Death Cab For Cutie’s “I’ll Follow You Into The Dark” Is Not as Sweet As You Think It Is
Everyone loves the song "I’ll Follow You Into The Dark" by Death Cab For Cutie. Since 2006, people have listened to this indie-folk track and thought fondly of loved ones and those they would “follow into the dark”.
Upon further examination, the lyrics to this song appear not to be as sweet as one would hope.
Let’s dive in at the beginning of the song.
So the song starts:
Love of mine,
Here, the narrator in the song clearly states he is talking to a “love” of his, someone he cares about deeply. Okay that’s sweet right?
…some day you will die…
Wait…what? Is this a weird tactic to remind a the other person of their mortality so they would confuse those feelings for loving you back?
But I’ll be close behind
I’ll follow you into the dark
Why is it assumed the other person will die first? “Hey baby, I love you, but you are definitely going to die before me.”
No blinding light or tunnels to gates of white
Just our hands clasped so tight
Waiting for the hint of a spark
So even though the other person dies first, she has to wait for him before leaving purgatory?
If Heaven and Hell decide
That they both are satisfied
Illuminate the no’s on their vacancy signs
Is going to hell really a viable option? “Let’s spend the unknown eternity together in one of two places… and hell is one of them…”
If there’s no one beside you
When your soul embarks
Then I’ll follow you into the dark
So we hit the real meaning behind the song, “I’ll follow you into the dark”. This is sweet and innocent but the key word in this stanza is “if”. The singer says “IF there’s no one beside you”. Why is it “if”? If this person you are singing to is the love of your life, the person you can’t live without in this world or the next, why is it “if”.
What we have here is an indecisive lover keeping the girl he supposedly cares about on a hook of sorts. “I can’t guarantee what will happen to us… but if all these things happen, maybe we could be together. This singer is covering his bases, he’d like to commit fully but he has no idea what will happen in the future.
He’s afraid of commitment and at this point in the song, he’s second-guessing himself.
In Catholic school as vicious as Roman rule
I got my knuckles bruised by a lady in black
And I held my tongue as she told me
“Son fear is the heart of love”
So I never went back
This is where the singer tries to explain he is incapable of commitment. Being raised in Catholic School, he says he was taught that love comes from fear. He’s already stated that “if” everything falls into place, he could be with this person forever, and it is this verse that gives him a viable reason for why he cannot fully pledge his love. This means that should he decide to leave the relationship, he could say, “I know I said I’d follow you into the dark and the unknown, but I did tell you from the beginning about my upbringing and how hard it is for me to commit.”
We know about these lines already.
You and me have seen everything to see
From Bangkok to Calgary
And the soles of your shoes
Are all worn down
In this verse, he is essentially saying “we had a good run, so why ruin it and keep going on further with this relationship?”
The time for sleep is now
It’s nothing to cry about
‘Cause we’ll hold each other soon
In the blackest of rooms
It could be argued this is where he is ending the relationship altogether. “We’re breaking up now but one day in purgatory we might be together IF everything works out.”
So we see this innocent love ballad is not as sweet as we thought. It’s about a man and his inability to commit. He is still able to make false promises and lift up his partner’s hopes that they’ll be together forever when in actuality, this is not the case.