The Meaning of Third Eye Blind’s “How’s It Going to Be”

“How’s It Going To Be” is one of five singles released from the self-titled debut album from Third Eye Blind. Released in April 1997, the album was a smash hit, and each of those five singles is considered a 90s classic today.

As for “How’s It Going to Be”, it was the third single released to radio from the album, following “Semi-Charmed Life” and “Graduate”, and coming before “Losing A Whole Year” and “Jumper”. It peaked at number 9 on the Billboard Hot 100.

With lyrics penned by frontman Stephan Jenkins, the song takes a nostalgic view on the end of a relationship that has long since past its expiration date. He wonders “How’s it’ going to be” when it’s all over, and the two drift apart and become strangers.

During a 1998 interview with Billboard, Jenkins spoke on the inspiration behind the song. He explained how Third Eye Blind guitarist Kevin Cadogan was messing with an autoharp, an instrument that has a very nostalgic tone, and it put him into a certain emotional mood.

This autoharp is to blame for the sentimental tone of the lyrics, as he explains:

I think we all feel violated when we find that a relationship actually has time limits, that it’s not unconditional. That’s the thing that aches in people. That’s something everybody can relate to, even when you know you have no business being with this person anymore.

Stephan Jenkins on the meaning of “How’s It Going to Be”.

Despite knowing that this person is no good for you, there are still plenty of fears that come along with closing the chapter, including the inevitable spell of loneliness. However, the lyrics explain that the time has come.

Let’s dive in, starting with the first verse:

I’m only pretty sure that I can’t take anymore
Before you take a swing
I wonder what are we fighting for
When I say out loud
“I wanna get out of this”
I wonder is there anything
I’m gonna miss

First verse to “How’s It Going to Be” by Third Eye Blind.

In the first verse, the couple are depicted fighting, again. Jenkins is expecting her to take a swing, but in the moment that the tension is about to rise to that point, he starts to wonder what the point of fighting really is at this point.

He decides to say out loud that he’s ready to break up, and as he says it he wonders if there might be some things he will miss about this relationship.

In the chorus, he lists off a few of those things:

I wonder how it’s going to be
When you don’t know me
How’s it going to be
When you’re sure I’m not there?
How’s it going to be
When there’s no one there to talk to?
Between you and me
‘Cause I don’t care
How’s it going to be?
How’s it going to be?

Chorus to “How’s It Going to Be” by Third Eye Blind.

Jenkins considers how things will be when the breakup is truly final. He wonders if how he’ll fare during the times when he can no longer talk to her, and even moreso how she will fare when she can no longer reach him, because he doesn’t care anymore.

In this way, he poses the question of whether or not his girlfriend will regret the way she treated him, after the dust has settled.

The second verse draws some comparisons between the flowery beginnings and the grim realities of the present:

Where we used to laugh
There’s a shouting match
Sharp as a thumbnail scratch
A silence I can’t ignore
Like the hammock by the
Doorway we spent time in, swings empty
Don’t see lightning like last fall
When it was always about to hit me

Second verse to “How’s It Going to Be” by Third Eye Blind.

During the times when the couple used to laugh together, they now get into shouting matches. The silence between them is as deafening as nails on a chalkboard.

He notices that the hammock they once swung in together now swings empty by the doorway.

Finally, Jenkins draws to mind a memory from last fall, implying that he almost got struck by lightning. He didn’t see it, though it was right there about to hit him anyway, like a stroke of bad luck.

Perhaps this is his way of saying that he should have seen the red flags earlier, instead of being struck by lightning by the way things turned out.

Next up, we have the second chorus, which ponders a new set of “what-if”‘s about this relationship:

I wonder how’s it going to be
When it goes down
How’s it going to be
When you’re not around?
How’s it going to be
When you found out there was nothing
Between you and me?
‘Cause I don’t care
How’s it going to be
How’s it going to be

Second chorus to “How’s It Going to Be” by Third Eye Blind.

The sentiment here is quite similar to the first chorus, except we can see the pangs of regret starting to come over him, as he shifts the focus onto his own feelings rather than hers for a moment.

He’s right back to the vengeance, though, wondering how she’s going to feel when he doesn’t care.

The tension in the music rises here, and Jenkins loudly sings the bridge:

And how’s it going to be
When you don’t know me anymore?
And how’s it going to be?
Wanna get myself back in again
The soft dive of oblivion
I wanna taste the salt of your skin
The soft dive of oblivion (Oblivion)

Bridge to “How’s It Going to Be” by Third Eye Blind.

Jenkins has changed his mind here. He is missing his ex-girlfriend, and he decides that he wants to get back into the relationship again.He’s drawn back in by her beauty and the passion that exists between them.

Still, it’s clear that he knows it’s a reckless decision to go back to the relationship, hence calling it “the soft dive of oblivion.”

The song fades out with Jenkins still wondering, “How’s It Going to Be”?

Watch the music video below.

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