Song Meaning, Song Lyrics and Music Analysis: “Robot Boy” (by Linkin Park)

This ink blot looks more like a Pokémon than a robot to me...
This ink blot looks more like a Pokémon than a robot to me…

The title of this blog is “I Don’t Take Back My Words”, so I don’t like going back and disagreeing with myself. But today I’m going to ammend something I said, because I think it’s really necessary. Last week I had a bad experience listening to my first Linkin Park album and blogged, and I quote: “I can’t find it in my heart to believe that these millionaire rock stars are suffering in the terrible way they express in their music. It doesn’t feel genuine to me. It feels like the band is putting on a mask of what they believe their audience wants to hear, and channeling false emotions for money.”

Having written such a scathing comment I’d usually feel pretty validated at having expressed my critical opinions, but that writing left me feeling empty. It left me wondering if I might be–dare I say it–wrong. So I listened to “A Thousand Suns” again–and then again–just to be certain. I’m not going back on what I said, because I think it’s truthful about the majority of that album. I think Linkin Park has grown beyond the crazy, screamy songs both as a band and as people. I think they’re playing that style to cash in on an audience that they know will eat up that kind of thing, authentic or otherwise.  But–BUT!!! Their other songs–their quieter, more introspective ones–those show growth, they show emotion, and dare I say it, they show wisdom. So that brings us to today, where I’m going to talk about “Robot Boy“…

Video:

Lyrics:
You say
You’re not gonna fight
‘Cause no one will fight for you
And
You think
There’s not enough love
And no one to give it to
And
You’re sure
You’ve hurt for so long
You’ve got nothing left to lose
So
You say
You’re not gonna fight
‘Cause no one will fight for you
You say
The weight of the world
Has kept you from letting go
And
You think
Compassion’s a fault
And you’ll never let it show
And
You’re sure
You’ve hurt in a way
That no one will ever know
But
Some day
The weight of the world
Will give you the strength to go
Hold on
The weight of the world
Will give you the strength to go
So
Hold on
The weight of the world
Will give you the strength to go
So
Hold on
The weight of the world
Will give you the strength to go
Just
Hold on
The weight of the world
Will give you the strength to go
Analysis:

The primary question to ask here should probably be “Why is this song called Robot Boy when there are no robots in it?” We’ll need to go through the whole song to accurately answer that. This song is actually pretty short, so let’s take it line-by-line.

The song begins with the assertion by the speaker: “You say/You’re not gonna fight/‘Cause no one will fight for you“. Alright, so right off the bat, the speaker has asserted that the audience doesn’t want to “fight” because they believe that no one will do the same for them. If we really wanted to, we could make this a plot-driven analysis and pretend that this is an actual physical fight that we’re talking about, but that’s boring. So let’s assume that this “fight” is a psychological one, and the audience is refusing to engage in it because they think that no one will support them. So the audience is a loner… but how much of one?

And/You think/There’s not enough love/And no one to give it to.” This is pretty interesting, because here the speaker is describing something not that the audience has said, but something that they’re thinking. We can infer that since the speaker is speaking the thoughts of the audience,  the speaker probably can relate and has some experience with that attitude themself. That inference is important throughout this song, so hold onto it for later. The audience has the belief that there’s either not enough love in the world or, more likely, inside of themself. However, that’s meaningless, because the audience has no one to give that love to anyway. Clearly, the audience hasn’t formed a strong bond or connection with anyone in their life.

And/You’re sure/You’ve hurt in a way/That no one will ever know” Again, here the speaker is describing something not that the audience has said, but something that they’re feeling. But why is it that “no one will ever know”? Although the audience is hurting significantly, it’s pretty clear that they’re not planning to turn to anyone for support or to help them deal with these feelings. The specification “ever” indicates that the audience isn’t really intent or confident in ever forming a bond with anyone where they would share their pain with someone else.

