Lyric Breakdown: ‘People help the people’ -Birdy

I spend a decent amount of time listening to music. It helps me process things. With current events happening, I’ve been doing a lot of that lately. While I like a good gospel tune as much as everybody else, I also enjoy songs that aren’t Christian per se, but that have Christian themes/elements to them. If you’re solely listening to traditional gospel music, I think you’re missing out. There are a tragically large number of people who have had bad experiences in church, or who struggle with their faith, that have great stories to tell. I appreciate the people who can sing about how great their life is now that they’ve found Jesus with a smile on their face, but I also like to hear from the people who don’t have things so easy. It’s reassuring for someone to say ‘Life is hard. Faith can be complicated. I’m doing my best, sorry if that isn’t good enough.’

Today we’ll be looking at the song “People help the people” by Cherry Ghost, covered by Birdy.
Listen below, then we’ll start the breakdown.

[Chorus]

  1. People help the people
  2. And if your homesick, give me your hand and I’ll hold it
  3. People help the people
  4. And nothing will drag you down
  5. Oh and if I had a brain, Oh and if I had a brain
  6. I’d be cold as a stone and rich as the fool
  7. That turned all those good hearts away

In line two the person speaking is addressing the homesick. This could be thought of as those who are lost that are searching for God, or it could be those of the faith looking for the church where they feel like they belong. Offering to hold their hand is to offer reassurance; a way of telling them that they aren’t alone, and that you will be here to help them. If you’ve never lived in the darkness, this reference may be lost on you. Sometimes being reminded you aren’t alone means more to people than you realize. In line four, they’re saying that you don’t need to worry, because they’ll be here for you. Some people don’t live with their demons. Others fight just to keep theirs at bay. There’s a constant fear that with one wrong step, you’ll be drug back down.

Lines five through seven have two biblical references in them. ‘Cold as a stone’ calls back to Ezekiel 36:26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. The ‘fool who turned all those good hearts away’ references the rich young ruler of Matthew 19:16-30, Mark 10:17-31, and Luke 18:18-30 who turned away Jesus and his followers in favour of all of his wealth. In these lines the speaker is saying if ‘I were smart I wouldn’t care about the world, and only about things that I enjoy.’ While this isn’t the attitude a person of faith should have, at times it’s seems those people are the happier. Our lives wouldn’t be as hard as they are if we didn’t worry about the poor, the hungry, the lost.

[Verse 1]

  1. God knows what is hiding in those weak and drunken hearts
  2. I guess you kissed the girls and made them cry
  3. Those Hardfaced Queens of misadventure
  4. God knows what is hiding in those weak and sunken eyes
  5. A Fiery throng of muted angels
  6. Giving love but getting nothing back

Lines one and four are saying that only God knows the struggles someone is dealing with. As most people like to put on a brave face when they greet the world, few people ever know the problems unfolding in their lives. Lines two and three speak of girls, who were queens, becoming hardfaced through misfortune. This harkens back to the reference in Ezekiel in the chorus. The ‘throng of muted angels’ in line five are these women, who once were angels singing glory, but are now muted from crushed spirits, as is said in line six; giving love but getting nothing back. How often do you see this in women today? Those looking for love in the wrong places, again, having their hearts turned to stone.

[Verse 2]

  1. God knows what is hiding in this world of little consequence
  2. Behind the tears, inside the lies
  3. A thousand slowly dying sunsets
  4. God knows what is hiding in those weak and drunken hearts
  5. I guess the loneliness came knocking
  6. No one needs to be alone, oh save me

Sometimes it can feel like there’s no point, why bother? At times it seems like the good suffer, while the evil prosper. Line one says only God knows the point of everything happening around us. Similarly, in line two, only God knows what someone is dealing with. He sees past the facade we put on for other people, and knows that when we say ‘I’m fine,’ we’re usually lying. While others accept that and move on with their lives, God knows the truth. The ‘thousand slowly dying sunsets’ in line three, is all of the souls of the lost and alone, slowly fading away each day as the world around them gets darker, and darker. Lines five and six change the tempo a bit. Now the speaker is acknowledging that they are lonely, and they’re now the one asking to be saved.

Conclusion

This is a great song that speaks deeply to those who struggle with faith, and also calls others to help those in distress. Sometimes it’s easy to identify those who are in need, but sometimes the people sitting beside you are going through greater struggles than you can imagine. We’re called to help all of those in need. We need to learn to look past the obvious, and to see deeper into the people around us. We’re called to be a light in the darkness, a beacon to the lost. In John 21 Jesus tells Peter to ‘feed my lambs’ and ‘tend to my sheep.’ This speaks to the common refrain of this song which can be summed up it three words: Help the people.

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