Misunderstood Lyrics – “Closer” by The Chainsmokers

Ever listen to a song, maybe even sing along with it, and something in the lyrics gets you wondering what the artist REALLY meant?  That happened to me with that song “Closer” by The Chainsmokers, featuring Halsey.

For those that aren’t familiar, here are The Chainsmokers… Andrew Taggert and Alex Pall.


If you’re still unfamiliar with them, I guarantee you’ve heard their song “Closer” because unless you spent 2016 living under a rock, believe me, you’ve heard that song many, many times.  Just in case though, here’s a link to the song on iTunes.  Just listen to the preview for a few seconds and you’ll know exactly what song I’m talking about.

closer chainsmokers

I mean there was no escaping that song.  There would be days that I would be passing through a mall going from store to store, to kill some time.  And in each and every store, coffee shop, etc. within two minutes of my entrance, “Closer” would be playing on the store’s sound system.  I mean each… and every… single… one.  There was NO escaping this song.

Listening to it that much, it was only a matter of time before I started paying attention to the lyrics.  The lyrics are rather touching actually.  It’s essentially a nice, little, love story about boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy randomly finds girl in a bar, and they shag in an SUV.

This is what I picture Halsey doing when Andrew sings, “Now you’re looking pretty in a hotel bar”
Plus it has one of those chorus’ that sticks in your head for days. “Baby pull me closer in the backseat of your Rover, that I know you can’t afford by that tattoo on your shoulder.”

It’s this very chorus that got me thinking, “Wait, what? Did I hear that right?”

The next time the chorus plays, I try to listen more closely to see if that little detail I thought I heard was really what I heard.  And again, it comes and sounds like….

“Baby pull me closer in the backseat of your Rover, that I know you can’t afford BY that tattoo on your shoulder.”

What?!  So, if I’m understanding this correctly, he knows she can’t afford the Rover that they currently are kissing inside “BY THAT TATTOO on her shoulder?

Baby pull me closer… wait, let me analyze your financial status via your shoulder.
This kind of stumped me.  Two questions come to mind immediately:

1. Can someone actually tell something like that? Like, can someone see your tattoo and think to themselves? “Yeah, this car isn’t yours, is it?” Is that even a thing among people with tattoos?

I’m not a tattoo aficionado, per say.   At best, I can probably tell the difference between outstanding work and first time first time trying to draw a lion. But I’d still have a hard time telling the difference between a Range Rover owner’s tattoo and that of a Hyundai.

Probably drives a Camaro, definitely not a Rover driver’s tattoo
Also… 2. Is he saying this out loud during foreplay? I mean, he starts off the line with “Baby, pull me closer…” That doesn’t quite sound like inner monologue. Considering he makes a number of judgemental statements in the chorus, maybe the whole song is one big Freudian slip.

When it comes to said car, I always figured a Rover, whether Range or Land (the song never really specifies) would be a priced on the higher side.  At least it would be for my budget. Either way, definitely less affordable than, say, the kind of second-hand Toyota Corolla that I’ve known many a musician to drive.

Range Rover: strictly for the inked elite

I tried looking up what’s the price of a typical Rover.  According to TrueCar.com, the Land Rovers start about $36,000 USD, but the Range Rover models are considered “high end luxury SUVs” and, when fully equipped, can carry a six figure price tag.  Wow!

Ok, so it might be surprising for him to see his old flame in such a fancy ride, especially since the lyrics in the verse make it clear that the last time they saw each other, she was moving to the city in a broke-down car.  Wait, was it him or her that drove off in the broke down ride?  Still, by the chorus, both the guy and girl are talking about the tattoo instead, so now I’m thinking “how bad was this tattoo?”

I suddenly remembered the tattoo from that episode of Jackass with Henry Rollins.   They were driving a big Humvee over sand dunes while Steve-O getting tattooed in the backseat. The end result was this…

OK, so it’s highly doubtful that he tattoo looked that bad.  Still, considering that the song really tries to have this romantic, song of the summer kind of vibe to it, The Chainsmokers were probably trying to make people visualize this while listening…

But instead, I hear the chorus and all I could picture was something like this…

Suddenly, something occurred to me and it all made sense. This is no ordinary tattoo on her shoulder… it’s a prison tat!

Ah hah! That’s why he knows she can’t afford the Rover. He know’s it’s stolen and she’s fresh out of a four year stint in the big house. That’s why it’s been so long and no calls. It even says later in the chorus, “Pull the sheets right off the corner of that mattress that you stole from your roommate back in Boulder”. I mean, who steals a mattress from their roommate? I’ll tell you who… Orange is the New Black, that’s who.

I wondered if Halsey fought the biggest girl in the yard on the first day

At this point, I figured I’m getting ahead of myself and letting my imagination run too wild. I wanted to find out the real story about the Girl with the crappy tattoo.

“Bite that tattoo on your shoulder”

I looked up online, figuring there must be some really crazy and amazing story about a dude who’s girlfriend ran off in a broke down car, ended up in jail, got out on probation, stole her roommate’s mattress and Range Rover, and stopped off in a bar where they have one last chance encounter before she races for the Mexican border, Tommy Lee Jones looking Federal Marshall hot on her trail.

Yeah, none of that happened.

I found the lyrics for “Closer” on Genius.com with commentary by The Chainsmokers, describing their inspiration for the song and the story behind it. The girl, Halsey’s character, wasn’t in prison. She didn’t have a prison tat. She wasn’t even the one who drove away in the broke down car. It was Andrew’s character, the guy, who drove the broke down car away and didn’t call for four years. The girl didn’t steal the Rover, she’s actually supposed to represent the kind of rich, bratty girls that live off their parents’ allowances and get gifted Mercedes Benz’s and Range Rovers.

And to top it all off… . It wasn’t “by that tattoo on her shoulder” it was “BITE that tattoo on her shoulder.” The idea was that he was so in the heat of passion that he bites her shoulder.  That’s right… I misunderstood that lyic.

So if you’re let down by the whatever-ness of the true story vs. the action packed, rollercoaster ride of a story that I got myself thinking, you are not alone folks. I read that and remembered the feeling I had when I watched  Shutter Island.

They should have called it The Spy Who Never Was
For those that haven’t watched Shutter Island, let me SPOIL that for you right now.

An FBI agent, hard on the trail of a busting open a giant conspiracy involving the KGB and evil experiments conducted on a psychiatric facility, takes us on nail biting, edge of your seat quest for the truth that turns out to be…. eh, the guy’s just crazy. He’s not an FBI agent, he’s just a crazy guy…. Right.  Thanks foe action packed thrill ride, just to dump all over it.

In either case, the song threw me for a little loop and I was disappointed that it wasn’t more.. just more.

But, in a all fairness, maybe I was taking this too hard. Afterall, it was my fault for hearing it all wrong, which is ironic considering one of the repeated lines of the song is “We ain’t ever getting older.”

Well, let me tell you something Chainsmokers, straight from a guy who always insisted, “I ain’t ever getting older.” One day it’s going to happen. And on that day, you’re going to be listening to some new song on the radio, and a line of lyrics will get you saying “what? Huh? What did he just say?”

In the meantime, check out the lyric video for the song right here… it’s be viewed nearly 2 billion times.

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