Damien Rice: Nine Crimes Meaning
Song Released: 2006
Nine Crimes Lyrics
This is not what I do
It's the wrong kind of place
To be thinking of you
It's the wrong time
For somebody new
It's a small crime
And I've got no excuse
Is that alright?
Give my gun away when it's loaded
1TOP RATED#1 top rated interpretation:
This song is hauntingly beautiful, at the same time it’s deeply disturbing. Both partners have cheated, and they’re grappling not only with their own conscience but also with the fact that their relationship is at a crossroad. Not to simplify things, this is fairly commonplace for a lot of couples – they get back together or they move on their separate ways. But, oh, “9 Crimes” is so much more than commonplace. The video is brilliant is in its horrifying imagery. It’s beautiful, even a tad romantic, while covering the ugliness of each partner’s deed and guilt.
So, here goes my interpretation… There are overtones of violence that we cannot ignore. First, she’s disembodied. Yes, we can take a psychological view and say that her head (i.e., judgment, conscience) got separated from her body (i.e., sensuality, temptation). Fair enough, as a metaphor. But let me use the phrase ‘cut off’ to speak to her head, and it’s literally a sharper meaning. Second, the “loaded gun” is, granted, another metaphor, but in reality it’s a very powerful image. Think of words like ‘lethal.’ Third, the slingshot at the end is a relatively benign thing, in the realm of children’s play. But in view of her fragility, the effects of such a slingshot are devastating, as we see. She literally breaks apart and dies in pieces.
The song and video speak to our flawed humanity and therefore our imperfect relationships. “Leave me out with the waste” isn’t just an expression of guilt. No, guilt is something you feel after doing something wrong, you correct it, and you move on. This song phrase speaks to a deeper kind of shame. To belong amidst the trash, as the video clearly portrays, is to feel a more profound sense of lowness or badness. The fact that she is like a helium-filled balloon is to convey the vulnerability of herself as well as her almost angelic, floating beauty. All of her is destroyed, in the end – first, by having been ‘cut off’ from her body, then by the children’s slingshot.
Now, regarding him. He, too, apparently cheated on her. While he echoes her words and seems to feel similarly as she does, the nature of his psychology is quite different, I argue. On the face of things, his guilt doesn’t seem as profound as hers. And he certainly doesn’t seem as vulnerable or incomplete as she is. He’s portrayed in full body, after all, and he isn’t shot by those darn children! So, here’s the last piece of my interpretation… I’d like to argue that the song and video are largely about him than anything else. She represents a sort of mirror to him, or more accurately a reflection of things inside him – his own desire and temptations, longing for love, and, yes, fragility, guilt, imperfection. Now, it’s easy and fair enough to say that this is a very sad, failed romance between two partners who’ve hurt each other by cheating. I very much agree with this. But in the realm of art and psychology, this doesn’t preclude the idea that he is actually alone in the video. He may be grappling with different parts of himself. Imagine that he’s standing in front of a mirror, after having cheated on his lover, and he’s looking at himself in the reflection with a sense of disgust, even hatred with what he’s done to her. Imagine he himself being split off into two parts: (a) the better judgment and conscience (the one looking in the mirror), and (b) the cheating, lustful part (the one being looked at). My points about her being disembodied, above, may be a metaphor not so much about the lady, but more about him. In the end, the slingshot breaks up this metaphor. While she seemed like a helium-filled balloon, she was more like a Christmas ornament or precious vase. So, finally, imagine this having happened in reality: He is looking at the mirror, and out of disgust strikes what he sees of himself (again, the cheating part) and there is broken glass having fallen down on the floor!
What makes this all complex and amazing is that Damien Rice and the video director are using multiple metaphors (gun, slingshot) and there are meaning interlaced into meanings (humanity, relationship). I hold to my argument at the beginning about the violent overtones here, with ‘loaded gun’ referring to rage, shame, hatred etc. “Give my gun away when it's loaded,” presumably for “you” to use it to shoot “me.” “If you don't shoot it how am I supposed to hold it” is a bit of an odd thing to say, but I argue that it’s a bizarre kind of ‘taking turns’ at shooting ‘each other’ – that is, use it on me first, then I’ll use it on you. It’s not as bizarre, though, if you subscribe to my notion that he’s alone and he’s looking at himself in the mirror. So you can imagine him shooting his reflection first, then shooting himself!
