Today, we continue our look into the lyrics of DKCM, beginning with the second verse:
Remind me of you and I
Thinking of her treehouse again, is it her hiding place? It could even be a reference to a child’s game of hide-and-seek, and remembering a friend she used to play with. Meaning-wise, this is a difficult one. I take it to mean that there are times when Grace ‘hides’ from the world – figuratively or sometimes literally. I know I’ve tried hiding on many occasions – within my thoughts, ‘blasting’ music through headphones, maybe a walk alone through the woods – but always returning from these lonely sojourns into solitude. What, then, am I reminded of when I’m off alone? Many things, really, but Grace seems to be using this token of remembrance to bring her loved one – the one she trusts in her time of need – back into the song so the next lines have more meaning:
I wanna call you,
But if I hear your voice I just might cry
Repeated here, but far more forcefully, is the yearning to have her loved one with her in her struggle, yet still, inexplicably, the desire – or need – to endure her suffering in solitude. I know this feeling. I know it quite well.
And I don’t even know what this song is about anymore
Upon first hearing or reading these words, you would never know that this is the most important line in the whole song, but it is, and it all comes down to the choice of using ‘this’ instead of ‘the’. I could imagine the general phrase, ‘And I don’t even know what the song is about anymore’, appearing as a throwaway line in any number of country or pop songs, with ‘the song’ a metaphor for anything from a relationship gone awry, to hating your job and wondering why you keep doing it. But Grace used the word ‘this’, forcefully taking the meaning away from some generalized idea, and putting it squarely onto the very song she’s in the middle of writing. But surely she knew what she was writing about, right? Indeed, it would be naïve to think of Grace being confused at this point in the writing process. No, she knew exactly what she wanted to say, so the choice of ‘this’ for ‘the’ was deliberate, requiring us to look much deeper for its true meaning.
We have to begin by understanding that ‘this song’ is a placeholder for something else, as ‘the song’ would be in a generalized sense. But she’s directing us to look closely at ‘this song’, i.e. DKCM, so the clue to meaning has to be found by looking at the song as a whole. So what’s it about? Well, it’s personal. This is no love song, or a song about hating your job, or drinking too much, or getting even with an ex-boyfriend – it’s about self: herself; myself; yourself. Thus, ‘this song’ can only be translated as ‘my life’. So here’s the line with one layer of metaphor removed: ‘And I don’t even know what my life is about anymore’. And now we can begin to see what Grace is really telling us, because another way to say ‘my life is about’ is to substitute it with a different Grace coined metaphor, and the two word phrase ‘my name’ is one you may know. So try this, ‘And I don’t even know my name anymore’. And we can leave off ‘And’, ‘even’ and ‘anymore’ without changing the core meaning, so then it becomes: ‘I don’t know my name’.
Startling, isn’t it? I pondered on this line for some time before my eyes opened wide and I exclaimed, “Oh, she did not do that . . . did she!?” Yes, I think she did. A year after boldly telling the world, ‘I now know my name’, Grace comes full circle, and in near desperation tells us that she doesn’t really know who she is after all. This is an utterly honest, dare I say brutally honest, assessment of oneself. But this also tells us what this song really means to Grace. Though everyone who’s ever been depressed can relate to its words, with ‘the darkness’ representing everything from an actual fear of a dark room to the more extreme fear of being driven to suicide, for Grace herself ‘the darkness’ can only be one thing: fear of the future. More specifically, fear that in the future she may lose herself and who she is now, one day looking in a mirror and not recognizing the person looking back.
By the way, this sort of eye-opening use of language, the way Grace hides profound meaning in plain sight with just a simple word change here or there, really showcases her potential to become one of the greatest lyricists of all time, right up there with Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. But while it’s premature by a number of years to vote her into the songwriters hall of fame, I do think practically every song writer working today would be proud to write songs with the kind of deep-seated metaphors she creates. Consider, she was only thirteen when she wrote this, her education not even into the eighth grade yet. What will a twenty four year old highly educated Grace produce?
