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OneRepublic songs: "Counting stars" meaning and lyrics

The meaning behind the music

Sometimes the path to our dreams seems like an impossible journey, one that takes forever to travel, and has a million and one obstacles standing in our way. What's worse than feeling like your dreams are unreachable? Maybe, getting lost or sidetracked along the journey, be it your heart or feet that get sidetracked. "Counting stars" describes how addictions can get the better of someone, sinking their life in a river full of failed hopes and dreams.


As some rumors may suggest, OneRepublic could have intended "Counting stars" to describe a couple struggling desperately to survive or to stay financially afloat. It's true that "Counting stars" could describe a man's desire to provide for his love, achieve all his personal goals/dreams, and achieve enough wealth to be able to relax and "count stars," instead of struggling to thrive. However, it's more probable that "Counting stars" describes an addicts struggle with drug abuse, failing to quit his usage of such substances for his loved one, and chasing his loved one away, as a result of his failure. "Counting stars" is a song about promises of better things to come, whether gaining wealth or ceasing to use drugs. However, the loss of sleep described by OneRepublic in this song, infers that all those promises are not being kept or fulfilled; either bad thoughts about failing to provide or failing to stop abusing drugs for his significant other are keeping this character awake at night. Keeping these suggested themes in mind, the lyrics of "Counting stars" suggest an underlying theme of disappointment, failure, and even regret. It's possible that "Counting stars" is the individual's way of describing coming to grips with the grim reality of his situation: a drug addiction (separating them from their loved one) or poverty (making them feel like an unfit provider for their loved one).

As anyone could understand, a struggle to thrive, whether financially, mentally, physically, or emotionally, is never a dream come true.

Analyzing the song for the sake of the music itself

"Lately I been, I been losing sleep, dreaming about the things that we could be" certainly says it all. The individual that "Counting stars" describes is torn up about not being able to obtain his goals in life and not being able to keep his promises to his loved one. Hence, "Counting stars's" reference to praying hard for dreams of wealth or quitting the usage of drugs to come true. "Counting stars" is about longing to have a better life, but knowing any attempts to change one's life would be in vain. Although their may be many interpretations of "Counting stars, lyrics like "make that money, watch it burn, sink in the river the lesson's I learned," "Counting stars" suggests that OneRepublic was trying to describe the life of an addict who is torn between his only love and his favorite drug(s).

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The lyrics "In my face is flashing signs, seek it out and ye shall find," suggests that the person struggling believes that there are obvious signs that their drug addiction is harmful and the signs that they need to stop are everywhere, but the individual is unable/refuses to see the obvious signs. The melancholy melody of the song's introduction suggests the person's disappointment with the grim direction of their life. "Said no more counting dollars, we'll be counting stars," suggests the yet-to-obtain promise that one day the individual will stop his addictions to regain the trust of his loved one. This concept of failure to keep promises is also highlighted with the lyrics "hope is a four letter word, make that money, watch it burn," which hints towards the fact that both members of the party are well aware that they can only hope for change in vain. Again, these lyrics build credibility that the song is about finding an opportunity to discover one's dreams, and in this case the dream is to make a positive change for one's self and one's love.

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"I feel something so right, doing the wrong thing," and "I feel something so wrong, doing the right thing," suggests that the individual knows that their actions will eventually have harsh consequences to deal with, but they are unable to quench their addiction. "I could lie, could lie, could lie, everything that kills me makes me feel alive," hints at the idea that the individual is trying to justify their struggle with drugs, by using "coming clean" with their loved one and admitting to their addiction as an excuse to continue. Likewise, "And I don't think the world is sold, on just doing what we're told" is also an excuse to continue the use of drugs; basically, this lyric proposes the "everyone else is doing it" excuse as a justification to do it too. Both of these lyrics highlight the individual's struggle, as an addiction has the ability to bring out the worst characteristics in a person, even if the worst was never the individual's intention. Perhaps, the individual has been hiding the way they feel from their loved one for a very long time, as they struggled with trying to conquer their addictions in silence, and only now has the individual finally sought an outside force for intervention.