Again, odd… but ultimately brilliant, profound, beautiful!
Best regards, and thanks for reading this!
Ron Villejo, PhD
BTW: Because I am the PoetryGuy, I wrote a poem of my interpretation of this. If anyone is interested, please e-mail at email@example.com and I'd be happy to send it to you!
2TOP RATED#2 top rated interpretation:anonymous May 5th 2009 report
"leave me out with the waste, this is not what I do"- She feels like trash for what she has done, and is down in the dumps so to speak, because she is not normally someone who cheats.
"Wrong kind of place to be thinking of you"- This references the point in her life that she is at. Basically, she is thinking of another man while she is with her boyfriend.
“It’s the wrong time for someone new”- She is in a relationship with some she though she has/had feeling for. She doesn’t want to breakup with her boyfriend for another man. She feels guilty about the situation she is in.
“It’s a small crime, and I’ve got no excuse”- By having an emotional/physical affair, she broke the commitment she made to her boyfriend, and there is no justification…she is guilty for doing what she did.
“Is that alright”- Her heart is asking her conscience to justify what she has done.
“Give my gun away when it is already loaded”- the reference to the gun is a reference to her heart. She is asking herself how could she cheat on her boyfriend when her heart is “loaded” or filled with love for her current boyfriend. Even though her heart is filled with love for her boyfriend, she is thinking about giving it to the man she is cheating with. She is struggling with the situation and having feelings for more than one person.
“Is that alright”- She is asking herself if it is okay to give away her heart that still has love for her boyfriend to the man she is cheating with. She is questioning how long she can continue to live the lie..the lie being that she has a whole heart to give either one of the men at this point.
“If you don’t shoot it, how am I supposed to hold it”- Meaning she doesn't have the power to end it with either person. She needs either the boyfriend or the man she is cheating with to end things. Otherwise, she doesn't know how long she can hold on because of the conflict of having feelings for both of them. If someone doesn’t shoot her down, she is not sure how much longer she can live the lie.
“Is that alright” for her to end it with one person for a relationship with another.
“Is that alright, yeah, with you? Asking the man she is cheating with if he is okay with the situation she is in, knowing he wants to be with her even though she is still involved with her boyfriend. She is infering that he needs to end it since she can't, and if he doesn't, she is not sure how much longer she can continue to deal with the conflict.
“leave me out with the waste”- He feels bad for getting involved with someone who is in a relationship, while he too, is in a relationship, but feels worse because of the conflict he has cause the woman he is cheating with.
“This is not what I do”- Hurt the person he is involved with by cheating on her, and hurt the person he is cheating with because he doesn't want to end it with her knowing she can't continue with the relationship with him.
“It’s the wrong place to be cheating on you”- When he is with his girlfriend he feels like he is cheating on the girl he is cheating with. Basically, cheating on your girlfriend by going home to your wife.
“It’s the wrong time”- he is also involved with someone else.
“She’s pulling me through”- He can sense that his feelings are changing, and that his feelings for the woman he is cheating with are stronger than the feelings for his girlfriend...and those feelings for her are what is getting him through, enabling him to continue with the affair.
“It’s a small crime and I’ve got no excuse”- Knows it’s wrong to be cheating on his girlfriend with someone who is cheating on their boyfriend. Basically, two wrongs don't make it right.
Duet…”Is that alright”- Knowing the "other woman" is struggling with the situation more so than he is, he is asking himself if it is still okay to be with her.
