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Meaning of ‘Discount De Kooning’ by ‘The Vaccines’

Released: 2024At its core, “Discount De Kooning” by The Vaccines is a song about resilience, hope, and the undying human spirit in the face of desolation. The title alone, with its reference to Willem de Kooning, a Dutch abstract expressionist artist, nods to finding value in the discounted or overlooked, mirroring the quest for personal meaning in the mundane. This theme is woven through the fabric of the song, suggesting that even in our lowest points, there’s something to be said for simply “keeping on dancing.”

The song opens with a repetitive entreaty to “keep on dancing,” a metaphor for staying the course or persevering, no matter the odds. The singer feels on the brink of something positive (“I feel like something good is gonna happen”) and declares a fierce independence and determination to stand alone if necessary (“Don’t care if I’m the last one standing”). This sets the stage for a narrative of personal challenge, resilience, and the search for significance in a world that feels both abandoned and apocalyptic.

In the verses, the lyrics dip into a more introspective realm, speaking to past experiences and the feeling of being left behind or emptied out (“I’ve been thinking about all of the times you used to fill my streets/Until I got deserted”). The mention of searching for a “Willem de Kooning at the discount store” is particularly poignant, symbolizing a desperate hunger for meaning, beauty, or perhaps redemption, in the least expected places. The line conveys the willingness to latch onto anything that might make the singer “feel some more,” underscoring a deep sense of longing and emptiness.

As the song progresses, it tells of trying to fill the void left by absence and loss with distractions (“Started filling up the cracks in the calendar with discontent”) and a poignant admission of hitting rock bottom (“Don’t know what I’ll do now, my luck is all spent”). Yet, even in acknowledging such despair, the song never loses its thread of defiant optimism—with the repeated chorus serving as a rallying cry to keep moving, keep dancing, even “serenading the apocalypse.”

The bridge of the song offers a glimpse into the singer’s vulnerability (“I’m playing it cool, but I’m so damn scared”) and an unwavering resolve to remain in the fight (“And I’m ready for anything, I’m not going anywhere”). It’s a powerful affirmation of resilience, suggesting that in the face of life’s battles, the determination to keep going, to keep dancing, can be a form of salvation.

In summary, “Discount De Kooning” is an anthem of persistence that champions the beauty of fighting through the bleakest times. The Vaccines invite us to dance in the face of despair, suggesting that in movement, in the refusal to give in, we might just find the strength to believe in the good yet to come. It’s a song that says, in no uncertain terms, that as long as we’re standing, there’s hope—and that’s a rock and roll lesson worth taking to heart.

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