“You say/The weight of the world/Has kept you from letting go.” …Of what? This is certainly open to a bit of interpretation. Based on the contextual evidence in this song, it seems most likely to me that what the audience won’t let go of is themself and their emotions. The “weight of the world”–all the cruelty and bad and suffering and discrimination and so forth–is making the audience not want to open themself up to people and life and living. This notion is consistent with everything else we see in this song–that the audience believes no one will ever know their feelings, that there’s no one to give their love to, that no one will ever fight for them or care about them, and so forth.

“And/You think/Compassion’s a fault/And you’ll never let it show.” Like displaying and sharing love, this is another emotion that the audience isn’t showing. However, the lyric specifies “show”, meaning that the audience probably does actually feel compassion, but keeps it bottled up inside. The audience is pretending to be emotionless and totally cold on the surface. Sort’ve like a robot. Hmmm…

The reprise of “So/Hold on/The weight of the world/Will give you the strength to go” is the only part of the song where the speaker is asserting something themself, rather than relating the feelings or ideas of the audience. This reprise is encouragement by the speaker that things are going to change for the audience. This sounds like life experience–like wisdom–being passed on with certainty and without doubt. The last repeating of the reprise changes from an advising “So/Hold on” to a more pleading “Just/Hold On“. If the audience can just hold on, the speaker believes that things will change–but if they give up on life–that positive change is an impossibility. 

So Who’s The Robot Boy? Well, there’s only the speaker and the audience here, and it sure isn’t the speaker. Duh. The “Robot Boy” refers to the audience. “Robot Boy” is a fitting title for this person, who keeps themself bottled up inside, never sharing compassion or love, never showing their feelings, never forming bonds with anyone. The audience is more like a robot than a person, hence the titling of this song. Is there hope for the Robot Boy and people like him in the world…? The speaker seems to have been through the same disconnection and emotional isolation as Robot Boy, and seems adamant that things will be alright if Robot Boy can hold on. The speaker is entrusting their knowledge and experience to the Robot Boy to give them the strength and resolve to keep going with the assurance that things will get better. So is there hope for robots out there? Most definitely.

Summary: This is the kind of stuff Linkin Park should be putting out. “Robot Boy” is the kind of song that can only be put out by people who really have truly suffered and experienced life and learned and matured. This song isn’t about any emotion of the speaker’s–it’s directed at the emotions of the audience. “Robot Boy” takes an approach of relating to how the audience feels, while at the same time giving the kind of advice that can only be given by those who have had the same feelings and endured the same kind of suffering. This kind of art shows growth, it shows understanding, and it shows meaning. If Linkin Park could put out more great art like this and less screamy-angsty inauthentic crap, I could definitely become a big fan.

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8 Responses to Song Meaning, Song Lyrics and Music Analysis: “Robot Boy” (by Linkin Park)

  1. Dave says:

    Nice analysis. And well done with piecing together the meaning of ‘robot boy’ which I ignored and then didn’t really see after listening and reading the lyrics. Most appreciated is the time taken over the song and that it gave me the chance to reflect upon the lyrics more deeply. Personally, I doubt that the ‘you say,’ ‘you’re sure,’ ‘you think’ lines really mean anything special and my suspicion is that they could be used rather interchangeably. I think they exist as filler and are different only to avoid sameness when introducing one thought then the next.
    One thing that i’d like to hear, though, is your take on the meaning of ‘the weight of the world will give you the strength to go.’ Go where? Let go? Play go? And is the singer implying that this weight of the world will somehow squeeze and nearly crush the robot boy’s mind, consciousness, being until somehow he is forced through the eye of the needle and comes out stripped of his or her previous hangups and is now capable of acting out of compassion, finding those are worthy of love, and of fighting his own battles?? I understand that this wisdom is something that has been learned through experience and that the singer is implying and imploring that by ‘holding on’ the robot will get through it all somehow. But that ‘how’ is quite mysterious, and, to me, a little dubious as well. Nonetheless, after hearing the song two or three times now, it has grown on me. I like the concept and appreciate LP for attempting to impart their wisdom to those in their audience who may be in a desperate place in their lives, or who may someday find themselves in such a place of isolated desperation. When in that place, LP is at least correct (as I see it intuitively and from friends and stories) that you’ve gotta, at the very least, hold on.

