Lost Kings (Ft. Norma Jean Martine) – “When We Were Young” 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.

This tune is all about longing for the simplicity and carefree days of youth. It dives into the bittersweet truth of growing up — losing the sense of endless time and the freedom from life’s burdens. The songwriter is sending us a message dipped in memories and draped in the innocence of the past. It’s about all of us, really. Reflecting on a time when messing up had no weight and we lived as if we had forever. Why did they pen this down? To remind us of what once was, and what we’ve left behind in the race against time.

Ever wish you could hit pause on life’s relentless march? Want to feel that thrill of boundless youth again? Keep reading. This song isn’t just a journey through lyrics — it’s a time machine. And we’re about to press play.

“When We Were Young” Lyrics Meaning

The song kicks off with a dose of reality — or the lack thereof. The lines “This isn’t real / It’s all in my head, I can feel it” suggest a yearning to escape into a dream, a time when things were simpler, purer. The repeated plea to “wake up from this dream” isn’t about leaving a fantasy but rather about denying the reality that time has indeed moved on.

We’re then whisked into the chorus, an anthem of nostalgia. “Can we go back when we were young / And didn’t care if we messed up?” This isn’t just about the fear of making mistakes; it’s a yearning for the time when mistakes felt inconsequential, when the weight of the world hadn’t yet pressed down on our shoulders.

The verses and chorus create a beautiful contrast — the present versus the past, reality against memory. We “thought our paper crowns were silver and gold” evokes an image of childhood innocence, where imagination turned the ordinary into the extraordinary. The lines “The more I’m learning, the more I don’t know / I feel smaller the more I go” express the overwhelming nature of the world as we grow and learn — how it seems to expand and become more complex the further we go.

And finally, the hook — “time wasn’t catching, time wasn’t catching us” — is perhaps the most poignant. It’s the heart of the song, underlining the carefree nature of youth when time seemed to be on our side, an ally rather than the pursuer it becomes in adulthood.

By the time we reach the closing na-na-na’s, it feels like a playful defiance against time, a spirited nod to the freedom we once felt.

The Story Behind “When We Were Young”

The creators of “When We Were Young” were not just playing with melodies and words. They were tapping into a collective nostalgia. The kind that sneaks up on you during late nights or while you’re stuck in traffic on your way to a job you swear was just a temporary gig. They’ve captured that universal longing to return to a time when the biggest worry was what game to play next. When taking risks felt as easy as breathing because life hadn’t taught us about the sting of falling yet. This song is a snapshot of that state of mind—a mind unburdened by the ‘what ifs’ and ‘should haves’.

Maybe they were feeling the weight of adulthood, the responsibility, the loss of those endless summers. Or perhaps it was the realization that with each tick of the clock, those carefree days slip a little further away. They were in a place where the past seemed so much brighter, the colors more vivid, and the days longer.

It’s about the contrast, right? The stark difference between the past and the present. It’s looking back at the days when our imaginations turned paper crowns into precious metals and believed that we could fly if we just jumped high enough.

The songwriters were standing at the intersection of past and present, longing for a detour back to the days of feather-light responsibilities. They poured that feeling into their music, creating a song that resonates with anyone who’s ever wished they could hit pause on the relentless march of time.

There you have it. “When We Were Young” is more than just a collection of notes and lyrics—it’s the anthem for the young at heart, a siren call back to the days when we were invincible and the world was ours for the taking.