Mac DeMarco – “For the First Time” Lyrics Meaning

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Written By Brendan Briggs

Brendan is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and producer. In 2022, he released his first album "Dive" under the name "Arctotherium".

“For the First Time” is a decidedly sentimental love song about missing your girlfriend while she’s gone. The lyrics plainly focus on the emotional impact of separation, longing, and reunion. In addition, this song manages to touch on the idea that deliberately choosing to enjoy your affection for someone is part of a committed relationship.

Two major relationships in Mac DeMarco’s life are explored on This Old Dog: One is his relationship with his father, and the other is his romantic relationship with Kiera McNally. This song is in the second camp and aims to highlight one of the intricacies of long-term relationships. DeMarco views a settled romance as equally inspirational to heartbreak or the chase; he intended to communicate it throughout the album.

In this article, we’ll perform an analysis of these affectionate lyrics to discover their intended meaning. We’ll also take a look at the story behind the song and the human themes that make it impactful for so many. Without further ado, let’s get started!

“For the First Time” Lyrics Meaning

The lyrics begin by setting the scene: DeMarco is separated from his girlfriend temporarily. It isn’t an on-again-off-again situation – just one of those inevitable periods of unavoidable distance. The context of this song, according to DeMarco, is a settled one.

It’s “been tough” for DeMarco “while she’s been away,” and he’s very comfortable acknowledging that. He almost views this discomfort as a badge of honor for the strength of their bond. DeMarco has become so accustomed to her closeness that “simply being alive” is hard without her.

The pre-chorus continues this line of thought. DeMarco hasn’t lost objectivity; he knows “she won’t be gone forever.” Subjectively, however, it “feels that way” at times. Rather than running from his pain by “trying to forget her,” he decides to sit with it. Instead of erasing the past, he longingly looks to the future (when the two will be reunited).

This, of course, is the subject of the chorus. When this reunion comes (even in his imagination), it’s “just like seeing her for the first time again.” A period of separation has increased his appreciation for her presence. Fire needs oxygen to burn!

Verse two is pretty much a repetition of verse one, but there are some slight differences. We get to see the effect of his hopeful fantasizing about their reunion on his emotional state. He says, “Somehow this old heart found time to work it out,” which means his discomfort has been somewhat relieved. Instead of trying to remove a bad emotion, DeMarco has managed to replace it with a good one: anticipation.

In the second pre-chorus, DeMarco hints at the nearness of her return, saying, “I know she’s coming home soon.” In my opinion, the purpose of this line is to give the listener an assurance that no tragic plot twist is coming around the corner. This is a happy thought; it’s “not inside” DeMarco to forget her, and the listener gets to share in his happiness before the final chorus.

Now that I’ve walked through the lyrics sequentially, I do want to call attention to an underlying principle in the track. There seems to be a theme of deliberate appreciation (as opposed to unconscious affection) in the song that particularly applies to long-term relationships. Although the initial infatuation in a relationship fades, both parties become more liable to admire the underlying qualities in each other over time.

Since this is the situation for DeMarco and Kiera McNally, I can only call this fitting. In summary, this is a song about exactly that: taking the time to appreciate someone when they’re gone. I would be hard-pressed to find a more universal human feeling than this, and I suspect this may have something to do with the song’s place in so many hearts.

The Story Behind “For the First Time”

Mac DeMarco is a very personal songwriter; the content of his lyrics usually hit very close to home. This Old Dog, his third studio album, was no exception to this general trend. It was written in light of DeMarco’s increasing age and his father’s illness – both phenomena that increased his awareness of mortality.

It might be said that his relationship with his father and with Kiera are like yin and yang. Both have their lessons, both are temporary in the face of mortality, and both ought to be emotionally explored. DeMarco didn’t shy away from either one, and “For the First Time” is a great example.

In one interview, DeMarco described long-term relationships as a “Mountainscape,” by which he meant that there are ups and downs. To him, that’s where the fun is. These themes are clearly reflected in the parting and reunion depicted in these lyrics.

“For the First Time” has earned itself plenty of success, critically and commercially. The track has amassed over 60 million views on YouTube alone and has been heard by countless ears. It was also a major contributor to This Old Dog’s general success.

The next time you play this reflective tune, let these pieces of background information bring it to life!