Vampire Weekend’s “Unbearably White” Lyrics Meaning
The inspiration behind this track, according to Vampire Weekend’s lead singer Ezra Koenig who also wrote the song, is based on strife between White people concerning who actually fits the bill to be classified as ‘White’. And the title seems to have been derived from a 2015 article (which mentions Vampire Weekend) about White artists dominating the indie music genre, as in non-White indie artists automatically being classified under different genres.
However, such a racially-based influence is difficult, if not impossible, to derive from the song based solely on its lyrics. Rather the track plays out as if it is centered on a relationship and a bunch of other seemingly unrelated topics.
The beginning of the song starts with Koenig stating that this relationship has more or less come to an end. He flees to a mountain to get away from who is seemingly his lover. When he reaches the peak of it, he notices the snow on top is “unbearably white”. Later he finds himself in a city that is “unbearably cold”. His lover eventually walks into his bedroom and starts writing in a notebook, with the page she’s writing on being “unbearably white”. And such symbolism using the adverb “unbearably” is present throughout the song.
As aforementioned, these references to whiteness specifically are actually allusions to “infighting among White people about who is marginally more or less White”. But for a person to actually come to that conclusion just by reading or hearing the lyrics seems virtually impossible.
Maybe the chorus, which concludes with Vampire Weekend singing “to learn what kept us together… is what kept us alive” is more-indicative of that idea, as it sounds almost like a protest against White genocide. In other words, considering his own explanation of this track, those lines can be interpreted as a call by Koenig for White people to stick together in the name of survival, even if only in the indie music industry. Or maybe this song is just him and the boys poking fun at the seemingly-insignificant racial tone of the aforementioned article.
Honestly speaking, for one to truly understand the complex symbolism present throughout this track, one would probably require an audience with Ezra Koenig himself. And for what? So he could shed more light on it and give a more-detailed explanation.
What Vampire Weekend has said about “Unbearably White”
Here are Koenig’s exact words regarding the meaning of “Unbearably White”:
All in all, the lyrics of “Unbearably White” are about vain infighting amongst White people. However, they fail to get that point across in a comprehensible manner.