Considering these lyrics, although the song describes the individual's desire to quit drugs, the melancholy lyrics of "Counting stars" suggest that the individual might have lost hope or sight of them. Hence, the "I been prayin' hard" lyric reference, which is merely an expression for "I desperately need help." An addiction can consume someone, causing them to count out every dollar they have to their name to feed the addiction, only to increase the desire for an eternal supply. Unfortunately, more often than not, once an addict, always an addict. As a result, addictions usually call for a direct intervention from an external source to suffocate the madness, as suggested by the lyrics of "Counting stars," which describes a desperate cry for help with a long-time struggle. In other words, sometimes, when you're knee-deep in failure and consequences, the only one that can save you is someone else.

OneRepublic "Counting stars" Official Music Video

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"Counting stars" official lyrics

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
But baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be counting stars
Yeah, we'll be counting stars

[Verse 1]
I see this life
Like a swinging vine
Swing my heart across the line
In my face is flashing signs
Seek it out and ye shall find

Old, but I'm not that old
Young, but I'm not that bold
And I don't think the world is sold
I'm just doing what we're told

I feel something so right
Doing the wrong thing
I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
Baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be counting stars
Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
Baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be, we'll be counting stars

[Verse 2]
I feel the love
And I feel it burn
Down this river every turn
Hope is a four letter word
Make that money
Watch it burn

Old, but I'm not that old
Young, but I'm not that bold
And I don't think the world is sold
I'm just doing what we're told

And I feel something so wrong
Doing the right thing
I could lie, could lie, could lie
Everything that downs me makes me wanna fly

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
Baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be counting stars
Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
Baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be, we'll be counting stars

[Bridge 4x:]
Take that money
Watch it burn
Sink in the river
The lessons I learned

Everything that kills me makes me feel alive

Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
Baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be counting stars
Lately I been, I been losing sleep
Dreaming about the things that we could be
Baby I been, I been prayin' hard
Said no more counting dollars
We'll be, we'll be counting stars

[Outro 4x:]
Take that money
Watch it burn
Sink in the river
The lessons I learned



Oof on May 11, 2020:

I love this song, it’s amazing.

Yeet man on August 24, 2019:

Hello i am doing this song for an english assignment is this a good website

Taylor on March 14, 2019:

i love counting stars by them

Songwriter Love on September 28, 2018:

It feels like the counting stars is not the struggle. They are secure so they can enjoy life and the bigger purpose they feel their part. Money is not an issue. It is a clear confession that they done something wrong to enjoy this happiness but it felt so right because they don't have to struggle. They can keep their minds on simple things like each other. That the world is their own and material things is not a dream it's an everyday thing that now they take for granted. Because how they achieve the money was sinner the lessons to other not to be greed over money. Take that money watch it burn cause they're spending it fast but they could be losing their soul. The whole world is not sold on tons of money but the world forces us to need money for everything. You don't want a lot to go to hell or lead to sin. They do need enough to live comfortably.

RoyalMount on June 28, 2018:

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You have to understand his background to understand the song. He grew up in the church.

Counting Stars is a direct reference to Abraham, who laid awake at night counting... stars. The symbolism in this song and video is very specific, and very direct.

The song also directly parallels Romans 7... I don't do the things I should do, and I find myself wanting to do the bad things I know shouldn't do.Still, I battle the feelings inside me to try to do the good things I should, and there is a war inside my body to discern what's really right. All the while, the devil is prowling around, ready to deceive you.

The song is about not putting your faith in the things of the world - money, but putting your faith in the promises of God (the story of Abraham, counting the stars [read the story if you don't know it], and the struggle to keep God's laws, which is our side of partnering with God and his promises....

Gypsytorah on July 20, 2017:

There is no definitive meaning, other than what resonates within each individual and their experiences with the world. That's the wonder and beauty of music, poetry -- ART. How someone interprets their own emotional worlds is a subjective reality. Asking us to dive into our emotions and seek fluidity, healing and cleansing is "primitive" in human conditioning.