  2. dabid says:

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    That’s an interesting viewpoint you have there. I certainly never thought of the robot boy playing the board game Go, but it’s a funny picture in my mind now. Thanks.

    I believe the singer was refering to the robot boy finding the strength to “go” out into the world and interact with other people, care about them, and function within society. The “weight of the world” could refer to all of the pressures and loneliness in the world causing the robot boy to feel the need to turn to other people for support and companionship.

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    I interpret the ‘how’ as determination that the robot boy needs to either find within himself or draw from other people. The very fact that the singer is telling the robot boy to hold on shows that there is someone else in the world who cares about the robot boy and wants him to live on and succeed in the world. That may be enough to motivate the robot boy to hold on. Knowing one person cares can make all the difference in the world when one feels lonely and desperate.

  3. ty says:

    Sadly, as detailed and interesting as this analysis is it also does not represent the piece accurately. While taken separately it may seem to be a valid interpretation, when given proper context it does not fit into place properly. This is a key reason the album was also released as a single track. To take a single song from a clear concept album and treating it in this manner is short-sighted. Remember that Thousand Suns is a concept album based on socio-political change. The ‘Robot Boy’ in question is the rallying cry of the ’90s-’00s charge to get out and vote and make your voice heard. The song is meant to be motivational for those who are disillusioned with the political process and encourage them to make their voices heard.

    It strikes me as odd that someone could go into such depth towards a song from this type of album without also considering the concept. While you could claim that music can mean anything to anyone, it is also important to consider the artists voice when trying to understand music.

  4. RaySwr says:

    I think its fair to say that the concept of the album is crucial but i disagree with how legalistic you’re being about it.

    Have you seen Iron Man? If so Do you remember the first Iron Man suit before it was worn and it was just sitting on a rack? That is the image i’m given, for various reasons but thematically because its doing, well, nothing.

    Its just sitting still doing nothing, feeling nothing, going nowhere. In a sense imagine being in this suit is like encasing yourself in your own despair and hiding from all the hurtful things out there and being held down by the weight of the world (this could be anything but the socio-political themes are most prevalent here i think).

    Now re-read the song and i think Dabid’s analysis is pretty good. That eventually you will learn from this suffering and more importantly how to push through and dispell the inertia that had held you in place. When it says the strength to go it doesn’t really mean move, or talk, or play go, but to just go and do anything, be free from the self imposed prison that previously haunted the listener.

  5. hey man … u cant say that they are masking the audience ….can u stand how the people suffering out there..when they are battered by higher people, nature and other external forces. before u say that they are masking ..read the section of early life in wikipedia of the song writers…its ironic how chester stands today ..won from the battle he fought over drug addiction…. trying to forget the abandonment of him by his 1st wife and he wrote a sad song called valentines day….they are great people…how many can create magnificent works …only litte….. think before u talk…. they are also human … humans always experience suffering

  6. Rafael J Rivera says:

    I thought this song was about politicians. It fits well with the idea that politicians feel or act the way the song describes… they are robots because they don’t show feelings to the public. For many people, all they do is govern and make decisions without putting any emotions to those decisions. I could be wrong.

  7. Log says:

    As a big fan of LP, as someone who has grown up listening to all its songs, I personally feel ATS is their best album so far. If you compare the screaming songs of ATS to songs like “Lying From You” or most songs from Hybrid Theory and Meteora, you’ll surely note that in ATS, they have a specific purpose, that of highlighting the feelings and bringing an experimental sense of aesthetic to the songs. Most of these screaming songs like Wretches and Kings or even Blackout contain a very slow refrain at the end which brings us to the theme of maturity. This illustrates very much their own state. So, in the end, I would say ATS is a consistent thread of inconsistency which brings about very political and social, and also personal, issues from a very objective point of view while still putting in the requires genuine feeling.

  8. Anonymous says:

    EXCELLENT ANALYSIS

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