“Hold Me Down” is an intense description of what it feels like to fight against people that want to smother and dominate you. The lyrics focus on the burning anger that we sometimes feel when we are being held down by someone or something. In addition, the song manages to touch on the feeling of being outclassed or outnumbered by your opponent, which only makes the anger worse.
Halsey wrote this song based on some personal experiences, some of which are vague. In general, it reflects her dealings with businesspeople and managers – people that try to run her career from behind the curtain. She became frustrated by their arrogance and their demands, which inspired this song as a form of reactance.
In this article, we’ll perform an analysis of these charged lyrics to decipher their intended meaning. We’ll also take a look at the songwriting story and the broader themes that anyone can relate to. Without further ado, let’s get started!
The lyrics begin by introducing us to Halsey’s “demons.” Normally, our demons are something we refer to negatively, but Halsey seems to relish hers. These demons are “begging” Halsey to speak, fighting against her with “vigorous and angry” energy.
Halsey gives herself over to them, happy to “watch them pounce” on her detractors. Her mind is “licking up the flames” they create, which means she takes joy in the firestorm.
We’ve learned Halsey’s emotional state (anger, aggression), but we haven’t yet learned what or who has set her off. The pre-chorus and chorus will inform us what the target of her rage is (although it is done in indirect language).
Halsey says, “I sold my soul to a three-piece,” which means a man in a suit. She is “on both knees” before this man, who calls her “holy” in response. Basically, the man is acting like a god, and Halsey is a disciple. Nonetheless, she eventually sees through his pretensions, stating that “really it’s the devil” that’s trying to hold her down.
So, in this interpretation, the “demons” within Halsey are justified, and the “god” is really the devil. She’s attempting to reverse the order being forced on her in a very clear, rebellious way.
The chorus focuses on the brutality of being dominated by this false god. He can throw her “in the deep end” to drown and knock her out of the fight. Halsey feels overpowered by this man, to be sure, but what does he represent?
Vaguely, Halsey once gave an answer at a live show in 2015. She referred to “a bunch of mean, old men” she was meeting with and “one a**hole in particular” who inspired the song. Most fans have interpreted this to mean people on the management end of the music industry who tried to stifle Halsey.
The end of the chorus is basically a glimmer of hope. She says, “this is what I live for,” reflecting on fighting her enemies, which means she takes pleasure in the struggle. In order to fight off bad people, she has to get a bit disagreeable herself.
How will she do this? With a message that’s very common in current popular music: unapologetically being herself. She begins to live in a “selfish” way that is summed up by this line: “Taking what I want and calling it mine.” She isn’t literally trying to be selfish. Instead, she’s acting against the “helpless” feeling the enemies are trying to make her feel.
Her enemies do this by telling her she’s “running out of time” (probably saying that her career will be short). They also “shush” her when she tries to speak, all in an attempt to control her. This is what Halsey is trying to fight against.
After verse two, the rest of the lyrics are repeated. In summary, “Hold Me Down” is about how certain individuals, groups, and authorities often try to dominate individuality. The lyrics explore how this can make us feel like we are “clinging to a little bit of spine,” barely able to fight back. Nonetheless, the more extreme the odds get, the more we are sometimes pushed to resist out of spite. This message has to be part of the song’s wide appeal.
Halsey has vaguely shed some light on the origins of “Hold Me Down” but hasn’t gotten super specific. As mentioned in the previous section, a particular event seems to have set her off. She reportedly explained, at a live show, that interpersonal conflict was the original inspiration.
Among “a bunch of mean, old men,” one “a**hole in particular” inspired Halsey’s venom. Most people believe that these men were some form of management trying to take charge of her career’s trajectory.
In 2017, this interpretation was given some serious further evidence. Halsey’s comments about a story directly revealed what she “wrote ‘Hold Me Down’ about,” vindicating some fans.
Even though the origins of the song might be ugly, the result was a massive success. “Hold Me Down” is certified Gold in the US and Australia, reaching over 100 million streams on Spotify alone. It also looks to have been an important success for Halsey, especially given its lyrical content.
The next time you play this “fight back” anthem, let these pieces of background information boost your experience!