“We Will Become Silhouettes” by The Postal Service


“We Will Become Silhouettes” presents an extreme contrast between lyrics and sound, reminiscent of Master Pangloss’ reality versus perspective from Voltaire’s Candide. Despite what appalling disasters befall him, even in the midst of an extreme earthquake, Pangloss stubbornly holds true to his view that “all is for the best in the world.” The events being described in this song are likewise horrific, to say the least: “Because the air outside will make our cells/Divide at an alarming rate until our shells/Simply cannot hold all our insides in/And that’s when we’ll explode…And it won’t be a pretty sight.” The music video depicts what appears to be a post-apocalyptic scene, with a band member uncontrollably giggling as he rides his bike through a large tumbleweed in what used to be a busy street, a contrasting attitude to an ominous picture. I related to the song by connecting it to modern times, particularly the line “But all the news reports recommend that I stay indoors,” satirizing the news we are constantly hearing of damaging sun rays, borderline poisonous food, storms, terrorist threats, and even the end of the world.

Yet The Postal Service’s frontman Ben Gibbard takes on a matter-of-fact and cheery tone while describing the dystopian chaos surrounding him consisting of empty streets, deceased friends, and a very lonely time spent in a fallout shelter. With an almost ridiculous sense of optimism, vocalist Jenny Lewis happily bobs her head to the catchy beat, idly singing “Ba…ba…ba…ba.” (Meanwhile, the “ba’s” likely refer to the sound our bodies make when they “finally go.”) Even the children in the video are excitedly bobbing and tapping their feet to the upbeat tune as they prepare for a bike ride through a bleak landscape and an equally unappealing picnic of preserved food.  Though there seems to be some sort of presence of imminent death due to the fact that the world fell apart, the incongruous bubbly attitude taken here almost seems to overshadow that destruction. Though it may be extreme and out of touch with reality, how else does one survive in such a tumultuous place? Even in the midst of destruction, life goes on. Dystopia is what you make of it, a hopeful message for us today in a world full of global warming and nuclear bombs. Maybe it will somehow all work out.


3 thoughts on ““We Will Become Silhouettes” by The Postal Service

  1. Wow. Having grown up in the era when the USSR and the USA had 3 times as many ICBMs pointed at each other as they really needed to make the earth completely uninhabitable for 1000 years, I really get the whole “We may be radioactive dust tomorrow, but let’s lead a cheer middle class existence today” vision. That’s just kinda what we did. As bad as things are, global nuclear destruction is still far less likely than it was back then. I sometime wonder what that who situation did to my generation–gave us a wicked sense of irony for one thing, or perhaps a highly developed sense of the absurd.

    True, it is not entirely clear that nuclear war is what is alluded to–but silhouettes are all that was left of some people after the bombs in Japan at the end of WW2.

    May I also recommend “99 Luftballons”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fdiUyMmVQ7E

    And, “It’s a Mistake”: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0AxrOUJ62E

  2. I like how you compared what we spoke about in class about it Candide and “the best world” with this song. The beat is so light and makes me even want to bop my head around… but the lyrics clearly don’t match the beat as he is singing about his body exploding and staying indoors to prevent that. The music video made me crack up… to actually watch them being so cheery as they sing such depressing lyrics.

  3. It’s my first time listening to the song, and watching the music video. I totally agree with the stark contrast, and I also bobbed my head while listening to it @am127065 ! I actually really liked the contrast, between the melody & music video with the lyrics! I feel that the song is telling us that when we die, we’re all going to be just concepts or hearsay (hence why the use of the words “echoes” and “silhouettes”– signifying something somewhat ambiguous), and bad things will happen, or people will always talk about bad things that may or may not happen. Because of that, we might as well just be happy with what we have. The song is still very much applicable to our present day life, what with all the bad news being passed around every single moment of the day via mass media and social media. I personally like to limit myself to the amount of news I read/watch because I don’t want to be unnecessarily overwhelmed by all the atrocities of the world. I guess, I really would prefer to be ignorantly happy, just like the song.

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