Riptide by Vance Joy is one of the current (pun not intended) high-charting hits, and another example of indie music hitting the mainstream. Lyrically, the song seems to be about a love story from the point of view of a boy just discovering what love is.

Vance Joy

He’s scared of dentists and the dark and pretty girls and starting conversations, and his friends fantasize about her being the magician’s assistant in their dream. All of these are common childhood fears and fantasies, and they reflect the author.

In fact, most songs seem to be biographical. For instance, one of the lyrics involves the singer saying Is this movie that I think you’ll like/This guy decides to quit his job and heads to New York City/This cowboy’s running from himself.  This is referring to a movie Vance saw called Midnight Cowboy. Another example is that he compares the girl to Michelle Pfeiffer, an actress who was big in the 1990s. Being born in 1987, it’s fitting that Vance as a child would compare the girl to Pfeiffer.

Now, let’s talk about the chorus, which has a few interesting lyrics. Lady, running down to the riptide/Taken away to the dark side.  This could be referring to the girl transitioning to an adult, and changing into something the singer doesn’t want her to be. This is made more evident when a few lines later, it says I love you when you’re singing that song and/I got a lump in my throat ’cause/You’re gonna sing the words wrong. Growing up, we all have fallen in love with someone who changed for the worst as time went on, yet we still desired them for what they once were.

While not the deepest song, Riptide’s lyrics do make you think quite a bit, which is a refreshing break from most hits, which spoon-feed you the lyrics.

OK! Here is the Fun Fact

“Riptide” is the name of a motel Vance visited frequently as a child. However, Vance says lyric-wise, it’s referring to an ocean.

Riptide by Vance Joy music video