NoOne on August 16, 2016:

I think the true meaning of the song is to poke fun at a young woman who is an aspiring writer who got roofied and as the guy who roofied her is waiting for her to loose awareness of what is going on around her so he can take her somewhere and assault her, she starts spewing all of the really creative and random ideas she has had for books and movies. He and his rich buddies spend the next almost decade making fun of her publicly and reminding her of that horrible night by using her ideas to get richer off of so she can't even listen to the radio or watch TV without something that was taken from her being shoved in her face. He got away with raping her by claiming she was a drug addict. Just my opinion.

Lucy on June 16, 2016:

Ryan tedder the guy that wrote this song with his own words during an interview said that his songs for one republic had Christian faith meaning. He said he copied u2. I guess the author of ut was Christian too. But anyway the alligator represents Satan of the bible. The only thing I got wrong in last paragraph was counting stars which represents wrongs and rights. But this song is a secular song with a hidden allegory meaning about his faith as a Christian and that came out of the songwriters mouth during an interview. This is not my opinion.

Lucy on June 14, 2016:

I am a Christian, and so is the guy that wrote this song. He was raised in a Christian church. So I know exactly what he is saying. It is an allegory. Basically what he is saying is we are all are following the herd. We are influenced by the media,society,rumors.(I'm just doing what I'm told) Influenced by wealth and keeping up with the jones(Take that money and watch it burn) love and hope is a 4 letter word(Mankind is more important then wealth) Doing the right thing feels right doing the wrongthing feels right(When he tries to do right, he's chastised by society and societys beliefs)Seek and you shall find(Jesus actually said this. Basically what it means-Seek and you shall find. Seek out whats really true don't follow the herd or society. Signs before his face(Christians do not see with their eyes but by faith. I see signs too. Sink in the river the lessons been learned(Listen to your parents, grandparents, the bible that you been taught, listen to the wise lessons you been taught all your life) Counting stars (Blessings. Joseph in the bible saw stars in dreams) life like a swinging vine swing my heart across the line(Basically the vine symbolizes religion,Church, beliefs(basically his heart is forced to believe like everyone elses. It swings across the line. Basically he can't believe in God. His heart crosses the line with how he really feels). What kills me makes me feel alive(When he chooses to go against the herd. he gets chastised but he believes what he's supposed to so that brings salvation)What drowns him makes him want to fly(Everything in this world that suffocates him makes him want to be lifted up to a higher level or soar). If you see the churchlike setting the guy has a box in his hand. That's not a bible its a box. So it's definitely not a Christian setting. but its almost Pentecostal. basically what he is saying is heretical beliefs that influence people. The alligator symbolized the devil. In the bible. the devil is seen as the dragon, snake, serpent,

Johnny Boy on July 22, 2015:

Old, but not that old, young but not that bold, yup, middle age- typically mid/late 30's to the 60's (ie 40's and 50's or close to it), thinking about lessons learned "losing sleep dreaming about the things we could be", "no more counting dollars, we'll be counting stars"- dreams, dreams not fulfilled younger in life, which is why approaching middle age, realizing how they were in life, feel so wrong doing the right thing, but it's not having fun earlier, and how different life would be had they been that way younger.

Danny Cabaniss from Shawnee, Oklahoma on July 20, 2015:

Brilliant writing! I am a high school English teacher who uses music videos just about every day of class. My colleague and I have used this song and compared with The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost. You gave me more food for thought. Thank you so much!

Rongsen on March 27, 2015:

Ryan is an incredible writer.His songs can be taken from many different perspective. So it depends on how you're inspired! ;-)

Mrzebra on March 22, 2015:

if you take the song litterally....he does want a better world but not one for us...for the illuminati......there is a depopulation agenda as in illuminati cards..... flashing eye, fingers and triangles more counting dollars...literal death of the dollar....doing what we're told..we're being the secret illuminati falling through floor alligators --illuminati card game...the card is tape runs out.....sadly it's a catchy song but i have a bad feeling counting stars has something to do with a permanent sleep

gdfgdf on March 22, 2015:


monfi on September 17, 2014:

song gooooooooooooooooooooood

ismaila on September 17, 2014:

song gooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooood

finxist on May 25, 2014:

I think this song is about a guy who is making ways to make their (his and his wife’s) lives better or happier but then he gets sidetracked in using drugs. One can focus more on the financial struggles or on drug addiction but I’d just like to interpret it as it is.

