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I'm Clifford Stumme, and I use literary analysis and research to explain the deeper meanings of pop songs. Feel free to leave a comment or to email me at clifford@popsongprofessor.com with questions or ideas!

What does "Dear Future Self (Hands Up)" by Fall Out Boy (feat. Wyclef Jean) mean?

What does "Dear Future Self (Hands Up)" by Fall Out Boy (feat. Wyclef Jean) mean?

Lyrics Meaning of "Dear Future Self (Hands Up)" by Fall Out Boy (feat. Wyclef Jean)

"Dear Future Self, I hope it’s going well"

Fall Out Boy’s latest single, “Dear Future Self (Hands Up),” accompanied the announcement of their Summer 2020 stadium tour, Hella Mega Tour, with Green Day and Weezer. The song was a good choice to release with this tour announcement, as the song nods at the band’s successful past and basically lets listeners know that they’re still the same punky, alternative-rock band we’ve all known and loved, and they’re still up to the same shenanigans for the foreseeable future.

Chorus

Hands up, ready for the boom
Never mind the rocket launcher, talking ‘bout a tune
You can hear us coming with the zoom
Listen to the boom-boom, we are breaking through

The chorus is a little difficult to interpret. The central idea is hazy underneath abbreviated fragments of thought, as is often the case for alternative music. Basically, the band is trying to announce that their hands are up in the air and they’re ready for the “boom” of their music to spread across the world to their listeners. They say “never mind the rocket launcher, talking ‘bout a tune,” which likely refers to destructive critics who have negative things to say about them and their band. They are disregarding those critics, and they’re choosing to embrace their velocity of success “zoom”-ing into the future.

Verse 1

We prepared for the turbulence
But there’s no preparing for this
Got paid on Tuesday
But I’m still broke when the weekend hits
’Nother trip around the sun
It was a good run
Just mixing all of my prescriptions with my problems

They explain that they tried to prepare for the tougher parts of being in the public eye, but also conclude that there isn’t really a way to prepare for the full reality of fame. Followed by mentions of money flying through their hands, time passing vaguely as they make “‘nother trip around the sun,” and various prescriptions, it seems that money and medication are the usual responses when trouble presents itself.

Verse 1, pt. 2 (Wyclef Jean)

Streets are full of seasons
Saw what they did to Jesus
Dude’ll kill you for no reason
And charge you for treason
I know this one for a fact
My phone, they got it on tap
’Cause every time I’m talkin’, I can hear them in the back

Wyclef Jean refers to critics (“dude”) who slander him, and he uses the story of Jesus’s persecution as a comparison. He says that those critics will “kill you” and “charge you with treason” for no reason. He continues explaining his scrutiny in the public eye with the line “my phone, they got it on tap” because it’s almost as if every word he says is broadcasted to the world. Wyclef Jean’s portion of this verse reinforces the purpose of the song: that people can try to cut these guys down, but ultimately they will continue to persevere no matter what the public says about them or their careers or personal lives.

Bridge (Wyclef Jean)

She windin’ like she losin’ her mind (x4)
Knock, knock, knock, knock, who is it?

This bridge sets the stage for the second verse. A surprise visitor is coming to see one of the band members, and she is at the door knocking to be let inside the room.

Verse 2

She said, “This is a surprise visit,
It’s my fantasy, I’m gon’ live it,
Hands up, and don’ t you refuse it”
I wanna tattoo you on me
Just look what you’ve created
Dear future self, I hope it’s going well
I’m drunk on cheap whiskey in an airport hotel, yeah

This verse depicts a woman coming to visit the one of them in an airport hotel, seemingly a woman of romantic interest. No details are given to explain who she might be — a wife, girlfriend, or otherwise. She is arriving unannounced and has a romantic agenda for her visit. The narrator is at her mercy, and he takes a moment to think of his future self and wish him the best because, at the present moment, he is “drunk on cheap whiskey in an airport hotel.” Of course the future is uncertain, but the narrator infers that he hopes the future continues to be somewhat like the present.

Deeper Meaning of "Dear Future Self (Hands Up)" by Fall Out Boy (feat. Wyclef Jean):

(Side note: a special kind of award should be given to songs that are under three minutes long and manage to repeat the chorus six full times, and this one qualifies!)

Underneath a little bit of interpretation, the writers of this song managed to hide a message. This song is an ode to the band’s past success and an omen for the same in the future. As far as bands go, these guys have a long career behind them (seven studio albums from 2003 to 2018) and don’t seem to be slowing down in the future (a stadium tour is set for Summer 2020 with Green Day and Weezer). This song is sung in the present tense, where it appears the band is still living a fast lifestyle, and the chorus affirms that no matter what critics or public scrutiny has to say about them — they are here to stay.

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