By now, everyone’s heard “Uma Thurman” by Fallout Boy from American Beauty/American Psycho, and everyone probably knows it too. The song doesn’t sound anything like most mainstream pop, maintaining a distinct rock pop sound, full of grunge and energy. The song was released January 13, 2015 and a music video to match was released on April 17, 2015. It features a fan who won a sweepstakes to be Fall Out Boy’s assistant for 24 hours. In the video, Sarah and the band romp around and have fun.
“Uma Thurman’s” music video won at the VMAs last night in the “Best Rock Video” category, helping it to even further leave its mark on listening ears. However, the meaning of the song remains something of a mystery for most readers (and VMA viewers), with many wondering, “Why Uma Thurman?” But before the answer, a musical insight: “Uma Thurman’s” opening riff is exactly identical to the theme song from the old The Munsters TV show from the 60’s.
First, the title. Uma Thurman is an American actress from Boston. She is now 45 and is known primarily for her work in Pulp Fiction and Kill Bill. (She also played Poison Ivy in the 1997 Batman & Robin.)
On Facebook, the band explained the reason for picking her (as well as the rest of the song):
Uma Thurman and Winona Ryder, they were these women in pop culture who were quirky, but that made me only crush on them harder. and rather than going with the traditional Uma Thurman role, we thought a lot about Kill Bill and who her character was in that, and this kind of resilience and this violence, but there’s something that’s authentic about it (like a woman taking revenge or being empowered). So that’s what the chorus of the song’s about, and the verses are what you would do to try and capture this woman’s affection.
“Uma Thurman’s” about wooing a violent, wild woman. And lead singer Patrick Stump begins his ode to this woman in the song’s intro by proclaiming how far he’d go to woo her. He sings, “I can move mountains / I can work a miracle, work a miracle.” To match her strength and power, he has to be able to promise her that he too can keep up with her and possibly even do things greater than she can so that she’ll consider him worthy. He has to prove himself to her.
Fall Out Boy sings, “Oh, oh, keep you like an oath / May nothing but death do us part.” His love for her is intense and something that he’s willing to commit to powerfully–a feeling that the strong and intense melody attests to.
As Fall Out Boy describes above, the chorus is about this woman, explaining that “[s]he wants to dance like Uma Thurman,” which is a reference to a memorable dance scene in Pulp Fiction where Uma Thurman’s character asks John Travolta’s character to dance and aggressively leads the dance.
When Stump sings that this woman “wants to dance like Uma Thurman,” he’s claiming that she may forcefully make her man dance with her because she’s aggressive and competitive.
Genius.com suggests that the line about being buried until “I confess” likely refers to a scene in Kill Bill in which Uma Thurman gets buried alive, further intensifying how strong and energetic her characters’ personalities are. The last line of the chorus explains that Fall Out Boy can’t get her out of its head, and so they will continue to chase her.
In Verse 1, the band references “[t]he stench, the stench of summer sex” and “CK eternity” (a type of perfume), with both seeming to continue to strengthen the idea that a relationship with this woman will be intense.
Patrick Stump and the band are willing to get out of the way for such a woman as testified to by the line “Divide me down to the smallest I can be.” The verse-finishing line, “Put your, put your v-v-v-venom in me” is likely another reference to Kill Bill but could also be a reference to Thurman’s role as Poison Ivy in Batman & Robin.
In Verse 2, Stump sings, “The blood, the blood, the blood of the lamb / Is worth two lions, but here I am.” He seems to be saying that while he knows that peace and martyrdom are worth more than war, he still finds himself drawn to her strong personality. While the rest of the world admires peace (and maybe even a conventional view of femininity as soft or passive), he can’t keep himself away from her.
In the last half of that verse, he sings, “And I slept in last night’s clothes and tomorrow’s dreams / But they’re not quite what they seem.” He’s dreaming of being with her and has become obsessed. He’s beside himself and isn’t taking proper care of himself as he spends so much time hoping to be with her. “[T]hey’re not quite what they seem” because this girl’s very nature is to surprise those around her.
Finally comes the Bridge, in which the ode progresses to a trance-like repetition of praises for the band’s ferocious woman. Stump sings, “You’ll find your way / And may death find you alive.” He has faith that nothing will stop this woman and wonders whether she even may be able to intimidate (or at least not care for the fear of) death.
He sings, “Take me down the line / In Gem City we turn the tide.” “[T]he line” seems to be a reference to a battle line, which she walks confidently. Perhaps the most confusing part of the song is the reference to “Gem City” where the tide is turned. (Thanks to a user on Genius.com), Quincy, IL is known as the “Gem City” and it’s only a few hours from Wilmette, IL where Fall Out Boy originates. Wherever “Gem City” is specifically, it’s the site of a battleground or metaphorical obstacle course that Fall Out Boy’s woman navigates with ease.
What do you think about “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy? What do you think it means? Please share! Especially if you know what “Gem City” refers to–that would be super helpful. Everyone else, check the comments to see if someone else has shared the secret with us.