The Lumineers – ”Stubborn Love” 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".

“Stubborn Love” tells the story of a couple who have both fallen short of being perfect partners. The lyrics focus on the idea that, despite any wrongs committed in the past, there is hope that love will prevail over indifference and separation. However, the form this victory will take is left open to interpretation.

This song was written by Wesley Schultz and Jeremy Fraites, with the former as the lyricist. “Stubborn Love” is a creation from The Lumineers’ debut album, which was written over a period of three years through collaboration between Schultz and Fraites. At one point during this time period, the duo was separated by thousands of miles, which resulted in an unorthodox creative process.

In this article, we’ll perform an analysis of these heartwarming lyrics to decipher their intended meaning. We’ll also take a look at the songwriting story and the universal themes that make this song accessible to anyone. Without further ado, let’s get started!

“Stubborn Love” Lyrics Meaning

The lyrics begin by establishing the bad credentials of the narrator’s love interest. I’ll be referring to the narrator as “Schultz,” but I think the lyrics actually come from two perspectives simultaneously. Firstly, they come from Schultz, who is playing the part of a man in a rocky relationship. In another sense, however, the lyrics come from the spirit of “stubborn love” itself.

Schultz’s woman won’t treat him well. Instead, she’ll repeatedly “lie and steal and cheat” and then beg for forgiveness. This tears “a hole” in Schultz, but he is able to look past the pain. He says, “I still love her; I don’t really care,” which reveals the authenticity of his feelings.

How is Schultz able to push past the pain being inflicted on him? By remembering the same love he had originally. In their younger days, they “did enough” to justify some endurance. He “can’t be told it can’t be done” because he knows from experience that their love is capable of being warm.

Verse two reveals some more principles about love that guide Schultz. Firstly, he actually prefers the conflict he’s dealing with now to the scary alternative of “indifference.” This would mean the love had died, but he takes the fact that emotions are still high as a good sign. Galvanized by this, he shouts to his beloved from her porch, determined to see her “come downstairs” and visit him.

Not only is he standing on her porch, but the spirit of stubborn love is knocking at the door for him. The chorus, which repeats, “keep your head up, my love,” can be taken as an encouragement both from Schultz to his beloved and from love itself to everyone involved. It wants to be let in and experienced again.

This is important to note because, in the song’s official music video, love takes a different path than we might expect. In this video, the focus is on a little girl in the backseat of a car being driven away from her father’s home (her parents are separating). The video ends with her smiling at her mother, even though they have not returned to the girl’s father. All of that is to say this: the textbook reconciliation the lyrics allude to might not occur, but love can always be experienced again.

In verse three, Schultz reveals his own shortcomings. He says he doesn’t “blame” his companion for “running like you [the woman] did all these years.” This reveals that some of the responsibility for the conflict is his. He feels the two are approaching a destination (“the highway signs” say they are “close”) but doesn’t know whether he believes it.

After this touch of uncertainty, the pre-chorus and chorus return and encourage all parties to keep enduring. This leaves the actual conclusion of the song’s story open to interpretation while assuring us that we can always find love again if we try.

In summary, “Stubborn Love” is about how true feelings can last through years of pain – and how love is always waiting for us. This optimistic message adds an emotional kick to the song that certainly contributed to its success.

The Story Behind “Stubborn Love”

Wesley Schultz hasn’t revealed the specifics behind his creative process for this track. Although he hasn’t shed light on the experiences, thoughts, or ideas that may have prompted this song’s creation, we do have access to a fair bit of information regarding the general creative process for the track’s album, The Lumineers.

In an interview with American Songwriter, Schultz revealed that the album was written over a period of three years between himself and Jeremy Fraites. Although he was the lyricist in the duo, Schultz relied heavily on Fraites for chord structure.

 As any creative knows, collaborative art quickly becomes greater than the sum of its parts. This became tricky when the duo became geographically separated (Fraites was in England while Schultz was in China). It might be speculated that it was their “stubborn love” for making music that allowed them to surmount this obstacle and pursue their creative vision.

Despite that difficulty, the product they created has been a massive success. “Stubborn Love” went platinum in the US, double platinum in Canada, and silver in the UK. It’s considered one of The Lumineers’ quintessential creations, often mentioned in the same breath as “Ho Hey” and “The Dead Sea.”

The next time you play this touching tune, let these pieces of background information make it even more special!