(estimated read time: 6 minutes)
SONG MEANING: “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE is about sex and sexual fantasy. Keep reading to see how.
*Due to the nature of the song being explained, the lyrics discussed in this blog post may not be suitable for younger children.*
DNCE (headed up by Joe Jonas) was formed last year, but the single the band released is still holding steady at number 17 on the Billboard Hot 100. “Cake by the Ocean” is an infectious dance anthem written by Justin Tranter and DNCE. But the song doesn’t have the most normal origin story. Apparently it was created after two European producers (Mattman and Robin) mistranslated the name of a cocktail called “Sex on the Beach” as “Cake by the Ocean.” The band heard the mistranslation and had the song written within ten minutes.
Unfortunately, the music video for the song verges on pornographic and so isn’t appropriate to share on this website since the images shared in that music video are not conducive to our mission–to understand the deeper meanings of lyrics. Suffice it to say, the music video depicts a fictional “cake fighting” championship between one man and twenty bikini-clad women while DNCE plays in the background. The lyric video shared below is more conducive to lyrical analysis.
You can listen along if you like. I’ve added “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE to my Spotify playlist “Clifford Stumme’s Pop Prerogative.” Be sure to follow the playlist!
In the first verse, Jonas sings, “Oh, no / See you walking ’round like it’s a funeral / Not so serious, girl; why those feet cold? / We just getting started; don’t you tiptoe . . . .” This verse is a very clear request for the narrator’s love interest to show interest back to him and to want to get crazy–to go “all in”–with him in their relationship or in making love.
Here, Jonas calls himself a “masterpiece” and tells her not to “waste time with” him. Instead, he urges her to be “rolling with me” and describes her a “real-life fantasy,” which ends up being the first true hint that this song is about sexual fantasy. Since fantasies are usually in one’s head, her appearance makes her a “real-life” one.
However, he’s only describing her looks. She’s not acting like a fantasy because in the next line, he sings, “But you’re moving so carefully . . .” and he wants her to “start living dangerously”–to take risks with him.
In the chorus, Jonas sings, “Talk to me, baby,” as he tries to convince her to spend time with him and to let him convince her to have sex with him. He wants her to join him because he’s “going blind from this sweet, sweet craving” (the first hint of cake-related metaphor), and he wants her to join him: “Let’s lose our minds and go f***ing crazy.” He explains, then, that his fantasy is that they’ll “eat cake by the ocean,” presumably a reference to sex.
Jonas continues singing by asking her to “[w]alk for me, baby,” to display herself for him, and he says he’ll “be Diddy,” and she’ll be “Naomi,” high-profile celebrities who were a couple for a little while a few years ago. The verse wraps up by repeating his desire for them to “go f***ing crazy” and to “eat cake by the ocean.”
The first line of the second verse is an abrupt and pronounced “God damn,” presumably the songwriters’ exclamation after taking a closer look at the woman that he’s interested in.
Jonas continues by describing what he’s seeing in his mind’s eye: “you licking frosting from your own hands / Want another taste, I’m begging, yes, ma’am.” The cake metaphor amps up here with the “licking frosting” suggesting an almost silly approach to sexual fantasy, but an approach to sexual fantasy nevertheless.
The second verse finishes with Jonas singing about his desire to move on with this fantasy and to not wait any longer: “I’m tired of all this candy on the dry land.” The candy represents fooling around or getting close to having passionate sex, but cake represents the couple getting sexually serious and enthusiastic.
The bridge is two simple lines that further express the narrator’s desire: “You’re f***ing delicious / Talk to me, girl.”
The main message of the song being declared, the outro seems to be an opportunity for the songwriters to be silly and to take the cake metaphor a little further. DNCE sings, “Red velvet, vanilla, chocolate in my life / Funfetti, I’m ready; I need it every night,” the only two unique lines in the outro, but they do get the message across: this song is about sex, and it’s meant to be fun.
Sexual fantasy and the music video
The main reason we can safely say this song is indeed about sex is its pairing with the sexually-charged music video. The music video is clearly intended to be a facsimile of a sexual fantasy. And while the band told NME that the song “could mean the actual act of having sex by the ocean, or it could mean eating pastries by the boardwalk,” the music video makes it clear that the true intended purpose of this song is to be about sexual fantasy.
Please share your thoughts about “Cake by the Ocean.” If you disagree with my explanation, please let me know. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, do you think it’s a “good” song (in the moral sense)? I’m not so sure, but I’d love to hear what you have to say about that too.
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Clifford Stumme has his master’s in English literature and is a blogger and a college instructor/center-director 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.