Let’s not overanalyze and just listen to the words.

“Lately I been, I been losing sleep,

Dreaming about the things that we could be.”

~Motivated by their dream, to be rich, to have a better life, or just to be happy, he worked so hard to the point of losing sleep yet it’s still not enough

“But baby I been, I been praying' hard.

Said no more counting dollars.”

~He is literally praying hard, as a result of desperation since overworking is not enough, so that they will be in a point where they don’t need to worry about money (debts, expenses, bills, etc)

“We'll be counting stars.

Yeah, we'll be counting stars”

~This is like an affirmation or him stating it as a fact that they will definitely have a better life.

“I see this life

Like a swinging vine.”

~One must push himself up in order to swing a vine. So just like life, when you’re down you need to make an effort to push yourself up. However, the word “swinging” implies that there’s always change in our life. We can be happy/rich/high at one time or sad/poor/down the next time.

“Swing my heart across the line

In my faces flashing signs

Seek it out and ye shall find”

~Make me feel like I have something to be happy for. Good things happen to me too. I just have to know where to look and I’ll find it (refers to the things that make him happy).

“Old, but I'm not that old

Young, but I'm not that bold”

~I have aged but I’m not weak or senile. I’m still young, though, I’m not confident/aggressive/bold.

“And I don't think the world is sold.

I'm just doing what we're told”

~The word “sold” implies something is bought. Hence, he says not everything (like happiness) can be bought. But on the second line, “I’m just doing what we’re told” means he has bought or used something (like drugs)that makes him experience a glimpse of happiness and happiness is something he strives for to achieve.

“I, feel something so right

But doing the wrong thing

I, feel something so wrong

But doing the right thing”

~Using drugs gives him a taste of complete happiness hence he feels it’s right but in the eyes of other people (the norms) it’s considered wrong.

“I could lie, could lie, could lie”

“Everything that kills me makes me feel alive”

~He is confused about it, thinking how can something (drugs) destroy him when it makes him feel better.

“I feel the love

And I feel it burn”

“Down this river every turn

Hope is a four letter word”

~People who love him show their concern, maybe urging him to stop using drugs but then “down this river every turn”-may mean that almost everyone in that area where he lives are using drugs. And hope is the only thing they could easily do.

“Make that money

Watch it burn”

~He may mean that people work so hard for money yet it could just easily be spent.

Everything that drowns me makes me wanna fly

“Everything that stresses him, hinders him or binds him (like laws, rules, responsibilities or the obligation to fulfil a promise of making a better life for him and his wife) just makes him want to break free.

“Take that money and watch it burn

Sink in the river the lessons I learned”

~rephrase: The lessons I learned sink in the river. He has ignored whatever it is that people had told him, or he has not learned from any lesson in using drugs because he doesn’t consider it as a mistake.

HA on May 06, 2014:

ths is my favourite song cause it is my favourite band.

Benny Hinn on May 03, 2014:

I definitely think there are addictive insuinuations in this video. However, I believe that the meaning of this video is delusion. Specifically the middle aged person at least in this video. The song can be interpreted many ways.

If you look at the context of the video, it is set in a "faith healer" sort of setting. The thing about faith healers is that they give you hope when you have none, in exchange for reality. Hence, delusion as blissful, addicting, and enticing it is (similar to a drug).

The person the song represents, is probably

1. On the poor side thus, "count dollars". Think penny pinch and worry about each dollar.

2. Middle aged. "Old, but not that old, Young but not that bold". Teenagers and young adults are typically bold, since they have more life ahead of them. Middle aged are old, but not THAT old.

3. The person did not do well in life. Thus "dreaming of all the things that we can be"

4. The person is in a middle aged rut. "Lately I've been...praying hard/losing sleep" Thinks/hopes/prays that they can get out of this rut. They aren't seeking a "realistic" measure, but a desperate flail at life.

5. "Sink in the river the lessons I've learned" which basically means that they are giving up their wisdom, experience, money and knowledge for a "quick fix" that the faith healer can give them.