“Is that alright with you, NO”- He comes to the realization that not only was it wrong to cheat, but it was not okay to continue to cheat with her when he knew how much she was struggling with the fact she was also cheating on her boyfriend. The broken pieces at the end of the video seem to indicate he only realized it was not okay to do what they were doing only after the girl he was cheating with fell apart and could no longer do it. Basically, he broke both of thier hearts.
3TOP RATED#3 top rated interpretation:anonymous Feb 5th 2008 report
It's mostly about temptation.
Here's the analysis:
"Leave me out with the waste, this is not what I do" - she feels like trash, she doesn't normally consider cheating.
"It's the wrong kind of place to be thinking of you" - the wrong place in her life to be thinking of another lover.
"It's the wrong time for somebody new" - she's already in a relationship.
"It's a small crime, and I've got no excuse" - her relationship is good, there's no reason she should be considering this.
"Is that alright with you" - in this segment, the "you" switches meaning, referring to her conscience... She's calling upon conscience to solve this for her.
"Give my gun away when it's loaded" - a loaded gun is a defense mechanism. giving away a loaded gun is putting down your defenses, and in this case putting aside morality and giving into temptation.
"If you don't shoot it, how am I supposed to hold it?" - if her conscience isn't going to shoot down temptation, what's the point in even resisting it.
...and the same for Damien's part.
and at the end:
"Is that alright with you? No." - their conscience finally answered the question, but only after the duet climax of the song (i.e. The crime's been committed). The soft ending of the song coupled with declared "no" is guilt.
anonymous Sep 24th 2021 report
Looking back at this song with a little more life experience and perspective... and having the impression that Damian can sometimes be crude and direct here is a simple interpretation of the loaded gun:
It is about a sexless marriage. The guy refers to his blue balls as a loaded gun. He gives it away when it’s loaded. If his wife doesn’t “shoot” it how is he supposed to control himself - I.e “hold the gun”. He can’t be trusted with a loaded gun and will unload elsewhere.
I love all the other interpretations and how much energy people put into this. Sometimes there isn’t a beautiful interpretation, sometimes it’s just harsh.
Love to all
anonymous Dec 9th 2019 report
I believe this song is about a couple who's relationship is strained to the point they are using cheating just to fill a void they can't seem to fill with eachother.
"She's pulling me through" and "its the wrong time for somebody new" suggests they still love eachother but are using cheating simply to relieve the pain in the relationship.
"Give my gun away when its loaded" is referring to the built up pain that they both are desperately trying to explain (give away) to the other person in hopes they will make things right and aknowledge what's going on.
"If you don't shoot it, how'm I sposed to hold it" is saying
If I keep telling you what's wrong and you don't care enough to do anything about it, how am I supposed to continue holding on to this pain by myself?
The couple has reached a crossroads and neither of them can be what the other wants them to be, so they are both driven to cheat out of desperation.
They feel like trash because they both want the relationship to work, but the people who they are having affairs with are the only people who are giving them what they need.
I think the "loaded gun" is different for both people. The man could feel ignored because she is not intimate with him anymore.
The woman could be upset that he doesn't seem to be attentive or loving anymore.
Its so easy to get into a circle like that in a relationship where you both fight tooth and nail for things to work, but no matter what you just feel hurt and empty and would do almost anything just to not feel that way anymore.
I think that's what this song is trying to express. That no matter how much you love someone or want things to work, if you feel empty and broken for long enough you have to decide if its "alright" to stop feeling the pain and emptiness. When you love someone and you just aren't ready to let go...you just want something or someone to get you through the pain.
anonymous Sep 29th 2018 report
Having just painfully experienced it myself, I interpret this song as a woman making a choice no one else can make. Not the Supreme Court, not her parents, not her religion and most notably not her man. In my interpretation, She is speaking of having an abortion and how does the other partner get a say? “Give my gun away when it’s loaded” (give the choice to end it to someone else)
Wrong time to be cheating on you..He doesn’t want to “cheat her” by “selfishly” (by means of having her bring to term something she doesn’t want) wanting it or not wanting it. “give my gun away when it’s loaded” can be a metaphor for willpower/ choice/ made up mind?
