Panic! At The Disco: Northern Downpour Meaning
Song Released: 2008
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Northern Downpour Lyrics
Fantastic posing greed
Then we should feed our jewelery to the sea
For diamonds do appear to be
Just like broken glass to me
And then she said she can't believe
Genius only comes along
In storms of fabled...
anonymous Jan 17th, 2016 1:06pm report
The first thing I noticed when hearing this song is the constant reference to cardinal directions - "northern downpour", "when you were east", and weather vanes, which show in which direction the wind is blowing.
I think it's a song about appreciating the simple in life, about how seemingly insignificant things can often hold more weight than "diamonds", and how appreciation for these seemingly insignificant things will improve our happiness; it's also a song about moving on, about accepting that some things can never happen again and that other things will take their place.
To explain how I see this song, let us imagine two characters: a man and a woman. They could easily be any combination of genders (including non-binary), but seeing as Ryan Ross says the song is about girlfriends, and some evidence from the music video, I'm going to assume this combination of genders. The man is the one singing. The man is travelling north to south, the woman east to west, and they meet briefly somewhere. They strike up a conversation but inevitably they have to move on in their separate journeys and part ways.
"If all our life is but a dream
Fantastic posing greed
Then we should feed our jewelry to the sea
For diamonds do appear to be
Just like broken glass to me"
Pretty much everyone's already mentioned this, but this means that the man realizes that things we perceive as meaningful (in this case, riches) don't matter to him. "Fantastic posing greed" is a description of people - each individual on this planet is truly extraordinary, but our collective need for certain things, in this case money, makes us dress ourselves up as things we aren't, making us strive after wealth and/or fame when really most of our ambitions are fairly simple. I think this line is also an afterthought on the rest of the story, perhaps even the last line chronologically, but more on that later.
"And then she said she can't believe
Genius only comes along
In storms of fabled foreign tongues
Tripping eyes, and flooded lungs
Northern downpour sends its love"
The woman expresses regret that she can only ever talk to the man this one time in her life, that he has to be on his own separate journey which only intersects with hers at one point. She refers to him and his origin as "storms of fabled foreign tongues" - fabled foreign tongues referring to the fact that their journeys are so separate, and storms referring to how interesting he is as a person - and he somewhat humorously (perhaps even flirtatiously) replies "northern downpour sends its love" - that is, he repeats her sentiments and regret. If he is a storm from the north, that would make him a northern downpour.
"Hey moon, please forget to fall down
Hey moon, don't you go down"
I liked Valentynbrightside's connection of the moon to life being a dream - the man doesn't want the insane joy he receives from the little things in life to ever end.
Note that at around this point in the song, it changes from being a guitar and one vocal line with occasional piano (ie almost entirely just Brendon Urie) to adding more and more instruments. More on that later.
"Sugarcane in the easy mornin'
Weathervanes my one and lonely"
Ryan Ross also mentioned that in addition to girlfriends, the song was about touring. In other words, the man is starting to become famous and important. This is justified by sugarcane - a cash crop. In the United States, the country which P!ATD originates from, sugarcane can only grow in the most tropical and warm climates - that is, the South, which is where the man is going.
I think this verse means something very different here than it does later in the song. Here, the man takes legitimate happiness in the small money and fame that he gains, and when he sings "my one and lonely", he is actually referring to the weather vane, which told him to go south (towards wealth) in the first place.
At this point, the acoustic + limited vocals instrumentation, which had experienced some change earlier but was still largely unaffected, suddenly gains an obvious drum part and an electric guitar line. It suddenly makes us all stop wondering "Why the hell is Panic doing an acoustic single?" and instead makes us think "Oh, this is a Panic song." It stops being two guys writing some song and becomes a recognizable band. I think this change, as well as the increased complexity of the instrumentation, represents the fact that time has passed, and now the man has changed from "slowly becoming important" to "being important".
The next two verses ("The ink is running... call it home") are also a textbook case of something called a homophonic texture, which basically means there are multiple parts but one in particular, in this case the lone vocal line, can be recognized as the main melody. Almost all pop music is homophonic, and almost the entirety of this song is homophonic, but this part in particular seems to emphasize "Brendon's vocals and then everything else" more than any other part. Again, more on that later.
"The ink is running toward the page
It's chasin' off the days
Look back at both feet
And that winding knee"
Days turn into weeks turn into months turn into years, as Valentynbrightside mentioned. Time has passed. But even after all that, and the fame and wealth that the man has gained, what he truly cares about is his one chance meeting with the woman.
"I missed your skin when you were east
You clicked your heels and wished for me"
The man thinks back on his meeting with the woman, and he realizes - even before he had ever met her, he was yearning for her. He was yearning for the theoretical woman that he could meet by chance, even when she was east, before she had set out on her journey. He also realizes that she felt the same way about a theoretical man that she could meet. They both wanted to experience something, to see as many little things as possible.
