Meaning of “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic

Written By Michael Miller

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

If you’re here for the quick take, “Counting Stars” by OneRepublic delves into the emotional tension of chasing dreams versus settling for the status quo. The song explores the dilemmas of modern life, balancing ambition with reality, and spirituality with materialism. It’s not just about a person but about anyone who’s caught in the grind, hustling for a better life but questioning what really matters.

One line sums it up: “No more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars.”

The songwriter, Ryan Tedder, questions the rat race we often find ourselves in, urging us to focus on the bigger picture our ‘stars,’ if you will, instead of just dollars.

Ready to unravel the depth of this modern anthem? Trust me, it’s worth the deep dive.

“Counting Stars” Lyrics Meaning

The song starts with “Lately, I’ve been, I’ve been losing sleep / Dreaming about the things that we could be,” a clear nod to the sleepless nights spent pondering life’s potential. The intro immediately establishes a tension between what is and what could be.

“Swing my heart across the line / And in my face is flashing signs / Seek it out and ye shall find.”

Ryan Tedder here talks about risks, both emotional and practical. Flashing signs may symbolize opportunities or warnings, urging you to ‘seek’ your true path.

The lyrics, “Old, but I’m not that old / Young, but I’m not that bold,” touch on a feeling of being caught in between stages of life. You’re not too old to dream or too young to take action. But there’s a hesitancy, a reservation that holds you back.

“I feel something so right doing the wrong thing / I feel something so wrong doing the right thing.”

Ah, the quintessential modern dilemma. Should you follow societal norms even if they don’t make you happy, or should you risk it all for what feels ‘right’ to you?

The most powerful lines are, “No more counting dollars, we’ll be counting stars.” The song insists that we should shift our focus from material gain to something more meaningful. Instead of keeping score of our wealth, why not measure life by experiences, love, or spiritual fulfillment?

“Hope is our four-letter word / Make that money, watch it burn.”

Hope is often what fuels us, but the song warns that blind pursuit of money can be destructive.

“Take that money, watch it burn / Sink in the river the lessons I’ve learned.”

The lyrics end with a form of catharsis. After chasing and burning money, the protagonist sinks it into the river—akin to letting go of materialistic pursuits for gained wisdom.

Why Was “Counting Stars” Written?

Ryan Tedder, the lead vocalist and songwriter, was in a bit of a creative rut when he penned this song. He felt the pressures of the industry and was contemplating the direction of his life and career. The song became an outlet for him to express his internal battle between chasing pop stardom (the dollars) and staying true to his artistic integrity (the stars).

So, “Counting Stars” isn’t just a catchy tune. It’s a musical journey that questions the core values that often define us, challenging us to consider what really counts in life.