A Terrible Thing to Waste

I love music. Have I mentioned that before? It seems like no matter my mood and no matter what emotions are plaguing me, there’s a song for that. I love walking around campus with my earbuds in and my iPod on. Somehow tuning out the world to my own personal soundtrack makes the world open up: I see details I wouldn’t normally see, I get inspired in ways I wouldn’t if I just walked normally, listening to the wind.

Songs inspire me. They narrate my life. And occasionally I find a song that resonates with me so perfectly for a time I play it on repeat until the words are burned in my cochleas like the frozen waves of arctic oceans. What better way can I show my love and appreciation for these songs and the artists that made them than by writing about them?

I first heard Foster the People on my way to Myrtle Beach for a conference I attended with school early October. Since then, “Pumped Up Kicks” has slowly but surely become an audio obsession. When I got an iTunes gift card over Chanukah, getting their full album Torches was an easy decision. What I didn’t expect was that I would fall in love with another song, their song titled “Waste.”

Now, when you hear a title like that, you don’t expect anything amazing. Actually, I don’t know what you expect when you hear a song called “Waste,” but I got so much more than I ever expected from it.

The song stars off unassuming enough:

I’ll hold your hand when you are feelin’ mad at me
When the monsters they won’t go
And your windows won’t close
I’ll pretend to see what you see

But it really reaches a magnificent meaning with the chorus:

And every day that you want to waste, that you want to waste, you can
And every day that you want to wake up, that you want to wake, you can
And every day that you want to change, that you want to change, yeah
I’ll help you see it through because I just really want to be with you

Seems kind of odd, doesn’t it? If you want to waste, you can. If you want to wake up, you can. At first I simply liked how the song sounded, but as I heard it again and again (I have a tendency to play entire CDs on repeat while I wash the dishes and clean), as I listened to the rest of the lyrics, it began to garner a deeper meaning than mere words would hold.

I like to read others’ interpretations of songs to see if the artist has mentioned anything about the inspiration or intent behind the words. Many people seem to state the obvious: It’s about a relationship with one partner going through some troubled times (addiction, depression, mental issues…) and the other being supportive and loving them no matter what “monsters” or demons pull them down. It’s a beautiful thought, but I don’t think that’s all there is to the song. At least, not for me.

You know its funny how freedom can make us feel contained
When the muscles in our legs aren’t used to all the walking
I know if you could snap both your fingers then you’d escape with me
But in the meantime I’ll just wait here and listen to you when you speak… or scream

Freedom’s an interesting condition–and when only parts of us feel free, it’s easy to use what freedom we have to control ourselves. People who don’t feel in control of larger things in life control the smaller things to make them feel in charge of themselves. They eat less or eat more, because it’s under their control. They don’t sleep. They cut themselves. A taste of freedom warrants the want for more–and when you can’t have more, you abuse what freedom you have to feel complete.

But sometimes freedom isn’t the problem. Sometimes the possibilities feel further than we can reach.

When I listen to “Waste,” especially when they get to the chorus, I think of someone fighting off suicide–a man trying to talk his friend out of the unthinkable. He’s giving complete freedom to the victim, giving him permission to waste as many days just sleeping as he wants to, or to wake up and do whatever he wants to, and if he wants to change, he’ll be there to help him–because he wants his friend to live.

When I listen to this song, it brings me back to those times when I was the one in need of a friend to hold me down and those times when I was the friend holding on to others. That willingness to give the world to someone simply because you love them so much… it’s a beautiful thing, and I think this song speaks about it eloquently and elegantly. It says, “I’m giving you permission to live. Just don’t die.”

Sometimes that’s all you need to hear.

If you need to scream, then scream. If you need to cry, then cry. I’ll be at your side through all of it. Because I just really want to be with you.

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One thought on “A Terrible Thing to Waste

  1. Oh, I had this with one particular song: “Still Alive” by Lisa Miskovsky. It works better in conjunction with the actual game. I might e-mail you what I think about it at some point. For now:

    (Didn’t I already mention this song? I forgot.)

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