“Tighten Up” [The Black Keys] – lyrics for English students

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Thanks for coming! Practice your English skills by reading and listening to the song lyrics. You can find more songs here on the website, too.

I wanted love, I needed love

Most of all, most of all

Someone said true love was dead

And I’m bound to fall, bound to fall for you

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Oh, what can I do? Yeah

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Take my badge but my heart remains

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Lovin’ you, baby child

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Tighten up on your reins

You are runnin’ wild, runnin’ wild, it’s true

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Sick for days in so many ways

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I’m achin’ now, I’m achin’ now

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It’s times like these I need relief

Please show me how, oh show me how to get right

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Yeah, it’s out of sight

When I was young and movin’ fast

Nothin’ slowed me down, oh, slowed me down

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Now I let the others pass, I’ve come around

Oh come around, ’cause I’ve found

Livin’ just to keep goin’

Goin’ just to be sane

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All the while not knowin’

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It’s such a shame

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I don’t need to get steady

I know just how I feel

I’m tellin’ you to be ready

My dear

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  • To be “bound to” do something means that it is meant to happen or destined to happen. In other words, it is guaranteed. “If you jump off of bridges, you are bound to get hurt.” In this lyric, “falling” refers to falling in love. Sometimes people don’t say the “in love” part but it means the same thing.
  • “Badge” here can mean respect or honor since people who wear badges are generally respected and honored people. She took his honor but he still loves her (my heart remains).
  • Calling her “baby child” is a way to sound like he is in control or has power in the relationship. It also sounds like he feels pity for her because some people say this when they feel sorry for another person. Still, it’s a loving term.
  • To “tighten up” is to hold onto something tighter or more firmly. “Reins” are the equipment used to steer a horse or other large animal. That’s where we get the word “reindeer”. “Tightening up the reins” can be thought of as getting a strong grip on your life, controlling yourself more, behaving more appropriately.
  • This shows how “sick” can be a state of feeling terribly both physically and emotionally.
  • Of course, to “ache” is pretty much the same as to hurt. That’s why we say headache, back ache, etc.
  • *It is in times like these…
  • To “get right” is to feel better or live life better. When someone wants to have a more fulfilling and successful life, they want to get right.
  • “Out of sight” is more of an old-fashioned slang. It was more popular in the ’70s but obviously, people love the ’70s and so it’s still popular among some groups of people. It means that something is amazing, it’s so good that you can’t see it anymore, out of sight.
  • To “come around” usually means to come over, like to someone’s house. “What time are you coming over?” In this song, though, he uses a figurative meaning. “Come around” also means to come to your senses, or to realize that you were doing something wrong. You think more clearly now. “Finally, you stopped listening to that terrible rock band. I knew you would come around.”
  • “All the while” means the whole time. It’s especially used in situations when someone doesn’t know about something, but they usually find out later. “The kids were crying to buy ice cream after school when, all the while, there was already ice cream at home.”
  • Such a” before a descriptive noun just adds emphasis, meaning it is a lot or in a big way. “He’s such a good guy (a really good guy).”
  • “Steady” normally means to be stable or in control, both physically and emotionally. To “get steady” then means to become stable or to gain control of himself/his emotions.

The song lyrics are quite short but there’s a lot of story in them. We have an old love seemingly from childhood, and a guy who insists on love when everyone else doubts him. It seems like for good reason since the love interest has disrespected him and hurt him. Still, like so many of us, he insists on keeping the relationship going, keeping hope alive, and denying he needs any help at all. I like the idea of these lyrics because he hasn’t yet resolved his relationship issues and he’s very much still trying to figure out what he’s doing, all while being a little bit in denial. Either way he seems to have a strong mindset about it and is warning us to “be ready” for when he is back on top of things. This story is not over yet!

Thanks for reading. Here are some things to think about and some questions to answer in the comments if you want to practice your English writing skills. I will give feedback on any comments or answers guys!

Questions

  1. Do you know someone who should “tighten up” their reins and behave a little better?
  2. Why do you think someone might tell you “love is dead?” Do you agree with this statement?
  3. Do you like The Black Keys? What other songs do you like by them?
  4. Why do you think they’re called “the black keys”, anyway?

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