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Meaning of the song ‘Borderline’ by ‘Tame Impala’

Released: 2020

“Borderline” by Tame Impala is a psychedelic odyssey that delves into the complexities of personal growth, the quest for belonging, and the existential musings of a mind teetering on the edge of reality and fantasy. Kevin Parker, the genius behind Tame Impala, crafts a sonic landscape where introspection and the quest for meaning collide with the harsh realities of life, painting a vivid picture of being caught in the in-between.

Let’s unwrap this lyrical trip, starting with the opening lines:

“Gone a little far / Gone a little far this time with something / How was I to know / How was I to know this high came rushing.” Right off the bat, Parker is talking about overstepping boundaries, possibly in the context of substance use or simply venturing too far out of his comfort zone in a metaphorical sense. There’s a sense of unexpectedness to the consequences of his actions, marked by the “high” that came rushing—a metaphor that could point towards a sudden surge in emotions or experiences that one wasn’t prepared for.

“We’re on the borderline / Dangerously fine and unforgiving / Possibly a sign / I’m gonna have the strangest night on Sunday.” This speaks to a recurring theme of being on the edge, the “borderline” between different states of being, possibly between sanity and insanity, sobriety and intoxication, or exhilaration and despair. The mention of “Sunday” might carry some significance about dreading the upcoming week or a reference to reckoning with one’s actions.

In the chorus, Parker contemplates deeply existential questions: Will he be known and loved? Can he trust anyone? He’s also wrestling with the idea of sobriety, not just in the literal sense but as a metaphor for clarity and facing reality without any filters. “Starting to sober up / Has it been long enough?” queries whether he’s given enough time to healing or understanding, and if he’s ready to face the world as it is. The dichotomy of wanting to be “closer” yet feeling like a “loser” underscores the tension between desire for connection and the self-deprecation that often accompanies introspection.

“Shout out to what is done / R.I.P. here comes the sun.” Parker seems to be signaling a resignation to what has happened and perhaps a glimmer of optimism or a new beginning with “here comes the sun.” It’s an acknowledgment of the cyclical nature of life and experiences. The sun rising could symbolize hope, renewal, or simply the inevitable passage of time and moving forward.

“Rudi said it’s fine / They used to do this all the time in college.” Here, there’s a reference to perhaps a friend or a character, Rudi, who reassures that crossing boundaries or indulging in certain behaviors is okay, normalizing it by mentioning it was common in college. This could be a call to the social norms around experimentation and boundary-pushing in youth, but it also introduces an external perspective to Parker’s internal dialogue.

Through “Borderline”, Tame Impala takes us through a labyrinth of introspection, challenging the boundaries we set for ourselves and the ones imposed by society. The song beautifully navigates the highs and lows of searching for meaning, belonging, and love in a world that’s constantly shifting beneath our feet. Parker, through his psychedelic soundscape and profound lyrical ponderings, invites us to question, feel, and ultimately find solace in the fact that in this vast, confusing universe, we’re all teetering on the borderline together.

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