Thus, they sell their logic and attend an inspirational faith healing session. Everything is fun, they are forgetting themselves (this is similar to a drug high, for all those that say this is about drugs) and they are becoming empowered. However, at the end of the song, reality hits, and after they've "burned" all their money and logic, reality collapses in on them. The guy literally falls through a hole.

I believe the alligator is there to represent the reptilian brain, but I"m not sure. Reptilian brain can be compulsive and I believe its main feature is to protect you, but it can be "wrong". Such as when you see a hose and think it is a snake. Thus, delusion.

Kc on April 28, 2014:

Sounds to me like he has sold his soul to the devil and now he's on top , no more counting dollars now they are counting stars. The struggle to to be a star but if you don't sell your soul you are no one in the music industry. He knows is wrong but it feels right. That the price famous people have to paid to be rich and famous. They become puppets.

Edgar on March 19, 2014:

This song has been a reminder for me of a tough time I have been going through. I've been stagnant in my life and my goals and this song reminds me of what can be and to let go of what might seem 'right' and do the 'wrong' thing. I see the meaning of the song as intended... But I also know what it means to me.

Luciana on March 13, 2014:

Well, the truth is that the song's lyrics has a lot of meanings, it depends on the person, each one choose its definition because you can to convert the words in another one, adapt it to the context and be metaphoric, i said before, the lyrics depends on each one.

anon on March 10, 2014:

I agree with Void on this one. "I don't think the world is sold, I'm just doin' what we're told," sounds to me like someone hoping that the world can be a better place underneath all the crap that social norms have forced upon it. "I feel something so right doing the wrong thing, I feel something so wrong doing the right thing," sounds like a person struggling with how what the world says is 'right' always seems like the 'wrong' thing to do. Then again, everyone can have their own interpretation, and that's one of the things I love about music in general.

Void on March 04, 2014:

For me is Anarchism song!

"Take that money

Watch it burn

Sink in the river

The lessons I learned"

World without money

"I feel something so right

Doing the wrong thing

I feel something so wrong

Doing the right thing"

a fight against the social norms

anonymous on March 03, 2014:

i love this song

Devon on January 29, 2014:

Love dis song

christina on January 17, 2014:

I I think this song means there's a Man in love with a woman but he's married and when he's with her it feels so right doing the wrong thing. He's a man of God so he can't leave his wife so staying feels so wrong doing the right thing. where he's at he's struggling with money but when he's with his love money doesn't matter. They would be happy just counting stars. He's losing sleep dreaming of the life he could have.

lighthope on December 23, 2013:

This song is so deep and meaningful like no other song this year most songs are a bunch of crap that means nothing you can tell they put a lot of thought into this

Zack Love on December 20, 2013:

I found this hub very useful because I was interested in the meaning of this song.

me on December 17, 2013:

I think this songs can mean many things to many people it just depends on where one is in their life.

john on December 12, 2013:

I interpret more so as a man having to decide on either keeping a well paying job and being distanced from his lover. Making it so the only way to find happiness and love being the uncertainty of living a life with a low paying job.

Jodi on November 23, 2013:

I think weather your in young love or addicited to drugs the song still will help one feel better about them self. I am a recovering drug addict. To me the song is about over coming addiction. And that you don't need drugs to make you feel good. Watch the Video. It does not show a man loving a woman. It shows ppl in a room like a meeting for recovery. An when they hear the song they feel better start getting up to dance. I know it always makes me feel better :-) great song love it

LOVEVOtm on November 07, 2013:

Love this song LOVEVO approved

Kelly on October 14, 2013:

I think the true meaning of counting stars is about this guy who loves a girl but the parents don't approve of them so he's trying to tell her not to care that they can do what the feel is right even if it seems wrong.

in the first line it says lately I've been I've been losing sleep dreaming about the things that we could be, he's trying to say that he can't sleep at night because he's fallen in love with her and wanting them to stay together. then line 2 says but baby I've been I've been praying hard said no more counting dollars well be counting stars, here he's tell her he hopes she'll stay with him and they won't have to worry about money but have fun.

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