Cliff-pop-song-professor.png

Welcome!

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 "Walking the Wire" by Imagine Dragons mean?

What does "Walking the Wire" by Imagine Dragons mean?

"Walking the Wire" Lyrics Meaning

Imagine Dragons' new single "Walking the Wire" sounds strangely inspiring and anthemic compared to their last few singles, "Whatever It Takes," "Believer," and "Thunder." Those songs have been about personal empowerment or difficult truths, but "Walking the Wire" feels like it could be a heartfelt 80's ballad or the theme song to the moment in Titanic when Jack and Rose are standing at the front of the ship. Because "Walking the Wire" feels so strangely uplifting, it almost doesn't match the other songs released, especially when the dramatic guitar kicks in near the end. But it's obviously still an Imagine Dragons song. Dan Reynolds's unique voice and ability to beautifully yell each lyric with so much passion, plus a uniquely Imagine Dragons drum beat gives it their unique sound.

Psst! You should listen to my podcast on iTunes! It's a lot of fun! We explain more songs!

"Do you know the line that I'd walk for you?"

Lyrically, the ideas in the song match the music. "Walking the Wire" is a sweet love song, a promise to do difficult things for someone you love. The song spans quite a few stanzas of unique lyrics (the lack of needless repetition being another reason Imagine Dragons are such good songwriters), and it doesn't go too deep or say anything that needs too much analysis, but what it lacks in complexity, it makes up for in profoundness and emotional honesty. 

Verse 1

Do you feel the same when I'm away from you?
Do you know the line that I'd walk for you?
We could turn around, or we could give it up
But we'll take what comes, take what comes

In the first verse, Dan Reynolds asks his love interest to confirm her feelings for him even "when I'm away from you." He wants to know if he can trust her and if her love for him is more than surface level feeling or a crush. He asks her if she knows how far he'd go for her--"the line that I'd walk for you." 

He gives her the option to back out, "turn around," or "give it up." But instead they seem to commit to "take what comes." Their relationship will be stronger, and they'll make it through whatever difficult times they're going through. This stanza and the rest of "Walking the Wire" could be about Dan Reynolds's wife Aja Volkman, a singer in her own right with the band Nico Vega.

Verse 2

Oh the storm is raging against us now
If you're afraid of falling then don't look down
But we took the step, and we took the leap
And we'll take what comes, take what comes

In an interesting move for a songwriter, Imagine Dragons transitions directly into the second verse from the first verse. Here Reynolds sings about the "storm . . . raging against us now." And he seems to be continuing the "walking the wire" metaphor when he sings, "If you're afraid of falling, then don't look down." They had the chance to back out, but in this verse, he tells us that they "took the step . . . took the leap." They're fully committed now and will continue trying to survive together.

Pre-Chorus

Feel the wind in your hair
Feel the rush way up here

The pre-chorus of "Walking the Wire" alludes to the exhilaration of taking risks together. They've "gone out on a line" for love. They're taking a risk; in the metaphor it's particularly about being high above the ground, so it makes sense when he describes that exhilaration by alluding to the "wind in your hair" and "the rush way up here." 

Chorus

We're walking the wire, love
We're walking the wire, love
We're gonna be higher, up
We're walking the wire, wire, wire

The chorus consists of one main idea and (in a move seemingly purposed to make the song radio ready) repeats the main idea several times in the chorus. Mainly, Reynolds sings, "We're walking the wire, love," and then promises that as they continue walking and sticking together "[w]e're gonna be higher up." As they take risks, those risks will pay them back, and they'll be even more in love.

Verse 3

There's nights we had to just walk away
And there's tears we'll cry, but those tears will fade
It's the price we pay when it comes to love
And we'll take what comes, take what comes

In the third verse of "Walk the Wire," Reynolds gives more detail about specific difficult events or times they've encountered together. He sings about "nights we had to just walk away" and "tears we'll cry." But, he promises, "those tears will fade" and reminds her that "[i]t's the price we pay when it comes to love." Essentially, what he's telling us and his lover is that love difficult and comes at a cost. For two people to come together, there will be difficult times to make it through--a theme we saw show up heavily in "Believer," where he credits pain personified for all of his success in life.

Bridge

So look out down below
Look out down below
Look out down below
Walking the wire, wire, wire
So look out down below

The bridge highlights the risks they are taking by warning others to "look out down below." If they fall, others could be hurt as well.

Verse 4

Oh, I'll take your hand when thunder roars
And I'll hold you close, I'll stay the course
I promise you from up above
That we'll take what comes, take what comes, love

In the fourth verse, Reynolds comes at the concept of difficult love from a different angle. This time he promises a few things to her. The third line is "I promise you from up above," and the things he promises are these: "I'll take your hand when thunder roars," "I'll hold you close," and "I'll stay the course." Essentially, he promises commitment to her and to support her when she's going through difficult times.

[Note: The mention of "thunder" probably isn't a reference to Imagine Dragons's new song "Thunder" because here thunder is something frightening and other, but in that song thunder is a metaphor for Dan Reynolds's personal success.]

Deeper Meaning of "Walking the Wire": A New Perspective on Love

I think what I love most about "Walking the Wire" is his honesty about how difficult love can be. As a married man myself, I can attest that true love is hard work and isn't always easy. You have to work hard for true love. That perspective makes "Walking the Wire" almost an anti-cliched pop love song. Usually, in pop music, love is something you fall into or that just happens to you, but Imagine Dragons isn't giving it to us that easy. It's demanding that we acknowledge that love can be a struggle sometimes but that it's also worth it. 

Check out other Imagine Dragons explanations here: 
Whatever It Takes
Thunder
Rise Up
Walking the Wire
Mouth of the River
I Don't Know Why
Yesterday
Believer

What does "Supercut" by Lorde mean?

What does "Supercut" by Lorde mean?

What does "The Louvre" by Lorde mean?

What does "The Louvre" by Lorde mean?