Owl City: Fireflies Meaning
Song Released: 2009
If ten million fireflies
Lit up the world as I fell asleep
Cause they fill the open air,
And leave teardrops everywhere,you'd think me rude but I would just stand, and stare
I'd like to make myself...
At the heart of this song there seems to be a yearning or a desire to escape back to childhood innocence. Upon first hearing the song, I was intrigued by the melody and simple lyrics; it wasn't until I actually questioned the artists intent that I began seeing the deeper meaning of Adam Young's lyrics. The song starts by telling us we would "not believe" our eyes, a statement that suggests the song will cover some sort of fantastic occurrence. Then the song progresses into a dream like quality. The speaker actually speaks of fireflies as if they were surrounded by them, but I can't help believe the fireflies are supposed to stand for a specific event or situation. Hence the question: Who would catch fireflies? The answer: innocent children. The song speaks about the innocence of youth and how quickly that innocence escapes us. The chorus says "I'd LIKE to make myself believe" suggesting a desire of something that can not be completely accomplished. The speaker wants to believe earth moves slowly; if he can't believe that simple statement, it must mean the opposite is true--planet Earth spins much too fast. In other words, time passes by much too quickly. The speaker then talks about the desire to remain to remain in that dream trance instead of waking up to reality, because within that dream trance is the innocence of youth. An innocence and naivety that allows a simple act--catching fireflies--to become a magical excursion into a wonderland of possibility and adventure. The point of the song seems to speak about the need to hold onto and embrace (maybe even slip back into) our child hood innocence so the reality of growing up does not completely take away the magic and joy the world has to offer. Simply put: We are all forced to give up our childhood too soon. We need more fireflies and rooms full of toys (video) to keep our lives simple and innocent.
anonymous Apr 2nd, 2010 4:48am report
This is not an interpretation but rather a question that has crossed my mind. Could the fireflies possibly resemble camera flashes? In my view this song is about time moving too quickly and the overall fear of growing up. The reason this question has crossed my mind is that, if we follow the previous interpretation as our general meaning, it makes sense because photographs are basically pauses in time that preserve an image of an unaged you. I see these "camera flashes" as pauses in time that protect him from his fear of growing up and in that he thrives on them. In the line "I'd gather them and keep them in a jar," directly translates to, in my mind, his desperate preservation of the past. "To ten million fireflies, I'm weird cuz I hate goodbyes," just offers more proof that he does not want to lose these precious pauses in time but he does it anyway because in order to grow up and move on we must first let go of the past. In the line "please take me away from here," it shows his longing and inability to leave his dream world that is the past. My question has become an interpretation lol, well there's my two cents, hopefully I've given everyone an idea to work with.
Lily Martin Dec 12th, 2015 12:06pm report
I think it's about his childhood. He is singing about sleep and how he would rather be awake, which suggests he would want to go back to his childhood and make time move slower. The words 'I like to make myself believe that Planet Earth turns slowly' means the says go slower. But the biggest hint that it is about being about his childhood are all of the toys around him from his childhood.
anonymous Feb 22nd, 15:59 report
He was sexually abused as a child and this song describes that.
anonymous Feb 21st, 16:21 report
The song is expressing the wonders of Astral Projection, a phenomenon where your consciousness, or spirit, leaves your physical body while you sleep. During this, you are not bound by the laws of physics, and can therefore fly, create things from thought, travel the universe, see past and future events, communicate with spiritually higher beings, and much more. This can be recognized from phrases like "stay awake when I'm asleep", "too tired to fall asleep" (your physical body needs rest, but your spirit does not), and talks frequently about sleeping and dreams.
anonymous Feb 21st, 02:39 report
It's about his insomnia
anonymous Feb 20th, 20:44 report
He is talking about his childhood because the whole song is about not sleeping and wanting to stay up late, which is what every lid wants to do. He misses it and the fireflies could also be symbolic for childhood because many kids would catch fireflies as kids.
anonymous Jan 29th, 1:20am report
To tell it straight, this song is about what happens when you learn to dream.
anonymous Nov 5th, 11:45am report
Its about lucid dreaming. He literally sees millions of fireflies, then flies to space and sees earth, etc.
anonymous Oct 24th, 10:26pm report
It is about not everything being as it seems and we should just accept it and move on.
anonymous Jul 3rd, 2016 7:45am report
It's about his fame, first him having it and having to live up to the expectations of the fame, then him slowly realizing that his fans *The fireflies* He gets hugs from the fans explaining the fireflies hugging him, and then he slowly starts to lose his fame in the end.
anonymous May 17th, 2016 5:42pm report
I believe it is a sort of sad, melancholy way of saying that one of two things.
Either first, it is about childhood, and going back to a point where everything was lies, but happier. He could have mor time to do the things he wanted to and ignore what h regrets. Have more Tim to be a child.
