Now that “Stories” is out, I can’t stop freaking out. I showed the album to my college students before class today and reminded them all that they NEED to listen to it. Avicii has created something very special here, and it’s well worth the listen. The whole album is, I think, an ode to stories, and many of the stories are very personal: “Somewhere in Stockholm” is very autobiographical, and I think it’s even Avicii doing the singing in it. You’re going to love this song about returning home.
I’ve added “Somewhere in Stockholm” to my Spotify playlist “Clifford Stumme’s Pop Prerogative” so that you can listen to it too! I keep songs I’m excited about or analyzing on this playlist.
The song begins slowly with a dream-like organ that suggests the thoughtful reverie that Avicii (or Tim Bergling) is about to enter. In this reverie, he’s watching himself “right there on the corner, listening to Wu in my Walkman”–Wu is a reference to the Wu-Tang Clan band, known for “Protect Ya Neck” and “C.R.E.A.M.”
He sings about “[n]eon lights at the water, reflecting the city I’m lost in.” In this dream, he’s walking by himself at night, listening to music and thinking about this city. He remembers how one day he “would be leaving / For a dream that I didn’t have, that I one day would believe in”; he didn’t know how far he’d go or what he’d want to accomplish, but he knows all of this now and looks back fondly on the times before his rise to fame.
Apparently, though, it wasn’t a peaceful departure from his home. He mentions how he “ran [from]” there. But now he just wants to go back; it’s the “place I think of whenever the chance comes.” And this is “inevitable ’cause wherever [he goes]”…
…He hears “echoes of a thousand screams”–the screams could be people screaming at concerts that he used to give back in his home city, or they could be his fellow citizens reminding him of what he left. He hears these as he tries to sleep; that desire to go home keeps him awake, leaving a “black hole” inside of him.
Now, while some American artists would be more likely to say they had left their hearts in their hometowns, Avicii, interestingly, chooses to say that he left his “backbone / Somewhere in Stockholm.” I’m not sure why this is. Heart makes more sense to me, but “backbone” apparently works for Avicii. Backbones usually refer to courage in American idiom, but, if you think about it, backbones also keep us standing straight and give us support, so maybe a backbone, for Avicii, refers to his support or structure–maybe his home? Whatever “backbone” specifically refers to, Avicii wants to reconnect with his roots and strengthen himself with refreshing himself in his hometown.
If you liked “Somewhere in Stockholm” by Avicii, you may also like “What does ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ by The Weeknd mean?” or “What does ‘Sunset Jesus’ by Avicii mean?“
In the Second Verse, Avicii sings about the reasons he loves Stockholm (which, by the way, is in Sweden). In Stockholm, people “never openly show [their] emotions” and they “drown [their] sorrows in bottomless bottles and leave them to float in the ocean.” Stockholm is built on islands surrounded by tributaries that lead into the Baltic Sea, making it easy for people drinking sorrows away and to throw bottles into waters that eventually lead to the Atlantic Ocean.
According to Avicii, Stockholm’s society is also based on equality and while “[s]ome generalize” or say there is segregation of sorts, “we never separate people from people” and “in general I still believe that we’re treated as equals.”
Avicii’s family is there (“[m]y father, my mother, my sister, my brother, my friends and my family’s there”) and so is his firm grounding. Wherever he was trying to become famous and rich (“Sunset Jesus” suggests California or LA), he almost lost his “hope” and his “innocence”–he “almost lost everything here.”
He finishes the verse by resolving that “[r]ight where I was founded is right where I’ll be found dead”–he will return there and stay true to his roots. The streets of Stockholm are his “backbone” and the memory of them will support him until he returns.
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In the Third Verse, Avicii sings that he’s “not alone” and that he comes out of the “‘burbs” (or the suburbs). The rest of the imagery of this verse is piled on quickly and furiously, all aimed at showing how he’s not where he belongs. He’s a “river that’s dying of thirst”–he can’t satisfy the emptiness he feels. He’s a “reverend lying in church”–someone who should belong somewhere but doesn’t. He’s a “crack in the pattern, a miracle waiting to happen”–still not belonging, not being real yet but being “so close, but so far” from being right.
He’s a “promise that never was kept”–he feels like he left his home the wrong way. He feels like “those moments you never forget”–he can’t get Stockholm out of his mind. He’s also “the feeling inside, the one we all know but can’t really describe.” He feels like something’s missing or that there’s something else out there, and he wants to go back home to find it. Finally, he’s the “blood spill,” and he’s “in love still.” By calling himself blood, he’s creating a picture that suggests he really needs to go back where he came from. While blood doesn’t need a body in the same way a body (Stockholm) needs blood, he feels unnatural where he is and wants to reclaim his lost love and sense of belonging.
In the Bridge, he has returned home and is celebrating it because now he doesn’t “have to get by on [his] own.” In Swedish, he sings the last line of the bridge: “Home in Stockholm, where I belong.”
“Somewhere in Stockholm” is about going home. Avicii wants to return there and won’t feel at peace until he does. Even though he left under poor circumstances, his return will be triumphant and a relief to him.
What’d you think of “Somewhere in Stockholm” by Avicii? Have you ever felt something similar to what Avicii feels? Have you ever felt like you didn’t belong and needed to go home? “What does ‘Wildest Dreams’ by Taylor Swift mean?” may be a good next post for you to check out!
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Clifford Stumme is a blogger and a college instructor/desk-watcher at Liberty University. He likes juggling and reading/writing, and he is married to the wonderful and beautiful Wife April. He thinks pop music is awesome. Seriously awesome.