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Welcome to the Pop Song Professor! My name's Clifford, and I explain song lyrics so that you can know what your artists are saying and can enjoy your music more. 

What does "I Give You Power" by Arcade Fire mean?

What does "I Give You Power" by Arcade Fire mean?

I've never seriously listened to Arcade Fire until now, but I've done some research on their latest single "I Give You Power," and I think you're going to like the depth of this song. The lyrics are a tad repetitive but still powerful, and the story behind the song may surprise you even more.

"I Give You Power" Lyrics Meaning

Arcade Fire apparently hasn't released any music in a while, so it was a surprise for this song to drop now. However, considering the topic of the song, it's appropriate to when it was dropped. One day away from President-Elect Donald Trump's inauguration, the song seems to be warning Donald Trump that even though he may have a lot of power right now, he should be careful because the American people can take it all back if they like. To add to this warning, Arcade Fire also seems to want to send a message of hope and encouragement to its fans; they tweeted, "It's never been more important that we stick together & take care of each other." This makes the message of "I Give You Power" twofold and a little more complex.

Further cementing the political theories about this song, it's performed with renowned Gospel singer and civil rights activist Mavis Staple. While I couldn't find much about her thoughts on Donald Trump (not that she hasn't said anything necessarily), her standing as a semi-political figure, at least, politicizes this song further.

Chorus

The message of hope and encouragement Arcade Fire sent to listeners doesn't seem to be intended to be received the same way by Donald Trump. The lead singer, Win Butler, sings, "I give you power over me / . . . but now I gotta be free / . . . but now I say / . . . I can take it away." This is a clear commentary on what American democracy can do to a Trump presidency. The country has put itself into the hands of Donald Trump and the Republican party, but in two years when the house and part of the senate are up for re-election, or in four years when those bodies and Donald Trump are up for re-election again, the American people can change their minds and limit or destroy Trump's power.

Verse 1

The only unique lines here are "Watch me / . . . / Watch the night." This continues the uttered warning and suggests that Trump may not see it coming if the American people decide to vote against him.

Verse 2

In verse 2 of "I Give You Power," Mavis Staples sings, "I can't watch you take it away," referring to "the power." If Donald Trump abuses his power, Staples and others would have the American people fight back with their votes.

Verse 3

Win Butler asks, "Where do you think it all comes from?" and "Who gives you power?" He wants to remind Trump (and any politician perhaps) that, to quote Monty Python and the Holy Grail, "Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcicial aquatic ceremony!" or, as in the case of some politicians, it does not derive from a strong opinion of one's self worth.

Deeper Meaning of "I Give You Power"

I think the deeper meaning of "I Give You Power" by Arcade Fire is largely clear. It's a political statement, demanding that currently elected politicians not abuse their power. I doubt whether Trump himself will hear it, but the band also means "I Give You Power" as an encouragement to its listeners, reminding them that they do have power and that the extreme power Trump wields now can only last for 2-4 years. At that point, the American people can decide again.

In any case, what Arcade Fire sings here is a healthy reminder for any American politician, and I wish that it applied to more politicians around the world. That the majority of people can hold the power in a country is a beautiful thing, and I'm always glad to see that fact keep politicians on their toes. I'm glad Arcade Fire reminds us of all this here, and I look forward to hearing more of what they have to say in future.

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