Meaning of “Cherub Rock” by The Smashing Pumpkins

Written By Michael Miller

Michael is a music teacher and professional cellist. He loves uncovering the deeper meaning of popular songs.

In a nutshell, “Cherub Rock” by The Smashing Pumpkins speaks to the cynicism and challenges of the music industry. It touches upon the themes of authenticity, commercialization, and the struggle for genuine artistic expression. The lyrics hint at the divide between underground indie scenes and the mainstream commercialized world. The line “Hipsters unite” reflects the underground scene, while “Who wants honey? As long as there’s some money” underscores the industry’s obsession with profit over art. Billy Corgan, the band’s frontman, expressed his disillusionment with the music scene and how true artistry is often overlooked in favor of what’s trendy or profitable.

Interested in a deeper dive? Keep reading.

“Cherub Rock” Lyrics Meaning

The song kicks off with “Freak out / And give in / Doesn’t matter what you believe in.” This highlights the sense of surrender artists feel, often pressured to conform to industry standards, even if it contradicts their beliefs or vision.

“Stay cool / And be somebody’s fool this year” touches on the transient nature of fame. In the music world, artists can be easily manipulated, and today’s hot topic can be tomorrow’s old news.

“Who is righteous, what is bold” can be seen as a rhetorical contemplation of what truly holds value in the industry. Is it the genuine artistry or the bravado and flash that gets an artist noticed?

The recurring lines about honey and money encapsulate the trade-offs artists grapple with. The sweetness of success (“honey”) is often chased, as long as there’s a profit (“money”). This suggests that the industry’s primary motivation isn’t the art but the revenue it can generate.

“Hipsters unite / Come align for the big fight to rock for you” hints at a call-to-arms for those in the underground or indie scene. The “big fight” is the battle between authentic artistry and mainstream commercialism.

The lines about “angels with their wings glued on” are particularly striking. These ‘angels’ could represent posers or those who pretend to be part of a movement or scene without genuinely understanding or belonging. Their “glued on” wings show their inauthenticity.

“Tell me all of your secrets” might be a nod to the vulnerability artists feel, baring their souls and sharing their deepest feelings, only to be commodified or misunderstood.

The final lines, where the plea “Let me out” is repeated, reflect the trapped feeling artists can experience, caught in the web of the industry’s demands.

Why Was “Cherub Rock” Written?

Billy Corgan, the genius behind The Smashing Pumpkins, often penned lyrics reflecting his personal experiences and feelings. At the time “Cherub Rock” was written, the band was transitioning from an underground favorite to a mainstream sensation. This transition, while bringing success, also ushered in a set of challenges, including dealing with industry politics, confronting sell-out accusations, and navigating the treacherous waters of fame.

“Cherub Rock” serves as Corgan’s commentary on these challenges. Through the song, he’s calling out the industry’s shallowness, highlighting the tension between commercial success and artistic integrity, and expressing the band’s determination to stay authentic amidst pressures to conform.