The sixth track on Wilder Mind is “Monster,” and it’s a slow melancholy reverie on a relationship that actually does have hope for survival, though not without a letting go of ambition. Ringing electric guitar, gentle harmonies, and an easy-going melody give the song a thoughtful, near-bluesy relaxing feel. It’s the kind of song you could listen to quietly as you drift off to sleep, and it’s available on Amazon!

Mumford & Sons Screenshot

The lyrics, however, are still intense. The song depicts a heavy resolve on Mumford’s part and a friend torn between dreams and a relationship; it also represents the band’s regular once-an-album use of the f-word. Other than that, “Monster” stays true to the Wilder Mind formula of contemplative and tightly written lyrics about difficult relationships.

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“The Meaning”

Mumford doesn’t absolutely clarify whether the subject of the song is a male friend or a female romantic interest, so the song has two very strong possible meanings. Whoever the person is, Mumford depicts him or her as a dangerous risk-taker willing to jeopardize his/her relationship with Mumford.

Marcus Mumford ScreenshotAssuming the person is female, “Monster” is about a woman who risks too much for success and ignores Mumford. Mumford sings that she was “up / Throwin’ dice in the dark.” She took a chance with success, but Mumford saw her “come to harm.”

Even while she was dancing “in the devil’s arms,” Mumford’s friend was in danger; her aspirations were actually the “devil” and a serious danger to herself. There’s an old saying that Mumford may be referencing here: “If you dance with the devil, remember it’s he that calls the tune.” Mumford suggests the similar idea that his friend is in more trouble than she realizes.

In the next stanza, Mumford bemoans how “[t]he night kept coming / Really nothing I could do.” He watches helplessly as his friend is taken advantage of. In addition, either Mumford or his friend has “Eyes with a fire unquenched by peace,” suggesting restlessness and dissatisfaction, but really neither is happy with the current situation. The woman wants more, and Mumford wants her. Mumford ends the stanza with the sentiment, “Curse the beauty. Curse the queen.” He hates this woman’s aspirations; he wants this night of their relationship to end and for her to return to him.

Mumford and his friend then “come / To a place of no return.” Mumford wants her to choose him, and it appears that if she doesn’t, he will have to leave even though he loves her strongly: “Yours is the face that makes my body burn.” Assuming that they do stay together, Mumford makes it clear that their sons will know to “[c]urse the beauty. Curse the queen.” They will know to avoid women who value ambition over relationship.

Mumford continues, “So when you’re weak / When you are on your knees / I’ll do my best with the time that’s left.” Even when she comes to the end of her abilities and strength, Mumford’s quiet and steady strength will still be there to support his friend in whatever way he can. “Sworn with your spirit, you’re fully flesh,” suggests a weakness or vulnerability that Mumford sees in his friend. She has tried to rise above her own weaknesses, but remains flesh and has failed, at times, to do all she wanted, a failure most notable in her hurting of Mumford.

Screen Shot of Mumford & Sons Album CoverMumford sings, “So f**k your dreams / And don’t you pick at our seams” because he wants her to stay with him and to be satisfied with the solid relationship he can provide. If she wants to be saved from her own ambition, Mumford is willing to save her by turning “into a monster for [her].” This monster could be an effort to shock her back to her senses or to scare away her temptations.  The payment needed for such a transformation could be a reference to her showing interest in her relationship with Mumford.

Mumford begins ending the song by reminding her that “[n]one of this counts, a few dreams plowed up,” suggesting that his friend should return and stop obsessing over her goals. She should let those dreams be “plowed up” and should be satisfied.

Assuming that this song is about a woman and not a man, Mumford has written a lyrical tribute to his love for her, hoping that she’ll let go of achievement and “dreams,” and be satisfied with valuing the relationship over all else. Mumford wants to protect his love and is willing to be a “Monster” for her.

What if “Monster” is actually about a male friend?

This song being about a man would also make contextual sense. If so, this man has fallen for a dangerous woman and won’t listen to Mumford’s warnings. Instead, he keeps dancing “in the devil’s arms.”

Mumford wants to curse this “beauty” and “queen” because she is hurting his friend, and his friend doesn’t understand what’s happening to himself. Mumford wants to promote the normal, quiet relationship that he has with his friend, and he’s willing to support such a relationship with a quiet, steady love in “the time that’s left.”

While the woman is extraordinarily tempting, Mumford wants his friend to “f**k [his] dreams” and to not “pick at [the] seams” of the actually healthy relationship he has with Mumford. To protect him, Mumford’s willing to become a “monster.”

