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Behind the Lyrics: Vampire Weekend


(Photo Credit: Wendy Redfern)


Welcome back to "Behind The Lyrics". I had a morning commute the other day in the dreary spitting rain, and this little peppy number "Unbelievers" by Vampire Weekend came on. What I love about this song -- and many of their songs -- is how it really showcases the complexity of human nature and it has all the light-hearted poppy beats. Let's jump in.

"Unbelievers" -- Vampire Weekend Got a little soul The world is a cold, cold place to be Want a little warmth But who's going to save a little warmth for me? We know the fire awaits unbelievers All of the sinners the same Girl, you and I will die unbelievers Bound to the tracks of the train If I'm born again I know that the world will disagree Want a little grace But who's going to save a little grace for me? We know the fire awaits unbelievers All of the sinners the same Girl, you and I will die unbelievers Bound to the tracks of the train I'm not excited, but should I be? Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me? I know I love you, and you love the sea But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me See the sun go down It's going on down, and the night is deep Want a little light But who's going to save a little light for me? We know the fire awaits unbelievers All of the sinners the same Girl, you and I will die unbelievers Bound to the tracks of the train I'm not excited, but should I be? Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me? I know I love you, and you love the sea But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me I'm not excited, but should I be? Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me? I know I love you, and you love the sea But what holy water contains a little drop, little drop for me

Now, the complexities. In this one song, I see the narrator looking at someone with absolute adoration "I know I love you", but the feeling is not mutual per se, " and you love the sea". I love the use of the conjunction "and" here. It leaves the listener thinking -- huh, so does the other person love them back? It does say "and", which implies "also". It gives the listeners that same confusion with the romance here that the narrator is going through. Another piece is the confusion with religion. Although with a first look, it appears that both the narrator and his love interest are very certain in their beliefs, as seen specifically in the line, "Girl, you and I will die unbelievers". Several places later in the song, it appears the narrator is grappling with his lack of faith in general. This is seen in the lines "Whose gonna save a little grace for me?" and "Whose gonna save a little light for me?" Now, don't get me wrong -- I still feel he is firm in his lack of faith, but he worries. Finally, it seems that the song may be about a religious faith, but upon further reflection, it appears to be a lack of faith in general. He sets this up in the very first few lines with:

"Got a little soul The world is a cold, cold place to be Want a little warmth But who's going to save a little warmth for me?"

He believes in a soul; however, it seems that he has seen enough bad in the world to question if he can have "faith" in the world. Another piece that leads to this is "Girl, you and I will die unbelievers/Bound to the tracks of the train". This is an action that another human being would have to do. Not an omnipresent God. And adding to this he notes, "Is this the fate that half of the world has planned for me?" The world. It is written there, but the fact that he is discussing a large part of the world lends to my belief that he is concerned about how other humans treat others. Now, how can this help our songwriting? I know I have mentioned this before, but it shows us not to hesitate in providing complex lyrics. This allows more people to relate to the words you are saying. Musically, Vampire Weekend is a great group to model this. While their music is poppy and fun, it is also repetitive, which allows it to support the lyrics and not overshadow them. Be yourself. Write powerful lyrics. Until next time.

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