To say this song has a lot of soul is an understatement.
The song progresses as follows: half chorus (intro) ‒ verse ‒ half chorus ‒ verse ‒ full chorus ‒ bridge ‒ full chorus ‒ outro. Now, let’s talk about it.
The first half chorus is accompanied by a soft choir, a shaker, and the hand clapping/foot stomping beat that will be present through most of the song:
don’t hold me down.
but keep my feet on the ground.
Immediately following this, the choir leaves us for the first verse:
That storm is coming down hard.
I’m your shelter every time it starts.
But if you leave me, I’ll be moving on.
You’ll have a hard time drying
when the fire is gone.
But returns during the second half chorus:
I’ll hold ya,
I won’t hold ya down.
I’ll carry ya,
but keep your feet on the ground.
The shift in pronouns here is rather interesting. Up until the first full chorus on your first listen, you may assume that the former is, in fact, the stand-alone chorus and that The Teskey Brothers simply decided to go from the one being held, to the one doing the holding.
Anyways, let’s keep going.
The second verse adds a layer of harmonization to the vocals, and continues with the storm analogy that was presented in the first verse. Yet, the harmonies do replace the choir for the time being:
You’re the storm and I’m the Murray darling,
you keep me going
every time I’m dry.
But if you leave me,
I’ll be moving on,
but have a hard time running
when the weather is gone.
Now, we finally get to the first full chorus, where the first two halves are merged:
Hold me, don’t hold me down.
Carry me, but keep my feet on the ground.
I’ll hold ya, I won’t hold ya down.
I’ll carry ya, but keep your feet on the ground.
At this point, it becomes clearer that our singer and whomever their addressing are working together to hold each other up. The addressee is not doing all the work holding up our singer or vise versa: it is a team effort. The fact that this chorus was split in half earlier is curious, and may reflect the idea that each of these two people feel alone. Yes, they’re holding themselves up, but whatever they’re going through is making them feel like they’re drowning, as indicated by the storm/river analogy in the verses.
The bridge is where the upbeat-ness ceases and the song takes a turn for the slow. That being said, the guitar subtly makes itself known in the chorus prior to this, and truly comes out here:
In so many ways
I just keep pulling,
but you’re pushing me away,
So it seems that the addressee is giving some resistance while our singer is trying as hard as he can. After another chorus, the outro strikes with two lines, the latter of them being quite the mic-drop moment:
Hold me, don’t hold me down.
Love me, but don’t let me drown.
Thus, “hold me” really carried the connotation of “love me” this entire time, as is deliberately showed to us by the parallel.
In the end, this is the kind of relationship we should all have with our loved ones, as our respective jobs are to hold each other up during trying times. But, it is also our job to argue a bit with each other, for it wouldn’t be a family if there isn’t even the slightest quarrel.
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