Dissecting Lyrics:《像我这样的人》——毛不易

I love this song. The first time I heard it, I actually cried a little. The lyrics are powerful, in a quiet sort of way – it doesn’t reach out and grab you by the collar, but it creeps up on you as the song builds. I think it’s a song that a lot of people in our generation – or perhaps just people in today’s society – can relate to. People who grew up with big dreams and the promise of a great future, who grew up thinking they were special and destined for something incredible, and then realised as they entered adulthood that the world, and life in general, isn’t what they’d thought it would be. It’s about coming to terms with reality – the reality of life, of the world, and of who we are, as a person.

The Lyrics

The OriginalMy Translation
像我这样的人

像我这样优秀的人
本该灿烂过一生
怎么二十多年到头来
还在人海里浮沉

像我这样聪明的人
早就告别了单纯
怎么还是用了一段情
去换一身伤痕

像我这样迷茫的人
像我这样寻找的人
像我这样碌碌无为的人
你还见过多少人

像我这样庸俗的人
从不喜欢装深沉
怎么偶尔听到老歌时
忽然也晃了神

像我这样懦弱的人
凡事都要留几分
怎么曾经也会为了谁
想过奋不顾身

像我这样迷茫的人
像我这样寻找的人
像我这样碌碌无为的人
你还见过多少人

像我这样孤单的人
像我这样傻的人
像我这样不甘平凡的人
世界上有多少人

像我这样迷茫的人
像我这样寻找的人
像我这样碌碌无为的人
你还见过多少人

像我这样孤单的人
像我这样傻的人
像我这样不甘平凡的人
世界上有多少人

像我这样莫名其妙的人
会不会有人心疼
Someone Like Me
Someone as outstanding as me
For whom life should have been smooth sailing
Yet at the end of over twenty years
I’m still drifting along, aimlessly

Someone as wise as me
Who has long bid farewell to simplicity
How did I end up having my heart broken
By a love that left me nothing but scars and bruises?

Someone as lost as me
Someone who yearns and searches, like me
Someone as mediocre as me
How many like me have you seen?


Someone as shallow as me
Who never bothers pretending to be deep
Yet every now and then I hear an old song
And I find myself lost in a wistful daydream

Someone as cowardly as me
Who never fully commits to anything
Yet once upon a time I too had someone
For whom I was ready to risk everything
 
Someone as lost as me
Someone who yearns and searches, like me
Someone as mediocre as me
How many like me have you seen?

Someone as lonely as me
Someone as foolish as me
Someone as unwilling to settle for mediocrity as me
How many are there in this world, people like me

Someone as lost as me
Someone who yearns and searches, like me
Someone as mediocre as me
How many like me have you seen?

Someone as lonely as me
Someone as foolish as me
Someone as unwilling to settle for mediocrity as me
How many are there in this world, people like me

Someone as strange, baffling and inexplicable as me
Would anyone ever care for someone like that
Someone like me

A Detailed Breakdown

像我这样优秀的人 本该灿烂过一生 

灿烂 means to be brilliant and splendid, and can be translated to ‘magnificent’ and ‘glorious’ in various contexts. Here, he’s saying, in a rueful and self-deprecating manner, that someone as great as him should be living an awesome life, accomplishing all sorts of great things. And yet…

怎么二十多年到头来  还在人海里浮沉

He sings, ‘How is it that after 20 years I’m still drifting along in the sea of people?’ 人海 translates literally to ‘a sea of people’, a word commonly used to describe crowds, or the world in general. Picture this: thousands and thousands of people moving in various directions, each of them headed for a different destination. Seen from above, the crowd looks like the surface of the ocean, the movement of people not unlike undulating waves.

浮沉 literally means ‘to float and to sink’, it describes an object bobbing in water, moving up and down quickly in response to the movement of the waves. Coupled with 人海, it paints the image of a person drifting along in a sea of people – he is small, insignificant and utterly ordinary, and despite 20 years of floating around aimlessly, he hasn’t found the shore.

像我这样聪明的人 早就告别了单纯

‘Someone as wise as me, who’s long bid farewell to naivety’ – he’s saying that he’s smart and mature, and has learned long ago the hard realities of life. He’s no longer naive – or so he thought.

怎么还是用了一段情  去换一身伤痕

‘How did I end up getting into a relationship in exchange for scars and bruises all over’ – this is the literal translation. It reads weird, but here’s what he really means: he’d thought he was wise, yet he was foolish enough to get himself into a relationship that in the end, paid him nothing but bruises and scars in return. The word 一身 means ‘the whole body’ or more commonly, ‘head to toe’, used idiomatically with 伤痕, which means ‘wounds and scars’, to refer to situations where a person is so badly hurt they are literally covered in injuries.

