(estimated read time: 6 minutes)
What does “Dangerously” by Charlie Puth mean?
Charlie Puth just released his music video for “Dangerously,” and it’s going crazy very quickly. I’ve been a fan of Charlie Puth ever since I heard that the industry chose him to sing in “See You Again” because he’d experienced a similar tragedy to the one the song is about. I felt bad for him and thought it sounded kind of like they were using his pain to make money, but it really was a beautiful song, and he was okay with it, so I figured it was probably fine. That being said, Charlie Puth’s voice is amazing and no less amazing in “Dangerously.”
But that’s all fine for now. What you want is a song explanation of “Dangerously,” so I’m going to go line-by-line through the song here, and you can let me know what you think in comments!
“Dangerously,” is about a breakup that Charlie Puth’s narrator is initiating in a relationship with a wild and controlling woman. In the first verse of “Dangerously,” Charlie Puth sings, “This is gonna hurt, but I blame myself first / Cause I ignored the truth.” He’s saying that breakups hurt, but he knows he should have seen this coming and not let them both get invested in the relationship.
He sings, though, that he was “[d]runk off that love” and that “it f**ked my head up.” He was excited about early passion in the relationship, and it led him to making a mistake. Even still, he knows that there will be “no forgetting you.”
In the pre-chorus, Puth acknowledges both good and bad things about the relationship. He admits she has “awoken” him, but she’s also “choking” him. She helped him wake up to possibilities in life, but the price she charges for her relationship is too expensive for him, and he has to let her go.
He admits that he “was so obsessed” with her and that he “[g]ave you all of me,” but “now honestly, [he’s] got nothing left.” The relationship was good for a while, but she’s too demanding, and it’s over.
In the chorus of “Dangerously,” Puth sings, “I love you dangerously,” as a way of explaining that he took risks in how much of himself he gave to her and how much of his life he devoted to her. He was completely obsessed with her and valued her as “[m]ore than the air that I breathe.” But he knew it was dangerous and that they “would crash at the speed that we were going.” He’s probably referring to relationships that don’t have a solid footing in a friendship and exist largely as affairs of passion and romance. Eventually, the passion runs out, and there’s no friendship left underneath to support the relationship.
In addition, he sings that he “[d]idn’t care if the explosion ruined me.” He was ready for whatever came–he was so enamored of her and obsessed with her. He concludes the chorus by reminding her that he “loved you dangerously.”
Here, he gives vague details about what the relationship looked like. He sings that “[u]sually” he “hold[s] the power,” but this time, she was in control, and he’s trying to take it back. He felt like he had “both my hands tied behind my back.” Unfortunately for him, “things changed / Cause now you’re the train, and I’m tied to the track.”
It’s been a little ambiguous so far who’s to blame for the relationship failing (even though most of the time it’s never one person), but this verse makes it clear that he feels like he’s the one being taken advantage of and thus that’s why he’s ending it before it can go too far. The ruin of himself that he wasn’t worried about earlier now seems more real to him and has woken him from his obsession over her.
The bridge is a moment of clarity for Puth as reminds himself and her exactly why he’s breaking up with her. He sings, “You took me down . . . / And kissed my lips with goodbye.” He realizes that their first kiss already foreshadowed the end of the relationship. Perhaps she knew that it would end poorly, or perhaps she was already open to cheating on him. It’s difficult to be sure, but she’s certainly not planning on lifelong commitment.
After the relationship is ending, Puth can “see it now . . . / It was a matter of time.” It was over before it began, and he realizes that. And he calls her to realize it as well: “You know I know; there’s only one place this could lead.” That one place is failure and unhappiness for both of them.
He continues, “But you are the fire. I’m gasoline.” Together, they destroy things–their relationship and each other primarily. He knows it’s a dangerous mix, and he’s ready to be done.
Right after the bridge in “Dangerously,” Charlie Puth reveals some of the inner conflict he’s feeling about this decision when he sings, “I love you, I love you, I love you.” It’s safe to assume that his heart wants more of her, but his head is telling him that he should move on. She’s magnetic but dangerous, and Charlie Puth is tired of taking risks by loving her so dangerously.
Deeper Thoughts on “Dangerously” by Charlie Puth
It’s always interesting to explain a song like Charlie Puth’s “Dangerously” because the songs seem so clear but are really so vague. He uses very simple words and word pictures to give us ideas about a relationship that has no definitive traits. We can’t relate to this relationship in anyway because he gives us no specifics. Instead, he talks about a “train” and “gasoline”–all word pictures that are designed to enable an audience to ascribe any of their own meaning to what is being said.
Thus, if you’ve ever been in a relationship that you could use a “train” or “gasoline” to describe, then you’ll be able to relate to this song and understand (sort of) where he’s coming from even though you really don’t know what he went through.
It’s an interesting strategy for song writers, and many literary authors and artists would argue that it’s weak. Sure, they make a lot of sales from songs that everyone can relate to, but there are other artists who make profound impacts on people’s lives by being much more specific. I want to suggest that while a song like “Dangerously” is good for having some fun or entertainment, it’s not got the depth that specificity gives a true piece of art. More on this in future blog posts!
In the meantime, be sure to tell me what you think about this concept and the song “Dangerously.”
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.