Sunburn is a song created by British band Muse, being the fourth in their debut album, “Showbiz“.
Recorded in April 1999 and released in February 2000, the song is concentrated very much over the conscience and over how one can deal with its own mistakes.
Although I cannot know exactly what the song might mean, but my guess would be that it is about a man who is involved into something illegal or wrong in some way, and there comes a woman who knows what he is doing and starts to bring him to the triel of conscience.
You can find the complete song lyrics here.
First lyrics of the song reveal the sarcasm that might reside in the girls voice:
Come waste your millions here
Secretly she sneers.
I haven’t found any reference to the first verse to be an expression or something, so I guess it might be connected to the story. Maybe the woman understands what he does and thinks it has no point as it will not get richer in doing the thing he is doing. She laughs at him and makes him start having conscience trials. He feels like the guilt is taking over and starts having second thoughts about what he is doing.
Another corporate show
A guilty conscience grows.
The woman goes on into telling him that she will reveal the secret that everybody seems to know, but no one had the courage to reveal. The secret seems to actually not be a secret. But why would that be? Why would someone be afraid of revealing a secret everybody knows? Is the thing he is into so outrageous, so dangerous?
Come let the truth be shared
No-one ever dared
To break these endless lies
Secretly she cries
The man starts to feel more and more shame, probably at the idea of everybody knowng his secret. He wants to hide everything, but it is already too late. “I’ll hide from the world” might actually not be his hiding, but the hiding of his facts. The broken frame migh be a metaphore of the fact that you can’t hide anymore a truth that it is already known. So he has no choice but facing the situation.
The burning verse can be a reference to the fact that his action was so bad that he will burn in hell forever, but it can also be a reference to the fact that he is so ashamed that he feels like burning, his face starts to get warmer and warmer until he feels he is in flames. He can’t face the shame but while he is alive he will have to learn to live with it “forever”.
And I’ll hide from the world
Behind a broken frame
And I’ll burn forever
I can’t face the shame
The chorus also sends to the useless try of running. “She burns like the sun and I can’t look away” – her words make him feel so ashamed, so he wants to look away but he knows it is no use, cause it won’t make him feel better. Or maybe it is even more. He looks away but her look haunts him, in his mind, in his soul, consuming every bit of life in him.
Although on the surface the song tells a story, I think it has a deeper meaning. In the context of the threshold between 20th and 21st century and between the 2nd and third millenium, the song is about change, about entering a new world, more aware, more conscious, more logical and more willing for good. It sends to the fact that we leave the old world and enter a new one, the modern world, in which temptations are far more greater than in the past, and in which we need to concentrate more on acting and less on talking.
Dom Howard, Muse Drumer and Percutionist in January 2000 Q Magazine
Sunburn’ is a song that happened in the studio about two years ago. I remember Matt playing around with a line on the piano and then on the guitar. Then the rest of us joined in. It’s a song we still love playing live and always will. It’s about moving into a new world, mentally or physically, realising it’s not what you thought it was going to be. It was written at a time of change for us – we’d gone from painting and decorating and signing on, to flying first class to LA!
The video of the song is very in concordance to the lyrics.
A girl taking care of a little boy starts wondering around in the house for stealing. But while searching, the members of Muse band appear in the mirror and start singing about guilt and consciousness. She starts to have second thoughts but is trapped between consciousness and greed. But the decision makes her crazy, makes her lose control and throw an object into the mirror which breaks, but breaking it does not shut down the voice of consciousness (the members of the band), just like the broken frame cannot stop the man from the song to feel shame nor stop the world from knowing the truth about him.
The child might also have a meaning in the story. Maybe the voice of consciousness arose in her mind because of (or thanks to) him. Mayne she thought that it wouldn’t be fare to create difficulties in a family with a child at home, maybe she though that it could have been her instead.
The song is very profound, as there are most of the songs of Muse, reflecting a reality that is present in almost every life. Everybody has done at least once in a life a thing that he regrets and has trials of consciousness about.