The Meaning of Cage The Elephant’s “Cigarette Daydreams”

From the “Cigarette Daydreams” music video.

Cage The Elephant’s “Cigarette Daydreams” is a melancholy tune about somebody who feels lost in life, but isolates themselves from loved ones who would like to help. As the closing track on their 2013 album Melophobia, “Cigarette Daydreams” is a fan-favorite and a close tie with their earlier hit, “Ain’t No Rest For The Wicked” for Cage The Elephant’s most popular song.

Many have found themselves drawn into pondering by the gentle melody of “Cigarette Daydreams,” a song that is always enjoyable, but has a special warmth to it when you’re feeling a little down in the dumps.

The lyrics describe an emotional distance that grows between singer Matt Shultz and another person, be it a friend, a relative, or perhaps a lover. The music video includes some footage of Shultz’s first wife, Juliette Buchs as a child, suggesting that he might be singing about their relationship in this song.

Melophobia cover art.

In the first verse, Shultz sings about how he’s physically near this person, and watching them slip into and out of their own fearsome shell:

Did you stand there all alone?
Oh, I cannot explain what’s goin’ down
I can see you standin’ next to me
In and out somewhere else right now
You sigh, look away
I can see it clear as day
Close your eyes, so afraid
Hide behind that baby face

First verse to “Cigarette Daydreams” by Cage The Elephant.

Some interpret this section to mean that Shultz is having an out-of-body experience, and singing about himself as the confused person who he’s looking at from a distance. They apply this interpretation to the rest of the song.

While this is a viable theory, I’m one to believe that “Cigarette Daydreams” is about another person. Again, the music video has footage of his wife.

In the chorus, Matt depicts this person driving through the night, alone in the pouring rain, trying to find a solution to the overwhelming situation they seem to be facing:

You can drive all night
Lookin’ for the answers in the pourin’ rain
You wanna find peace of mind
Lookin’ for the answer

Chorus to “Cigarette Daydreams” by Cage The Elephant.

Driving aimlessly through the night is an activity that one only does when they have a lot on their mind, and they need an activity to keep them occupied while they think things through. Whether or not they will be successful is this endeavor is up in the air, however sometimes the night drive itself can be therapeutic.

Greeting card featuring lyrics from “Cigarette Daydreams.” Source: Redbubble.

The second verse offers a few flashbacks to different times in the relationship. First, when Matt notices that that are feeling confused, and then soon after when they gathered up their things and left:

Funny how it seems like yesterday
As I recall, you were lookin’ out of place
Gathered up your things and slipped away
No time at all, I followed you into the hall
Cigarette daydream
You were only seventeen
Soft speak with a mean streak
Nearly brought me to my knees

Second verse to “Cigarette Daydreams” by Cage The Elephant

This verse also includes the title phrase, “Cigarette Daydreams.” This brings to mind the image of this person sitting alone, perhaps on a porch, smoking a cigarette and staring off into the distance.

Finally, before hitting the chorus two more times, Shultz offers one final memory of this person as a seventeen-year-old with an attitude, who apparently did something that caused him a lot of pain.

While these may not be memories that you can personally relate with, the song’s aura is enough to feel relatable, and the idea of a cigarette daydream has a certain poetic appeal. We can all remember a time when we needed a moment to think, and staring off into the distance seems to help. With or without a cigarette.

Watch the music video for “Cigarette Daydreams” by Cage The Elephant below.

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