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Christina Perri, ‘Human’ – Song Meaning

Christina Perri
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

Love often involves self-sacrifice and becoming something more than human and becoming possibly immortal. Christina Perri makes that point in her beautifully aching new ballad ‘Human.’ We’ve excavated the meaning of the song’s powerfully poetic lyrics.

“I can fake a smile / I can force a laugh / I can dance and play the part / If that’s what you ask.”

Sometimes, in order to satisfy, please or placate the one we love, be it a romantic lover or even a parent, we have to muster the strength and the courage to be something we are not. That’s what love is — giving of yourself to help or support someone else. Oftentimes, we do it willingly. Other times, we do because we must. Here, it’s as though Perri’s narrator is resigned to doing these things because she has no other choice.

“But I’m only human / And I bleed when I fall down / I’m only human / And I crash and I break down / Your words in my head, knives in my heart / You build me up and then I fall apart / ‘Cause I’m only human .”

Even though she has pretty much made a deal and a pact with herself to do what is needed, she clarifies that she is not perfect and she may screw up. And it’s all the fault of the person she loves. So in this case, she has toiled to become what the person wants her to be and it may not be for the best. And that’s okay. Our flaws and our imperfections make us interesting and who we are, and she reiterates this. Hopefully, this shifts the balance of power in this relationship.

“I can take so much /’Till I’ve had enough.”

With this simple line, Perri’s speaker issues a warning. She’s not going to give and give and give until there is nothing more to give…

“I can turn it on / Be a good machine / I can hold the weight of worlds / If that’s what you need.”

…But she will sure try. This makes her character sound like martyr willing to barter herself in favor of unconditional love. It’s a complex story, one that’s not quite fair and we can’t help but wonder how long she can (or should) keep this up. She deserves some reciprocity. Plus, love shouldn’t make her feel or act like a machine. It should give and take and equal effort.

That’s our read of Christina Perri’s ‘Human,’ a gorgeous track about putting someone else first time and time again. She seems so much more than mortal, to us!

Listen to Christina Perri, ‘Human’

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