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Music / Owl City

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He'd like to make himself believe that planet Earth turns slowly.

Owl City is an electronic music project created in 2007 by singer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Adam Young (born July 5, 1986). Young is the only constant member of Owl City, and it is undoubtedly the most well-known among his many musical projects.

At the time of the project's inception, Young was working a job loading Coca-Cola trucks that he had found after graduating high school. During this time, he suffered from insomnia, which led him to begin composing melodies in his head while at his job and then turning them into songs in a studio in his parents' basement.

He gained a following uploading his songs on MySpace, and cultivated a fanbase by responding to any messages he received and posting frequent blogs. After his first independent releases saw impressive success, he was signed to Universal Republic Records (now just Republic Records) in 2009. His subsequent release, Ocean Eyes, would make the project a household name through the success of several hit songs, the most popular being "Fireflies", a sweet little song about his aforementioned insomnia and the loss of childhood innocence.

Owl City's sound is generally characterized by bubbly synths combined with oddball lyrics about cutesy romance, nostalgia, ethereal musings and puns. Lots of puns. Depending on who you ask, this combination of elements is either endearing or sickening. Nevertheless, Young has otherwise enjoyed a reasonably successful career, particularly with providing theme songs for several animated features, though he has yet to top his first big hit in terms of commercial success. To his credit, "Good Time", his collaboration with Carly Rae Jepsen, did come fairly close.

Aside from Owl City, Young has also recorded music under several other projects including the acoustic indie rock act Sky Sailing, the ambient acts Port Blue and Color Therapy, the electronic act Insect Airport, and a series of film-score-style instrumental albums inspired by historical events released under his own name. He's also dabbled in screamo across several projects; yes, really.


  • Of June EP (2007)
  • Maybe I'm Dreaming (2008)
  • Ocean Eyes (2009)
  • All Things Bright and Beautiful (2011)
  • Shooting Star EP (2012)
  • The Midsummer Station (2012)
  • The Midsummer Station (Acoustic EP)
  • Ultraviolet EP (2014)
  • Mobile Orchestra (2015)
  • Cinematic (2018)
  • Coco Moon (2023)

This musician provides examples of:

