Meaning of “On the Level” by Mac DeMarco

Written By Michael Miller

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

“‘On the Level’ by Mac DeMarco is a contemplative track that delves into themes of responsibility, maturity, and the existential search for meaning. The song reflects a conversation, perhaps internal or with a figure like a father, encouraging growth and resilience despite life’s challenges. It’s about facing life with honesty, standing tall despite the struggles. DeMarco touches on the inevitability of carrying burdens (‘Carrying a name’) and the solitude in one’s journey (‘Never had a choice’). The repetitive mantra ‘On the level’ serves as a grounding call to stay true and honest with oneself and others. It’s a reflection on growing up, facing personal realities, and the quest for authenticity in a confusing world.”

Craving a deeper dive into Mac DeMarco’s ‘On the Level’? Discover the layers of its introspective lyrics and the profound message wrapped in its chill vibe.

“On the Level” Lyrics Meaning

In “On the Level,” Mac DeMarco crafts a serene yet introspective journey through life’s inevitable ups and downs. The opening lines, “Boy, this could be your year/Making all man proud of you,” immediately set a tone of optimism and encouragement, as if speaking to a younger version of oneself or to someone standing at the threshold of a significant life transition. The mention of “Forget about the tears” suggests an acknowledgment of past hardships while urging a look towards a brighter future.

As the song progresses into “See me eye-to-eye/Stand up like a man/Even from the underside,” there’s a clear message of facing life’s challenges head-on, with dignity and courage. The reference to “the underside” hints at the struggles and low points that everyone inevitably encounters, yet there’s a powerful call to rise above these moments, to maintain one’s level.

The line “Man, I never had a choice/Never had a chance/Never had a voice” introduces a feeling of determinism or fatalism, highlighting the constraints and limitations that can often feel insurmountable. This resignation to fate contrasts with the earlier call to resilience, presenting a nuanced view of the human experience – one that acknowledges the tensions between our aspirations and the realities we’re born into.

“Carrying a name/Fall until my final days/Now who’s there left to blame?” delves deeper into the concept of legacy and the burdens or expectations that come with it. The inevitability of carrying on a legacy, whether chosen or thrust upon, is portrayed as a solitary journey towards an inevitable end. Yet, the question of blame suggests a rejection of victimhood, emphasizing personal responsibility and acceptance of one’s path.

Repeatedly, the phrase “On the level” anchors the song, serving as a mantra for authenticity, integrity, and staying true to one’s path despite the external pressures and internal doubts. It’s a call to maintain balance and honesty in the face of life’s complexities.

Why Was “On the Level” Written?

“On the Level” seems to reflect a period of introspection and maturation in Mac DeMarco’s life and career. Known for his laid-back demeanor and distinctive sound, DeMarco often explores themes of love, life, and self-reflection with a unique blend of sincerity and nonchalance. This track, in particular, might hint at DeMarco’s own contemplations on growing up, the pressures of living up to expectations, and the pursuit of staying true to oneself amidst it all. The song’s meditative pace and reflective lyrics suggest a moment of looking inward, pondering the balance between external achievements and internal peace. Through “On the Level,” DeMarco invites listeners to join him in this introspective journey, offering solace and understanding in the shared experiences of growth, challenge, and the continuous search for equilibrium.