As a moderate fan of dance music, it is always striking when a song that seems to be written for dance halls and discoteques also has enough meaning to listen to on the radio with some degree of depth and interest. The song “Hey Brother” is such a song. Avicii, as a musical project, has done a good job at providing songs that have enough heft for radio airplay, enough commercial appeal to end up on television (this particular song, ironically enough, was used by a company that makes e-cigarettes, which would be a most ironic use of the song), and a good enough beat to appeal to those who wish to and are not too self-conscious to dance along with. For a song of this caliber and genre, that is a substantial accomplishment, as it is a song whose lyrics and meaning I have pondered and mused about as well, for although it is a song of few lyrics (like most dance pop tunes), those few lyrics are meaningful.
The first verse of “Hey Brother” by Avicii reads as follows: “Hey, brother. / There’s an endless road to rediscover. / Hey, sister. / Know the water’s sweet but blood is thicker .” The lyrics of this particular verse have a meaning that is possibly ambiguous, or at least uncertain, but at the same time not greatly controversial either. On the surface, it would appear that the singer is writing about the need to reconnect with a brother he has long been separated from. This separation could be due to a variety of reasons, including the breakup of a family, personal estrangement, or even the separation of brethren by military service or education or other sort of travel. Likewise, there is some question about meaning of the second half of the verse as well, whether it is an ode to the enduring nature of blood ties, or whether they are a song of love and loyalty to one’s ‘family of choice’ in an age that has seen families of blood suffer immensely . Whatever sort of family this song is talking about, Avicii sings movingly about his loyalty as well as his idea to keep himself deeply connected with those whom he views as family.
The chorus of the song, which is repeated several times, is similarly moving: “Ooooooh, if the sky comes falling down for you. / There’s nothing in this world I wouldn’t do.” One of the main purposes of family (or close friendships, which tend to bleed into family as well) is to provide for mutual encouragement when times are difficult. Those who are without family lack that essential social net which is imperfectly (or not at all) provided by substitutes like government programs, systems that not only provide the necessary resources and encouragement to get up and try again and be able to stand on one’s own feet and help care for others, but also the accountability to help avoid repeating the same mistakes over and over again. Avicii, being a dance pop singer, does not go into that much sociological detail, but nevertheless manages to convey his loyalty and generosity to those whom he views as family. Such generosity is greatly appreciated by those who have received it .
Naturally, the fallen and corrupt state of this world and its institutions provides Avicii with a chance to question his family about their loyalty: “Hey, brother, / Do you still believe in one another? / Hey, sister, / Do you still believe in love, I wonder?” The endurance of family or friendship or any other civil bond, depends on the ability of people to have a basic level of love and trust with each other. Therefore, in an an even-handed parallel to the first verse, Avicii first asks his brother if he still believes in one another, still has trust in his family and then asks his sister whether she still believes in love. This is not necessarily a rhetorical sort of question. Love and respect must not simply be felt, but it must be communicated to others in a way that they can understand and appreciate. At times this communication can be hindered by our own awkwardness, by threatening contexts, or by our difficulty in charitably reading the motives and behaviors of others. There is so much that can damage our ability to properly read and interpret the behavior of others that our own families and communities are often at risk of fissure and schism because of a lack of love and outgoing concern and the lack of our ability to recognize it in others and of others to recognize it in us.
Finally, the bridge of this song adds more practical evidence to the concerns of this songwriter in helping those who are down on the their luck or outsiders or misfits: “What if I’m far from home? / Oh brother I will hear you call. / What if I’d lose it all? / Oh sister, I will help you out.” This particular song offers assurance that no distance or disaster will prevent him from showing love and concern for his brothers and sisters. We all ought to feel this way, although it can be difficult to do so as our cares and affairs and suspicion often prevent us from showing love and respect for our families. Having been someone who has been far from home for a long time, and rather sensitive about my own isolation, I have always tended to be particularly sensitive to the isolation of others who are wanderers like myself. Likewise, as someone who has lost it all at least a few times in life, I would hope that my experiences have made me compassionate to others who have found themselves in a like position.
Overall, this is a song that is moving in its compassion and love and loyalty and concern for the issue of family. Whether the singer is talking about his close friends as brothers and sisters or whether he is talking about his literal family (or whether we see concerns about our family of faith lurking in these lines as well), ultimately speaking this is a song about both the feelings and the actions motivated by those feelings that help to keep people together in a troubled and tormented world. We all need such bonds in our own life, and we all need to be active agents in helping and encouraging others as well to be the best that they can be, not merely for our own benefit but their own benefit as well in self-respect and dignity. And though this song is rather simple in its lyrics, the message that the song contains is a profound one and an immensely worthwhile one as well in such difficult times where families are so deeply endangered and where brothers and sisters are often estranged when they should be close allies in the struggle against the darkness that is all around.
 These are all obviously concerns of mine:
 See, for example: