“20 Dollar Nose Bleed” by Fall Out Boy (ft. Brendon Urie)

The lyrics of Fall Out Boy’s “20 Dollar Nose Bleed” aren’t necessarily easy to understand. But that being noted, it would appear the track is based on two separate topics.

The first verse focuses on the vocalist himself. And apparently, the intent is to relay a feeling of despondency and alienation.

Richey Edwards

To help get this point across, he commences by referencing one Richey Edwards. Edwards was a member of a band called Manic Street Preachers. He is known to have had issues with depression and real-life manic behavior. And one day, it’s like he just disappeared. And if you were to read the story yourself, you would see that there was no foul play involved. Rather it’s like he decided to just pack up everything and bounce without telling anybody. 

And the way Patrick Stump is relating to him is by noting a desire he and others may possess at times “to disappear” in a similar fashion.

And as far as feeling alienated, the vocalist does not seem to have any discernible identity. To relay this concept, he uses that analogy of ‘waking up next to a stranger on a passenger plane’, with the vocalist himself not knowing who he is. And it doesn’t really feel like he is confused or troubled mentally in the truest sense of those words. Rather it’s almost as if he is yearning for such, i.e. venturing out into the unknown and starting a whole new life.

Benzedrine

Well another logical reason he may come off as being so erratic is because he is apparently a user of the drug Benzedrine. And it would appear the narrator is utilizing this substance for two reasons. First may be to heighten his level of creativity. And secondly, he finds it as a source of stress relief. So with those two uses in mind he has formed a dependency on this narcotic.

“20 Dollar Nose Bleed” criticizes President Bush

Then the second half of the song changes subject, at least as far as the verses go. Here the lyrics transform primarily into a criticism of President George W. Bush. Yes, these sentiments are expressed via metaphors. But they aren’t the types which take rocket science to decipher.

This song came out at a time when the Iraq War and War in Afghanistan were still hot topics. Both of those initiatives were launched by the aforementioned Bush. 

Moreover the decision to do so was largely rationalized, in the public’s eye, as a response to 9/11. But what Stump is putting forth is that the reason Dubya really did so is to accomplish his father, the first President Bush’s ambitions as set during the Gulf War of the early-1990s. And in the third verse he also seems to imply, at least based on our estimation, that the public was deceived into going along with such by the mainstream media.

Perhaps, in trying to relate these latter verses to the chorus, what Fall Out Boy is saying is that Bush himself may be on Benzedrine. But more logically speaking they’re not related. 

It instead reads like the song was originally conceptualized to be about the abuse of Benzedrine. And then along the way, feeling passionate about America’s hostile actions in the Middle East, Patrick Stump and co. also used the opportunity to bring it to George W. Bush. It’s worth highlighting that Bush was still officially US President when this song was dropped.

All in all

So as argued earlier, this is a dual-topic piece.  It is about the effect on Benzedrine on the singer and why he continues to take it despite being cognizant of its drawbacks.  In fact it is the latter concept upon which the title is based. That is to say that at the time, $20 was the average cost to purchase an amount of the drug powerful enough to get a person high. Additionally, it was actually taken nasally. And one of the potential aftereffects of snorting is that user’s nose may in fact start to bleed.

However, on a completely-different note it is also critical of the wars the US was waging in the Middle East at that time, with a particular focus on the man who served as the figurehead of that movement. 

And whereas more wording is dedicated to the former than the latter, which narrative comes forth the most is really dependent on the ear of the listener. Indeed it would appear, perhaps considering that most people don’t really know what Benzedrine is anyway, that the majority of listeners actually interpret this as being akin to an anti-war song.

Facts about “20 Dollar Nose Bleed”

Fall Out Boy, a band from Illinois, is one of the most-successful rock bands of the first two decades of the 21st century. Throughout most of that time the band’s membership has been highlighted by the same lineup (since 2003):

  • Patrick Stump (frontman)
  • Andy Hurley (drummer)
  • Joe Trohman (guitarist)
  • Pete Wentz (bassist)

It is also those four individuals who are individually credited as the writers of “20 Dollar Nose Bleed” and collectively acknowledged as its co-producer. And the other co-producer is Neal Avron. 

This track features Brendon Urie, who provides vocals and keyboarding. Urie is known primarily as being associated with another musical project/band known as Panic! at the Disco. And he was actually a semi-regular collaborator of Fall Out Boy during the latter part of the aughts.

“20 Dollar Nose Bleed” came out on 16 December 2008. It is from Fall Out Boy’s fourth album. The project in question goes by the title Folie à Deux (tr. A Madness for Two). That project topped Billboard’s Digital Albums chart and reached number 8 on the Billboard 200.  And to note, this song was not one of the singles issued from it by Island Records, Decaydance Records and Fueled by Ramen.

20 Dollar Nose Bleed
“20 Dollar Nose Bleed”
Pete Wentz explains "20 Dollar Nose Bleed"

Genre-wise, “20 Dollar Nose Bleed” is considered a proper indie rock song.

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