Mumford & Sons isn’t a band that I listen to often, or really at all, but the tune of this song caught my attention from the first time I listened to it. It has a very calming, uplifting sound, but the lyrics are impactful. The title “Believe” even brings up the simple yet complex question, do I believe?
First, lets clarify what believe means. Believe: to accept or regard something as true, as defined by Merriam Webster. People can believe, or not, in a lot of things, but I think this artist is specifically referring to his belief in god, and where he is struggling with that belief. In Mumford’s personal life he talks about his spiritual journey, and how it’s a “work in progress.” Also how he has separated himself from the “culture of christianity.” This sets the stage for what he is referencing in his song. ( See the article about Mumford’s feelings towards christianity). In the opening of the song he seems to be talking directly to christians. ” May you call it in this evening, but you’ve only lost the night. Preset all your pretty feelings, may they comfort you tonight” He is referencing prayer, and how at the end of each day people spend their time reflecting about their day to god, and how it’s comforting to have god to lean on at the end of the night. Even if a christian struggles with their faith from time to time, they will return to their belief a bit easier having “only lost the night” instead of having to accept faith from the beginning, faith is less certain for him. He then goes on to say ” and I’m climbing over something, and I’m running through these walls” This is the beginning of him admitting he is struggling with the idea of god himself, it seems to be a unguided search, and he isn’t sure where to go.
The chorus repeats the verse ” I don’t even know if I believe everything you’re trying to say to me.” He isn’t taking what christians are telling him as truth. Their faith may bring up questions, which lead to his doubts. Some people are willing to take anything, anyone says as fact, he doesn’t seem to be this type of person. He isn’t saying they are wrong, but he realizes he is doubting his own faith and needs more answers. He continues his questioning of christians faith in the next verse ” I’ve had the strangest feeling, your world’s not all it seems, so tired of misconceiving, what else this could’ve been” Reading the bible can raise up a lot of questions for someone in the middle of a faith crisis, what about evolution? What about fossils? How exactly was the world created in 7 days? and so on. Some people are so set on what the bible says, that they ignore questions they can’t answer, or if it’s not written in the bible they think it can’t be possible. He seems to be questioning these types of things, and they have no answer when he asks “what else this could’ve been.”
In the next verse his focus seems to shift from christians to god himself. “so open up my eyes, tell me I’m alive, this is never gonna go our way, if I have to guess whats on your mind” He is asking god to make it clear to him that he exists, to “open up” his eyes, he needs some type of gratification. He doesn’t need people telling him what, or why to believe, he needs a sign from god. The writer seems tired of trying to figure it out himself, tired of guessing, but is very open to idea of faith, just needs a clear-cut sign. The instrumentals pick up here as he says ” say something, say something, something like you love me” in a desperate plea for a sign that god loves him, and essentially has his back, giving him the comfort of gods presence throughout his life. I think the christian religion itself has drawn him away from the relationship with god that he wants. He says ” less you wanna move away, from the noise of this place” You don’t need the “noise” such as a church, worship team, or hundreds of people in order to have a relationship with god. You can sit on your couch and talk to him if that’s what works for you, I think he may find the church as a whole distracting, wanting to get to know god on a more personal level.
He goes on to repeat the chorus, but worded a bit differently. ” Well I don’t even know if I believe (x2) I don’t even know if I wanna believe” Adding the words well, and wanna, change the meaning of the chorus. He goes from telling us ” I don’t even know if I believe” meaning he isn’t sure, but there is nothing in that sentence stating that he has given up on finding his faith. The reworded chorus poses a different question. “Well” by definition of how it’s used in this line adds the element of reluctancy, a pause to consider ones next words. Which backs up his reluctancy towards faith that is mentioned again,and again throughout the song. Instead of saying ” I don’t even know if I believe” like he did in the middle of the song, he now says ” I don’t even know if I wanna believe” He doesn’t even seem like he is willing to sort through his confusing thoughts in order to connect to faith anymore. He was open to the idea of god,and faith earlier, he just had doubts. But now he doesn’t even know if it’s worth it, as if he has given up on the idea completely.
The music video has the same visual context, as it does lyrical. It’s someone driving through London at night. Driving past historical monuments such as Big Ben (minute 1:34.) The person is swerving through traffic, driving past the blurred lights, the camera zooms in and out of focus. This signifies a search, such as the search for god. The whole music video is just the driver seems to be aimlessly driving, having no direction. The music video ends by focusing on a bench, with the city lights shining below (minute 3:36.) The bench signifying something higher than ourselves, such as god. After seeming to be lost, he finds his way to the bench. This resembles what he hopes to be his relationship to god. After being lost in the search, he ultimately hopes to end up with a belief in god.
Originally, I thought this song was about a romantic relationship, until I really listened to the lyrics. I can see where some could take it as him speaking about a woman, but if you listen closely you will see that it can’t be about a woman. There is no reference to a female anywhere in this song, it speaks of something more abstract than that, not something as clear-cut as a person. No reference to their relationship, her personality, looks, what he loves about her, or why he wants to work it out. He spends no time building up a story of their relationship. When reading about Mumford & sons I learned that they have a history of singing about struggling with their faith. This article lists all the songs that Mumford sings about faith for you, so it’s a safe bet to say their songs aren’t usually about women, but of something greater.
This is a lyrically intense song, with lots of meaning. I really appreciate how open this is on an emotional level. Mumford & Sons is a band that produces music that is beyond sounding good, and pulls you in with the lyrics. I look forward to listening to some more of their music, and I hope you will take some time to sit back with a glass of wine and appreciate their talent!