“Float On” is a simple, relieving message of affirmation and optimism. The lyrics focus on acknowledging how frustrating and stressful life can be but choosing to move forward. In addition, this song manages to touch on the idea that things could always be worse. It tries to encourage the listener to see the positives even in the worst situations.
Isaac Brock appears to have been the main lyricist on the track. By all accounts, he gives a very straightforward story about the origins of “Float On.” Beset with anxiety about the politics, culture, science, and the general crumminess of life, Brock deliberately set out to write something truly positive. It looks as though he’s succeeded.
In this article, we’ll perform an analysis of these charming lyrics to decipher their intended meaning. We’ll also take a look at the songwriting story and the universal themes that make this song resonate with so many. Without further ado, let’s begin!
The lyrics begin by putting us in common, inconvenient, stressful situations. The narrator finds himself having backed “into a cop car” or running his “mouth off a bit too much.” The common trials of life come up often, but in these instances, they turn out fine. The cop just “drove away,” and his friends just “laughed it off” when he spoke too much.
These things may seem minor, but the collective weight of daily stresses is what kills people. Brock is trying to call attention to the times when problems go away on their own. “Sometimes, life’s ok.” Secondly, this verse subtly introduces the importance of leaning on friends and loved ones. After all, they’re the ones who will be there when you make mistakes!
The chorus is simple but significant. It assures us that “we’ll all float on” somehow, even when things get rough. I think it’s a deliberate choice to use floating instead of walking, running, or even moving. The lyrics are not trying to focus on grit and perseverance. Instead, the emphasis is on contentment and purposeful peace.
Verse two takes the themes of verse one a step further. The main new point is that we can learn from negative experiences, thus converting them into positives. When a “fake Jamaican” scams you for “every last dime,” think of it as an opportunity to “learn some sleight of hand.” Instead of crying over our losses, Brock recommends that we focus on what we gained instead.
The next two lines parallel the title of the album, Good News for People Who Love Bad News. When “bad news” comes, Brock encourages us to wait for the “good news” that will “work its way” into our lives soon enough. Simply put, suffering is temporary; the sun always rises again. This is especially true if we cultivate a positive attitude.
The second verse gives us one more example of misfortune (getting fired), but also implies that we should take this one in stride. After this point, the lyrics are repetitive. In summary, “Float On” is meant to be a lighthearted word of encouragement to get us through life’s difficulties. “Even if things get a bit too heavy,” we’ll find a way to move forward.
As the name might imply, Good News for People Who Love Bad News explores themes of positivity and negativity. According to Isaac Brock, about a fourth of that record is “positive,” but the rest is dark. This makes sense given the experiences of Brock around the time of writing.
Like all of us at times, Brock was going through a rough patch. A few friends of his had recently died, and he became hyper-focused on negative events in the world and culture. Discoveries in science bothered him, politics frustrated him, and the world seemed to be a dark place.
If you trace his experiences back further, you’ll see a past rife with stress. In 1999, Brock was accused of rape in a very public way. Over the following years, stints in prison (on other charges), injuries, and the loss of Modest Mouse’s running drummer colored his life.
With all of this in mind, it’s no wonder that Brock made a “completely conscious” effort to write something positive. Although Modest Mouse had a decent following beforehand, this dive into passionate positivity would prove to be his breakout hit.
“Float On” hit a #1 spot on the Billboard Modern Rock chart and was nominated for a Grammy in 2005. The music video also managed to make waves with its artsy approach, introducing the mainstream world to Modest Mouse visually as well as musically. Critically and commercially, this song can only be considered a massive success.
The next time you play this uplifting instant classic, let these pieces of music history make it even more special for you!