(estimated read time: 5 minutes)
What does “Cold Water” by Major Lazer (ft. Justin Bieber & MØ) mean?
I really like the sound of “Cold Water.” The song is fun and poppy with all the electronic instrumentation I like in pop music (plus some acoustic guitar at the beginning). Justin Bieber does a great job of singing, and the song’s well produced. What’s more, the lyrics are uplifting and encouraging–a pretty cool thing to hear from a song that’s (undoubtedly) going to premiere on the Hot 100. The song’s got enough star power and just the right mixture of positive lyrics and fun music that there’s no way this song isn’t going to be popular.
In the first verse of Major Lazer‘s song, Justin Bieber begins by singing, “Everybody gets high sometimes, you know / What else can we do when we’re feeling low?” This seems to be a reference to drug use. Bieber is acknowledging that his friend needs some cheering up and says it’s understandable that she would get “high” when she is “feeling low.” (Note there’s a small chance that getting “high” could refer to just cheering one’s self up in any temporary way.)
But instead of leaving it at that, he offers his help and companionship: “So take a deep breath and let it go / You shouldn’t be drowning on your own.” Notice the nuances of that last line. He doesn’t promise to save her from drowning. He offers to “drown” with her. He wants to go through the struggle with his friend even though he’s not able to solve it.
Of course, he may have plans to save her–maybe there is something that he can do after all–but based on this line, he seems willing to risk getting sucked in too.
Here’s where the title of the song makes sense: Bieber sings, “And if you feel you’re sinking, I will jump right over / Into cold, cold water for you.” The analogy Bieber and Major Lazer are drawing is one of someone who has fallen overboard into cold water, and Bieber (or the narrator) is jumping in too to help that person.
He continues, “And although time may take us into different places / I will still be patient with you.” These two lines are a little bit more ambiguous, but Bieber is either saying that he’ll wait for her to come back if they take a break for a while or that, even though he knows it may not work out, he’s completely committed.
The pre-chorus finishes with a lead in to the chorus: “And I hope you know.”
Major Lazer’s “Cold Water” continues with Bieber singing, “I won’t let go / I’ll be your lifeline tonight.” The imagery of a “lifeline” is a common one in songs like this and refers to the rope tied to a life preserver ring. A person throws the life preserver to someone and can pull them in using the rope. Bieber is trying to be the connection between the drowning friend and the ship where she can be safe again.
Here, Bieber preaches empathy when he sings, “Cause we all get lost sometimes, you know?” He explains, “It’s how we learn and how we grow.” He’s saying that it’s understandable that his friend is in a rough place. Going through rough times or becoming discouraged is part of life and is how we become stronger.
He continues, “And I wanna lay with you ’til I’m old / You shouldn’t be fighting on your own.” Here we see the size of the singer’s commitment to this person. He’s in it for the long haul. He wants a lifetime of being a lifeline for this person.
In the bridge, MØ takes the place of the person being saved. She sings, “Come on, come on / Save me from my rocking boat.” The imagery’s a little mixed up here, but it’s still water related. She’s in danger of falling out and is asking for help because she wants to “stay afloat”–to survive–even though she’s “all alone.”
Her one request is for companionship, a friend: “And I hope someone’s gonna take me home / Somewhere I can rest my soul.” Her final request ends the bridge and is “to know you won’t let go.” She wants surety and a promise that she’s going to be safe and can actually “rest [her] soul” without having to worry or be on watch for whatever else could go wrong.
Deeper thoughts on the meaning of “Cold Water” by Major Lazer (ft. Justin Bieber & MØ)
I think the most interesting parts about “Cold Water” is that until the second verse where Bieber mentions wanting to “lay with you ’til I’m old,” the song could be about a completely platonic relationship.
And I honestly think that would have been a better direction to go with it. Not only would the song then have applied to romantic relationships still, but it also would have applied to many beautiful friendships that aren’t romantic.
It’s not a complaint, just a thought. And the only other thought I’d like to leave you with is just an encouragement to celebrate many different kinds of friendships. Romantic relationships aren’t the only ones, and there are many beautiful ways to help other people.
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.