"Through playful lips made of yarn
That fragile Capricorn
Unraveled words like moths upon old scarves"
In the United States, Capricorn (December 21 through January 19) pretty much directly translates to "the dead of winter". But such a cold winter could only be experienced in the North. I'm not quite as certain about this verse, but I think it means that before the man journeyed south for fame and riches, the simplicity of his previous life ("made of yarn") made him feel like his life was missing something, so he journeyed southward in search of fame and wealth despite it not really being what he wanted ("unraveled words" ie one's true self). This ties in with "fantastic posing greed" - originally, the man thought he wanted wealth and fame, but now he realizes that he really just wanted to experience the fantastic - people. Real connection to those around him. Something that he's largely lost by going south.
"I know the world's a broken bone
But melt your headaches, call it home"
One poster mentioned that Brendon Urie has cried trying to sing this line, so I'll try to analyze this line in particular since it's clearly significant. I think, especially in conjunction with the lines immediately preceding it, that this line is effectively saying "I know the world is a terrible place that makes you give up on yourself and what you really want, but in a land of utter darkness, what little light we get becomes that much brighter - take joy in being able to experience things like that conversation with that woman. Take joy in true connection with people. Take joy in surviving, living, thriving."
"Sugarcane in the easy mornin'
Weathervanes my one and lonely"
This line now means something very different than it did earlier. Now it is about the juxtaposition between the fame that the man has acquired ("sugarcane", "weathervanes") to the fact that he is still able to acknowledge who he really is and what he wants ("the easy mornin'", "my one and lonely").
A final note on the significance of the instrumentation: in the beginning, the simple instrumentation is meant to signify the lack of fame that the man has. Later, when more parts are added and the homophonic texture is highlighted, it is meant to show that the man has grown more fame but feels isolated from those around him. Later in the song, the multiple parts remain but it is much harder to identify one of them as dominant over the others - showing that the man has managed to find the connection that he desires despite finding himself in a position that would seemingly hinder this goal. In other words, he's able to accept that he gave up the simplicity given to him by the north, as well as that he will never meet the woman again, but that doesn't bug him, because he will always be able to appreciate the little things that he does have.
The next section requires assuming a lot of things I don't know about real people, but I'll write it anyway on the assumption that Ryan Ross and Brendon Urie will never actually read what I think about their history. In the extremely unlikely scenario that one of you is somehow reading this right now, I do not mean to tell anyone what to think about you two and this is simply how I am trying to imagine something that seems so strange to me.
I think Ryan Ross wrote this song because he realized that Panic was about to cross the point of no return with their next album. They were about to stop being some band and start being significant, not just from a music standpoint but as a piece of American, music, and indeed celebrity culture. He realized that each of the band members were going to have to make sacrifices to continue on their path of being a famous band. And he wrote the song to basically assure both the people who knew him and himself that even though Panic would become famous, they wouldn't change as people. They would still be the music nerd high school kids who started Panic in 2004. They wouldn't fall into the trap of trying to be something they weren't. And that even though the band's situation of having to please the masses was, effectively, a broken bone, the fact that they were all in it together would allow them the ability to call it home.
And why can't Brendon Urie sing this song without crying? Maybe because Ryan brought Brendon into the band, not the other way around, but Brendon is the one who has to finish what Ryan started. Maybe because Brendon is the only one of the four men who were in Panic in 2008 who is still in Panic in 2016, and he's wondering if maybe he should have left, too. Maybe because now that he's the only permanent member of Panic! at the Disco, he's lost the connection that the song emphasizes, he's lost the fact that all of the band members were in it together.
Maybe because when he imagines Panic! at the Disco, it is this era of Panic that he remembers. Maybe because he really doesn't want to "take back the crown", as he sings in Emperor's New Clothes, or "turn up the crazy" as he sings in Victorious. Maybe because singing those songs and then singing Northern Downpour forces him to acknowledge how much both he and Panic have changed. Maybe because he thinks "this isn't what Ryan would have wanted".
From a 2009 article about Ryan leaving the band:
"Ross said the split was largely due to creative differences between him and Panic! frontman Brendon Urie. Seems Urie wanted the band to explore a more polished pop sound (like the demo they posted on their Web site last week), while Ross — and, by extension, Walker — was interested in making retro-inspired rock.
Or, as he put it: 'Brendon’s more of a Peter Gabriel fan, and I’m more of a Ray Davies fan.'"
Northern Downpour is definitely Ryan's song. For Brendon to sing it today might feel a little like - dare I say it - selling out. Doing exactly what the song preaches against.
I think that no matter how much showmanship and presentation Brendon puts into his act, no matter how many Vines Brendon makes poking at his career of being "a rockstar" or writing the 12th bestselling iTunes song, on the inside he's just that 17 year old from 2004 who joined Panic because he wanted to have some fun with his friends. I think singing Northern Downpour causes his act to collapse and turns him into the person he really is.
Again, I don't claim to know anything about these two men, nor any other past member of Panic for that matter, but I do know that at some point, as one Youtuber mentioned, Panic! at the Disco seemed to become Brendon! at the Brendon.