And I don’t know what I want anymore
This is a repeat from the first verse, but we can ponder it a little more here, now that we know that DKCM is not strictly a song about depression. For Grace, the thought behind this line must tie in with her unsure stance on the future – her fear of it. And we know how much the thought of choosing her path in life at the tender age of 13 was a burden to her. So ‘I don’t know what I want anymore’ would be a perfectly reasonable thing for her to say. That it should show up in a song seems perfectly reasonable, too.
Now we come to a repeat of the pre-chorus, which is sung identically to the first and carries the same meaning. But there is a change to the chorus, with only the main theme sung:
But the darkness keeps chasing
There are no hopeful ‘me’s now, for we fall right into the bridge:
River streams down my cheeks
This is crying, of course. But not just sprinkles of moisture, there’s a river pouring out. This can only mean that real mourning is going on here. But for what loss?
I look to my right
See you blowing smoke in your ripped jeans
One set of speculations has it that this was a veiled reference to an all-grown-up Hannah Montana, A.K.A. Miley Cyrus, who went through a period of self destructive behavior before coming through the other side, scarred by the experience, but perhaps better off for it. If so, the rivers of tears make a certain sense, since Grace grew up idolizing Hannah Montana. Seeing Miley go through such self destruction could have been traumatic for Grace – it probably was for a lot of girls her age. But Grace isn’t quite the same as other girls her age – she IS Hannah Montana. An honest-to-goodness real one. And she certainly might have asked herself, “Is the wreckage of Miley Cyrus to be my future too?” That one thought alone could be at the heart of what created this song.
Don’t tell me you fell in,
The darkness is already seeping through,
Oh, can’t you see
Whoever may be the source of these lines, the meaning is clear: you’re about to be consumed by something insidious. It’s invading your life, even now. Open your eyes! See where you’re at! You’re about to fall off a cliff, watch where you’re going! In other words, this is a warning, one which Grace is intending to take seriously for herself. But this actually gives me an objection to Miley Cyrus being the source for the bridge. DKCM was written in spring or summer of ’17, but Miley was already well on the road to repairing her lifestyle by then. She even released a new music video, Malibu, on May 11 of ’17 that Grace was sure to have seen, one in which the old, shipwrecked Miley was nowhere in sight, but shadows of the old Hannah Montana could be plainly seen. Truth is, for all we know, ‘blowing smoke in your ripped jeans’ could have been inspired by a magazine ad showing cigarette selling Joe Camel in ripped jeans blowing smoke rings.
Regardless of where the inspiration came from for the mysterious smoker, the bridge serves the purpose of introducing situations that can be dangerous to one’s future, if not recognized and avoided with all caution. Some believe these lines represent Grace’s fear of falling into one or more of the many traps (drugs, greed, pride, selfishness, the list goes on) that seem to regularly ensnare many in the music industry. She intends to avoid these fates, but isn’t so prideful or naïve to believe that she can do it all by herself. She needs help, and says as much in the following lines:
I will be different, but I’m not sure if I can do it all alone
God I want to be different, but I’m not sure if I can do it on my own
Of course, there are many other ways to interpret these lines beyond something music industry related. Simply put, they mean that with the help of friends, and with God’s help, it’s possible to overcome whatever obstacle is in our path. Now the last word:
leads into the final pre-chorus and chorus. There, a building volume pounds home the desperate fight against the darkness, and the final repeats of the single word, ‘me’, brings the song to its climactic, hopeful conclusion.
There you have it. I hope you enjoyed this lyrical diagnosis of Darkness Keeps Chasing Me. Agree or disagree, please comment. We here at VanderVault Times enjoy reading your comments, criticisms and praises alike.
This article was first posted on VanderVault’s YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XydnaaaaSnE&lc=UgyC99eD50oQtWrDS0Z4AaABAg