(estimated read time: 5 minutes)
What does “Fake It” by Bastille mean?
“Fake It” came out on July 29th, and it’s another single for their album Wild World. I’m a fan of the song and of lead singer Dan Smith’s awesome voice. And I’m also a fan of the depth of meaning behind the song.
I always thought that Bastille was overly dramatic and sentimental (think “What Would You Do”), but I feel like with “Good Grief” and “Fake It” they’ve hit a compromise and seemed to have mellowed out a little while still discussing difficult, emotional issues. They feel more confident–like they don’t have to use sob stories to sell songs–and I like it.
The song’s intro is a voiceover sampled from a 1971 short film “Social Seminar: Changing.” The woman says, “And I don’t that that’s a selfish want. I really don’t. I’m not saying that I have this capacity because it’s hard to develop that capacity on your own, when you’re being stopped at every turn.” This quote forecasts one topic of the song: the inability to grow in a relationship when it feels like the relationship itself is what’s keeping you from growing.
At the beginning of the sung portion of “Fake It,” Dan Smith sings, “Drive around, nighttime, nowhere to go.” He’s spending time with the person, “killing time” with her. There’s no purpose to their wanderings–they think being together should be enough. But their relationship isn’t what it used to be, and she’s begun making fun of him to his face, so much so that he sings, “Melt me down, I’m like wax to your jokes.”
And the relationship has put Smith through a figurative blender of experiences and emotions: “Lost and found, knocking heads, laying low.” At the end of it all, he’s unsure if there’s a “point reliving crimes to lose this,” by which he means he wonders if fighting about it to bring closure to the relationship would be worth it–maybe it would just be easier to “fake it.”
Here, Bastille tells us, “Still wanna waste all of my time / I wanna waste all of my time / With you,” suggesting that maybe he feels it’s not time for the relationship to end (or at least that he’d rather it not end). He still wants the relationship, and he wishes for how it used to be.
But it seems that keeping the relationship would be impossible: “Oh, my lover, my lover, my love / We can never go back.” The relationship has gotten to a point that it feels ruined and hopeless. Bastille’s lead singer tells the woman that “[w]e can only do our best to recreate.” They can pretend like the relationship is as strong as it once was.
Dan Smith tells her, “Don’t turn over, turn over the page,” by which he means, “Don’t move on to the next thing or leave me.” But he adds, “We should rip it straight out.” He wants them both to acknowledge that they can’t go back to what they had but that he still wants them to do their “very best to fake it.” They can pretend like they have the love they once had, but it still feels hopeless to him.
The second verse is Bastille describing how the narrator wants the relationship to be faked, how he would be satisfied with a copy of joy instead of actually having it. Dan Smith sings, “Show me joy, flower through disarray / Let’s destroy each mistake we made.” They can create a copy of their original relationships and emotionlessly ignore the mistakes and try to enjoy only the good while the mirage lasts. They will “restore the color back to the grey”–give it life again–because “[t]here’s no pride in sharing scars to prove it.” The failure of the relationship makes him so sad that he’d rather ignore the truth and live in fake beauty for a little while.
The bridge nicely sums up the entire meaning of “Fake It.” Dan Smith sings, “Help me turn a blind eye / Days and nights we lost to weakness.” Here he acknowledges that they have ruined the relationship themselves and that he wants to keep pretending it wasn’t their fault and that the relationship is still beautiful even though he knows both of those aren’t true.
Deeper thoughts on the meaning of “Fake It” by Bastille
I don’t think that the song writer actually wants to keep faking the relationship. I think he knows that would be unhealthy, but that makes this song more powerful because it’s a truer expression of the huge emotional need/desire welling up in him as he contemplates a relationship lost that he really wishes he and the other person hadn’t messed up.
He’s sad he wasted the opportunity due to his own “weakness,” and he’d like to ignore the truth of what he’s done and simply pretend like the relationship is still fun, happy, and strong.
I understand what Dan Smith and Bastille are saying here. I’ve ruined things before, and I’d much rather ignore the truth of my own fault or the terribleness of the situation than accept those and have to move on–to do the much harder thing. It’s a human situation we all have to deal with, and it’s difficult.
That being said, I think this kind of open, emotional sharing on Bastille’s part shows a depth of song meaning that you don’t usually see in popular music. Dan Smith doesn’t blame only the other party, acknowledges his guilt, and (by writing the song in the first place) shows he knows the truth of the situation. That Bastille and Dan Smith can separate the ideas of deep desire from the ideas of what actually should be done deepens the song meaning and invites further listener introspection and self-consideration after listening to such a song.
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.