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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 "False Alarm" by The Weeknd mean?

What does "False Alarm" by The Weeknd mean?

What does "False Alarm" by The Weeknd mean?

The Weeknd is releasing new singles from his upcoming album! He's already released "Starboy," for which I've already released a video explanation on my new YouTube channel. But you're here for "False Alarm."

Keep in mind that I explain songs as objectively as I can, so if you like or don't like The Weeknd (I really do!), you're not going to find any dirt on him here, unless he's revealed it to everyone in his song and we discover it. 

The Meaning of the Lyrics of "False Alarm"

Verse 1

In the first verse, Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd's real name), sings about a mysterious and enigmatic woman: "Bathroom stalls for the powder nose / High heel shoes with the open toes." Those first two lines aren't super unique, but they begin to paint for us a picture of a high class, sophisticated, and fashionable woman.

The Weeknd continues, "She's got a good time wrapped in gold / For you, for you," to suggest that she is rich and is up for either a wild night of sex or a wild night of partying. She's a vivacious woman who seizes the moment whenever she can.

The next description of her is a little more telling though. The Weeknd sings, "All red dress with the devil eyes / So obsessed with the camera lights." Apparently, she's self-absorbed, and she's also dangerous or, at least, not everything she seems to be. The red dress and devil eyes let you know that she's not looking out for your good; she's in this for herself.

The Weeknd concludes, "You love her, but you can't deny / The truth, the truth," which he explains in the pre-chorus.

Pre-chorus

Tesfaye explains,"She loves everybody." Even if she has a "good time wrapped in gold / For you," she's not really interested you--just in having a good time with anyone who's available. The Weeknd asks, "Can't you tell by the signs? / She loves everybody." Apparently, she's having sex/a good time/"getting off" with others "all the time."

The Weeknd knows that such a lifestyle isn't a healthy way to live, so he recognizes that "[i]t's a dark philosophy" and that "it haunts her constantly." But as far as he's concerned, this means "[s]he's a false alarm." She was exciting at first and had potential, but she's not actually relationship material.

Chorus

In the chorus, The Weeknd just sings, "False alarm," several times. At this point in the song, the bass drops, and it gets really dark and heavy as The Weeknd drives home his disappointment and the intensity of his feelings.

Verse 2

In the second verse, Abel sings about the woman's most constant love: money. When he sings, "Six inch long, 'bout three inch wide," he's referring to United States monetary bills, which are about 6.14 by 2.61 inches. He confirms this when he sings, "Dolla, dolla bill is her only type / You love her, but you'll never be / The one, the one." She'll keep loving money and her lifestyle, but she'll never stay for you.

He continues to explain her other greatest passions when he sings, "Diamonds and the rings are her fantasy," which could be a reference to her love of jewelry or her thoughts on engagement. But, unfortunately, anytime a relationship gets close to being that serious, she leaves.

The Weeknd sings, "She chase hearts with the Hennessy," to continue her wild, apparently drunken lifestyle where she approaches relationships but never accepts them. The Weeknd reminds everyone, "You love her, but you'll never be / Enough, enough." She's always thinking of what the next relationship could be like or how this one isn't ideal. She's impossible to satisfy.

Bridge

In the bridge, The Weeknd summarizes this woman's deepest mental struggles: "She always leaves the man she loves / But the diamonds are forever." She has this struggle with wanting to be engaged--to have the diamond ring of engagement--but she just can't stick with the person who'd give it to her. The last two lines also hint that she has broken off engagements before: "She always seems to be alone / But the diamonds make it better." Of course, all of these references to diamonds could also be much more innocent and simply be a reference to pieces of jewelry that suitors gave her that she never gave back.

Outro

We hear vague, African-sounding murmurings as the song takes a slower turn. When performing this song on SNL, The Weeknd stopped dancing and stood quietly with his head bowed. This portion seems to be there to remind us that the problems he's singing about are real and painful for the person who has to deal with them or be on the receiving end of them.

Deeper Thoughts on "False Alarm" by The Weeknd

Here's where things get a little less objective and I give some of my personal thoughts on the song.

First of all, it's a unique song, and I thought it sounded really weird at first--it's unusual, almost as if The Weeknd's style and Green Day had a baby. I like it, and I think there's certainly a conversation brewing over what these lyrics are about.

I'd really like to know whether the reference to diamonds are about this woman breaking off engagements or not. She reminds me of many conversations I had in college about women (or guys) who would get into a relationship, panic, and then jump ship. Heck, I almost did that myself, though I'm glad I stuck with it. I was super nervous about huge amounts of commitment, but Wife April turns about to be even more amazing married than she was as a girlfriend.

This woman seems to be struggling with a fear of commitment, and there are many people out there who struggle with that (me included, of course). I think the most telling part of the song is that Tesfaye sings, "She always leaves the man she loves,"--not the man she's bored of or the man who's a jerk. She leaves the man who she actually loves. And compared to her own wishy-washiness, Tesfaye sets up her obsession with diamonds, extremely sturdy symbols of endurance and commitment. She feels like she can't commit, so she just thinks about commitment, almost as if she wishes she wanted to commit.

It's a tangled web and a dark place to be. I know because I've been there, wanting to commit to different things but being paralyzed by the fear of "what if this is  a terrible decision?" I don't really have any advice to share about it other than to say that it's something you have to work through, don't do it alone, and know that it'll eventually be over.

I wonder what The Weeknd would say about commitment. Based on the song, it seems like he's ready to commit. He sees this woman as a "false alarm" because he's looking for the real thing and wants a real relationship. Of course, he's in a relationship now, but perhaps this song is about a different time.

In the meantime, you and I have to keep figuring things out. I think the woman in The Weeknd's "False Alarm" is a good example of what not to become; I appreciate "False Alarm" for going a little deeper into a difficult but common problem.

Helpful Resources

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  2. Audio
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