The Weeknd's "False Alarm" Lyrics Explore Familiar Themes In A Cool New Way — LISTEN
Toronto's second-biggest musical export has fallen prey to the back to school spirit of September and has been working his butt off. Last weekend, he dropped the first single of his new album, the titular "Starboy," and, not even a week later, we've got his second single off his upcoming album. The Weeknd's "False Alarm" is a fast-paced song that covers themes which will be familiar to long-time Weeknd fans: drugs, partying, unhealthy romantic relationships. Still, there are some mysterious moments in there, making a verse by verse breakdown not just well-advised but downright necessary. So The Weeknd's "False Alarm" lyrics mean?
I'm calling it. The song is a paean to the Tinder generation: it's all about the dazzle of surface appearances and — because it's a song from The Weeknd — the emptiness beneath. According to Tesfaye, you shouldn't trust that hot party girl in the red dress with your heart, 'cause she'll trample all over it in her stilettos. This seems horribly depressing until you actually listen to the song. It's set to a non-stop dance beat and, just as you're thinking it's business as usual, switches to a totally different song at the end. It trails off by sampling the Ethiopian singer Aster Aweke’s “Y'shebellu.” So far, so multi-layered.
But let's not get ahead of ourselves. Let's break this song down bit by bit.
The First Verse
Bathroom stalls for the powder nose (she loves)High heel shoes with the open toes (she loves)She's got a good time wrapped in gold (she loves)For you, for youAll red dress with the devil eyes (she loves)So obsessed with the camera lights (she loves)You love her, but you can't deny (she loves)The truth, the truth
Ready to write yourself a The Weeknd song? You'll need to open on a gratuitous drug reference (check!); move on to an image that combines glamor with a suggestion of something dark and rotten just beneath the surface ("All red dress with the devil eyes" -—check!); and move on to an exploration of fame that emphasizes the emptiness of it ("So obsessed with the camera eyes").
So, yes, this feels like one verse condensing everything The Weeknd explored in the mixtape that made his name, House Of Balloons, into eight snappy lines. If you've got a winning formula, why change it? In short, this verse is about Tesfaye falling for a superficial but beautiful woman who's into the usual The Weeknd album type stuff: thrills, drugs, fame.
She loves everybodyCan't you tell by the signs?She loves everybodyShe gets off all the timeIt's a dark philosophyAnd it haunts her constantlyIt's a false alarm to meShe's a false alarm
At this point, I started to feel the song functions on two levels. One is the surface story of the boy-singer falling for this dangerous, flawed girl. She's incredibly sexy and cool, but, since she's into everyone, her affection doesn't count for much. Or — and bear with me here — is the girl being used as a stand-in for Abel Tesfaye himself? After all, The Weeknd's previous albums have cited his problems with fidelity and explored the darkness of his constant pursuit of hedonism. What's more an Abel Tesfaye activity than getting "off all the time" and doesn't this "dark philosophy" haunt him to the extent that every single one of his albums so far has explored this same theme?
False alarm (hey, hey, hey, hey)False alarm (hey, hey, hey, hey)False alarm (hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)False alarm (hey, hey, hey, hey)False alarm (hey, hey, hey, hey)False alarm (hey, hey, hey, hey, hey)
You've got this, right? The singer's feels for the red dress lady are a false alarm, because this relationship is going nowhere. Or, if you want to read it on the level of red dress lady-as-Abel-Tesfaye, then getting involved with the singer of the song is a false alarm, because you can't rely on him romantically.
The Second Verse
Six inch long, 'bout three inch wide (she loves)Dolla, dolla bill is her only type (she loves)You love her but you'll never be (she loves)The one, the oneDiamonds and the rings are her fantasy (she loves)She chase hearts with the Hennessy (she loves)You love her, but you'll never be (she loves)Enough, enough
So, 6 inches long, 3 inches wide are the proportions of a dollar bill, but, as a commenter on Genius has already observed, this could also refer to the dimensions of the party girl's heels. This verse explores the limits of the party girl's capacity for love — she's more interested in money than men (at least according to the singer's take on her). He maintains that no man will be enough for a lady this materialistic. Look, I like the melody, but this cliched critique of guy hopelessly in love with a golddigger is so tired.
She always leaves the man she lovesBut the diamonds are foreverShe always seems to be aloneBut the diamonds make it better
More of the same: Tesfaye's revenge on the party girl he yearns for, but can never, ultimately, satisfy. She will always be alone, because her love doesn't last. Luckily, she's horny for diamonds, so that's some meagre compensation on her part. Pfft.
It's a great song melodically and makes me want to throw myself about a dance floor with abandon, but the lyrics are a little...well, business as usual. Partly, they're what we love The Weeknd for (textured explorations of the senselessness of the party scene), partly they're what we love to hate The Weeknd for (lazy misogynistic representations of women). Here's hoping the rest of the album boasts a more nuanced take on ladies, because I'm not quite ready to give up just yet.