"The Biggest Lie" as written by Mat Sinner and Tom Naumann....
I'm waiting for the train
Subway that only goes one way

The stupid thing that'll come to pull us apart
And make everybody late
You spent everything you had
Wanted everything to stop that bad

Now I'm a crashed credit card registered to Smith -
Not the name that you called me with
You turned white like a saint
I'm tired of dancing on a pot of gold-flaked paint

Oh we're so very precious, you and I
And everything that you do makes me want to die
Oh I just told the biggest lie
I just told the biggest lie
The biggest lie

Lyrics submitted by EnjOy IncUbus

"The Biggest Lie" as written by Steven P. Smith

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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The Biggest Lie song meanings
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  • +8
    General CommentOf course it's damn complicated and probably most interpretations are right. but for me the last lines
    oh we're so very precious, you and i
    and everything that you do makes me want to die
    oh i just told the biggest lie
    i just told the biggest lie
    the biggest lie

    are all about refusing love as something good, and trying to find "safety" in the usual depression, nihilism, even self-pity. But then knowing that it's a "lie". Of course there's again a twist because the fact he repeats the line suggest that the line before can be a lie. So when he says "I just said the biggest lie" the first time I meant it as "I said I wanted to die, but that's a cliché, it's not the truth. I want to be free of cliches", the second means "I lied about lying. I wasn't lying." and then it only leaves you with the idea that he was both sincere and lying at the same time.

    okay maybe I'm twisted myself.
    dorareeveron April 20, 2004   Link
  • +7
    General CommentCan I offer some advice? If you want to interpret the lyrics the way the artist intended one of the best things you can do is read up about the artist and his/her life. For instance, did you know that Elliot used to walk the empty subway tracks at night? That being said, this is what the song means to me. The opening two lines are about just that, he is walking along the subway waiting for the train to come. The stupid thing is he is going to kill himself. This will make everybody late cause the conductor will have to stop the train. When he says you spent every thing he had, yes it is about drugs. No, not everything he writes is about drugs, but that line is. He is referring to his girlfriends drug addiction. When he says he is a crushed credit card, he's referring to what he will be reduced to after being hit by the train and acknowledging the fact that his gf spent all his money on drugs in an attempt to ease her pain. After he is hit by the train he will no longer be that cute pet name his girlfriend had for him. When it says 'you turned white like a saint' he is referring to his gf's reaction to him killing himself, the belief that its not her fault, and how she will again resort to drugs to cope with that problem as well. Prolly the best line in the whole song is when he says hes tired of dancing on a pot of gold flake paint, meaning he cant keep pretending nothing is wrong. The next line refers to how their relationship isnt precious at all, how its gotten to a point now that she is just using him. Finally, the last for lines speak to the fact that in spite of everything, he still loves her, but he cant take being in the relationship so he kills himself. The line 'i just told the biggest lie' is repeated twice, cancelling it out in effect. So after all that, there you have it, my take on the song. Hope that helped.
    poet91085on December 05, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI took the oppostie view from facedownowls...

    I believe that the narrator has freed someone from a dysfunctional relationship. She needed to get out and the imagery of the lyrics "I'm waiting for the train/the subway that only goes one way/the stupid thing that will come to pull us apart/and make everybody late" gives me the impression that they'd come to a point in their relationship where they wanted different things and were going in two different directions. Maybe she asked him if he wanted her to stay and he told her that he didn’t. I used to think that he told her that he loved her when he really didn’t, but the mood of the song feels like loss, not guilt. Lyrics can take on a whole new meaning when you change the tone of the music, and Smith’s music says it all.

    My take on the lie is that she asked him if he loved her and he said no. So she left, and he regrets letting her go. His biggest lie was saying “I don’t love you”.
    luvpickfordon October 17, 2004   Link
  • +1
    General Commenttell me if im drunk, but this song is about cheating on someone you love a lot. the stupid thing that pulls us apart is the skank he slept with. the part about spending and credit cards is the most important part of the song to me. hes saying that she invested a lot of money, which may represent love, and that his money (love) is crushed. his love is broken apart, but not his name. her pet name for him is crushed, which i think is more hurtful. then he tells her about the incident and she freaks out, but he has to tell her because hes tired of the fakeness (dancing on a pot of gold flake paint). then she leaves him and he feels like shit. his biggest lie that he told was NOT telling her, but keeping everything the same. holla back at me, tell me if im stupid. peace out.
    derectouson March 17, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General Commentelliott smith songs are like my bible, and one of the reasons is that his songs are so rife with both literal meanings and allegorical connotations that any number of these interpretations could've been intended (it's one of the ways that fans like us relate so well to the songs, and smith himself even said that his songs were multi-layered with intended meanings). anyhow, i just wanted to offer one that hasn't been said yet. the opening of the song to me sounds like it's about dying. smith was a philosophy major in university, so he'd be familiar with the idea of a ferry shipping people to the land of the dead, so he's "waiting for the train, the subway that only goes one way" in a sense that is a modernized version of crossing the river styx. again, "the stupid thing that'll come to pull us apart, and make everybody late" make everybody late? the late(dead) so-and-so? also, the part about spending everything you have seems to be an allsion to blowing all your money on substances to feel better "wanted everything to stop that bad." this doesn't seem to be about himself because he says "you spent" and then later refers to himself in a different context. knowing how generous smith was to his friends, he might be describing how his dependant lover has sapped both of their resources, which could also be a literal and allegorical idea, both money and patience/hope/love/whatever. this is before smith had problems with substance so it's unlikely it's about him, but some of the company he kept at this time was pretty shady. "you turned white like a saint" he loves them even though what they've done to themselves has made them pale. smith again laments about dying "tired of dancing on this pot of gold flake paint" tired of performing and being put on a pedestal he felt he didn't belong on, flake paint = shoddy, low quality. and then to me the last part is him leaving us in doubt, is the biggest lie saying he and his love are precious or that he wants to die? i also really liked dorareever's interpretation, and i feel this fits with that. but man. elliott smith, the poet/songwriter? fucking intense.
    whatcapo?on January 06, 2006   Link
  • +1
    My InterpretationWow I never got this song really, but after reading a few comments it seems obvious

    The first 4 lines about a train are definitely about death, but also about the end of a relationship

    The next few lines referencing money are talking about Elliot's real life wealth/success and the bankruptcy of the relationship emotionally. The gold veneer is peeling and he is just dancing along without purpose.

    I think the last few lines about the Biggest Lie are finally admitting that he is essentially suicidal and can't put up with her or life anymore, but taking it back at the last second to continue pretending and make her feel better.
    Paradoxombieon May 05, 2012   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song is amazing, by far one of my favorite Elliott Smith songs, almost hidden at the end of his self-titled album. As with everything he does; the simple-sounding complexity of the music and lyrics make you listen to it over and over again... amazing.
    some124geton April 14, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentMaybe "the biggest lie" was saying "I love you" to somebody and not meaning it.
    facedownowlson May 21, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General Commentdoraeever... i like your analysis. good work, i'd never have thought about that. A+ :p
    podson October 07, 2004   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI think at the end of the song when he says "Oh were so very precious you and I and everything you do makes me want to die, oh I just told the biggest lie" I think maybe he was being mistreated by someone. Im sure we've all had a relationship where you obviously love the person but they hurt you or do something that makes you "want to die". So maybe he does feel that way but then says he just told the biggest lie because in the end he still loves her.
    buwhahaon December 14, 2004   Link

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