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Hold Back The River (James Bay)
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When only music helps you to cope with your overwhelming feelings...

Tried to keep you close to me,
But life got in between
Tried to square not being there
But think that I should have been

Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes
Hold back the river, so I
Can stop for a minute and see where you hide
Hold back the river, hold back

Once upon a different life

We rode our bikes into the sky
But now we call against the tide
Those distant days are flashing by

Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes
Hold back the river, so I
Can stop for a minute and be by your side
Hold back the river, hold back

Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes
Hold back the river, so I
Can stop for a minute and see where you hide
Hold back the river, hold back

Hold oho, oho, oho, oho
Oho, oho, oho, oho

Lonely water, lonely water, won't you let us wander
Let us hold each other
Lonely water, lonely water, won't you let us wander
Let us hold each other

Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes
Hold back the river, so I
Can stop for a minute and be by your side
Hold back the river, hold back

Hold back the river, let me look in your eyes
Hold back the river, so I
Can stop for a minute and be by your side
Hold back the river, hold

Lonely water, lonely water, won't you let us wander
Let us hold each other
Lonely water, lonely water, won't you let us wander
Let us hold each other.










KEEP YOU CLOSE TO ME= He is trying to keep his family and friends near him.

LIFE GOT IN BETWEEN= Circumstances were beyond our control (his success as a singer did not permit those relations to be healthy and fluent).

SQUARE= To square is to balance a situation, to compensate a wrong. "(I) tried to square not being there" means that he tried to compensate for the fact that he was not with his family and friends. But he feels it was never enough, that's why he next says: "But I think that I should have been (there)".

HOLD BACK THE RIVER= To hold back something is to stop it moving. Here the river is a metaphor for his new life, gone out of control and pushing him too fast too far. He wants that "river" to stop, so he can have time to be with his loved ones again.

SO I CAN STOP...= SO (THAT) + Subject + Modal verb (usually CAN or MAY) + bare infinitive --> A construction used to express purpose (using "that" is optional):
1- Come here to see me = "to see me" is the reason why you must come here.
2- Come here so (that) you can see me --> this means exactly the same as sentence 1.
When the subjects are the same we can use both constructions, when they are different, only construction 2 is possible:
- I'll open the door to go out (I open, I go)
- I'll open the door so (that) I can go out (I open, I go)
- I'll open the door so (that) you can go out (I open, you go)
more information about purpose here.

ONCE UPON A DIFFERENT LIFE= The phrase "Once upon a time" is the way fairy tales usually begin and it means "(this happened) a long time ago". With this expression he emphasises that the memories he's going to tell (riding their bikes) seems so distant, as if it happened a million years ago, when his life was completely different from the life he now has. The next line will talk about that past life under a very optimistic light: times where life was shared all together, with family and friends.

CALL AGAINST THE TIDE= The periodic variation in the surface level of the sea caused by the moon. To call against the tide means to be trying to do something when everything is pushing you in the opposite direction.

FLASHING BY= Going away really fast; it's another way to say 'gone are the days when life was easy'.

LONELY WATER= A metaphor for "tears"; he means his life feels sad and lonely.

WANDER= Move around with no particular destination.

HOLD= Embrace, put your arms around someone's body.

EACH OTHER= (reciprocal sense) you to me and me to you.

James Bay tells how 'Hold Back The River' was born out of a need to express how he was feeling about being apart from friends and family for the first time as his career took off.

* With his early success, Bay found himself busier than he’d ever been. Touring the world had created not just a physical distance but an emotional one from everyone important his life.

“I started to panic about losing touch with those people,” he admits. “That started to worry me.”

It all came to a head the night of his first headlining show, where three-fourths of the audience was made up of friends and family. Bay mistakenly assumed he’d be able to spend time with everyone after the show. But as the lights turned on and people left, he realized he hadn’t spent quality time with anyone. “The moment came and went in two seconds,” Bay laments. “I continued to feel anxious about how I was losing touch.”

Bay picked up his guitar and the emotions poured out of him. He knew he had to put these feelings into a song but just didn’t want the song to be a failure. “I spent 8-10 hours of the day chasing it,” Bay says, “and giving up, trying again and giving up, but because I felt it so strongly, suddenly at the last moment, just before hanging the guitar back up, the music came.” The riff was the first to come. “It felt like the thing that expressed the emotion the best, and lyrics just kind of just flowed to that melody,” described Bay.

Bay says the lyric as he raises his arm with hand in a stop sign motion. “Hold Back” is both a metaphor and quite direct at the same time. “Can we just park all of this craziness, this business that I’m living in in the moment so I can be with those people,” he asked himself. “Hold back the river—Hold back the madness.”

“Everything that I was feeling, kind of missing people, missing out their lives that mean so much to me, it all just came together.”

(*James Bay Tells the Story Behind ‘Hold Back The River’: radio.com)

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