The drum beat at the beginning of “Wilder Mind” from the new Mumford & Sons album Wilder Mind had me confused. It’s upbeat and happy-sounding and fairly fast. The previous songs released had been moody and heavy, but this song was so much lighter, suggesting far lighter tone and subject matter. However, the difference didn’t last; the music thickened quickly and the lyrics in “Wilder Mind” are still intense and near-brooding.
The lyrics in “Wilder Mind” are almost mournful, but there’s energy behind them, derived from Mumford’s voice and the drum beat. The song is a bemoaning of a relationship that failed Mumford because the woman in it tried too hard to control him. She had a vision for how their relationship should look and knew what she wanted but didn’t consider what Mumford wanted or who he was. She tried to artificially create a relationship that she thought would be perfect but failed both herself and Mumford.
The title, “Wilder Mind,” is a reference to the narrator’s own restless nature. When, in the song, his female friend attempts to tame him, his mind will rebel.
Mumford begins by singing, “It’s in my blood, it’s in my water,” showing this wildness to be vital to his own personality. One cannot function without blood and water, and Mumford’s wildness is inseparable from him because it’s in those two things. He sings that she tried “to tame [him] from the start.” She is controlling and wants to remove his wildness-the existence of which is reinforced by the powerful, and quick rhythm of the song that contrasts with the intense, moody lyrics.
This woman seems to have tried to use sex to control Mumford: “With that deadness in your eye, flash your flesh / Desperate for a need to rise.” Her advances on him are tactical and unenthusiastic; she has no real passion for him. She merely uses her own flesh as a way to ensnare him, hoping that sex will enthuse her and give her “a need to rise.” (Of course, this could also refer to the woman wanting her body to be a “need to rise” for Mumford.)
However, as sung in the hook, this woman’s promises of sex and “flesh” aren’t enough to make Mumford stay; he “had been blessed with a wilder mind.” And her “proper” and formalized nature keeps her from understanding him. Mumford describes her as having “silver crystal on,” and he sings, “How well you used to know how to shine,” both lines suggesting that she is good at performing a highly polished and successful version of herself for others.
In the next stanza of the hook, Mumford sings, “You can be every little thing you want nobody to know / And you can try to drown out the street below.” The first line suggests that her usual persona is fake, that she is someone else, and that she wants to be that person with Mumford. When she is with him, she loses her “shine,” “polish,” and perhaps her good nature, revealing a controlling manipulator underneath. The second line shows that her attempts are not sustainable; she can try to be this person she wants to be, but just as she can’t drown out the noise of traffic, she will never make her actions right. (In addition, perhaps this is also an implied reference to the noise of sex, the action of which she hopes will help her to forget and ignore the outside world.)
Whatever the reasons for her actions, this woman is desperate and trapped, and she is trying to bring Mumford into this trap with her. Mumford sings, “And you can call it love / If you want.” This form of control and manipulation may seem right to her, but Mumford will have none of it. He doesn’t buy in; his mind is wilder.
Verse 2 shows Mumford’s restless spirit in action. He thinks that he is “[b]eholden” perhaps because he feels he owes the woman something for her sex. And while she sleeps “so sound with [her] mind made up,” he “find[s] [himself] awake / Waiting on the edge again.” This could be a subtle reference to the edge of a bed or the edge of a decision as he must choose whether to stay with her or not. While he feels tense and restive, she sleeps “sound,” her spirit satisfied by “[d]rinking from [her] cup of broken ends.” These “broken ends” are a reference to the false world she’s built up around herself-a world that Mumford will be leaving even more broken.
Mumford ends the song with the echo of a pitiful, “But I thought we believed in an endless love.” He seems bewildered. The results of this relationship leave him unsure of the existence of “endless love.” He seems to be asking, “What happened to endless love? Did we ever actually believe in it? If so, where did it go?” His relationship with this woman has left him wandering and wondering.
What do you think? Is this song about a controlling woman? Is it about a relationship? Give me your theories and ideas below. I’d love to talk.
If you want to keep listening to “Wilder Mind” and Wilder Mind, you can find them on Amazon. Also, if you want notifications of future posts, you can follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and here on the blog. Cheers!
Explanations for other songs on Wilder Mind: