Let’s Talk Lyrics, “Hey Brother” by Avicii

Lyrics are a huge part of what we do here at Custom Serenade. Whether they are written by clients or for clients, the words that accompany music to make it a song are extremely important to us. So, naturally there is a keen interest in what other people do with words in music. I personally find it helpful to examine the lyrics of established songs and songwriters as both a means of improving as a lyricist, and also just for fun. So, I thought that I would share some of my thoughts about lyrics
via this blog, and I hope to start doing this on a regular basis.

This time around I will be looking at “Hey Brother”, an international dance hit from a progressive D.J. known as Avicii.

When I came up with the idea of blogging about lyrics, my intention was to take a popular song and dissect it line by line, offering opinions on the quality and meaning of the lyrics. After embarking on this task with “Hey Brother” I soon got a headache and realized that pointing out all the inconsistencies, weeding through the cliches, and trying to decipher any real meaning in this hodgepodge of mutated catch phrases would take at least twelve times the brain power as was put into the lyrics themselves, so I decided to change paths. I will include the lyrics in their entirety at the end of the post, and have also embedded a video that presents the lyrics. As for my opinions, I will only take the time to comment on several low points and let you judge the rest for yourself. At this point,  I would like to say that there are plenty of things to  like about this song.  It has a strong melody, interesting vocals and a solid acoustic guitar part. But the intention here is to discuss the lyrics.  So let’s jump right in with the opening line.

Hey brother, there’s an endless road to re-discover.

If a road is endless, there is always going to be something that lies ahead which one could discover initially. Therefore, if a person is keen on discovery, as these lyrics imply, and they found themselves on a road with no end, why would they go back to rediscover a certain part of it? As a friend pointed out, the only way this scenario really works is if there is one road that goes around the globe that this “brother” has already traveled previously in its entirety.

The next verse starts with a query which is certainly the equivalent of the opening statement in terms of being confusing:

Hey brother, do you still believe in one another?

Hey brother, are you a chimera? A host? Is there another organism whose cells dwell within your body? Because if not, I’m not sure who the other or others in this “one another” are supposed to include. I get the intended “meaning” here. I know that by saying “one another” Avicii or whoever wrote these lyrics meant some sort of unity, or togetherness. But there are so many ways that this could be expressed, and in fact, numerous simple fixes that could have made it a reasonably clear line, that I just don’t feel the “hey, you know what I mean” card can be excusably played here.

Moving on, let’s skip down to the chorus:

What if I’m far from home?
Oh, brother I will hear you call.

In this day and age, it is less than remarkable that a person who is far from home may hear their brother’s call. This can be accomplished my numerous means. But if you’re willing to stretch things a bit, you can derive that one brother is telling the other that he will “always be there for him” or something of the sort. But then we get this:

What if I lose it all?
Oh, sister I will help you out!

First of all, losing it all doesn’t make one a prime candidate for bailing a sister out. But, more to the point,
one of the major problems with “Hey Brother”, is that it is never clear who is speaking, who the “sky comes falling down for”, or who is “far from home”. Not that a pop song necessarily needs to adhere to grammar school rules for establishing setting, but this song attempts to tell a story, so attention to at least one of the four W’s could have gone a long way. For instance, if we are to imagine these two lines as an exchange between this unknown protagonist and the sister character, with the sister posing the question and the narrator answering, then it makes sense. But, this is not clear here or elsewhere in the song.

Argh, my headache is coming back. Instead of trying to decipher any more of this, I will end my analysis by offering this general criticism: the words to this song are a collection of faux deep banalities thrown towards the ears of a hopefully sympathetic listener who is willing to settle for something that kinda sorta alludes to some universal longing. The combined mistakes in these lyrics are things that any undergrad English major with a highlighter and thirty minutes could easily fix, or at least vastly improve.