  • Actual Pacifist: He said so on his blog, and it could be implied in the song "Dental Care":
    "I'd rather pick flowers instead of fights."
  • Added Alliterative Appeal: In "How I Became the Sea":
    "The wide windy waves washed in."
  • After the End: The setting of the "Alligator Sky" video.
  • And I Must Scream: In "Wolf Bite", "I'm dyin' but I can't scream".
  • Arc Words:
    • The phrase "tired eyes" has occurred in "I'll Meet You There," "Lonely Lullaby," and "Shooting Star".
    • Fire in "Shooting Star", "Embers" and "Silhouette"
  • Audience Participation Song: When "Fireflies" is performed live, there's usually at least one chorus sung solely by the audience.
  • Author Appeal: Seriously. Count the number of songs where he doesn’t mention a place or places in the USA. We’ll wait.
  • Book Ends: "The Real World" and "Strawberry Avalanche" begin and end with the same set of lyrics.
  • Call-Back: "Metropolis" has one to "Vanilla Twilight":
    "Vanilla Twilight": I'd send a postcard to you dear, 'cause I wish you were here.
    "Metropolis": Like hundreds of postcards, that say 'I wish you were here'.
  • The Cameo:
    • Shaquille O'Neal in the video for "Vanilla Twilight".
    • LIGHTS in the video for "Deer in The Headlights".
  • Casanova Wannabe \ Dogged Nice Guy: The narrator in "Deer in The Headlights". The poor sap is supposedly so creepy girls pepper spray him for just saying hello, but still believes he has a shot with women.
  • Central Theme: Several songs are named after astronomical/celestial objects or anything that pertains to light. For example, "Rainbow Veins", "Meteor Shower", "Fireflies", "Vanilla Twilight", "Deer in the Headlights", "Shooting Star", "Galaxies", and "Alligator Sky".
  • Christmas Songs: He has several, one of which is actually called "Christmas Song." He's released one nearly ever December as a single since 2011, including "Peppermint Winter," "Kiss Me, Babe, It's Christmas Time" and "Ba, Humbug,"
  • Cloudcuckoolander: All Things Bright and Beautiful has given us a song based on this. "The Real World" pretty much runs with this concept in quite a nice way:
    "Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn't wanna live there."
  • Colony Drop: Possibly referenced in "Kamikaze". For reference, think about the meaning of 'kamikaze' in WWII context.
    "Oh comet, come down / kamikaze over me."
  • Cue the Sun:
    • While not actually the sun, the Aurora-cloud thing in the "Vanilla Twilight" video glows more colorfully and brightly when Adam starts the last verse, and the onlookers react quite happily. It is, of course, fitting the lyrics:
      "When violet eyes get brighter, and heavy wings grow lighter, I'll taste the sky and feel alive again."
    • A straighter example hinting the beginning of a journey is mentioned in "To the Sky":
      "Travel light, let the sun eclipse you
      'Cause your flight is about to leave
      And there's more to this brave adventure
      Than you'd ever believe..."
  • Darker and Edgier: "This Isn't the End" is far darker and more melancholy than the usual Owl City fare, dealing with a father who committed suicide, and how it affected his daughter. Ultimately, however, the song does end on an optimistic note.
  • Depraved Dentist: Referenced in one verse of "Dental Care".
    "Have a seat," he says pleasantly
    As he shakes my hand and practically laughs at me
    "Open up nice and wide," he says peering in
    And with a smirk he says, "Don't have a fit
    This'll just pinch a bit," as he tries not to grin.
  • Double Entendre:
    • When you look back on it, this line from "Sunburn": "The lantern died that night but we didn't need to see..."
    • From "If My Heart was a House": "Chills run down my spine as our fingers intwine / And your sighs harmonize with mine."
    • "We'll turn out all of the lights and set this ballroom aglow" is a bit more subtle, but it's still there.
    • Pretty much all of "Thunderstruck". Even the melody.
  • Escapism: A common interpretation of his work. Perhaps the most noteworthy example is "The Real World":
    Downy feathers kiss your face, and flutter everywhere,
    Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn't want to live there.
  • Exactly What It Says on the Tin: "Christmas Song". Go on, guess what it's about.
  • Growing Up Sucks: "Fireflies" is partially about losing your childlike sense of wonder and imagination as you grow up.
  • Haunted House: The setting of "Plant Life".
  • I Am the Band: Owl City consists solely of a guy named Adam Young.
  • I Have Many Names: Besides Owl City, Young has released albums under the names of Seagull Orchestra, Insect Airport, Dolphin Park, Port Blue, Sky Sailing and Color Therapy.
  • The Insomniac: Most of his music was written simply when he could not shut his mind off. "Fireflies" in particular is a sweet little song about insomnia and the loss of childhood innocence.
    Leave my door open just a crack
    (Please take me away from here)
    'Cause I feel like such an insomniac
    (Please take me away from here)
    Why do I tire of counting sheep
    (Please take me away from here)
    When I'm far too tired to fall asleep
  • Lyrical Dissonance: He has this odd habit of inserting the creepiest lyrics into otherwise innocent, peppy synth-pop. See the nightmare fuel subpage for more. Adam might have said it best himself.
    "Spoiler: Owl City is 95% sad lyrics over uplifting chords."
  • Lyrical Tic: Da-da-da-da!
  • Meaningful Echo: Between "Alligator Sky" and "Plant Life" of all things:
    "I'm scared to death that I'll never be afraid.
    Cause I don't feel dead anymore, and I'm not afraid anymore."
  • Mind Screw: Arguably, "The Real World". Is Adam talking about some dream world he never wants to leave, or our world?
    "Reality is a lovely place, but I wouldn't wanna live there..."
    "I'd never leave if it were up to me..."
  • Nostalgia Filter: The basis for "Unbelievable" from Mobile Orchestra, talking about how awesome everything was as a kid.
  • Parental Love Song: "Not All Heroes Wear Capes" is a child-to-parent example.
  • Product Placement: The video for "Good Time" (featuring Carly Rae Jepsen) features a Fiat FIAT 500 prominently.
  • Pungeon Master: There are tons of puns to be found throughout his songs.
    • "Dental Care" is loaded with puns:
      I've been to the dentist a thousand times, so I know the drill.
