Are You What You Want to Be – Decoding the Quest for Self-Identity and Social Justice


You can view the lyrics, alternate interprations and sheet music for Foster the People's Are You What You Want to Be at Lyrics.org.
Article Contents:
  1. Music Video
  2. Lyrics
  3. Song Meaning
  4. A Melodic Awakening on the Champs-Élysées
  5. Dissent and Courage: The Twin Pillars of Change
  6. The Siren Call of Commercialism in a World at War
  7. Echoing the Biggest Question: Self-Actualization and Social Responsibility
  8. Uncovering the Hidden Meaning: An Anthem of Empowerment

Lyrics

I woke up on Champs-Élysées to the Djembe of Ghana
A fine lady from Belize said “You got the spirit of a Fela”
A young one dripping make-up put her hands out to holla
I gave her what I got but couldn’t handle her broken heart
The right words in the hands of dissidents with the fire
Will rip apart the marrow from the bone of the liars
Well I’m afraid of saying too much and ending a martyr
But even more so I’m afraid to face god and say I was a coward, yeah

Will all these things I wait for revelation
These things make me want to duck for cover
With all these things I wait for revolution
These things ask the biggest question to me
And it’s are you what you want to be
So are you what you want to be?

The war machines will put out both its hands for a dollar
It’s drinking at the table with the chrome hand guerrillas
The young ones dripping make-up lift her leg up to holla
Well, I told her what she’s got should be protected in the arms of love
The right things in the hands of dissidents with the fire
Will rip apart the marrow from the bone of the liars
Well I’m afraid of saying too much and ending a martyr
But even more so I’m afraid to face god and say I was a coward

Will all these things I wait for revelation
These things make me want to duck for cover
With all these things I wait for revolution
These things ask the biggest question to me
And it’s are you what you want to be
So are you what you want to be?

Are you what you want to be

Are you what you want to be
Are you what you want to be?
Are you what you want to be
Are you what you want to be?

Full Lyrics

In a tapestry of rhythmic beats and candor, Foster the People’s ‘Are You What You Want to Be’ is a vibrant call to introspection set against the backdrop of global unrest. The track, a blend of indie pop and undertones of afrobeat, encapsulates a generation’s search for authenticity and meaning in a fast-paced, often disingenuous world.

With compelling lyrical imagery and a bold questioning of individual purpose, the song weaves together personal struggle and societal critique. It prompts listeners to examine their own lives in relation to the greater human experience — a universal challenge magnified by the strife and disarray depicted in the song’s narrative.

A Melodic Awakening on the Champs-Élysées

The opening lines transport listeners to Paris’s famed avenue, setting the scene with a global consciousness. The mention of the Djembe of Ghana and the spirit of Fela, an ode to the legendary Afrobeat pioneer Fela Kuti, suggests a blend of cultures and a recognition of universal music as a voice for change.

The song’s protagonist encounters diverse individuals detaching the song from any one locale and promoting a seamlessness among disparate worldviews. This creates an ambiance where the commonality of human experience overshadows geographic and cultural divides.

Dissent and Courage: The Twin Pillars of Change

With ‘the right words in the hands of dissidents with the fire,’ the song champions the power of the spoken word and the courage to stand against deceit. The evocation of ‘dissidents with the fire’ suggests a spirit of rebellion, necessary for confronting ‘the marrow from the bone of the liars.’

Yet, it acknowledges the fear of speaking out, the double-edged sword of advocacy that could lead one to be honored as a martyr or tarnished as a coward. The song grapples with the existential toll of activism and the personal reckoning it demands.

The Siren Call of Commercialism in a World at War

Through lyrical jabs at ‘war machines’ and their greed, Foster the People cast a cynical eye on the capitalistic forces that fund conflict. The image of the ‘chrome hand guerrillas’ speaks to the dehumanization inherent in modern warfare and the mechanization of violence.

In contrast, the call for what is precious in us (‘what she’s got’) to be ‘protected in the arms of love’ presents a plea for the preservation of innocence and purity amidst the chaos, a hint at love’s role as the ultimate revolutionary act.

Echoing the Biggest Question: Self-Actualization and Social Responsibility

‘Are you what you want to be?’ becomes more than a refrain; it’s an existential challenge to the listener. It reflects the human pursuit of identity and purpose while questioning the listener’s social responsibilities. This hook resonates as a mantra for self-evaluation in a world that often urges conformity and complacency.

The song’s inquiry probes deeply into the alignment of actions and values, conjuring an internal debate over whether one’s life trajectory is self-determined or shaped by external factors.

Uncovering the Hidden Meaning: An Anthem of Empowerment

On the surface, the song is an energetic jam, but beneath lies a call for individual empowerment. It serves as both a personal and political statement, equating the realization of one’s potential with a form of resistance against societal ills.

Interpreting the song’s hidden meaning reveals a message about the potency of authentic living. ‘Are You What You Want to Be’ stands as an anthem for those who choose to break from the status quo, confronting the listener with the impact of their choices and the legacy they wish to leave.

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