The song “Riptide” was written by Australian artist Vance Joy. “Riptide” is a track from his debut EP “God Loves You When You’re Dancing”, which was released in March 2013 through Mushroom Group Liberation Music. The song peaked at number 7 on the Australian ARIA Singles Chart and became the Australian’s best-selling song of 2013 in his home country.
“Riptide” was then named the number one song on Triple J’s Hottest 100 in 2013. It reached an identical peak the following year.
The song received positive reviews from music critics, who praised its lyrics, vocals, and production.
In May 2015, it was announced that “Riptide” became the longest-running song in ARIA chart history, staying in the top 100 for 107 weeks, a number that continues to rise. It surpassed the previous record of 106 weeks set by Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face”. In January 2016, the milestone of 120 weeks was reached.
History of creation
Vance Joy started writing the song in 2008, five years before the song’s release. He took the guitar and began to play the chords for the verse. The first time I managed to write only two lines and then the performer forgot about them for a long time.
Years after his university studies and VFL career, Joy began playing open mics in Melbourne, eventually leading to a full-time music career.
As Vance tells in his interview, that in 2012, at dinner with his friend, he played a tune on the ukulele that reminded him of sketches from 4 years ago. This melody became the instrumental bridge for “Riptide”, and forced me to write the melody for the chorus on the same day. The words came easily, like a stream of consciousness. The finished lyrics that fit the artist’s criteria were already ready for the song in a couple of days.
The original version of the song was uploaded to his personal Facebook account. Although the singer only uploaded the first verse and chorus, the positive response from Joy’s friends and family encouraged him to continue his music. He originally recorded and produced the song with drummer Edwin White in just one day at Red Door Studios in suburban Melbourne.
Subsequently, additional processing was completed by John Castle. In an interview, Vance said that the title of the song came from the motel of the same name that he went to with his family when he was a child.
The meaning of the song
Contrary to popular misconception, Vance Joy’s “Riptide” is not about kidnapping or any other criminal behavior. Instead, the song is a love story about the singer’s feelings for his girlfriend. The lyrics of “Riptide” contain metaphors and vivid imagery. But these texts do not describe kidnapping or any other form of violent and criminal behavior. The song is a romantic and upbeat melody that expresses the singer’s feelings of attraction, yearning, and insecurities towards his girlfriend.
The whole song is about a girl who is insulted by her boyfriend, but after another quarrel, she always returns to him. There is another guy in the plot of the composition, whom the girl considers as a fallback. Her current boyfriend is aware of his existence and tries to keep them away from each other. While the other guy is trying to tell her to leave him, in fact, she is suffering because of him.
Riptide (from the English. Rip tide) is a strong sea current that repels from the coast when a strong storm approaches. It is a source of danger to swimmers, pulling them off the beach and can lead to death by drowning as a result of exhaustion while fighting the current.
The title of the song refers not only to the ocean, but also to the motel where vance Joy stayed in his youth. He explained to American Songwriter magazine, “I think you use these words first without thinking about whether they make sense or not. In my mind, the meaning of the song’s title is the ocean, but my entire awareness that the word exists is in a motel called Riptide. It was also in my head, as it is not the most common expression. And for this reason, this word has a special meaning for me and a special memory.
Interpretation of the lyrics
“I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations”, meaning that he got over that fear and now found her.
“All my friends are turning green.” His friends are jealous because he has this beautiful girlfriend.
“Lady, running down to the riptide, Taken away to the dark side.” His girlfriend gets trapped by bad people, addiction, or something that changes her lifestyle.
“I wanna be your left hand man.” He loves her so much that he will still stay and help her no matter what happens.
“I love you, when you’re singing that song, and I’ve got a lump in my throat, Cos your gonna sing the words wrong.” Relationships start to crumble because she says and does things that don’t fit her personality. This makes him feel bad inside that she is not the girl he met the first time.
“This cowboys running from himself.” This means that he does not understand why she became like this, so he wonders if he is not good enough.
“And she’s been living on the higher shelf”. He always idolized her and put her on a pedestal.
“I just wanna, I just wanna know, If you’re gonna, if you’re gonna stay.” He wants to know if she really loves him.
“I love you when you’re singing that song and I gotta lump in my throat cos your gonna sing the words wrong”. He wants so badly to hear her say “I love you” but she can’t or won’t.
“I was scared of dentists and the dark, I was scared of pretty girls and starting conversations.” The girl helped him overcome his fears.
Taken away to the dark side. You become a person I don’t recognize.
“I love you when you’re singing that song and, I got a lump in my throat cause, You’re gonna sing the words wrong.” I love that you love me back. But it’s not the way I need it.