First to Eleven – “Head Above Water” 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.

Through metaphors of storms and drowning, this track symbolizes the struggles we face and our desperate need for salvation. The songwriter cries out for strength, not only to survive but to thrive amidst challenges. Though it’s not specified, the song feels deeply personal, and there’s an implication of a higher power at play, offering solace and guidance. It’s a soulful plea to remain resilient, regardless of how challenging life gets.

Ever felt like life’s overwhelming waves are about to engulf you? Relatable, right? Continue reading to unveil the depths of these lyrics.


“Head Above Water” Lyrics Meaning

The opening line “I’ve gotta keep the calm before the storm” sets the tone. It speaks of the quiet moments of reflection before facing adversity. The storm symbolizes turmoil while the calm reflects moments of peace.

“I don’t want less, I don’t want more” shows contentment in the present moment, neither yearning for the past nor fearing the future.

The imagery of “Must bar the windows and the doors” paints a picture of someone attempting to shield themselves from external harm. It’s about fortifying oneself against the challenges that life hurls.

“My life is what I’m fighting for” portrays the song’s core theme: resilience. Despite the hardships, there’s a deep-rooted determination to persevere.

The lines “Can’t part the sea, can’t reach the shore” and “And my voice becomes the driving force” remind us of the idea of feeling trapped or stuck but finding an internal strength – the voice – to keep pushing forward.

The chorus with “God, keep my head above water” introduces a divine intervention. There’s a plea for help, a call to be saved from drowning in life’s struggles.

“So pull me up from down below” and “Come dry me off and hold me close” speak of seeking comfort and assistance. There’s an acknowledgment that sometimes, one can’t make it alone.

The repetition of “Don’t let me drown” is a haunting reminder of the vulnerability we all sometimes feel.

Toward the end, “And I can’t see in the stormy weather” and “I can’t breathe” further emphasizes the feeling of being overwhelmed. Yet, in the midst of despair, there’s a continuous plea for hope, a guiding hand to pull one back to safety.

The Story Behind “Head Above Water”

It’s not uncommon for artists to pull from their personal experiences when crafting their music. The raw emotion and authenticity that bleed through in “Head Above Water” strongly suggest it came from a place of genuine personal struggle. When we peel back the layers of a song like this, we often find stories of resilience, determination, and sometimes, a plea for help.

Though First to Eleven’s rendition resonates deeply with listeners, it’s important to note that “Head Above Water” originally traces back to Avril Lavigne. Lavigne, during a difficult period of battling Lyme disease, found herself literally asking to keep her head above water when she felt like she was drowning. The intense emotion and vulnerability she felt during that time translated into this song.

Drawing from such a profound experience, the song captures the essence of life’s fragility, the fear of the unknown, and the innate human desire to survive against all odds. Music often becomes a therapeutic outlet, and for Lavigne and First to Eleven, this track represents a heartfelt cry, a quest for strength, and a beacon of hope. It’s not just about the physical act of keeping one’s head above water but a metaphorical representation of the battles we face internally and externally.