What does Counting Stars mean?

OneRepublic: Counting Stars Meaning

Album cover for Counting Stars album cover

Song Released: 2013

Counting Stars Lyrics

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be counting stars
Yeah, we'll be counting stars

I see this life
Like a swinging...


    #1 top rated interpretation:
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    Aug 19th 2013 !⃝


    One of the songs of decade, a future classic.

    If you watch the film clip there is little doubt that at least some of the lyrics pertain to religion and the meaning we give our religious beliefs.

    The crux of the song is found here "I feel something so right Doing the wrong thing"

    To me the lyricist is plainly torn and anxious about his lifestyle , which in his heart he knows to be against his religious beliefs

    Anyone who has even a remote belief in a higher power has no doubt had this internal dialogue with themselves much like this lyricist is now.

    There is also little doubt that he the lyricist is at a crossroads in his life "lve been prayin' hard" ..."Seek and ye shall find", a direct reference to Matthew 7:8.

    Ultimately the lyricist after much internal anguish and dialogue has to come to peace with himself and realising.."the lessons I learned "there are more important things than money and status. I also think the lyricist bemoans the fact that he has spent so much time "losing sleep" ie worry and anxiety about fleeting things, "making money, watch it burn " and muses to himself the perennial question about what gives our life real meaning and purpose.

    In fact he finds real meaning can be found in "counting stars" , ie having mindfulness with grateful disposition and sewing into relationships .


    #2 top rated interpretation:
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    Feb 8th 2014 !⃝

    I think this song is about losing sight of material things and going free with our dreams. Society has brought him down with all these basic things and he's waiting for the day society will take that turn for the better to follow future hopes, not drugs, money, etc.


    #3 top rated interpretation:
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    Jul 1st 2016 !⃝

    There is convincing evidence that the song “Counting Stars” by One Republic is suggestive of the desires of an afterlife, or life after death. The song suggests the hope for a life better than the mortal one in which we currently reside. Several symbols demonstrate this, the predominate one perhaps being that of no longer counting dollars (money being symbolic of pleasure in mortal life) and instead counting something far greater (represented as stars). Thus, the title of the song is “Counting Stars.” The following interpretation of the lyrics and music video are used to support this conclusion.
    Song lyrics
    • Lately I've been, I've been losing sleep; Dreaming about the things that we could be- The oxymoron evident here shows that the protagonist is losing sleep by doing the very thing that occurs in sleep: dreaming. This oxymoron is cleverly used to illustrate that for the protagonist sleep is no longer sufficient to happily dream of a better place, but that the dreams that he/she desires are beyond the bounds of this mortal life.

    • I see this life like a swinging vine; Swing my heart across the line; In my face is flashing signs; Seek it out and ye shall find.- The protagonist sees mortal life as delicate, like a swinging vine, with the line being formed by the vine as symbolizing death, or the boundary between mortal life and whatever comes after. The signs of what may lie on the other side of the line intrigue the protagonist by flashing in his face (signs of an afterlife). Thus, using a biblical phrase most similar to that spoken of by Jesus Christ in the New Testament, the protagonist concludes that if one “seeks it out, then they shall find.” It is of no coincidence that the protagonist should barrow this phrase from Christ since Jesus quite frequently spoke of the Kingdom of Heaven and what one must do in order to obtain it.

    • “Old, but I’m not that old; young but I’m not that bold”- suggestive of passing through death. The singer speaks wishfully of reaching the afterlife but reluctantly declares that though he is old enough to imagine what might lie on the other side, he is not old enough to die from natural causes. Then, considering that he isn’t old enough to die from natural causes, labels himself as young, but asserts that he is not bold enough to simply kill himself in order to discover the afterlife that he wishfully sings of. These two phrases also represent that though the protagonist is old enough to resist the conventional style of mortal life, he/she still considers themself too young and therefore not bold enough to entirely reject the social norms and conventions of mortal life.

    • I feel something so right [by] doing the wrong thing; I feel something so wrong [by] doing the right thing- the construction of these two phrases forms a type of literary parallelism, that creates a generalized feeling of discontent for the world in which the protagonist lives. In mortal life, people generally consider death a negative and very undesirable thing, however the protagonist of the song concludes the opposite: that death is desirable in order to leave behind this wretched mortal life. The phrases “Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly; Everything that kills me makes me feel alive” as later mentioned further serve to provide evidence for these feelings that the protagonist is experiencing. This phrase is also indicative of the resentment that the protagonist feels for the conventional way of doing things in the world.

    • “No more counting dollars; We’ll be counting *stars”- A comparison between the pleasure of the world (money/dollars), and the much greater, imagined pleasure that will follow in the afterlife, as symbolized by stars, and also represented as the lightbulb in the video.
    o “Take that money and watch it burn; Sink in the river the lessons I learned”- Again, the singer or protagonist of the song declares their distaste for the perceived pleasure of the world (money). To sink in the river the lessons learned in this life is suggestive that the singer essentially wishes to toss aside mortal life and aspires to reach a better life (one found after death). Burning and sinking here are both verbs suggestive of death.

    • Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly; Everything that kills me makes me feel alive- Again, indicative of wanting to die and discover a better life than the current one, as if mortal life truly isn’t living at all, but that through death one truly becomes alive.
    Music Video
    • Trickle of Water- the growing and passionate desire to reach the afterlife
    • The lightbulb- the representative hope of what the afterlife will be like (*star)
    • The preacher and his subjects- those living in mortal life who seek for more joy, and who imagine what the afterlife will be like
    o The strange dancing/trances/hypnotic moves are representative also of envisioning in a mad sort of way an afterlife or better place
    o Religion here is seen as an institution that speaks of the afterlife, but encourages others to pursue it through strange trances and visions.
    • Falling through the floor- the man who falls is symbolic of the protagonist’s desires realized. This man, who had longed for a better life (as is evidenced by his attending religious meetings) passes on to the afterlife. The preacher and those subjects that remain above are allowed to attempt to perceive what lies below them, but obtain no real clarity of what exists below, given that the hole beneath their feet is too narrow to permit true clarity.

