A Question of Time – Unpacking the Urgent Message Behind the Melancholic Synth Lines


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Depeche Mode's A Question of Time at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. The Seduction of Innocence: Reading Between the Synths
  5. Ticking Clocks and Imposing Threats: The Inevitability of Influence
  6. A Cautionary Tale in Disguise: Unraveling the Song’s Hidden Meaning
  7. The Intricacies of Desire: A Complex Villain
  8. Memorable Lines That Echo Across Decades

Lyrics

I’ve got to get to you first
Before they do
It’s just a question of time
Before they lay their hands on you
And make you just like the rest
I’ve got to get to you first
It’s just a question of time

Well, now you’re only fifteen
And you look good
I’ll take you under my wing
Somebody should
They’ve persuasive ways
And you’ll believe what they say

It’s just a question of time
And it’s running out for you
It won’t be long until you’ll do
Exactly what they want you to

I can see them now
Hanging around
To mess you up
To strip you down
And have their fun
With my little one

It’s just a question of time
And it’s running out for you
It won’t be long until you’ll do
Exactly what they want you to
It won’t be long until you’ll do
Exactly what they want you to

Sometimes I don’t blame them
For wanting you
You look good
They need something to do
Until I look at you
And then I condemn them
I know my kind
What goes on in our minds

It’s just a question of time
It’s just a question of time
It’s just a question of time (it should be better)
It’s just a question of time (it should be better with you)
It’s just a question of time (it should be better)
It’s just a question of time (it should be better with you)
It’s just a question of time (it should be better)
It’s just a question of time (it should be better with you)
It’s just a question of time

Full Lyrics

In a blend of grinding synths and a relentlessly pulsating beat, Depeche Mode’s ‘A Question of Time’ is a sonic journey that goes much deeper than its danceable façade. On the surface, the 1986 hit is clothed in the dark, enigmatic energy synonymous with the band, but a closer listen reveals a narrative teeming with desperation and protective instincts.

The song’s lyrics, penned by Martin Gore, build a distressing tableau of innocence on the verge of corruption, where the passage of time is an ominous force. The track isn’t merely a catchy hook; it’s a time bomb ticking towards the inevitable – a battle between safeguarding purity and succumbing to outside influences.

The Seduction of Innocence: Reading Between the Synths

The protagonist of ‘A Question of Time’ appears to be locked in a race against societal forces, vying for the innocence of the youthful subject of the song. With the enigmatic line ‘I’ve got to get to you first,’ there’s an implicit understanding that there are others with less noble intentions laying in wait.

The age mentioned in the song, ‘Well, now you’re only fifteen,’ cements the vulnerability of the character in question, rendering the singer’s protective stance both more poignant and desperate. It’s a stark reminder of the loss of innocence and the predatory nature of the world lurking just beyond the years of adolescence.

Ticking Clocks and Imposing Threats: The Inevitability of Influence

The recurring phrase ‘It’s just a question of time’ takes on a menacing tone as the song progresses. The repetitive nature of the line echoes the ticking of a clock, a metaphor for the impending arrival of corrupting external pressures and the relentless passage of life that brings us closer to them.

The urgency implied in the race against time serves to heighten the tension of the song. Time becomes the enemy, an unstoppable force that will eventually lead the once-innocent down a path dictated by the whims of others.

A Cautionary Tale in Disguise: Unraveling the Song’s Hidden Meaning

Beneath the glossy exterior of ‘A Question of Time’ lies a deeply rooted social commentary on the exploitation of the young by the old, a cautionary tale about the grooming of youth by manipulative adults. The synthetic beats and the melancholic melody that hallmark the track may distract some from the narrative’s true gravity, but the message is clear.

By placing the timeline of corruption at the feet of age and naivete, Depeche Mode crafts a narrative that feels both intensely personal and universally applicable, showing the razor’s edge upon which every young person walks.

The Intricacies of Desire: A Complex Villain

Adding another layer to the song’s meaning, the lyrics occasionally venture into the perspective of the would-be corrupter. Expressions of understanding and even empathy, ‘Sometimes I don’t blame them,’ complicate the narrative, blurring the lines between protector and perpetrator.

The self-awareness displayed in lines like ‘I know my kind’ and ‘What goes on in our minds’ reveals a disturbing acknowledgment of shared desires, framing the narrator as someone who fights the same urges that he tries to shield the youth from. It’s a chilling admission that elevates the song’s tension.

Memorable Lines That Echo Across Decades

As often with Depeche Mode, the haunting repetition of certain phrases in ‘A Question of Time’ cements them in the listener’s memory. ‘And it’s running out for you’ serves not only as a chilling reminder of the fleeing safety provided by youth but also as a cryptic hook that draws the listener further into the song’s dark world.

The final plea, ‘It should be better with you,’ repeats like a mantra, suggesting both hope and resignation. This oxymoronic sentiment encapsulates the duality of protection and the inevitability of growing up—making the song resonate with listeners long after the final note has faded.

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