What does When I Fall mean?

Barenaked Ladies: When I Fall Meaning

Album cover for When I Fall album cover

When I Fall Lyrics

I look straight in the window, try not to look below
Pretend I’m not up here, try counting sheep
But the sheep seem to shower off this office tower
Nine-point-eight straight down I can’t stop my knees.

Chorus:
I wish I could fly
From this...

  1. 1TOP RATED

    #1 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 31st 2011 !⃝

    This, in my opinion, is one of the greatest songs to have ever been written. I believe this song is literally about a window washer who is afraid of heights. Everyday he finds his workplace to be dangerous and wants to be in the comfort of his home with his family. At the same time, the glass in front of him reveals a juxtaposition between two opposite elements on opposing sides. He sees his reflection as a dirty house painter in contrast to the successful businessmen on the other side. The sight of the two elements together spark a desire to become successful. This means there are two things that he values highly: family and success. Every day, this man looks through the glass at what he aspires to become. He sees his goal right before his eyes, yet no matter how close he tries to get, he's blocked off by an unseen wall (the glass). The glass represents the challenges and obstacles in the way of his success. He knows the path to success is risky; he wonders if his family will be there if he fails, thus he'd have at least one item of high value.

    This is my interpretation of the song. I'm not sure if this is the meaning as the Barenaked Ladies intended; however, I believe this song is very inspirational, and as such it is one of my favourite songs.

  2. 2TOP RATED

    #2 top rated interpretation:
    anonymous
    click a star to vote
    May 31st 2005 !⃝

    The song is written from the point of view of a window washer doing his daily routine scrubbing a skyscraper. He's scared of heights and fed up with his job and his life and is longing for more.

    He starts to daydream about being one of the suits inside the boardroom, knowing that although it's not much better, he hates his current situation so much, he'd still love to switch places.

  3. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Feb 6th 2022 !⃝

    At first it seems like a song about suicide, envy, intrusive thoughts, and being scared of heights. There is the second verse however that seems to open up the central figure window washer to the idea that maybe his situation is better than the people on the safe side of the glass. As Pharaoh's tombs had their own architects buried alive only to die inside, he experiences the liberation of having the choice to die at his own election, having the agency to just dive off into his afterlife. He has no illusions he would survive; being out on the landing, insignificantly teetering on the edge of life and death,he knows both viscerally and intellectually that it is foolish to worry about getting hurt, like the people looking past him to the void, he wouldn't hurt at all. He would be annihilated.
    This newfound enlightenment is all but revoked as he realizes his significance to this place, his ultimate goal is to be unnoticed, insignificant, in fact the more remarkable the smears and marks on the glass the less his work is appreciated.
    In what makes this song the saddest, and what uproots the window cleaner's enlighenment is internalizing his insignificance. He realizes his goal is to not leave a mark at all: To leave clean glass and splatter free sidewalks.
    T he song depicts the slow realization that one is not only insignificant but insignificant as intended by virtue of the occupation. His fear, his revelation, his purpose, muted in favor of a postmodern religion as he prays to an entity if it would catch him if he fell to a beyond certain death.

  4. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jul 11th 2018 !⃝

    This is indeed a powerful song. I respectfully don't think it about suicide. I believe it's a mortality issue relative to falling from grace/falling into sin.

  5. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Oct 20th 2013 !⃝

    Anyone who has been so depressed that the only comfort would be to commit suicide will deeply feel these lyrics. He describes all the emotions that go along with the fears and doubts of committing the act.

  6. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 13th 2010 !⃝

    This song begins with a literal idea and then explores it metaphorically. A acrophobic window washer would probably hate his job: "i want to fly from this building". But flying implies the possibility of falling, so now we've got the idea of taking chances - in love, for instance ("would you catch me if i fall?"). The board members suggest how sometimes we fear failure more than death itself, but fear itself can be a tomb already.

    Stepping off the scaffold suggests wishing that things were different. (I don't see a suicide metaphor here, because who wants to end up in a shopping mall when they die? On the other hand, a scaffold is also where the doomed are executed by hanging, so that could be taken as a metaphor for a dead-end life).

    Painting suggests that he'd rather be doing something more creative with his life - but perhaps cleaning the mirror to see himself more clearly is the first step.

  7. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Apr 24th 2009 !⃝

    Not about suicide? Everyone needs to listen to this song some more!

    "the painting's creating"

    a reference to the dirt on the window, and his life

    "and I'm just earasing"

    He is cleaning the window, and thinking about ending his life

    "a crystal clear canvas is my masterpiece"

    A clean window - and a "blank" life.

    Through the entire song the lyric says "if I fall" But ends with "when I fall"

    This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
  8. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 17th 2007 !⃝

    This song is about a window washer who's afraid of heights, he doesn't contemplate suicide. The line is "its 9.8 straight down, I can't stop my knees"
    he knows that if he falls, hell die, and he's scared of falling. It just reinforces his fear of heights.

    The part about the pastor and his dead grandfather:

    "I wish I could step from this scaffold, on to soft green pastures, shopping, malls, or a bed with my family, and my pastor, and my grandfather who's dead"

    That just means he wishes he could be anywhere but where he is
    because he hates his job, but knows he has to provide for his family

    Incidentally, there was a book inspired by this song, called When I Fall.

  9. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Aug 28th 2006 !⃝

    The 9.8 is the acceleration due to gravity if one were to "fall"

  10. anonymous
    click a star to vote
    Jan 7th 2006 !⃝

    There's also hints of suicidal thoughts in this song, as referenced in the bridge, the thought of jumping hits him (9.8 straight down) along with being able to see his dead pastor and grandfather in the afterlife.

  11. JJett
    click a star to vote
    Aug 29th 2005 !⃝

    I think this is about taking chances in life. It is scary thing to let go of what we know to be secure and we want to make sure we don't "fall" when we take a risk.


More Barenaked Ladies songs »


 


Latest Articles

 


Submit Your Interpretation

[ want a different song? ]




Just Posted

Lemon Boy anonymous
Drama Club anonymous
Gravity anonymous
Our First Time anonymous
Nymphetamine anonymous
Liquid Smooth anonymous
Teddy Bear anonymous
New Divide anonymous
BOP anonymous
VIBEZ anonymous
Suge anonymous
Baby Sitter anonymous
Alone Again, Naturally anonymous
Patiently Waiting (Ft. Eminem) anonymous
Everytime anonymous

(We won't give out your email)