Switchfoot has been one of my favorite bands since I was in high school. So when I was driving a rental car (a Volkswagen Beetle, naturally) through their hometown of San Diego recently, I felt compelled to listen to all Switchfoot, all the time.
You may know them from their two top-20 radio hits, “Dare You to Move” and “Meant to Live,” from a decade-or-so ago. You might even know them from their song, “Only Hope,” covered by Mandy Moore in A Walk to Remember (in which case you might even be older than me…). You might not know them from Adam. But either way, it might be worth taking a closer look.
Not just because they’ve got a cool modern rock sound and some catchy melodies, mind you. Not even because they’re one of the rare bands that can pump out album after album of good music that feels organic and true to themselves, yet also fresh and new all at once. But most of all, get to know Switchfoot because they’ve got a special message for those of us who haven’t quite arrived.
If you can at all relate to the feeling of wanting a little something (or maybe even a lot) more out of life, and also like good old fashioned rock and roll (with a modern flair), I’d recommend checking out their tunes.
They’ve now released 10 full-length albums over their 20-year career, and I can vouch for the quality of at least the last eight or nine. But my walk down a San Diego memory lane helped cement in my mind the legacy of The Beautiful Letdown, the album that really put them on the map way back in 2003.
This is the album that made me fall in love with the band. Sure, it helped that it’s oh-so-catchy and that one of *my bands* was being played on the mainstream radio station. But its songs are so well done and its lyrics so, dare I say, prophetic, that it still gives me goosebumps to this day, 15 years later. Just listen to the whole damn album.
But in the meantime, here are a few of the highlights:
Meant to Live (Track 1)
There was a point a few years ago when I decided I would listen to this song every day so that I was reminded:
We were meant to live for something more
We want more than this world’s got to offer
It’s had a profound effect on me, as I’m often tempted to take the easy route through life, especially when the going gets tough.
This Is Your Life (Track 2)
This song comes next and the chorus sings:
This is your life
Are you who you want to be?
And after hearing it enough times, I started to belt out, “Nooooo!” And sometimes I even added in for good measure, “Quit rubbing it iiiiiin!” And if you didn’t know the song, you might be inclined to think it’s a bit of a downer.
But that’s what I consider to be part of Switchfoot’s genius: they can ask tough questions to which you may or may not want to know the answer (or at least not want to admit it), and yet you’re left not discouraged, but hopeful. They may not even spell it out to you, but there’s an implicit sense that it gets better from here.
Beautiful Letdown (Track 7)
This is the title track and serves as the theme of the entire album, summed up in this:
It was a beautiful letdown
The day I knew
That all the riches this world had to offer me
Would never do
Human nature seems to seek out fulfillment in the things close at hand, and I know I’m tempted on a daily basis to find my fulfillment in my job, friendships, romantic relationships, you name it. And those are all great and can be greatly fulfilling.
But anyone who’s ever had a job or a friend or a romance knows that regardless of how ideal of a job or loyal of friends or perfect a romance you’re fortunate enough to have, they’re all bound to let you down sooner or later. And that can be a huge bummer of course — unless you’re expecting it, and you level expectations accordingly. But that’s still not the end of the story.
For believers, it’s in knowing that there’s something truly, totally fulfilling coming next — namely God himself and eternal happiness with Him in heaven — that allows these letdowns to not be that big a deal. In fact, there’s beauty in knowing that these things are great, but there’s still something greater to come.
Honorable mention: Dare You to Move (Track 5)
The tension is here
Between who you are and who you could be
Between how it is and how it should be (yeah)
I dare you to move
Who hasn’t felt that tension? (Sometimes every day for me…)
Perhaps you’re the type who strives for greatness at all times — and achieves it on the regular. Then there’s the rest of us, like me for instance. I definitely want to be great. It’s the striving and achieving part that I have more trouble with.
That’s why Switchfoot’s lyrics strike a chord inside me: I’m happy with my life, but not quite satisfied. And it’s in this “not quite there yet” space that Switchfoot’s songs live. And thrive. And for those of us living in that space, their songs offer hope — a sense that I’m not there yet, but I’m heading in the right direction.
And that’s a good place to be, no matter where you are on that map.