Bowling for Soup: When We Die

Bowling for Soup has a (fairly) long history of writing upbeat, catchy tunes that leave you singing snippets long after the music has faded from the speakers. Their collection of radio-play singles are typically light-hearted, whimsical and sometimes even mock their own genre (Almost, 1985, Punk Rock 101). In fact, most of their singles typically leave the listener with a solid piece of advice. But with “When We Die,” they have changed that formula around… and that is part of what makes it work.

When I first heard “When We Die,” I was actually streaming it through my Yahoo video player (not a plug, merely where I was first exposed to it). The video is striking for two reasons. One is that the band is largely absent within the video. It follows Jaret Reddick throughout his life of disappointing his father, seeking his approval. And by the end, when Jaret and his wife (paid attention for this one, they are both wearing wedding bands in the video) are playing with their newborn child, Jaret’s father does show up to show him his approval.

The video struck a chord with me, as I am not accustomed to seeing this type of heart in Bowling for Soup’s videos. So I sought out the lyrics to see what the message might really be, since sometimes videos have NOTHING to do with the song they are showing.

I am pleased to report that the lyrics are just as heartfelt as the video portrays. And after scouring the web, I was able to locate an interview with Reddick that backs up the video’s point of view.

The song follows an estranged son as he pens a message to his father who has seemingly ignored him after the son has messed up his life by drinking too much, and not following in the footsteps that his father wanted him to (in the video this is shown in a few different ways). The song is as much a plea for forgiveness as it is a message that the son trusts that they will reunite – he just wants to reunite before they die, because “As long as we live, time passes by, and we won’t get it back when we die.”

There are only two things about this song that I disagree with. One is the notion that”We won’t get it back when we die” shows that Reddick does not plan to have any existence after death. Now I cannot guarantee where anyone will exist after death (either with or away from Christ), I do believe that we will continue to exist after death. It is a great plea to patch things up sooner rather than later, though.

The other item I am troubled by is a line at the end of the second verse, whereReddick states “And I can’t say that I blame you, but you can’t blame me.” This line is a little vague and could be take none of two way. The first interpretation is thatReddick sees that he is not culpable for any of his actions or his past attitude toward his father. The second interpretation is that Reddick is simply stating that he has come this far and has offered anything, and that his conscience is clean because he made every effort to reconnect with his father. With the band’s track record it could go either way.

All in all, this is a solid, clean, heartfelt song. It speaks against the culture of children hating their parents, and is a call for unity between this father and this son, if not between all fathers and sons. And it is a song of trust. Trust that this father and son will reunite, just hopefully before they die…