  4. anonymous
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    Feb 22nd 2020 !⃝

    I would write that song to create the chapter of my life and to that next chapter is done I would write about that stars could be found in the stars, then we can be like famous or something but I’m creating my chapters of my life with my family and also it helps me write my poems into song lyrics it’s really helpful to write about poems and sing them and performing on stage and Grammys then we can be who we are and be like famous and do musicians like Adele, Kelsea ballerini, lady antebellum.

  5. anonymous
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    Aug 1st 2019 !⃝

    When I worked on this project but I used to be at the label but we’ve been to the studio and I’ve changed with my whole life but when we have work at the studio I worked with Jonas brothers and we have same time to get worked on.

  6. anonymous
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    Jul 27th 2019 !⃝

    I think to write this song to my faith and pray for my family and their friends at work but it’s a song from Ryan Tedder, Jonas brothers producer, he worked on counting stars for me and Jonas brothers, but we’re friends with him on Instagram. But we’re glad that we’re working our music together as a team and help each other out, but one of my favorite royalties are, Kate Middleton, she’s going to design amazing gowns and also tuxedos, but she’s really good with fashion and being style.

  7. anonymous
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    May 26th 2019 !⃝

    I think we’re recording at England but we’re going to have my boyfriend William to help us out. But he’s so nice and sweet, and he’s the best boyfriend. I would ask my boyfriend to do it with me, but his brother Harry came in the room and he had some tapes for me to record. Harry is so nice, and loving friend. He’s so nice to me, he really likes me.

  8. anonymous
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    May 21st 2018 !⃝

    There is a J in Greek. Jesus is the Hellenic version of Yeshua which is Jesus' name in Hebrew. This is the name he actually was called in His life, but Greek was a common language in that time so as the church grew many writings were written in Greek and people used His Greek name.

  9. anonymous
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    Feb 4th 2016 !⃝

    Actually if you read up on it and research before judging you will find that the singer is a proffessed christian!

  10. anonymous
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    Jan 29th 2015 !⃝

    I believe its him point blank telling you he sold his soul I feel something so right doing the wrong things says he has no feelings anymore he's gonna do whatever he wants and the alligator is a symbolof the beast alligators have no remorse they'll kill anything

  11. anonymous
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    Dec 20th 2014 !⃝

    The counting stars is having drugs, like this line:

    "everything that kills me makes fell alive

  12. anonymous
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    Aug 10th 2014 !⃝

    I believe it is about the band selling their souls to the devil for fame and the difficult choice it was to make. Counting dollars would be living hand to mouth. Counting stars would be fame. I'm not sure about the gator though. I don't know if it's life trying to eat him up, or constant fear of being continually watched by big brother. But I think the beginning of the video looking down the stairs and how dilapidated the house is is representative of the state in which they were in. I don't think it's about religion really. I think it's a voluntary control that people surrender to, much like religion.

  13. anonymous
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    Jun 8th 2014 !⃝

    I won't try to guess what the song writer's intent was, but I choose to view the lyrics through a Christian world view lens. God promises eternal life to those who believe in Him and persevere. "Counting stars" is the dream of that promise fulfilled. Paul in his writings gave One Republic the lyrics for the chorus. "Right doing the wrong thing and wrong doing the right thing" is reminiscent of Paul when he says "That which I will not to do, I do." It is an admission of the struggle to do the right thing through life. "Everything that kills me makes me feel alive." I love this line. It could be drugs, like some have said; however, it is broader in scope. The Bible is chuck full of warnings regarding worldly pleasures and the temporary gratification that comes with those pleasures that will ultimately lead to spiritual death. Overall, the lyrics pay respect to the struggles of living on earth and the promise of paradise to those who "seek" and "find."

  14. anonymous
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    May 29th 2014 !⃝

    it is about drugs. The phrase "everything that kills me..." is a term druggies use. Counting stars is because they are dizzy and drunk.

  15. anonymous
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    May 25th 2014 !⃝

    The meaning of the song becomes clear when we look at it through a psychoanalytic lens:

    "Money is the id itself, the primordially repressed, the collective unconscious appearing in specific denominations, that is, precise quanta or configurations of value, i.e., images. Let us define money as that which possibilizes the imagination. Monies are the riches of Pluto in which Hades' psychic images lie concealed."
    --James Hillman, Blue Fire

  16. anonymous
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    Jan 24th 2014 !⃝

    It sounds like you can't get out of the pit of human feelings. You have perfection, "And I don't think the world is sold." Then you have human feelings fighting that thought back, "We'll be counting stars." It's the toughest choice a person can make, whether to let love engulf them or let perfection take over. "Down this river every turn." Sounds like the decisions you make always winds up to your despair, to the decision. "I've been praying hard." Sounds like you have to decide, and you need guidance from God (I'm a Christian so don't judge me). But all the while, despair is hitting you hard, and the weight is crushing on you. But you can't decide.

  17. anonymous
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    Jan 23rd 2014 !⃝

    I too think its about being free. ...the lessons you learned...doing wrong....makes it feel right.....lately i've been losing sleep....from the lessons i've learned......no more dollars....let's count stars......great lyrics. .....have fun...no woo
    rries.......from the lessons i've learned.

  18. anonymous
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    Jan 22nd 2014 !⃝

    The thing about great songs is unspecific wording to allow the listener to interpret and apply these meanings to their own life whether for good or bad

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