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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 "Human" by Of Monsters and Men mean?

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

"Human" by Of Monsters and Men is probably the oddest song that I've explained so far. At times, the lyrics seem like nonsense, but they do mean something. The song is the second track from Beneath the Skin which released on June 9th. The album is Of Monsters and Men's second album and sounds similar to the music written for My Head Is an Animal. Interestingly enough, this one song may have the most to do with the title of that first album. 

"Human" is a good song and also very different in its approach to the overdone "monster inside vs. outer human facade" tension that others write about. The song is slow and methodical and heavily repetitive of its lyrics: there are only four unique stanzas. "Human" is not meant to be revolutionary, but it may be a good song to listen to with "I of the Storm" and other songs from Beneath the Skin as they all have similar focuses on the singers' tormented inner lives.

"Human" Lyrics Meaning

The song is focused on "human" identity and what being human means, especially when you feel a monster inside of you. To be clear, the monster part is that which doesn't fit into society-a raging, angry, and unpredictably emotional person. The human part is sensible and calm and does predictable, normal things. The monster will tear itself apart; the human is safer and happier.

Of Monster and Men - Clifford Stumme
Of Monster and Men - Clifford Stumme

The opening lines are about living away from humans and away from normal societies. Ragnar "Raggi" Þórhallsson the co-vocalists sings, "When the words / Weigh heavy on the heart." Something that someone has said to him or something he has said is too much for him; he thinks about the words too much, and they drive him away from others-they make him angry or sad. They cause him to declare, "I am lost / And led only by the stars." Words are predictable and understandable means of communication. Those having failed him, he will follow the stars (symbolic of mystery and wild nature) instead.

In the pre-chorus, he sings, "Cage me like an animal." Someone who follows the stars in the wild has identified with animals. Raggi is painting a picture of himself as a wild, untamed, and animalistic person who is not concerned with society. He wears a wild "crown with gems and gold." And though acting like an animal, he's still human so those who would hunt him would have to "[e]at me like a cannibal." He's not a complete animal, but society labels him as one. He feels apart from them; when others attack him, he feels like he's being eaten by someone who should be on his side.

Raggi ends the pre-chorus with a command to "[c]hase the neon throne." At least one place on the Internet [that I can't find] declares this to be complete nonsense, but even if it is, it conveys meaning through a feeling of chasing something unreal. Neon lights are often the sign of a wild downtown or underworld. (Think strip clubs and bars-worlds of intense pleasure seeking.) Raggi may not be referring to these directly, but the animal and unfettered side of him seems to be seeking something-a place that it belongs and is king. Neon is a color not found in nature, so maybe he understands that the chase will be a weird and fruitless pursuit.

Of course, he could be commanding those other humans to "[c]hase the neon throne." If that's the case, it could be use of the ridiculous or non-sequitur to show them how ridiculous it is to destroy him, one of their fellow human beings.

OMAM in Concert
OMAM in Concert

In the chorus, Raggi sings the song's central theme: "Breathe in, breathe out / Let the human in / Breathe in, breathe out / And let it in." He wants his audience to calm down and let happen what is about to happen. The impending event seems to be a civilizing of himself or an allowing of himself to calm down-maybe even a forcing of himself to accept civilization. Based on later lines, he seems to want to gain control but finds it hard, so he's going to force himself to let this happen.

Before he repeats the first two lines of the chorus, Raggi sings, "Plants awoke / And they slowly grow / Beneath the skin." Here is the title of the album itself and it's referring to something happening within Raggi. This event seems to be a growing of uncontrolled nature. Nature itself is a metaphor for a loss of control and an animal-like vitality. Beneath Raggi's skin, nature is running wild and destroying him. He needs "humanity" to come inside and protect him from his own wild urges.

The fourth unique stanza is a second verse that mentions the "beast within." He sings, "The air is silk / Shadows form a grin." The world is a tight and constraining place that forebodes evil for him. The shadows smile at him maliciously, but he knows that "[i]f I lose control / I feed the beast within." He can't let the intimidation get to him, because he knows that he'll lose his chance to be human. He'll let go and find himself wild again.

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

The song ends with the line "If I could only let go." He wants to be able to relax his wildness and to "[l]et the human in," so he can be normal and calm, but he doesn't feel strong enough to get rid of the beast inside.

Overall, "Human" is about something waking up inside of the singer. He feels a wildness growing inside of him and knows that he needs to change. Others don't understand him, and he wants to be normal and human, so he tries to quiet "the beast within" and to "[l]et the human in."

What did you think of "Human" by Of Monsters and Men? What do you think it's about? Put your theory and proof below in the comment section. Thanks for reading!

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