I am aware that Avicii is Swedish and that English is most likely not his first language. But the Swedes are more than capable of writing pop songs in English. Starting in the ’70s with Abba and continuing to the present with writers such as Max Martin, the top 40 charts have been filled with songs written by Swedish writers that are certainly bubble gum, but at least make sense. In fact, Swedish teenagers First Aid Kit write lyrics which are both clear in meaning and more thought-provoking than those of many native speakers. I find it hard to believe that Avicii didn’t have the resources to come up with something better than what we have with “Hey Brother”.

The thing that irritates me the most about this song is that it sends the message that lyrics are no longer important – that words in a song are a minor detail existing only to embellish the high tech smoke and mirrors known as “production”, and to give the voice something to do. I’ve always been irked by the overall vapidity of top 40 lyrics, but most of them at least express decipherable thoughts. This song relies on and assumes a shallow audience that either doesn’t care what is being said, or is too stupid to realize that it says nothing. But, as Dick Clark would have said, it has a nice beat and you can dance to it.

Hey brother, there’s an endless road to re-discover.
Hey sister, know the water’s sweet but blood is thicker.
Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you,
There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.

Hey brother, do you still believe in one another?
Hey sister, do you still believe in love, I wonder?
Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you,
There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.

What if I’m far from home?
Oh, brother I will hear you call.
What if I lose it all?
Oh, sister I will help you out!
Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you,
There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.

Hey brother, there’s an endless road to re-discover.
Hey sister, do you still believe in love, I wonder?
Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you,
There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.

What if I’m far from home?
Oh, brother I will hear you call.
What if I lose it all?
Oh, sister I will help you out!
Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you,
There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.

 

9 comments on “Let’s Talk Lyrics, “Hey Brother” by Avicii

  1. I think you’re wrong. And trying way too hard to find a meaning. I think overall its just about the bond between two people, and likely how the bond should be between most humans but it isn’t. Like hey, I’m gonna be there for you no matter what.

    • Thanks for your comment! I grew up in the Bluegrass region of Kentucky, where that music was invented and I’m just curious-why do you equate the bluegrass style with incorrect grammar? I’m not trying to argue, I’m just curious.

      Again, thanks for your comment. Please take a look at some of our other posts about song lyrics. https://customserenade.com/category/lets-talk-lyrics/

      • You grew up in Kentucky? Wow that’s really cool! I believe you that true bluegrass is grammatically sound. Though maybe they did it so outsiders would feel comfortable with the sad stereotype they are familiar with that its the music of the simple folk.

  2. I know this is an old post but I actually helped Avicii comes up with some of these lyrics when he was playing in dream valley festival on 2012 so I Will Help you understand What we were thinking at the time we made It
    Hey brother, there’s an endless road to re-discover. This is about doing a Lot of bad shit regretting It and doing the Path again in a better perspective
    Hey sister, know the water’s sweet but blood is thicker. This talks about when you get really angry or excited and your blood Just boils
    Oh, if the sky comes falling down for you, this talks about when you get shot and your face gets to the ground so It kinda looks like the Sky is falling download
    Hey brother, do you still believe in one another? This Just talks about Trust among ALL people
    Hey sister, do you still believe in love, I wonder? Its a pretty simple question the sister part is Just because my sister bought me the t shirt I went to the festival with lol
    These are the few parts I can remember the other parts he Just invented by himself while producing It I guess I’ve seen a Lot of people talk this songs talk about the Vietnam war and yes this is part of the inspiration for It, If you are wondering who I am, look at the credits of the music, he wanted to put my Name on It but I was so high on acid I Just told him to put James wich was my nickname at the time idk why I did that lol, so he put James and some fake last Name, im the last person listed on the credits

    • Yeah so I checked and looks like I AM not listed on the credits anymore since he passed away idk why and dont really care Just wanted to explain some of the lyrics he was an amazing human being and I AM Glad I actually met him

  3. Hey brother, do you still believe in one another? Just to explain this a Little bit more It comes from the portuguese expression confiar um no outro wich litteraly translates to english as trust in one another

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