      Golf and alcohol don't mix, and that's why I don't drink and drive.
      When hygienists leave on long vacations / That's when dentists scream and lose their patience.
    • "Cave In" pairs a pun with Lyrical Dissonance:
      If the bombs go off, the sun will still be shining
      Because I've heard it said that every mushroom cloud has a silver lining
    • Adam's particularly fond of puns on his Twitter.
      Me: Whale you be my valentine?
      You: Dolphinitely.
    • From "Cave In": "I'll ride the range and hide all my loose change in my bedroll / 'cause riding a dirt bike down a turnpike always takes its toll on me."
    • "Honey and the Bee" has a classic one:
      I would make like a tree and leave.
    • "Plant Life" has several:
      Your spirit is sweet, so pull off your sheet / and give me a ghost of a smile.
      Show me your teeth, 'cause you're a teddy beneath / so just grin and bear it a while.
    • "To The Sky" is played in Legend Of The Guardians The Owls Of Ga Hoole—while exploring the owl city.
    • From "Bombshell Blonde":
      Bad news, I'm a fuse and I've met my match / so stand back, it's about to go off.
      That blonde, she's a bomb / she's an atom bomb.note 
    • Several from "The Bird and the Worm":
      With fronds like these, well, who needs anemones?
      We'll take a long walk through the cornfield, and I'll kiss you between the ears.note 
  • Scenery Porn: "The Real World" has some very neat examples:
    "From the green belt balcony, the wildfires look so pretty."
    "To the ruby redwood tree, and to the velvet climbing ivy, painted all mahogany, I'd never leave if it were up to me."
    "With a starry brush, paint the dusk venetian blue, because in the evening hush, you'll never believe the view'.
  • Shout-Out:
    • Finding Nemo: "With fronds like these, who needs anemones?"
    • Airborn:
      • "If my heart was a compass, you'd be North..." Adam is apparently a big fan of the series.
      • One of his albums in Adam's Port Blue project is The Airship, which is based on Airborn. Some of the song titles refer to different parts of the novel, or just general ideas from the book.
    • Almost the entire music video to "Deer in the Headlights" was a shout out to Back to the Future.
    • From The Midsummer Station, Metropolis. Not just the name, the words 'speeding bullet' are actually used in the lyrics. It's actually possible to interpret that whole section of the chorus as one, 'hijacked plane' to the famous 'is it a bird, is it a plane', 'runaway train' to the 'more powerful than a locomotive' and 'speeding bullet' to 'faster than a speeding bullet'.
    • Possibly one to the The Boxcar Children in "Umbrella Beach".
      "Home is a boxcar."
    • "Bombshell Blonde" has two in two consecutive lyrics:
      "And I'm James Bond/Live to die another day."
  • Silly Love Songs:
    • "The Bird and the Worm", "Tip of the Iceberg", "Explorers", "On the Wing", "The Saltwater Room", "If My Heart Was a House"... The list goes on.
      • Interestingly, many of the songs on Ocean Eyes manage to be silly love songs without ever actually using the word "love."
    • All Things Bright and Beautiful brings a more traditional, but no less awesome and sweet example, "Honey and the Bee." Made more sweet dream-y by the beautiful chorus, including the following fuzzies-inducing lyric:
      "But if I reached for your hand would your eyes get wide?"
      • And he brought in the incredibly sweet voice of Breanne Duren to make this little love duet even sweeter.
  • Snow Means Love: "Tip of the Iceberg" is a love song that is set during the winter; the lyrics also evoke imagery of ice, snow, and the cold.
    The snowflakes fall
    Gently to the ground
    The temperature drops
    And your shivers freeze all the rivers around
    But I keep you warm
  • The Stars Are Going Out: Referenced in a lyric from "Honey and the Bee":
    "Cause when the stars silhouette me I'm scared they'll forget me and flicker out..."
    • Also in "Shooting Star":
      "When the sun goes down and the lights burn out it's time for you to shine."
  • Stock Animal Diet: The character in "The Bird and the Worm" compares himself and his lover's relationship to, rather gruesomely, the predator-prey relationship of a bird and a worm.
    If you're the bird,
    Whenever we pretend it's summer,
    Then I'm the worm,
    I know the part, it's such a bummer,
    But fair is fair,
    If my segments get separated,
    I'll scream
    And you'll be there
  • Subverted Rhyme Every Time: Happens in "Rugs From Me To You":
    "And by the way, I just gotta say, / Thank the Lord I'm not going bald."
  • Super Not-Drowning Skills: "Explorers" is about this trope.
    But the tide came in
    And we found ourselves in the sea
    Deep under water.
    We both found that we could still breathe
    So we spent the day submerged
    And we swam the evening away.
  • Updated Re-release: Several songs in Ocean Eyes can be found on earlier releases with slight changes. For example, "The Saltwater Room" was originally on the Maybe I'm Dreaming EP.
  • Vocal Evolution: Adam's vocals on Of June are half-whispered and have an implacable Auto-Tune-esque effect on them. He starts projecting more with each successive release, although his slightly raspier voice on his more recent songs imply that a few years of improper singing techniques have taken their toll on him.
  • With Friends Like These...: "...well, who needs enemies?" ("The Bird and the Worm")
  • Word Salad Lyrics: Pretty much any given point of any of Adam's songs. In fact, it wouldn't be surprising to see someone compile a list of increasingly silly unconnected words to be used in just one of his songs.
    • Believe it or not, it has happened.
    • Apparently that is a way he comes up with possible song titles.
    • During his livestream listening party for his new album, The Midsummer Station, he says that "Hello, Seattle" was the first song he wrote, and that he wrote it by writing down the first things that came to mind. If it rhymes, it goes.

How close to the ending? Well, nobody knows,
The future's a mystery and anything goes,
Love is confusing and life is hard,
You fight to survive 'cause you made it this far...


Video Example(s):


Part of

Part Of Owl City's "Fireflies" In the Cyruslus conlang.(With audio)

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