Bright Eyes, “One For You, One For Me”

Written by April 11th, 2011 at 1:10 pm

On Bright Eyes’ “One For You, One For Me,” Conor Oberst explores Rastafari themes of oneness. The song is the last track on the band’s 2011 album, The People’s Key, which Oberst has hinted may be his final statement under the Bright Eyes moniker.

Oberst seems to contain and embrace his entire body of work as a songwriter in this one song. Where many Bright Eyes songs have dealt with loneliness, “One For You, One For Me” seems to celebrate togetherness. In a recent interview with American Songwriter, Oberst said, “I think there’s all of our music throughout the years on this record.”

In the interview, Oberst also discussed his interest in reggae and his intent to move The People’s Key away from a folk and country sound. The record is sonically dark and reverby, and also recalls dub music in addition to reggae. “I’ve always liked reggae music, but liked the lyrical themes which are redemption, and liberation, and overcoming oppressive evil.”

“One For You, One For Me” is built around a simple oppositional structure, and later takes on linguistics in a pronoun war, with Oberst exploring the differences between you, me, I, and us. At the end of the song, Oberst chooses the Rastafari version of “we” – “I and I” – which celebrates a universal oneness between people under God.

“One For You, One For Me”

One for the righteous, one for the ruling class
One for the tyrant, one for the slaughtered lamb
One for the struggle, one for the lasting peace
One for you, and one for me

One for the Führer, one for his child bride
One for the wedding, one for the suicide
One for the bunker, one for the broadcast booth
One for me, now one for you

How did we get so far away from us?
How did we get so far away?

One for the people, one for the parliament
One for the weary, one for the malcontent
One for the master, one for the protégé
One for you, and one for me

One for the bread lines, one for the billionaires
One for the missing, one for the barely there
One for the certain, one for the real confused
One for me, okay, now one for you

Now that we’ve come so far away from us
Now that we’ve come too far to say
You and me, you and me that is an awful lie
You and me, you and me that is an awful lie

It’s I and I
It’s I and I
It’s I and I
It’s I and I

Written by Conor Oberst

  • millicent

    to me this song doesnt make any big deal!what i think is that,sometime life is a luck or a chance…but i have not listen to the song yet jst gose true the lyrics..what more will i say it’s a simply text not bad….happi Easter.Enjoy ur moment.

  • Evan

    I understand the rastafari meaning behind the I and I phrase, but I interpret this song quite differently. I think of it as expressing how we live in an individualist culture and it’s every man for himself. The reason being is that in the verses he is generally comparing the ‘haves’ to the ‘have nots’ and before the I and I phrase he says “you and me, that is an awful lie” which to me is basically him saying you can’t count on anyone but yourself. I’m sure my interpretation is biased by my own view on life, but that’s how I see the song, and given Oberst’s cynical point of view (at least what I get from his body of work) I think that’s what he’s saying as well.

    If he’s preaching togetherness why does he proceed it by saying you and me is an awful lie?

  • Spencer

    To Evan, your interpretation is another way of reading the lyrics which are weird without knowing what “I and I” refers to, but if you want to know what Connor is trying to express it becomes more obvious in the live performances of the song. When he says “you he points to himself and when he says “I” he points to the crowd. “you and me that is an awful lie” means that the way we separate ourselves from each other is wrong “It’s I and I” meaning that we are not separate and this is the truth as our actions affect others as well as theirs. We are not separate as when other nations in the world have economic problems it affects us. Connor after the lyrics are done then goes to the crowd and hugs and reaches out becoming apart of the people not separated as he is when on the stage. I think Connor all for the individual, but perhaps it is in the individual’s best interest to know others support and influence his life. We’re not islands.

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