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This Isn’t the End: Suicide, Heartbreak and Healing in Owl City song

“On some nights,” American photojournalist Hunter S. Thompson (1937 – 2005) once wrote, “I still believe that a car with the gas needle on empty can run about fifty more miles if you have the right music very loud on the radio.” This feeling, of music magically transporting the soul and spirit beyond the present realm into a distant one, can be felt especially when the music tells a story. The reason is not far fetched: stories alone touch and transform, music alone also touches and transform, but when these two come together in unison, wonders happen–transformation, inspiration, elevation, bliss.

One such music is This Isn’t the End, the 10th track from American electronica project Owl City’s 5th studio album, Mobile Orchestra (International Edition). It’s a heart rending story of a little girl whose father commits suicide when she is very young. The song although being about a very dark and depressing topic, carries a message of positivity in it.

Beginning with introducing us to the world of a girl whose life has received a sudden transformation to the negative direction after her beloved father left her behind. As is the custom in our apparently joyful society, where the happiness of the world would quickly cover up the sadness of the dejected who doesn’t want to ladden the world with the burden of his own sorrow, the little girl would always pretend to be happy when in front of her friends only to get back to her closet to burst into fresh stream of repressed tears. Young sang:

An 8 year old girl had a panic attack
Cause the father she loved left and never looked back
No longer the hero, she counted on
He told her he loved her and then he was gone

She tried to look happy in front of her friends
But knew that she’d never feel normal again
She fought back the tears as they filled her eyes
And wanted him back just to tell him goodbye

Woman Sitting on Slab Near Brown Wall
Woman Sitting on Slab Near Brown Wall, by Min An, from Pexels.com

The listener would wonder what Young meant when he sang about the father leaving without looking back–was he talking about the father breaking up with her mother to stay with another woman or is it about a gradual depression, rampant in our contemporary society, that eventually demanded his life? Young continued:

Her dad was a good guy that everyone liked
But nobody knew he was dying inside
He promised his family he’d be all right
And then with a gunshot he left them behind

Suicide. By the gun. Leaving behind the pain of this world. Leaving his beloved daughter behind to face the world alone, thus causing even more pain for the young girl. Situations like this make me wonder which is more characteristic of bravery and which is characteristic cowardice–is it running from the painful world by reluctantly braving suicide, or reluctantly braving the world at the sight of painful suicide? The father of our protagonist, having endured to keep his pains in for too long while appearing to the world to be normal, decided to do the former.

The role of a father, he never deserved
He abandoned his daughter and never returned

Who knows what the cause of this father’s pain is? Perhaps he was also abandoned by a loved one, say his beloved wife or even his father, and now he’s abandoning his own daughter too because he was unable to heal. He’s leaving the daughter to continue this vicious circle of pain, depression and giving up.

However, Young told of how our protagonist, even though she was beaten by the pain of her father’s failure, she came to her senses and rose above the pain thereby cutting off the vicious circle.

And over the years though the pain was real
She finally forgave him, and started to heal

In an ending that brought to view the moral of the song’s story, and through the chorus that breaks the whole story into meldoius verses, Young rightly admitted the fact of life’s pain but then went ahead to admonish holding on cause at the end of the tunnel lies a bright light through which we’re going to shine.

How close is the ending? Well, nobody knows
The future’s a mystery and anything goes
Love is confusing and life is hard
You fight to survive cause you made it this far


When the rain falls down
When it all turns around
When the light goes out this isn’t the end

Album Art for Owl City's Mobile Orchestra
Album Art for Owl City’s Mobile Orchestra

Genuis praised This Isn’t the End as one of the most poignant songs ever by the artist, and Young himself spoke about the song as the most positive and uplifting music he’s done:

Sometimes people ask me what song I am most proud of writing and I say a song called This Isn’t The End. It is heartbreaking, but in its own dark subject matter it is perhaps the most positive and uplifting song in my arsenal. It is my small attempt to tell a hurting world, “there is always a light at the end of the tunnel,” and I believe songs that can help people are worth their weight in gold. “This Isn’t The End” is perhaps the nearest song to my heart because it is a momentary departure from the good times and starlight and lightning bugs, and instead the embrace of real human issues, pure and honest. I hope you enjoy it as much as I enjoyed creating it.

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