Edie Brickell & New Bohemians – “What I Am” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Joanna Landrum

Joanna holds a BSc in English Literature and uses her expertise in literary analysis to uncover the deeper meaning of her favorite songs.

“What I Am” is a song that dances around the concept of self-awareness and philosophical musings. The song talks about the journey of understanding oneself. It’s about knowing who you are, embracing it, and questioning whether others are as self-aware. The lyrics playfully navigate through comparisons of philosophy and religion with everyday objects, highlighting how complex ideas can be found in simple things. The songwriter, in a quest for self-discovery, penned this song as a reflection of their own understanding and acceptance of self.

Are you intrigued about how a song can weave philosophy, self-awareness, and catchy lyrics into one? “What I Am” does just that. It’s more than just a tune – it’s a journey into the songwriter’s mind. Keep reading to discover how each line unfolds a layer of this intriguing message.


“What I Am” Lyrics Meaning

Starting off with the lines “I’m not aware of too many things. I know what I know, if you know what I mean,” the song sets the tone for a journey into self-awareness. It’s an admission of limited knowledge but also a confident assertion of what the singer does understand.

When the song says, “Philosophy is the talk on a cereal box, Religion is the smile on a dog,” it’s drawing a parallel between high concepts and mundane objects. This clever wordplay suggests that deep insights can be found in everyday life. The repetition of “I’m not aware of too many things” throughout the song emphasizes a theme of understanding and accepting one’s limitations.

The chorus, “What I am is what I am. Are you what you are or what?” is a powerful reflection on identity. It’s a call to the listener to question their own authenticity. Are you presenting your true self to the world, or just what you think the world wants to see?

The line “Choke me in the shallow water before I get too deep” can be seen as a plea to be kept grounded. It’s an acknowledgment of the ease with which one can get lost in the depths of philosophical or existential thoughts.

Throughout the song, there’s a consistent theme of knowing oneself, accepting it, and questioning the authenticity of others. It’s a clever blend of self-awareness, philosophical musings, and societal observations, all wrapped up in a catchy, rhythmic melody.

The Story Behind “What I Am”

This song emerged from a period when Brickell contemplated the bigger questions in life, trying to make sense of the world through her lens. The lyrics are a window into her thoughts and feelings during this phase. The comparisons of philosophy to a cereal box talk or religion to a dog’s smile indicate a search for deeper meaning in the simplest of things. This perspective highlights Brickell’s contemplative nature and her ability to find profundity in the mundane.

The recurring theme of self-awareness and questioning the authenticity of others’ identities suggests a struggle with understanding not just oneself but also the people around. It reflects a universal human experience of trying to find one’s place in the world and understand the people we share it with.

In sum, “What I Am” was born from a songwriter’s journey to understand herself and the world around her. It’s a reflection of the universal quest for identity, meaning, and authenticity in an ever-complex world.