Focus on the Lyrics Friday: Immortals

In celebration of the release of “Big Hero 6” on February 24 (and out of love for Fall Out Boy), this week’s post will look at the lyrics of FOB’s “Immortals.” The track played while the movie’s main character, Hiro, designed and tested “superpowered” outfits. Bear with me here; I’ll probably give away a couple things about the movie but it’s hard to analyze a song from a movie without giving a thing or two away.

I love FOB, but they’re not known for good annunciation, which makes it a little harder to focus on the lyrics. Still, I’d encourage FOB fans to look the words up; their lyrics are often as impressive and unique as their sound.


Lyrics

They say we are what we are
But we don’t have to be
I’m glad to hate you but I do it in the best way
I’ll be the watcher of the eternal flame
I’ll be the guard dog of all your fever dreams

I am the sand in the bottom half of the hourglass (glass, glass)
I try to picture me without you but I can’t
‘Cause we could be immortals, immortals
Just not for long, for long

If we meet forever now, you pull the blackout curtains down
Just not for long, for long
We could be immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immortals

Sometimes the only payoff for having any faith
Is when it’s tested again and again everyday
I’m still comparing your past to my future
It might be over, but they’re not sutures

I am the sand in the bottom half of the hourglass (glass, glass)
I try to picture me without you but I can’t
‘Cause we could be immortals, immortals
Just not for long, for long

If we meet forever now, you pull the blackout curtains down
Just not for long, for long
We could be immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immortals

If we meet forever now, pull the blackout curtains down
We could be immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Just not for long, for long
We could be immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immor-immortals, immor-immortals
Immortals

Analysis

The band said the song was modeled on the concept of an underdog stepping into a bigger role, taking the hero role of the protagonist’s brother. Hiro’s actions and even what he says near the end of the film parallel the actions and sayings of Tadashi (the brother) at the beginning of the film. That meaning is made clearer in the lyrics.

1) “They say we are what we are / But we don’t have to be / I’m glad to hate you but I do it in the best way / I’ll be the watcher of the eternal flame / I’ll be the guard dog of all your fever dreams”

The first lines fit with the FOB’s meaning. The focus of the song is on underdogs who “don’t have to be” losers. The concept that people can be more than they are said to be is central to the film. I think the “you” of this song is *spoiler* Hiro’s dead brother but the third line confuses me. Perhaps Hiro resented his brother because he knew the dangers of doing what led to his death but still did it. The fourth line refers to an “eternal flame,” which is often a memorial (like the flame under the Arc de Triomphe) and the fifth line refers to “fever dreams,” or fever-induced nightmares. The idea of being a “watcher” or a “guard dog” is a heroic one. Hiro stepped up to a heroic position (pun intended) to avenge his brother’s death. More than that, Hiro preserves his brother’s memory by watching over Baymax, the machine his brother worked so hard to create.

2) “I am the sand in the bottom half of the hourglass (glass, glass) / I try to picture me without you but I can’t / ‘Cause we could be immortals, immortals / Just not for long, for long”

“The sand in the bottom half of the hourglass” is the time that has already passed and is waiting to pass again. Where Hiro’s brother has no time left, Hiro’s hourglass is going to continue getting flipped over. Moreover, the hourglass has two important parts: the top and the bottom half. These halves continually take one another’s roles. Where Tadashi played the heroic role, now Hiro must step up to become the hero. (On a side note, I’m pretty sure Hiro is meant to sound like Hero–the movie is called “Big Hero 6,” after all.) In the movie, Hiro has a hard time dealing with his brother’s death. In essence, he tries to “picture [himself] without [Tadashi] but [he] can’t.” Hiro learns to accept that Tadashi will be remembered through his friends and family (and Baymax), and in this way, Tadashi is immortalized. The idea with being immortal is also consistent with the scene the song plays in, where the group “suits up,” if you will. Still, no one can remain forever. The paradox of being immortal but “not for long.” Words, stories, and memories may immortalize a person in a way, but it’s not full immortality; everything that we know has an end.

3) “If we meet forever now, you pull the blackout curtains down”

This line confuses me. “Blackout curtains” are curtains designed to block out all light. The word “forever” links the line to the idea of immortality, but this line has a more ominous feel because it’s a forever without light. It could be a reference to death, since that’s the only time Hiro could “meet forever” with his dead brother. Or I could be misreading it. If you have any theories, please comment below.

4) “Sometimes the only payoff for having any faith / Is when it’s tested again and again everyday / I’m still comparing your past to my future / It might be over, but they’re not sutures”

The first lines are fairly straightforward; sometimes the only reward for believing in something is having your belief tested. In the testing of that belief, you become stronger, both in that belief and in your resilience. The third line is my favorite. At first I thought it meant Hiro was still expecting to have Tadashi in his future, but the word “comparing” suggests something else. Much of this song discusses how Hiro’s stepping up to take Tadashi’s place, in a way. He’s comparing what Tadashi has done to what he hopes to accomplish. In essence, he hopes he becomes just as great as his big brother. I think the “it” of the final line is “your past.” “Sutures” are stitches for a deep wound to help it heal. Tadashi’s life may be over, but it’s not stitched up. And as long as the person responsible for Tadashi’s life is around, Hiro believes he’ll have trouble healing from the grief. That’s why he tries to take Tadashi’s role in the first place; he wants to stitch up loose ends in Tadashi’s death and “stitch” himself up in the process. The reference to sutures is also fitting because baymax was created as a personal health care companion. As such, his job is to take care of wounds (internal and external), like by suturing a wound.

I love FOB. This isn’t the last song of theirs I’ll analyze, I guarantee.

In any case, I hope you picked up on my shameless plug for “Big Hero Six.” If the Oscars tell you anything, it’s an animation worth seeing.