What does "Wherever I Go" by OneRepublic mean?
SONG MEANING: “Wherever I Go" by OneRepublic is about not being able to find a love to match the love the narrator once had. Because of that first relationship, all other relationships are ruined for him.
OneRepublic is definitely changing things up with this single. According to an interview reported by Idolator.com, the lead singer, Ryan Tedder says, "It's not indicative of the entire album but it's kind of like if you go have dinner, you don't order steak for an appetizer and steak for dinner, you split it up, and you have different things, so the first single is – it's definitely an appetizer, I think it's the best appetizer we could come up with."
That explanation being given, "Wherever I Go" has a distinctly "pop" quality, and reminds me more of Maroon 5 than of classic rock OneRepublic fare like "Secrets" or "Counting Stars," which both sound more aggressive and less mainstream than this song.
Whatever its new style may be, "Wherever I Go" is a great listen, and the meaning (given below) is certainly worth the read.
Line-by-Line Lyrics Analysis of "Wherever I Go"
Tedder begins the song, "I know I could lie, but I'm telling the truth / Wherever I go, there's a shadow of you." This is almost as if to say that someone affected him deeply, but he doesn't want to admit it. He doesn't want this person to know that her absence ("shadow") haunts him. He continues, "I know I could try looking for something new / But where I go, I'll be looking for you." Whatever relationships he tries to enter from now on, he'll be thinking of what she used to offer him. He'll compare his new relationships to her.
In the first verse, Tedder continues, "Some people lie, but they're looking for magic / Others are quietly going insane." He's implying that this woman was magic and that a lot of people (including him) want a relationship like the one he had. (If it helps, replace "magic" with "chemistry"--that's the basic idea.)
"Some people lie," but in reality everyone wants that kind of relationship. Others keep looking for it, but they're just going crazy. Tedder is one of those. He sings, "I feel alive when I'm close to the madness"--he's continuing his search for a relationship like that one, and it's driving him crazy. He won't be satisfied with anything less: "No easy love could ever make me feel the same."
Tedder continues, "I know I could lie, but I won't lie to you / Wherever I go, you're the ghost in the room." He admits to her honestly that he still wants her and misses her. He sings, "I don't even try looking for something new"--he still wants her (or someone very similar to her)--"Cause wherever I go, I'll be looking for you." He knows trying to find someone new is a lost cause and that he should accept the fact that she's ruined future relationships for him.
The second verse is very similar to the first verse. The only important difference is in the first two lines: "Some people try, but they can't find the magic / Others get down on their knees, and they pray." The important idea here is that people really want this kind of relationship and still aren't able to find it. Tedder repeats, "I come alive when I'm close to the madness." That desire for something impossible to have is what makes him crazy, but it also makes him feel "alive"--ready to keep searching.
The bridge mainly repeats what other stanzas have sung. Tedder emphasizes people's deep desire for magic/chemistry by singing, "Some people pray to their God for some magic / 'Cause no easy love could ever make them feel the same." Despite those people lying about it earlier, Tedder knows that they too feel the same way he feels--they want something more in a relationships. They want ultimate depth and "ultimate chemistry."
In the outro, Tedder sings, "You think it's a lie when I'm telling the truth / Wherever I go, I'll be looking for you." The outro is the singer's last opportunity to leave an impression of the most important point of a song on a listener. Accepting that premise, Tedder's most important point is this: "You have ruined all other relationships for me. I want you, and since I can't have you, I'm looking only for something that reminds me of you a lot."