Screen Shot of Mumford & Sons Website IIWhy the F-Word?

When Christianity Today reviewed Mumford & Sons’s last two albums, Sigh No More and Babel, they were disappointed with the band’s use of the f-word. Author Kevin P. Emmert suggested it was trying too hard:

That’s not just disappointing; that’s literary overkill. Writers and literary critics agree that when used sparingly, shocking words can work well. Provocative words can create shock and convey severity, but for Mumford & Sons, the too-frequent use of the word makes the songs feel gimmicky. I hope their third album loses the f-bomb template.

To Emmert’s chagrin, Mumford & Sons decided to continue their f-word trend with one use in “Monster,” a limitation which seems to have kept the song from gaining an “Explicit” rating.

In a TeenVogue interview, bandmate Ted Dwane justifies the use of the f-word in “Little Lion Man” by saying, “You know, we’re generally pretty clean mouthed-but a word like that has impact and it just suits the sentiment of the song.”

But the f-word being used on only one song per album still seems purposeful and could perhaps be explained as the band’s desire to be seen as literarily mature or serious. Whatever the reason, Mumford & Sons’s use of this one word remains a steady source of contention for listeners, even as the exact meaning of “Monster” could continue to be as well.

Did you enjoy “Monster”? Did you think it was about a man or about a woman? What do you think about Mumford & Sons’s use of the f-word? Let me know and don’t forget to like this post! 

If you want to continue listening to “Monster” or Wilder Mindyou can find them both on Amazon. And don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, on Facebook, and here on the blog. Cheers!

Explanations for other songs on Wilder Mind:

  1. Tompkins Square Park
  2. Believe
  3. The Wolf
  4. Wilder Mind
  5. Just Smoke
  6. Monster
  7. Snake Eyes
  8. Broad-Shouldered Beasts
  9. Cold Arms
  10. Ditmas
  11. Only Love
  12. Hot Gates
  • Immanuel Steinberg

    This was my favorite song on the album by far.
    Thanks for the analysis.

  • Mike

    I interpret this song as directed towards a woman, and rather than her dreams/ambitions being the strain on their relationship, I see addiction as the issue.

    “So you were up/throwing dice in the dark
    I saw you late/last night/come to harm
    I saw you dance/in the devil’s arms”
    She’s spending the night taking chances – giving in to a temptation which is harming her.

    “The night kept coming/really nothing I could do”
    The “night” is this long darkness for her – and one that he can’t seem to save her from.

    “Eyes with a fire/unquenched by peace”
    Peace and serenity do not satisfy this person she’s become, and this desire has driven her towards temptation and addiction.

    “Curse the beauty/curse the queen”
    As an alternative to the literal beauty which attracts him to her, I’d consider him cursing the beauty that she sees in this drug – the “beauty” is the feeling it gives her. The stanza ends with him cursing her, and what she’s doing to herself and them.

    “So we’ve come/to a place of no return”
    The place of no return is two-fold: first, that their relationship is at a turning (breaking) point – and second, in a more literal sense, that she has sunken so deep into this addiction that this is her last chance to save herself (and their relationship) from it.

    The remainder of the song is pretty close to your interpretation – with a different lens, of course.

    Just an alternative – curious as to your thoughts!

    • Interesting! So basically, you’re saying drugs instead of an addiction to power or success. What you say, I think, especially makes sense considering “throwing dice in the dark,” “devil’s arms,” and “eyes with a fire.” The part that it seems hardest to fit into that is this: “So f**k your dreams / And don’t you pick at our seams.” The second part makes sense with your theory, but what dreams could she be having? I don’t think it refers to drug-fueled dreams–that’d be too simple for the band. The other question I’d raise is that drug abuse songs just don’t seem to be Mumford & Sons’s style, but that’s just a feeling I get-not solid proof.

      Well, those are my thoughts. What do you think in return?

  • Thanks for this. This is one of my favorite songs on the album, and I’ve gotten a general sense from the music that it’s sad (mature/wistful sad, like any given recent Gaslight Anthem song–if that means anything to you), but until I read your post I hadn’t thought much about the lyrics, and quite honestly, I wasn’t totally sure if I was hearing the lyrics correctly (accent + husky voice + I still live in an apartment for a few more weeks and can’t turn my record player up loud). Now I see what you mean. It’s sad, but there’s hope.

    • You’re welcome! It really is a good song. I’m not familiar with Gaslight Anthem, but I just Googled them and will have to learn more. Yeah, those British accents–sheesh! But they’re worth it, right? Haha

  • I love this song! Thanks for the post 🙂
    You should definitely explain other albums from Mumford & Sons, you are very good at it.