But then, the song means something different to everyone. Such is the nature of art.
anonymous Jun 24th, 2017 6:23pm report
Its about how ryden is real and the government knows it
anonymous Nov 11th, 2015 11:26am report
It's about Ryden.
anonymous Dec 11th, 12:17pm report
Ummmmm....... it’s obviously about Ryden ......
anonymous Oct 30th, 10:01pm report
Ryden. definitely Ryden. no doubt. Ryden.
anonymous Jul 22nd, 2016 7:50am report
I have no idea why, but this song reminds me of the sea. It seems to me as if his life is flashing in front of his eyes, as he tries swims out into the sea, drowning. His lost love is on the top of his lungs, and he knows he's dying, but he doesn't have the will to resist.
anonymous Sep 20th, 2015 9:17pm report
anonymous Jun 29th, 2015 6:31pm report
This song is about a band member that has left.
"I know the worlds a broken bone, but melt your headaches, call it home."
That's the lead singer (Brendon) reassuring the band member that his troubles will be okay.
"Hey moon, please forget to fall down."
It's the lead saying that he wants the band member to have more to time to think about what he's doing to himself.
"For diamonds do appear to be, just like broken glass to me."It's Brendon trying to agree with the band members troubles.
I'm not quite sure if this is all true, I've seen videos of Brendon singing this and trying not to cry while singing it. And I've looked at comments and everyone is saying "I'm crying so hard right now, why did Spencer have to leave."
If you don't know why Spencer left, its because he had an addiction to pills and alcohol. He left because he wanted help.
anonymous Jun 8th, 2015 6:57pm report
Rydon. Feelings. Sadness...
anonymous May 31st, 2014 5:25am report
To me, this song is about a boy and a girl who are in love and in a relationship. The girl, for some reason, probably drug abuse (tripping eyes and flooded lungs) dies, (northern downpour sends its love) leaving the boy broken hearted. When it says "you are at the top of my lungs," he is screaming for her. He wants her back but she is dead. So basically the whole song is about him reliving their memories and how he misses her. I think it is also a form of a suicide note in a way. "Hey moon, please forget to fall down," maybe he's killing himself to be with her and it's too late but he's afraid of either death or how his loved ones will react. Also it says "the ink is running toward the page," maybe he's crying as he's writing the note.
anonymous Nov 11th, 2012 11:01am report
the part about the "click my heels and wish" is from the wizard of oz.. dorothy has to click the heels of her magical shoes when she wishes to go home.
so he wishes he could click his shoes and go to the girl he loves.
anonymous Apr 22nd, 2012 4:58am report
I think this song is about a drug addiction, possibly crack cocaine and a relationship. It talks about "tripping eyes and flooded lungs" both things that are associated with crack and other drugs. I think the most telling part is when they reference broken glass, because glass is crushed up (broken) and snorted along with drugs to make sure that they are absorbed quickly. The person he misses might have been driven away by substance abuse, and now he realizes his mistake.
anonymous Sep 16th, 2011 9:27am report
From an earlier interpretation: "I've read a lot of really good interpretations of this song about how it's about girlfriends and stuff and although that is what ryan ross said it was about I think this song has a much deeper meaning. When brendon urie recently sang this he started crying...it could be because he missed ryan and jon but why only in this song? he also said that he had cried all the other days on tour when he sung this song. The line he was unable to finish was "i know the world's a broken bone, but melt your headaches call it home""
Perhaps it's because the line "I know the world's a broken bone, but melt your headaches, call it home" was Ryan's way of saying, "Even though we argue and things aren't perfect, we're still in this together. We still belong together."
anonymous Sep 16th, 2011 9:24am report
There are so many ways to interpret this song, but I personally believe that it was more than just Ryan talking about his girlfriend, or about classic stories, because it must have meant a lot to Brendon, since Panic! at the Disco had to cut from their sets because Brendon would cry every time they played it live.
This interpretation has been marked as poor. view anyway
anonymous Jul 12th, 2011 7:55am report
Contrary to many others who have posted, I dont think this song should be viewed as a story. It appears to literally be a dream, with surrealist movement between subjects, rather than just a narrative about a relationship.
P@TD frequentley use imagery to create a scene in the listeners head, and the bizare lyrics are an example of this.
The title of the song could be referring to crying, as North is often associated with up. "Northern downpour sends its love" therefore suggests that the subject once spent a period of time crying alot, but has moved on.
The lyrics have been written very ambiguously, so that each of us can take our own personal meanings from them, which is what has made it such a popular song, particularly with those of us who are carrying sorrow.
However, I'm fairly sure that "she clicked her heels and wished for me" is a direct reference to the wizard of oz, "she" wishes to be with the narator, and so is reenacting the actions taken by dorothy to go home.
Anyway, lots of thing in there which I feel have certain meanings, but I wouldnt wish to impose those meanings on others who already have a personal interpretation of the song :)
anonymous Jun 15th, 2011 6:22pm report
anonymous Jun 11th, 2011 6:27pm report
ValentynBrightside, I believe the weathervane part has something to do with going a different direction in life/relationship. I agree with you on the rest.
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