Decoding the Meaning Behind “Riptide” – A Closer Look at Vance Joy’s Lyrics

The song Riptide by Vance Joy has multiple meanings. Let’s explore interpretations together.

Meaning of the Lyrics in Details

Let’s start with my commentary piece by piece of the song.

“I was scared of dentists and the dark I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations.”

(To me, these lines convey a sense of fear and insecurity that the protagonist feels. They could symbolize his fear of facing his problems or dealing with real-life situations.)

“Oh, all my friends are turning green You’re the magician’s assistant in their dream.”

(The first line could be about envy, as “turning green” is a phrase typically associated with jealousy. The second line implies the protagonist sees his love interest as someone who stuns everyone, intriguingly similar to a magician’s assistant.)

“Lady, running down to the riptide Taken away to the dark side I wanna be your left-hand man.”

(Riptides are deadly ocean currents that pull you away, symbolizing dangerous situations or damaging relationships. But the protagonist is so attracted to this person, he wants to be there, right beside her even if it leads to the ‘dark side’.)

“There’s 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.”

(Perhaps, this is the protagonist’s desire to escape, to start anew in a different place – much like the character in the movie. It reflects his yearning for a life free of fear and insecurities.)

“I just wanna, I just wanna know If you’re gonna, if you’re gonna stay I just gotta, I just gotta know I can’t have it, I can’t have it any other way.”

(These lines express the protagonist’s desperate need for reassurance and commitment. It’s like he’s saying, ‘I need to know if you’re going to stick around or not because I can’t go through this uncertainty.’)

“I swear she’s destined for the screen Closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that you’ve ever seen.”

(This could signify the protagonist’s deep admiration for the lady, even comparing her to actor Michelle Pfeiffer, known for her beauty and talent.)

“Yeah, I got a lump in my throat ‘Cause you’re gonna sing the words wrong.”

(This touching last line might be an expression of his emotion from an impending heartbreak, as he thinks she doesn’t comprehend his deep love for her and is getting everything wrong.)

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All in all, to me, ‘Riptide’ is a poignant song which beautifully captures the highs and lows of young love- the insecurities, the desires, and the inevitable heartache. It’s about a man who, despite his fears, falls deeply for a woman, even while knowing that the relationship might not work out.

Riptide performing Riptide

Meaning of the Song Riptide by Vance Joy

The song Riptide by Vance Joy has a key meaning for me. It’s like a stormy sea in my mind, where the waves of emotion crash and tumble. You know, the very first lines, “I was scared of dentists and the dark. I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations,” it paints a picture of vulnerability, of those simple fears that plague us all at times.

They’re raw emotions we can all relate to. It’s the feeling of unease you get in situations that are supposed to be routine or in the presence of someone you admire – a pretty girl. Yeah, it’s human nature to feel scared in such scenarios.

Then there’s this part “all my friends are turning green. You’re the magician’s assistant in their dream”. That feels like jealousy, don’t you think? Like you’re watching others getting the limelight while you play second fiddle. This hits hard for me. I’ve been there, on the outskirts, feeling less-than.

The line “Lady, running down to the riptide, taken away to the dark side,” feels like chasing something dangerous yet enticing. Maybe love or an adventure? And being the left-hand man seems like wanting to be part of it all. Loving someone so much that even when they sing the wrong words, it just endears them to you more.

I feel this. It’s like being in love with someone’s flaws because it makes them human and relatable.

“There’s this movie that I think you’ll like. This guy decides to quit his job and heads to New York City,” gives a sense of escapism and desire for change. The story of the cowboy running from himself? That’s Vance and all of us when we avoid confronting our fears.

I must say, the part where he says “I just wanna, I just wanna know. If you’re gonna, if you’re gonna stay,” is like begging for reassurance in a world of uncertainty. And I get it, sometimes all we need is to know that someone will stick around, no matter what.

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And then, “I swear she’s destined for the screen. Closest thing to Michelle Pfeiffer that you’ve ever seen,” feels like seeing someone’s potential before they do. Like you believe in them so much it hurts. It’s beautiful and painful.

It’s all about love, but not just romantic love. It’s about love for friends, for dreams, for life. It’s about being scared, vulnerable, and yet still daring to dream.

For me, Riptide feels like an anthem of life’s ups and downs, wrapped up in beautiful melodies and Vance Joy’s raw voice.

It’s a song that validates our fears and desires while encouraging us to embrace them instead of running away. That’s why it resonates with me so deeply.

Music Video

Have you ever seen Vance Joy’s Riptide music video? Well, if not, you’re missing out. It’s one of those videos that make you feel… something, ya know?

I gotta admit, I was a bit confused when I first saw it. It’s not your typical music video – it’s weirdly abstract and really quirky.

The color palette and the 1950s aesthetic… it’s so nostalgic and retro. Maybe it’s trying to convey a longing for simpler times?

There’s this recurring motif of a hand with its fingers crossed. Maybe it’s symbolizing wishful thinking or a silent prayer? Could be about hope in difficult times, right?

But here’s what really caught my eye: the use of lyric placards. Like in those old silent films. Why use them when Vance is singing the lyrics? Could it be about feeling unheard or misunderstood?

And then there’s the lady in the blue dress. She’s quite mysterious. One minute she’s sitting all proper, the next she’s swinging a baseball bat at floating apples! Could she represent unpredictability or chaos? It keeps you on your toes – like the riptides of life.

The end scene is pretty interesting too – Vance being swept away by a wave while he continues to play his ukulele. Resilience? Maybe that’s what it represents. Or could it be acceptance – letting life take you where it will while still holding onto what you love?

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All in all, ‘Riptide’ is one cryptic piece of artistry. It makes you wonder what Vance was thinking when he made it.

Anyway, remember this is just my interpretation – art is subjective after all. So, what do you think? Did you get something different from the video? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

Why I Wrote About Vance Joy Today

Meet the Author


Music is my universe – it’s the beats that get me out of bed, and the melodies filling my dreams. Yeah, it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s true. I love songs with a lot of feels.

– Nalani

So, there I was, lost in thought, headphones cradling my ears as I gazed outside the window. The day had been, well, one of those days. You know the kind where nothing goes right? Yeah, that one. And then, as if on cue, “Riptide” by Vance Joy started playing.

I mean, can you believe it? That song has a way of sneaking up on you when you least expect it. Suddenly, everything around me sort of fell into a hush… like I was submerged under water.

The line that hit me? Oh, it was “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“. That one. Right there.

You see, today, nothing was coming out right. I was mucking up left and right. So this line – it spoke to me. I felt like Vance Joy was singing about my day – all jumbled up and yet, there was something beautiful about it.

I think “Riptide” is all about embracing imperfections and the chaos in our lives. It’s about accepting that we’ll always have those off-key days – the riptide days. But hey, who’s to say we can’t find a melody in the discord?

That’s just what it means to me anyway. It’s a perspective you know? My take away from this ever-enigmatic Riptide.

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