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My name's Clifford Stumme, and I explain the deeper meanings of popular songs. Let's have a conversation about what you think about the songs and go deeper together. Feel free to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "I of the Storm" by Of Monsters and Men mean?

What does "I of the Storm" by Of Monsters and Men mean?

The title "I of the Storm" forecasts an intriguing song about a person caught alone in a large and terrible battle of the mind. It's the eleventh track from Of Monsters and Men's new album Beneath the Skin which drops in the U.S. tomorrow! The album will have 13 tracks, 4 of which have already been released and explained ("Hunger," "Empire," "Crystals," and the one you're reading about). 

"I of the Storm" seems quieter and slower than any of the other thoughtful and intense Beneath the Skin tracks that Of Monsters and Men has put out so far. The piano and drum-driven song, at times, is put to a backdrop of what sounds like seagulls at the beach, suggesting the image of someone on the sand looking out at a storm, highlighting the song's theme of being alone in the midst of a painful battle. The music is in Of Monsters and Men's typical style, displaying their maintenance of their branded artistic form, a very good thing for audiences who fell in love with the sound of My Head Is an Animal. 

"I of the Storm" Symbol
"I of the Storm" Symbol

"I of the Storm" Lyrics Meaning

"I of the Storm" is about guilt and shame-feelings everyone wants to avoid. But Of Monsters and Men's lead singer Nanna Bryndís Hilmarsdóttir wants to explain hers, even if she doesn't know how to deal with them. She begins the first verse by singing, "If I could face them / If I could make amends / With all my shadows." "Shadows of my past" is a common term and seems to be similar to what Nanna is referring to here. The darker portions of her life haunt her and follow her around like a shadow that darkens aspects of the new places she goes.

If she could make them right, "I'd bow my head / And welcome them." She'd accept herself for who she is, but "I feel it burning / Like when the winter wind / Stops my breathing." The thought of resurrecting her past to deal with those feelings is too much for her. It constricts her breathing and gives her pain.

If she lets everything come to light, Nanna is afraid that her history will keep other people from remembering her. She asks, "Are you really going to love me / When I'm gone?" She wants to know if anyone will care or if what she's done makes everyone want to get rid of her. She wants them to remember her with love, but sings, "I fear you won't / I fear you don't." She's not sure whether anyone really will or even does love her.

This fear taxes her mind, leaves her unhappy, and steals her confidence. She sings, "And it echoes when I breathe / Until all you'll see / Is my ghost / Empty vessel, crooked teeth." She doesn't make clear what "it" refers to, but it seems to be her environment or surroundings-a place that she thinks is empty and noiseless apart from her breath. The loneliness is causing her to waste away. Just as echoes are ghosts of noise, she feels her body will become a ghost of itself, her emptiness and "crooked teeth" revealed. The "crooked teeth" likely refer to the imperfections that she keeps hidden by not smiling or saying anything about her inner self.

She continues her cry for human love by singing, "Wish you could see!" She wants someone to know her and to love her for who she is despite her shortcomings. But it may be too late because "they call me under." "[T]hey" refers to her personal demons, her "shadows." They are dragging her down further into her own fearful and lonely mind.

Of Monsters and Men on Tour
Of Monsters and Men on Tour

She's terrified of this process and sings that she's "shaking like a leaf." It's too much for her; she's "[withering] underneath / In this storm." The storm is her life; it's a battle between being happy and remembering the things she's ashamed of and the wrong choices that she's made. Thus, the title "I of the Storm" refers to the fact that she feels the storm is her home. That's where she comes from and where she belongs.

When she's among other people, she feels like "a stranger" and "an alien / Inside a structure." Her "shadows" make her feel this way and keep her from opening up to others. The "structure" is her body that keeps other from noticing how afraid she is.

The alien inside of her repeats its question: "Are you really going to love me / When I'm gone / With all my thoughts /And all my faults?" She want someone to love her for who she is, not for a perfect version of herself-the "structure" that she hides in. She wants to know people on a deep and close level.

And that real part of her-her inside thoughts and fears-want out: "I feel it biting / I feel it break my skin / So uninviting." It's trying to escape her. If someone doesn't go inside, she can't contain it much longer, but she reminds people that going inside will be "uninviting." She doesn't even seem to like the inside of herself.

Before she finishes the song with a repetition and a half of the chorus, she changes her central question. She asks, "Are you really going to need me / When I'm gone?" She doesn't just want to be loved. She wants to be needed-to be good for someone. It's important to her to be wanted, to be cared for, and to be able to be proud of herself.

Of Monsters and Men wants to join in with others and to be accepted by them, despite echoes of an unlovable past. They want to be taken for who they are, despite their shortcomings and to be loved and needed by others. [Mumford & Son's "Broad-Shouldered Beasts" touches on similar ideas.]

Beneath the Skin Album Cover Art
Beneath the Skin Album Cover Art

Postmodern/Millenial Guilt

Everyone feels bad about certain things they've done, and some sensitive people will feel as though these actions cut them off from others. They need forgiveness from themselves and from others to draw them back to community.

But forgiveness seems hard to acquire. People like the narrator in Of Monsters and Men's "I of the Storm" will give up and draw into themselves because they feel so dark. They won't let light in until it's forced on them.

In the meantime, postmodern millennials really seem to desire community-a friendship that overlooks serious mistakes. They want to be loved for who they are on the inside, not just the outside. They believe this will enable them to also be who they really are without fear of shame.

You've probably heard the sentence, "It's just not who I am on the inside." People tend to separate themselves into "inside" and "outside," putting the good things outside and the bad things inside. This structure helps them to operate in society and to keep themselves from being embarrassed or exposed in front of others.

But love-true love-they believe, will love them for who they are on the inside, not just for the front they perform for others. And this is what Nanna's narrator so desperately needs for her to be saved from her demons.

In addition, in "I of the Storm," Nanna's narrator, through self-confession, is calling everyone's bluff. She explains her guilt-guilt that we all feel-and her need for love-a need we all have. By giving this song to everyone (and thus exposing herself), she shows that she knows who she is and that she wants something more. The song is a call for withdrawn listeners to know that they're not alone and to encourage them to call for help too, a call that Nanna and they hope will be answered.

What do you think of "I of the Storm" by Of Monsters and Men? Do you like how they're sticking to their original sound? And did you like this song in particular? What do you think of postmoderns' desire for deep, deep love? 

What does "Human" by Of Monsters and Men mean?

What does "Human" by Of Monsters and Men mean?

What does "Empire" by Of Monsters and Men mean?

What does "Empire" by Of Monsters and Men mean?