Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Flaws

Today marks the start of a new weekly post: the Focus on the Lyrics Fridays.

Henceforth, I shall post a song every week along with the lyrics and my interpretation of them. The goal? To emphasize the power of words in music (and rejoice in the fact that not all modern music lacks poetry).

Who better to start with than my favorite band, Bastille? You probably know them for their hit Pompeii, but have you heard their other songs?

All their lyrics are poetic and unique; they lack the strings of profane and sexual language common in popular music today. More than that, they make you think.

Without any further fanfare, I present to you Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Flaws by Bastille.


Lyrics to Flaws by Bastille

When all of your flaws and all of my flaws
Are laid out one by one
The wonderful part of the mess that we made
We pick ourselves undone.

All of your flaws and all of my flaws
They lie there hand in hand
Ones we’ve inherited, ones that we learned
They pass from man to man.

There’s a hole in my soul.
I can’t fill it, I can’t fill it.
There’s a hole in my soul.
Can you fill it? Can you fill it?

You have always worn your flaws upon your sleeve
And I have always buried them deep beneath the ground.
Dig them up; let’s finish what we’ve started.
Dig them up, so nothing’s left untouched.

All of your flaws and all of my flaws,
When they have been exhumed
We’ll see that we need them to be who we are
Without them we’d be doomed.

There’s a hole in my soul.
I can’t fill it, I can’t fill it.
There’s a hole in my soul.
Can you fill it? Can you fill it?

You have always worn your flaws upon your sleeve
And I have always buried them deep beneath the ground.
Dig them up; let’s finish what we’ve started.
Dig them up, so nothing’s left untouched.

Ooh
Ooh

When all of your flaws
And all of my flaws are counted
When all of your flaws
And all of my flaws are counted

You have always worn your flaws upon your sleeve
And I have always buried them deep beneath the ground.
Dig them up. Let’s finish what we’ve started.
Dig them up. So nothing’s left untouched.

Ooh
Ooh

All of your flaws and all of my flaws
Are laid out one by one
Look at the wonderful mess that we made
We pick ourselves undone.

Analysis

“Flaws” tells of two people, one who doesn’t hide her flaws and seems completely comfortable in her own skin, and another who buries his flaws and feels empty.

Let’s examine my favorite parts here.

1.) “When all of your flaws and all of my flaws / Are laid out one by one / The wonderful part of the mess that we made / We pick ourselves undone.”

This stanza puts the two starkly different characters on the same level, both exposed as they bare their flaws to one another. I love how Dan Smith (lead singer and songwriter) calls the “mess” of their flaws “wonderful.” Our flaws may be messy, but they’re deeply personal and they are a part of us. As a writer, I know the best way to develop a character is not through her strengths, but through her flaws. Flaws help us relate to one another and they shape our character as we either embrace or pick them off. When we share our flaws, we expose parts of our souls. When all our flaws are shared, we are “undone,” or untied.

2.) “Ones [flaws] we’ve inherited, ones that we learned / They pass from man to man.”

Our flaws can be hereditary or picked up along the way. Physical “flaws” (birthmarks, disabilities, etc.) and potential genetic flaws (alcoholism, some diseases, etc.) can be “inherited” while personality flaws (bossiness, pride, competitiveness, etc.) and other physical flaws (burns, scars, etc.) are typically “learned.” Either way, flaws only develop from other people.

3.) “There’s a hole in my soul. / I can’t fill it, I can’t fill it. / There’s a hole in my soul. / Can you fill it? Can you fill it?”

The protagonist, who has hidden his flaws, feels empty and can’t seem to fill it himself. He asks the other character who embraces her flaws to fill him up. This stanza is probably why people often interpret the song as romantic, but I don’t think that’s right. There may be romance between the two characters, yes, but that doesn’t make the song romantic. The focus remains on the relationship between people and their flaws, not flawed people.

4.) “You have always worn your flaws upon your sleeve / And I have always buried them deep beneath the ground. / Dig them up; let’s finish what we’ve started. / Dig them up, so nothing’s left untouched.”

Here is why the protagonist feels empty; he has buried part of himself away while the other character wears her flaws clearly. I won’t pretend I understand the reference to “what we’ve started,” but I believe he wants to “dig” his flaws up in order to fill the hole in his soul mentioned previously.

5.) “All of your flaws and all of my flaws, / When they have been exhumed / We’ll see that we need them to be who we are / Without them we’d be doomed.”

Ahh, here’s my favorite stanza. When the characters’ flaws “have been exhumed,” or dug up, they’ll see that their flaws are part of themselves. Without our flaws, there’s a “hole in [our] soul.” As I said earlier, our flaws are more defining than our strengths. This is not to say that we are our flaws (wouldn’t that be an ugly world); this means our flaws are the knives that sculpt our personalities.

Last little tidbit about Bastille: do you know where the band’s name comes from? No, they’re not French. Dan named his British band Bastille because his birthday falls on July 14th, the day the French celebrate the overthrow of their monarchy, also known as Bastille day. Speaking of the Bastille day, don’t forget to check back here next week for another Focus on the Lyrics Friday involving a popular singer, the French Revolution, and a far-fetched theory of mine.

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