    • Thanks so much! I’d like to–any requests? (Even though it may be months before I get that far…)

  • Thank you for this! It’s my favorite in the album, second is “Just Smoke”.

    Personally, I interpret some of the lyrics differently:

    So when you’re weak // When you are on your knees // I’ll do my best, with the time, that’s left // Sworn with your spirit, you’re fully fleshed

    I think the above means is that when she is weak and when she is down on her knees, begging him to reconcile with her or to mend their relationship after being destroyed by the devil, he just simply says that he’ll do his best with the time that’s left (I think this is a bitter statement that is nonetheless polite, but it stops at that). The last line above, to me, means that when she swore on her soul/spirit that she will reconcile with him, he notes that she’s ‘fully fleshed’, which I think refreshes the reference to the dancing with the devil’s arms – I think it’s a metaphor to her having ‘sold her soul’ to the devil’ when she was dancing with him.

    So f*ck your dreams // And don’t you pick at our seams // I’ll turn into a monster for you, If you pay me enough // None of this counts, a few dreams, plowed up

    This verse also means something different to me. I already see him in a relationship with someone else. So he curses her dreams, because her dreams now include mending their relationship together – which is impossible, because he’s already not going for her anymore. The second line, I think, is a reference to the idiom “come apart at the seams” which means falling apart and deteriorating in quality, as clothes would do when they’re torn apart. I think Mumford is warning the girl not to tear them apart. The third line then negates the second line by saying that he can turn into a monster for her if she pays her enough, meaning that he’ll probably cheat on his new relationship if she pays him enough. However, knowing that she’s too destroyed and doesn’t have anything to pay him, really, he goes on, saying, “None of this counts, a few dreams, plowed up”. That line speaks to me as if it means, “none of your stupid dreams count now, because you destroyed the ones you had before”.

    That’s just me, though. I love this song, and the distorted electric reverberating guitars, and the beats that are very repetitive and sad.

  • Rachel

    What do you guys think about the line and here is the name our sons will learn? Do you think it means this was a relationship and he is going to have to tell their kids about her because she wont be around anymore because she would rather have her addiction instead?

  • i think that this album is by far their best yet, it is beautiful in all ways of a new painting in time and the use of the the “f” word used sparingly just adds to the beauty once again. I can’t be more satisfied with an album that is more than just music to me. Mumford and Sons God bless you bc there is art within your work.

  • I love the first analysis and the one someone mentioned above about an addiction….though it doesn’t have to that kind of addiction. Maybe it is the woman he loves being in any kind of compromising situation, whether it be drugs or alcohol or even contemplating a sexual encounter with another man whom Mumford obviously does not want her to be with, for numerous reasons, including that he will only hurt her. Maybe it is her “beauty” that drew the “devil” to her. And maybe the “monster” is Mumford’s jealous side that would pull her back to him.

    I’m not sure how to interpret “fuck your dreams” but the one thing that bothers me with the one analysis is that he would ask her to choose him over herself.

  • morgan

    that is exactly what I got from it!!!! im so glad someone else saw this in the lyrics and tone of the song.

  • morgan

    “The part that it seems hardest to fit into that is this: “So f**k your dreams / And don’t you pick at our seams.””

    I think the lyrics are still addressing addiction. I assume the addiction (or atleast I like to think the addiction) he is referring to is Meth. With an addiction it is most often impossible to achieve aspirations, so engaging in drugs, one might say you are fucking your dreams.

    And if anyone has be around those under the influence of meth and/or other drugs, often in restlessness or anxiety , they will pick and bother things just as a nervous tick..(which is why many have facial scarring from picking at sores and break outs) .

    ..I am no one of concern but that is how I digested these lyrics and the meaning of the song as someone in love with an addict.

  • Ophelia Wave

    … I just … “heard” this song today … for the 1st time … I am amazed to … See the responses sew different and the same as mine …
    … for me … in my experience … We’ve come to a point of no return … is prophetic of this year … 2017 … … #Agreed … It is about Our relationship with Ourself … It is about addiction to the facts … It is about moving to fast to hold on … … Our Sons will know … to curse the Queen … is to curse Beauty …
    … to curse Beauty is to curse God/Love … to see Beauty is to see US … the Truth of … #AllofUS …. She Be His HeArt saying … Leave me !! … if U do not support US … amazing how songs … network … according to time , place, and circumstance … … f..* dreams of materialism … Be in the world … not of it … ~ …