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The Meaning of Noah Kahan’s “Orange Juice”

Noah Kahan’s “Orange Juice,” off his 2022 breakout album Stick Season, is a heartfelt song about the effects of alcohol addiction and drunk driving on lifelong friendships. The album’s soft, nostalgic folk stylings have found a home in the hearts of many, and Kahan has become one of the most sought-after young American songwriters on the landscape.

Kahan himself explained the song in a series of two short videos uploaded to YouTube in April 2023. You can check those out below, and since there is always more than can be said about a song, we’re also going to provide a deeper lyrical analysis in this piece.

Noah Kahan on the Meaning of “Orange Juice” (Part 1)

Noah Kahan on the Meaning of “Orange Juice” (Part 2)

“Orange Juice” Lyrics Meaning

The lyrics to “Orange Juice” offer a compelling look at tensions within a group of friends that may arise when one of them chooses sobriety, while the others do not.

Even moreso, when this sobriety is influenced by a traumatic event that effected the whole group, but it seems that one person has been more heavily impacted than the others, despite them all being involved in some way.

Let’s highlight Noah Kahan’s “Orange Juice” lyrics and see how he does this.

Verse One

First verse is the same as the last verse, lending itself to the cyclical nature of addiction.

“Honey, come over / The party’s gone slower”

The singer invites their friend to come hang out, reassuring them that the group doesn’t party like they used to anymore.

“And no one will tempt you / We know you got sober”

More reassurances come in the next couplet, with lines that directly address the person’s path of sobriety.

“There’s orange juice in the kitchen / Bought for the children”

The group has non-alcoholic beverages up for grabs, too. It was bought for their children, suggesting not only the passage of time, as they’ve grown up and had kids, but also that the orange juice is just something they have on hand. They didn’t go out of their way to buy it for this friend.

“It’s yours if you want it / We’re just glad you could visit”

They’re just happy to have their friend there with them again.


“Feels like I’ve been ready for you to come home / For so long”

This friend has been missed for a long time.

“That I didn’t think to ask you where you’d gone / Why’d you go?”

While missing their friend, Kahan realizes that he didn’t bother to consider their perspective.


“And you said / “Mm-hmm, mm-hmm-mm””

Sounds like Noah hit the nail on the head, and his friend is getting ready to drop some truth bombs.

“And you said / You said my heart has changed and my soul has changed”

Noah’s friend has been going through changes, metamorphic and fundamental changes that have altered their entire perspective on life.

“And my heart, and my heart / Now my face has changed, and I haven’t drank / In six months on the dot”

Repeating the word heart emphasizes the depth of the change that the friend has undergone. They look different, and, most importantly: they haven’t had a drink in six months.

Verse Two

Things take a darker turn in the second verse, as we get a reference to the root catalyst for this friend leaving town and getting sober.

“See the graves as you pass through / From our crash back in ’02”

This is a reference to a fatal car crash, which we can only assume was due to drunk driving. Also, this is a giveaway that the song is not about Noah Kahan himself, but rather someone he knows, as he explaiend in the short videos at the top of his post. Because Noah Kahan, born in 1997, would have been five years old in 2002.

Of course, lyricists do use creative license all the time, so the possibility exists that ’02 simply sounded the best in that spot, and doesn’t actually reflect the year of the acccident.

“Not one nick on your finger / You just asked mе to hold you”

The crash did not cause any physical injuries for this friend. Emotionally, though… well, that’s why Noah Kahan wrote this song. This is the most crucial lyric in the song.

“But it made you a stranger / And filled you with angеr”

This person changed a lot from this experience. Not all of the change was good, either, because anger is the sole emotion that Kahan fixates on.

“Now I’m third in the line up / To your Lord and your Savior”

Ultimately, the car accident led to the friend finding God. Noah has been pushed back from his former first position in line to the third, to make room for God and Jesus at one and two.


Another chorus follows, and then in the second post-chorus Kahan dives into the depths of his friend’s rock bottom, and the pain that still exists within their heart.

“That my life has changed, that this town had changed and you had not”

This person is frustrated that everything around them changed, from their life to the town, but Kahan and his other friends have not. We think of the rift that forms in friendships when some people get too deep into addiction and seek sobriety, while others carry on with their normal habits as before (whether or not they have problems with substance abuse themselves).

“That the world has changed, don’t you find it strange / That you just went ahead and carried on?”

Talking about the world changing could be a reference to the pandemic, which starkly changed the world. Kahan has said that these songs were written during the loneliest days of isolation, so the pandemic influence maintains a clear thread throughout.

“And you know I’d say, the last time I drank / I was face down, passed out there in your lawn”

Showing how deep into alcoholism they got — to the point of passing out on the lawn. Also, it’s as if this person is telling Kahan that he should already know why the change has happened, why they left. That it should be obvious.

“Are we all just crows to you now? / Are we all just pullin’ you down?”

Crows have commonly been used in spirituality and literature as a representation of death, misfortune, and general bad omens. Kahan is asking his friend if they see their old friends, the people in their old town, as symbols of negativity.

“You didn’t put those bones in the ground / You didn’t put those bones in the ground”

With more reassurance, Kahan reminds his friend that they weren’t the driver. It wasn’t their fault that those people died.

This ties everything together and allows us to see the full picture. “Orange Juice” becomes a song about an alcoholic friend, who was involved in a drunk driving accident in which they were not the driver, but where some people were killed.

This incident led the friend to realizing they have a problem with drinking, and the friend subsequently left town to get help. Upon returning home, they find that their old relationships don’t provide the same level of satisfaction as they once did.

The underlying message is that bad things happen and life goes on, time goes by, some people change and others don’t. Sometimes friendships aren’t meant to last, even if both people want them to.

Listen to “Orange Juice” by Noah Kahan below.

Noah Kahan – “Orange Juice” (Lyric Video)

Noah Kahan – “Orange Juice” (Live Acoustic, 2023)