Anyways, not the happiest interpretation but how else can one answer such an awful conundrum ?
9 crimes = 9 months lost
Small crime = an early termination
Wrong time for sombody New
This song is about having to make an impossible choice where they are conflicted by differing choices.
Who owns the choice?
Please don’t politicize it here. Think it but no need to write it to me here.
Just sharing an interpretation of art that hopefully has us asking tough questions and finding our own insights.
anonymous Nov 29th 2017 report
The whole song is about giving in to sexual temptation between a man and woman. It builds to a climax in the duet and the feeling of guilt/regret at the end after the sexual release when Damien sings "No". Gun = need for sexual release. Couldn't be more clear.
anonymous Jul 15th 2017 report
It's the wrong place to be cheating on you.
It's in the astral world
He found his twin flame but it was too late b/c he loves his soul mate
anonymous Mar 11th 2017 report
I haven't read this interpretation anywhere yet, though I always think about it:
I feel like he's just lost his wife and immediately starts a relationship with another girl, but still feels like he is cheating on his wife.
The new girlfriend feels like she should leave him to get over his grief and sings to him.
"Leave me out with the waste, this is not what I do" --> I shouldn't be taking you away from your feelings toward your wife.
"It's the wrong kind of place to be thinking of you" --> I shouldn't fall in love with you now, as if I'm happy your wife died.
"It's the wrong time for somebody new" --> you're not ready yet, you need your own time first, before you can move on.
And he sings to his wife about his new girlfriend and how he shouldn't do that, because he still belongs to his wife.
"It's the wrong kind of place to be cheating on you" --> it's as if you still live with me, having a new girlfriend feels like cheating.
"it's the wrong time, she's pulling me through" --> just after we buried you, but this girl gets me to go on with my life...
"is that alright with you? Give my gun away when it's loaded" --> Would it be okay with you if I moved on with this new girl, even though you're still mine, I still belong to you (it's loaded)?
It might completely not be what was meant with the song but it's a beautiful meaning to me. Gives it a bittersweet touch.
anonymous May 13th 2016 report
You are married/in a relationship.
You unexpectedly feel strong feelings for another one.
You feel like trash
It is not something you do/expected/wanted.
They both know it is wrong
The excitement of finding each other has mixed feelings of love, excitement, new thing.
She tries to run from it, he pursues her. She can not run and returns. They both feel new strong love. They KNOW it is a loaded gun and that it can end bad. Is that alright ? Her heart asks her mind.
They are caught. Doesn't matter by whom, even a child.A small conversation/gossip breaks the relationship. It breaks her also. She is left without either lover. He is alive but dead.
anonymous Dec 5th 2015 report
It is a song about cheating, and the complex emotions involved in cheating. The chorus, "Is that alright?" seems to allude to the difficulty when you love somebody, and you've wronged that person by cheating, and now you have to walk on eggshells with that person.
You also have to deal with the third wheel in the relationship, the other party you cheated with, so sometimes you have to, well, get permission from the person you're committed to just to TALK to the other party and wrap things up.
"Is that alright?" There's a constant pleading, "Is that alright?" But sometimes it's angry, almost sarcastic. IS THAT ALRIGHT? I did this because you didn't love me enough...can I just go out by myself? Is that alright?
Unlike others who think the loaded gun represents the heart, I think it alludes to reproduction. A loaded gun is more like a penis loaded with sperm, or an ovary packed with eggs, than a heart. Life gets really complicated when, well, as a result of this affair there's a pregnancy. Giving one's gun away when it's loaded refers to getting knocked up, or knocking somebody up.
So, the first part of the song...leave me out, with the waste, this is not what I do. Yes, I agree, she feels like trash for what she's done. She's been unfaithful.
And how it's the "wrong kind of place to be thinking of you." How odd, to think of the person you're committed to, while in the midst of cheating. And yet it happens. Cheating can be a carnal thing, not a thing of the heart. So when you're done cheating, you are drawn to the person you love.
