A Song I Am Obsessed With: ‘To the Top’ by Twin Shadow

I have always been able to listen to a single song ad nauseam. On car rides, Mom would put a cap of two repeats of a song before we had to move on to another, because she could only listen to The Belly Button Song so many times. (Nowadays, I can’t blame her for that one.) So the day I got my first compact CD player and headphones, my life got a million times better. Because I could sit in the backseat for HOURS (and we had some pretty long car rides growing up, some lasting 8 to 12 hours) just listening to the same song over and over and over again. (Admittedly, interspersed with reading, eating, and talking breaks, but I would inevitably return to the one or two songs that were holding me captive at that time.)

Over the summer I’ve been obsessed with (in no particular order): Shut Up and Dance by Walk the Moon; Summer of ’69 by Brian Adams; Honey, I’m Good by Andy Grammer; God Only Knows (cover) by Multiple Artists; Traffic Jam by Artie Shaw; On My Own from the Broadway Les MiserableLove Me Like You Do by Ellie Goulding. And those are the ones that I can remember. There are most likely a good handful that I have been looping on my spotify account, interspersing one or two songs before inevitably pressing the back button until I listened to The Song of the Moment for the hundred and eighth time.

And right now the song is To the Top by Twin Shadow.

I want to sing this song into microphone and hear it reverberate off of empty stadium seats. I want to be dressed in semi-80’s fashion with my hair in a pink-tipped faux-hawk and a band behind me where I’m tapping my heel to the bass drum going “Oooooooooh!” and pump my fist in the air.

Maybe it is because the song is reminiscent of an 80’s power ballad (of which I have known to be fond of) with its single and echo-ey piano and Phil Collins-esque drum solos sprinkled through out. Maybe it’s the initial “Oooooooooh!” in harmony at the beginning and then repeated throughout the song. Maybe it’s the line “I know it’s not the right time tonight”, with the last three words in a syncopated and striking rhythm, or the title lyric where the singer(s) half-sing, half-shout about going “back to the top!” as if they are being defiant.

All I know is that I tried listening to some of Twin Shadow’s other songs, and none of them had the same pull as To the Top.

However, much like my 2012 obsession, Some Nights by F.U.N., I don’t completely get the meaning of the song. And in many ways To the Top is even more muddled than Some Nights. Some Nights at least has a few coherent verses, though maybe not as whole song. With both songs I had to google what the lyrics meant, but unlike Some Nights (which had several message boards of people arguing the meaning and a music video to analyze), To the Top had nothing. All that I learned was that it was apparently part of the Paper Towns soundtrack.

Even pouring over the lyrics of the song has not shed any light to what it could mean. Take this verse for example:

I’m not scared if you run to me
Lost like when you were mine
And you continue to run from me
Just offer me your time

So, this person was lost when the singer had them, and they would run to the singer. But now they are running away from the singer, and the singer just wants to be with this person for undetermined amount of time?

Okay, but then earlier in the song it goes:

You never belonged to me
Now I can see the light
That you are
Never good at controlling me
Now I can see the light
Shining, whole
And I know, I know it was blinding you

This person never belonged to the singer (despite what he would say only after one chorus), and the singer realizes this due to some epiphany? This person could not control the singer (and there is no other reference to this kind of dynamic in their relationship). And the “light” that serves as the singer’s epiphany has blinded this person who is running away from the singer?

Please tell me I am not the only one befuddled by this!

And then the chorus goes:

Stay, life can be long
Wanna know, wanna know, wanna know
Wanna know it’s true
When you say
I want you around
You gotta make me believe you

I know it’s not the right time tonight
But I won’t move until this stops
Go back to the top
Back to the top

So this person is running away from the singer, but then says that he/she/they wants the singer around. And either the singer or the person is saying how they got to prove it. And for whatever reason this is the absolutely wrong time for this conversion. And the singer is refusing to budge until something is halted. And then he demands to “go back to the top”, which I can only assume means take it from the top or start from the beginning?

This song is so perplexing to me that I just had to write about it. And in the process of writing this blog post, I have listened to the aforementioned song at least five times all the way through. (I have restarted the song an uncountable amount of times before the song finished, before you comment how small the number five is.)

2 thoughts on “A Song I Am Obsessed With: ‘To the Top’ by Twin Shadow

  1. Hey, heard the song for the first time today (thanks alot paper towns) and I have listened to it like a few dozen times (lost count, somewhere) and, well, am as baffled as you are but considering I have been accused of having an obsession with eighties music (all types) I find it to be powerful. For me, its a statement of need. a desire that begs to be filled by someone specific. someone I felt really connected to and we kinda got lost on our journeys but I realise I want it all back. I want it the way it was even though I realise its never going to be that way ever again. so am pleading, no, begging, to have it back. to at least try to go back to where we were before the separation.
    Ultimately its kinda one sided, but hey, he gotta try. Right?

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