像我这样迷茫的人  像我这样寻找的人

‘Someone who’s as lost as I am, and who searches the way I do’. He wanders through life and searches – for what, we don’t know. Purpose? Meaning? Love?

像我这样碌碌无为的人  你还见过多少人

碌碌无为 describes a person who, despite appearing to be always busy with something, has accomplished nothing. It is used to refer to people who have wasted their lives away at trivial matters, and who, as a result, end up achieving nothing worthwhile or meaningful.

‘你还见过多少人?’ is a question directed at us, the listeners. He asks, “How many like me have you met?” which on the surface appears to be a somewhat cocky challenge, as if he is certain that we’d be hard-pressed to find another person who’s just like him, with the exact same qualities and circumstances, because he’s just so unique. But the answer to his question is painfully obvious, and he knows it – there are countless others just like him.

This matches what has been said so far in the song, as well. In the lyrics, he juxtaposes his expectations of life, and of himself, against the disappointing reality. It’s the lament of a twenty-something who is slowly coming to terms with the fact that he isn’t as special as he thought he was, and life isn’t what he thought it would be.

像我这样庸俗的人  从不喜欢装深沉

装深沉 is a slang meaning ‘to be pretentious’, or more specifically, to pretend to be deep and intellectual, usually by over-interpreting things and trying to make everything seem more meaningful as they really are. He says he doesn’t like that, and calls himself ‘庸俗’ instead, which often translates to ‘vulgar’ or ‘crude’, though in this context the meaning is closer to ‘shallow’, I think.

This is said in a manner that is at once self-deprecating and condescending, because he really doesn’t care for people who try hard to sound deep and smart. He thinks they’re silly, and he expresses his disdain by calling himself ‘shallow’ – ‘I’m a simple guy, I don’t like to overthink things, yeah, I’m shallow like that, unlike you guys with your deep, sentimental bullshit’.

怎么偶尔听到老歌时  忽然也晃了神

Yet despite his criticisms of his more ‘intellectual’, sentimental peers, he too is given to bouts of nostalgia. He admits this, saying that sometimes he finds himself ‘zoning out’ when he hears an old song. 晃神 literally means ‘to have your mind or soul shaken’, and it refers to moments where you get so caught up in your thoughts you don’t realise what is happening around you. Here, he’s alluding to the fact that sometimes hearing old songs reminds him of old – perhaps better – days, and that sometimes he gets so caught up in the memories that he forgets what he’s doing for a moment.

像我这样懦弱的人  凡事都要留几分

‘凡事都要留几分’ is an expression that describes someone who applies the concept of moderation in everything they do – they never say something they might regret, or commit fully to anything, lest they end up losing everything they have. ‘留几分’ literally means ‘to leave a few parts either untouched, or incomplete’ (分 is a generic measuring unit and translates roughly to ‘part’). He never says everything that is on his mind, or expresses 100% how he feels, because he’s afraid of getting hurt, and this is how he protects himself.

怎么曾经也会为了谁  想过奋不顾身

And yet despite his cautious nature, he too had someone for whom he considered risking everything for. 奋不顾身 means ‘to disregard one’s safety in desperation or eagerness to do something’ and in the context of this song, it means he once had someone who was so important to him that he’d actually considered risking his own well-being to keep them happy or safe.  

像我这样不甘平凡的人  世界上有多少人

平凡 means ‘to be ordinary’, or in some contexts, ‘to be mediocre’. 不甘 refers to the state of feeling unsatisfied with something. He knows for most people, he is average in every way, but he yearns to be something more.

‘世界上有多少人?’mirrors the question earlier, and it translates to ‘How many (people like me) are there in this world?’ In the same vein, he’s really alluding to the fact that he is utterly ordinary and unimpressive, and that there are countless others like him out there.

像我这样莫名其妙的人  会不会有人心

莫名其妙 literally means ‘inexplicable’, usually used to describe situations or behaviours that are baffling and sometimes, strange. What Mao Bu Yi is trying to say here, I think, is that he can be a little bit hard to understand for the people around him. He’s emotional, and he self-contradicts a lot, and others may find him unpredictable and difficult to keep up with because of these qualities.

In the last line, he wonders if anyone would love or care for someone like him. 心疼 literally means ‘heart aching’, and it describes the tender compassion one feels when they see someone (usually someone they love) struggling or suffering – your heart feels as if it’s aching, because you feel their pain. He wonders if someone would look at his pain and find him worthy of compassion, and maybe even come to love him, despite all his flaws.