Or second, it is about fame, the fireflies being his fans. The limne saying "I get a thousand hugs from ten thousand lightning bugs, as they try to teach me how to dance'" could be referring to them trying to get him to join in, trying to show him things, trying to get his attention.
anonymous Apr 29th, 2016 4:48pm report
In my opinion since Adam has autism the song to me is about the world thinking he is weird but he is the one who thinks they are weird with the way he thinks different. I know this because I am a mild aspie.
anonymous Mar 21st, 2016 3:22pm report
i think that this song is just about a dreamworld. everything that is going on is happening in his dream,and perhaps he prefers dreaming than actually living life "it's hard to say that id rather stay awake when im asleep". he is unhappy with reality, and wishes he could stay in this dream forever, and never wake up.
anonymous Mar 4th, 2016 3:39pm report
You're all fools. This song isn't a political statement. Or a religious one either. Yes there is some childhood nostalgia and magic portrayed. But I believe that this isn't even metaphorical dreams we are talking about. I knew what his song was about the moment I heard it: Growing up and living with insomnia. The fireflies he counts I believe are those glow in the dark star stickers that most kids like me grew up with in the 90's. I weep everytime I hear this song because I myself have experienced "getting tired of counting sheep" and being exhausted yet still "too tired to sleep". The "I like to make myself believe that planet earth spins slowly" line is a metiphore of his mind and thoughts spinning too fast as he tries to convince them to slow down long enough for him to finally sleep. The toys and things in the room moving and blinking faster and faster also illustrate this. He is also experiencing some fascination and possibly mild hallucinations due to his insomnia too. That's why as a child experiencing this can be both exciting and scary or frustrating. There is a conflict inside that you feel that this one foot in reality and one foot in the dream world. Are very interesting but also too exhausting too stay in forever. As someone who is creative it can be excellent fodder for artistic inspiration and can (and usually is) what is used for your craft whatever it may be (painting, poetry, lyrics to a song....) he also mentions "leave my door open a crack because I feel like such an insomniac" while the chorus sings "please take me away from here". "Here" being the in between world of not asleep but dreaming awake. Its a song and video that is him as a child fascinated as well as devastated by his newfound discovery of his insomnia. The "I keep some in a jar" bit is him taking his awake dreams into his sleep world and dreaming them there instead. People who have very severe insomnia oftentimes also experience very vivid dreams. Which is why he mentions if his dreams get "real bizarre". And the disco ball hanging by a thread is his sanity because his imagination and creativity are running too rampant for him to handle.
anonymous Jan 9th, 2016 1:00am report
Adam Young is a devout Christian – we know that from his recording of “In Christ Alone”. One of the ways in which Christian artists who are in the secular music business hide their messages is to speak with the voice of someone whom they are not. In this case, it’s a Christian who is experiencing the challenge of being pulled into another world where the ethos of Christianity is replaced by an ethos that tries to appear attractive, but to the one who is a Christian, is not. Undoubtedly, this is autobiographical. He is the one struggling with the pull of the dreams and the fireflies who would have him believe the dream world they inhabit is real.
"You would not believe your eyes
If ten million fireflies
Lit up the world as I fell asleep
'Cause they'd fill the open air
And leave tear drops everywhere
You'd think me rude
But I would just stand and stare"
Verse 1: I think the fireflies are the attractions of this world and the non-Christian friends he has in his world of fame as Adam Young, head of Owl City. Being “asleep” is a metaphor similar to Plato’s allegory – falling into “unawareness” of the truth. The fireflies refer to the people and attitudes that surround him in stardom, and try to convince him that they are the light – the truth – and it amazes him that these people think he would fall into the idea that this world of sleep has real value in life.
"I'd like to make myself believe
That planet Earth turns slowly
It's hard to say that I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep
'Cause everything is never as it seems"
Chorus: He muses – as one who at times gets lost in dreams filled with fireflies that bring unhappiness – that it would be nice to believe you could sleep through life with the illusion of happiness, and believe that there was plenty of time to enjoy it while still being able to wake up. But he knows that isn't so, pointing out that its hard to explain to those in the dream that he rather be awake – which is his awareness of the true meaning of life in faith – rather than asleep enjoying the adulation and light show associated with his fame. And, even though its hard to explain this to the fireflies – and to the agents and executives making him a big star – he knows that things aren’t as they seem within the dream world they are creating for him.
"'Cause I'd get a thousand hugs
From ten thousand lightning bugs
As they tried to teach me how to dance
A foxtrot above my head
A sock hop beneath my bed
The disco ball is just hanging by a thread
In verse 2 he says that these fireflies, now called more menacingly, “lightening bugs”, give him hugs and try to teach him how to enjoy their dream world of fame and fortune. They try to teach him the dance steps in every part of his life – so he can fit in to their sleeping world. But the disco ball, representing the core reality of their false world, is handing by a thread, perhaps even alluding to Jonathan Edwards image of sinners dangling from a spider web above a fire, precariously close to falling in “but for the grace of God”.
"Leave my door open just a crack
(Please take me away from here)
'Cause I feel like such an insomniac
(Please take me away from here)
Why do I tire of counting sheep?
(Please take me away from here)
When I'm far too tired to fall asleep
Bridge: His point is that its just takes too much effort to fit in, and he’s tired of trying. He doesn't want to lose touch with the real world - the awaking world, which is portrayed as a crack in the door. Being an insomniac is being a believer. And trying to fit into the world of fame is just exhausting for him, which is why he is too tired to fall asleep -- to tired of trying to fit in to fit in any more.
"To ten million fireflies
I'm weird 'cause I hate goodbyes
I got misty eyes as they said farewell
But I'll know where several are
If my dreams get real bizarre
'Cause I saved a few and I keep them in a jar
(Jar, jar, jar...)"
So, he decides he is not going to play the game by living in the dreams that all the fireflies pretend are real. He says this to his fans -- the ten million fireflies. He is not going to give into the deceptions and dance of fame any more. In the end, despite the huge number of fans pulling him towards their world of false happiness, and even though he loved them and found it hard to pull away completely, he did pull away. Oh, he still enjoys the fans, but he keeps the allure of the fame, and what it asks of him, carefully contained. He holds the jar – it does not hold him. He can still enjoy their light, but they do not encompass him in their dream world any more.
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