(estimated read time: 5 minutes)
SONG MEANING (edited): At first, I thought “Good Grief” by Bastille was about a relationship gone south, but since then many commenters and emailers and FB messengers have shown me that it’s actually probably about losing someone, probably a mother. The explanation below is related to this but doesn’t completely reflect this updated meaning.
Breaking it down…
Bastille released “Good Grief” on June 17th, and I have to admit that while I’ve heard (and liked) several of their songs I’m not as up on them as some you readers might be. Therefore, if I miss something, please let me (and other readers) know in the comments below. We’ll work on this together.
What I do know is that this song, “Good Grief,” is musically very similar to their popular album Bad Blood even though they’ve been exploring some darker and heavier musical styles.
“Good Grief” has the ability to get very popular this summer, and I think it’s a fun song. I’m excited to explore the lyrics below.
Lead singer for Bastille, Dan Smith, begins by singing, “Watching through my fingers,” to suggest that he’s observing something very sad or frightening. He continues, “Shut my eyes and count to ten,” in hopes that whatever it is will pass. He’s trying to ignore it; thus, what someone is telling him “goes in one ear, out the other.”
And apparently “Good Grief” is about a relationship that ends surprisingly quickly even though it was “[b]urning bright right ’till the end.” Bastille laments, “Now you’ll be missing from the photographs.” He’ll be without this woman, and they will no longer create memories (thus photographs) together anymore.
In the second verse, Bastille is still “watching through my fingers,” but he hasn’t gotten over the ended relationship: “In my thoughts you’re far away.” He’s imagining her being somewhere else “whistling the melody / crystallizing clear as day / Oh, I can picture you so easily” He has very vidid daydreams about her and wishes he were with her. Since she’s singing “the melody” perhaps he’s implying that he used to sing the “harmony” and that together they made something beautiful, the music being a metaphor for their relationship.
In the pre-chorus, Bastille asks a simple question, “What’s gonna be left of the world if you’re not in it?” He feels his life coming apart and wonders what he will do with all of his spare energy and time. What will there be left to be passionate about?
In the chorus, Bastille sings that “[e]very minute and every hour / I miss you. . . .” He’s obsessed with this woman and feels the ache of her absence strongly. Even though he tries to keep going, with “[e]very stumble and misfire”–attempt to live life normally–“I miss you. . . .” He’s trying to go back to normal life, but it doesn’t feel like it’s working.
In the third verse, Dan Smith explains that he’s “[c]aught off guard by your favorite song.” Perhaps for a moment he had stopped thinking about her, but once he heard her favorite song it brought those painful thoughts back to him. And the emotions raised in him are so powerful that he explains that even though he heard it “at a funeral,” he’s going to start “dancing.” His feelings for this woman are strong enough to make him forget that he’s doing something situationally inappropriate and embarrassing.
A female voice tells the narrator, “If you want to be a party animal, you have to learn to live in the jungle / Now stop worrying and go get dressed.” The woman puts the narrator of Bastille’s song “in his place” (as Smith will sing in a minute) and tells him that things like this are going to happen if he wants to enter the “relationship arena.” He needs to put himself together and try again.
In the bridge, Smith sings, “You might have to excuse me / I’ve lost control of all my senses / And you might have to excuse me / I’ve lost control of all my words.” He’s not himself and needs people to know it so they hopefully don’t think less of him.
He continues, “So get drunk, call me a fool / Put me in my place, put me in my place / Pick me up, up off the floor.” He’s certainly out of control right now and acknowledges that people are going to tell him to get over it and perhaps tell him that his relationships aren’t so much more special than everyone else’s that he needs to react like this when something goes wrong.
My questions for the song meaning community:
- Did you like “Good Grief”?
- Do you think the narrator is overreacting to heartbreak?
- What do you think about the contrast between bright, happy music and sad, depressing lyrics?
- The big question: Do you think there’s deeper meaning in “Good Grief”?
Deeper thoughts…and Emotions…
The narrator of Bastille’s song is certainly caught up in strong emotions, so I don’t want to say that he’s overreacting. He’ll one day be able to come to terms with the terrible thing that has happened and be able to move on, but I’m sure this is a painful place for him to be for the moment.
I’m not sure there’s too much deeper to get into here unless we want to take the discussion outside of the song and ask how this song matches up to other people’s experiences of heartbreak. I think many will be able to identify with this song and will possibly even feel somewhat comforted by the upbeat and energetic tune. Perhaps this rhythm and melody can help to put a few listeners’ minds into a better place as they think about and feel their own heartbreaks.
Thanks for reading! I’m a college English instructor, university writing center director, and online entrepreneur (college for under $15k, anyone?) who cares deeply about TRUTH and MEANING. I’m married to the gloriously beautiful Wife April and love to swing dance and juggle.