Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Bleeding Out

Yesterday I donated blood for the first time. It’s a weird sensation, bleeding out for somebody else. Being the Imagine Dragons (remember their hit Radioactive?) fan that I am, I thought their song seemed like a good anthem for me today, while I’m still a little weak from blood loss.

Admittedly, I caved and looked at other interpretations of this song online. A lot of people have the idea that this song is about self-injury and suicide.

A lot of people are wrong.

I think this song is the battle cry of sorts for friends or partners to rise up and protect the ones they love…and I think it uses a Biblical allusion to convey that message.

See if you can figure it out.


Lyrics to Bleeding Out by Imagine Dragons

I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you.

When the day has come
That I’ve lost my way around
And the seasons stop and hide beneath the ground
When the sky turns gray
And everything is screaming
I will reach inside
Just to find my heart is beating

Oh, you tell me to hold on
Oh, you tell me to hold on
But innocence is gone
And what was right is wrong

‘Cause I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you (for you)

When the hour is nigh
And hopelessness is sinking in
And the wolves all cry
To fill the night with hollering
When your eyes are red
And emptiness is all you know
With the darkness fed
I will be your scarecrow

You tell me to hold on
Oh you tell me to hold on
But innocence is gone
And what was right is wrong

‘Cause I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you.

I’m bleeding out for you (for you)
I’m bleeding out for you (for you)
I’m bleeding out for you (for you)
I’m bleeding out for you

‘Cause I’m bleeding out
So if the last thing that I do
Is to bring you down
I’ll bleed out for you
So I bare my skin
And I count my sins
And I close my eyes
And I take it in
And I’m bleeding out
I’m bleeding out for you, for you.

Analysis

Before I give my interpretations, I have to preface this by saying that this song is ambiguous. It could mean completely different things to different people, and that’s part of what makes it so personal.

I think the song alludes to the Crucifiction to call friends out to sacrifice for one another. In a way, it’s a cry to be more like Jesus in his willingness to sacrifice despite the pain. (A couple of the band members are Mormon, so this meaning is certainly possible.)

It’s not going to make much sense unless we look right at the lyrics, so let’s dive right in.

1) “I’m bleeding out / So if the last thing that I do / Is bring you down / I’ll bleed out for you / So I bare my skin / And I count my sins / And I close my eyes / And I take it in / I’m bleeding out / I’m bleeding out for you, for you.”

This is the cry of Jesus “bleeding out” on the cross as the “last thing” he does (while in the flesh, of course). He “bare[s]” his skin to the lashings and “counts his sins” (which are exactly none).  This could also apply to an individual who’s “bleeding out,” or sacrificing something, “for you,” his friend. He exposes himself when he “bare[s]” his skin and “counts his sins,” ready to “take it in” to save his friend.

2) “When the day has come / That I’ve lost my way around / And the seasons stop and hide beneath the ground / When the sky turns gray / And everything is screaming / I will reach inside / Just to find my heart is beating.”

Yet another Imagine Dragons song with a post-apocalyptic feel. This also feels like how a depressed individual might view the world, so I can see why people may misinterpret the song as one related to depression and self-injury. This could also be how Jesus felt on the cross (with everyone laughing or “screaming” at him and the seasons and sky fading, like they know what it means that his end is near). It’s a little extreme of an interpretation, but it could fit. What would fit better yet is a more human explanation. When the individual feels “lost” and feels like all is coming to an end, he will remember what he holds dear to him, in his “heart,” and keep up the struggle.

3) “Oh, you tell me to hold on / Oh, you tell me to hold on / But innocence is gone / And what was right is wrong.”

This feels like Jesus crying out on the cross, as well, doing what is “right” in saving us by doing what is “wrong” in being crucified despite lacking sin.

4) “When the hour is nigh / And hopelessness is sinking in / And the wolves all cry / To fill the night with hollering / When your eyes are red / And emptiness is all you know / With the darkness fed / I will be your scarecrow”

You’ve found my favorite part! I’m a sucker for the word “nigh.” Anyway, I think this is the strongest part of the song. In continuation with the crucifiction allusion, this seems like the part where Jesus is about to die (“the hour is nigh”) and the “wolves,” or people who condemned him, “fill the night with hollering” and someone in the crowd, possibly Mary, has “red” eyes from crying. Still, Jesus hangs on the cross, similar to a “scarecrow” in both his physical position and in keeping the darkness from the crops, keeping Satan from his followers. Isn’t that a gorgeous comparison? I get really geeked out when unusual metaphors fit so perfectly. The lines would also fit for an individual who sacrifices for his friend, who feels “hopeless” and “empty.” He intends to sacrifice himself to keep the “darkness” from taking hold of his friend.

What should we take away from this, then? I think we should be better friends. I hope you’re never in a desperate situation where you must chose whether to save your friend or yourself, though the song seems to feel clearly about which is more important. The lyrics should be applied to the smaller things. Perhaps if your friend needs to discuss the pains in his/her life, you should sacrifice your time. If your friend needs a hug, you should sacrifice your personal space. If your friend needs a tub of ice cream and a couple distracting flicks to get over a tough breakup, you should sacrifice your money. Most importantly, this song seems adamant that if your friend suffers from depression, you should sacrifice all you can (in good conscience, of course) to help.

Or maybe Imagine Dragons is just encouraging us all to donate blood.

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7 thoughts on “Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Bleeding Out

  1. I love this analysis. I have never thought of this song in this particular way, and I think what you’re suggesting is perfect. Also it has inspired me to watch for how I can be a better friend. Thanks for being my friend 🙂

    Like

  2. Love this. My son and I were listening to this song and after it was over he says to me: “That song was talking about bleeding out. Like what Jesus did for us.”.( He’s 7, btw). I said, ” Yes it is. I think that is what this song is about.” Then I decided to see if anyone else felt the same way. I am going to share this with my friends. Thanks for taking the time to write this.

    Like

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