The fact two voices sing the song seems to allude to the fact that "vengeance cheating" happens. They're both in a cheating mess. But when I hear "is that alright," what I get, over and over, is that odd feeling you have when you've wronged the other person, and now you have to walk on eggshells. You have to constantly ask, "Is that alright?" And yet you also blame the other person for putting you in this position by, well, not loving you enough. IS THAT ALRIGHT? Is it alright for me to be LOVED?
A haunting, beautiful song about sad, complex human behavior.
anonymous Dec 13th 2014 report
I think the lyrics intend to imply the true feelings of love for another and the fact that being in love with someone else can make you feel like crap when you can't hurt another ones feelings. However the people that you have been with first draw you back and make you feel as though you cannot break their hearts. This gives us the idea that she is guilty for what she has done and should be left out by the "waste".
She is still in love with her boyfriend but she has begun to date someone else. When your heart is so full of love you have to share it with someone and her boyfriend is not ready to be that person. Either because he is going through something (job loss) that is distracting him,or there is someone else but he is not committing to her.
It is a small crime. This is the first time she is doing it, the first date with someone else.
She still loves him but her heart is too full not to find expression. Just like mine is.
anonymous Mar 6th 2013 report
I don't think that this song is about 'cheating' in the traditional way.
It sounds more like the two persons are involved with each other in a relationship that isn't working. It is the wrong timing, and somehow they know that continuing this relationship is wrong, and that they should know better, but neither has the courage to end it because they are too weak to say good bye.
"Leave me out with the waste" - She is telling him to leave him, thus implying that she doesn't have the courage to end it herself.
"Give my gun away when it's loaded" - This refers to still having feelings or lust for the other person, which makes it hard to leave him.
"If you don't shoot it how am I supposed to hold it?" This phrase is ambivalent I think. She wants the other person to "shoot it", which could mean both ending the relationship or take it to the next step. Altso it refers to her waiting for him to do something. She is stuck in the middle and unable to do anything.
The "cheating" and the "crime" that the text mentions are metaphors. There's certainly no criminal activities mentioned, and not necessary any cheating either. It just plays on the fact that neither of the percipients are being "true" to themselves or each other.
anonymous Feb 15th 2013 report
I agree with most of the upper interpretations. exept giving away the loaded gun. I think it's about sexual desire. "if you can't satify me anymore. i need someone who can'.
is that alright yeah?.. reffering to own guilt. to give my gun away when it's loaded:> releashing the sexual desire when it's at peak.
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Oct 18th 2011 report
I really dont get where you all get the cheatting thing from. Its like poetry, quotes, and metaphor's used to describe something, a feeling. I take it nobody here reads quotes or poetry? Like love is like a loaded gun? Leave out with the waste i feel like trash? Just because they use the word cheat dosent mean he is cheating. Its a feeling they say small crime to clue you in, and cheating isnt a small crime. This song is clearly about 2 people who were and still are in love with eachother, the thing is they never spoke on how they felt thus the relationship ended. So they decided to move on. In the process they are still thinking of eachother,when they are with different people, thus it is a small crime.I relate to this song because i know what its like to feel guilty trying to be with someone else knowing another has my heart, and it feels like cheating you have no love for this person yet you sleep with them and evrything.Even at the end they talk about moving on when they know they love eachother dearly asking if thats all right?, And they both agree at the end that its not all right. People need to stop taking one word from the song and turning into something its not, cheating isnt a small crime but the feeling that you are when you love some one is.
anonymous Aug 4th 2011 report
The couple is estranged, hurt, but neither feel like the relationship is over, but they are still in love. They are at different places, a pub, a party, and are assuaging their perspective pain with other people, neither of whom is anything more than a tool to use for the evening. He has gone a bit farther with it than she has, but both are cheating. The other woman is pulling him through, i.e., giving him what he needs to distract himself right now. They both feel horrible about it, and imagine asking the other if they really even *care*, if this is all right with the other, what they're doing, and really, if they're all right with what they're doing themselves.
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