nice/ So I can be mean" his personality is nice but he does mean things because he feels like it and he lets himself.

    But then at the same time he feels there's really nothing he can do about it. Like every time he does something wrong he always feels like he had to act that way, and there's no real reason. It's like rosa a said, like people think they can explain the reasons and he doesn't have any reasons but he just knows that their reasons aren't right. And I agree that it is confusion but really it's like confusion in denial or something, like everything makes sense to him and he knows that everything will be ok, hence the line "I'll make it you see/ I'm ever so pleased". And it's like he tries but just doesn't succeed and ends up being someone who he isn't but who is still a part of him(I know that doesn't make sense but it's true).

    I mean I could be wrong about the sort of psychological complex I think this is describing but I think it's the kind of thing where if you really get what he's talking about than you know it really is hard to explain.

    calculatorwatchon December 10, 2008   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    julian said in an article i read onc that when he writes songs that he comes up with cool melodies and chord progressions first and then puts in lyrics, and that the lyrics are totally secondary and that the music was what is important. And i totally agree cause when i hear their stuff i feel like the music is saying more then most song do these days and that you can get more than a message out with music but you can also create feelings and emotions......thats what i think\

    c.fon July 11, 2002   Link
  • +3
    General Comment

    I don't think this song is about pretending to be someone else or a jab at Fred Durst, simply put I think it about the idea that some things are hard to explain. Not everything needs to be explained, not everything needs to be understood. There are some things that just are. For example ask me why I like the Strokes and I don't need to justify it by saying they are rock n' roll personified or they rediscover the roots of 70's garage-punk found in the Velvet Underground or Television. I like the Strokes because hearing them triggers some weird part of me that wants to shake my ass and play air guitar. Can't really explain, it just happens. It's just a gut feeling, like in the lyric "I like it right here, but I cannot stay." Why do you want to go somewhere else where here is good? I don't know, I just do. They apply this to many ideas in the song: fame, laziness, relationships, honesty, youth, music critics, etc ... In the end they are just asking people to accept them for who they are, without any forced explanation. There does not need to be a context for acceptance. Either you like them or you don't.

    tubesockson June 30, 2002   Link
  • +2
    General Comment

    TheStrokesLuver - shut the hell up. They are assholes to people like you because you expect something from them and expect them to be a certain way. Guess what - they don't owe you squat, get over it. They are just a band - either listen to their music or don't. You don't know what they think about "everyone" - and I would rather have a singer look like he is bored on stage then really be bored and be all fake about it and "pretend to be into it". Just buy the albums and don't see them live if you hate them all so much. Oh and as for the spelling of "awsome" - obviously you are online - why don't you use some of the resources to improve your spelling instead of spouting crap about people you don't know.

    bugmenoton December 14, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    anakin821 has given the only half-decent theory so far.

    Why do all teenagers think every song is about:

    a) Relationships b) Suicide

    Teenage angst sure is a bitch

    mmcion May 09, 2005   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretation

    I think it is about a couple who, after they become famous, spread apart and their relationship becomes toxic.

    theturtle9on November 19, 2014   Link
  • +1
    My Interpretation

    I think most of the interpretations given are superficial. And, although I am not a teenager, I strongly believe this song is about relationship. And not relationship in general, but about birth of one.

    Verse by verse:

    "Was an honest man Asked me for the phone Try to take control"

    She (subject of the song) meets a man, who asks for a phone number. She says:

    "I don't see it that way",

    saying that she is not kind of girl who gives her number (and personality, over which he wants to take control) to every passer-by who asks for it.

    "Oh, we shared some ideas All obsessed with fame Says we're all the same"

    He continues, tries to relate them not only physically, but intellectually. But she's still distant:

    "Raised in Carolina I'm not like that Tryin' to remind her When we go back"

    She is not, once again, "like that" (kind of girl). But in the end, time will show that she will fall for him, and he will "remind her" on what she said "when they go back".

    "I missed the last bus, I'll take the next train I try but you see, it's hard to explain I say the right things, but act the wrong way I like it right here, but I cannot stay"

    This is classical representation of flirting and falling in love with stranger. She feels comfortable with him, "accidentally" misses the bus, feels it's wrong (she cannot shay), but she actually likes the situation.

    "I watch the TV; forget what I'm told Well, I am too young, and they are too old The joke is on you, this place is a zoo "You're right it's true""

    She admits she is giving up pretending, forgets what she's told, says that "place is zoo" (isn't she animal)? "You're right, it's true" is continue of the previous quote "I'm not like that", actually a confection that it was a mask, as he suggested.

    "Says he can't decide I shake my head to say Everything's just great"

    Now it's his time to be unsure, testing her eagerness to stay with him and hoping she would say that "Everything's just great".

    "Oh, I just can't remember I just can't remember"

    Yet again, confusion, like with the first flirting strophe.

    "Oh, man, can't you see I'm nervous, so please Pretend to be nice, so I can be mean I miss the last bus, WE take the next train I try but you see, it's hard to explain"

    This is, perhaps, the most important part, concluding the whole situation:

    she says "We take the next train" (in the earlier part stays "I'll take the next train"), so obviously, they end up together. She asks for excuse to be mean, to show her real face, now when it's obvious they'll stay together.

    "I try but you see, it's hard to explain", she felt for him, and doesn't want to explain that to anyone.

    IgorAon January 07, 2015   Link
  • +1
    General Comment

    Its hard to explain

    swampon April 05, 2020   Link

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