On Ben Folds Live, Folds explained: "People ask me what this song's about... I was asked about it a lot, and I didn't really wanna make a big hairy deal out of it, because I just wanted the song to speak for itself. But the song is about when I was in high school, me and my girlfriend had to get an abortion, and it was a very sad thing. And, I didn't really want to write this song from any kind of political standpoint, or make a statement. I just wanted to reflect what it feels like. So, anyone who's gone through that before, then you'll know what the song's about."
Folds has also said that neither teen wanted their parents to know, so Ben ended up taking most of the presents he received that Christmas and selling them at a pawn shop so he and his girlfriend could afford the abortion. (thanks, Matt - Conway, AR)
With a quirky piano-driven sound that doesn't fit neatly into a format, Ben Folds Five (who were actually a trio) had a hard time getting airplay until this song got noticed by a mainstream audience. This came at a price, as the band had to play a lot of radio station concerts as a favor for the airplay. Folds hated these shows, as the fans were usually there just to hear this song, and he had to suffer indignities like a DJ asking onstage which one of their girlfriends had the abortion. Commercial radio was not a good fit for Ben Folds Five, and none of their other songs got any significant airplay. However, the internet was good to Ben Folds, and with the advent of iTunes it became clear that his music was enjoyed by legions of fans who were happy to download it. He has since been very successful in expanding his fanbase online while getting very little attention at record stores and radio stations. He no longer plays "Brick" at concerts.
The year before this came out, Folds got some attention when he played the Lollapalooza Tour, often beating the hell out of his piano onstage.
Folds' drummer Darren Jessee wrote the lyrics in the chorus of the song, but they really have little to no significance as far as the rest of the song is concerned. (thanks, Meg - Virginia Beach, VA)
This was not released as a single in the US. It got it's chart position due to airplay.
Some lyric interpretation:
"Now that I have found someone
I'm feeling more alone
Then I ever have before
She's a brick and I'm drowning slowly
This is the main symbol in this song: the brick and drowning. "She" refers to the girlfriend. Just imagine yourself underwater, running out of air, and trying to resurface... all the while carrying a brick. A little hard, eh? This is how Ben Folds Five meant it, that the girlfriend is dragging him down. Another good twist on this is this: one lifeguard certification test is to retrieve a brick from underwater. Could it be that the guy in the song wasn't ready for this kind of responsibility and commitment, just like a beginning lifeguard wouldn't be ready for that test?
"Off the coast and I'm headed nowhere"
My interpretation of this line was that the abortion is throwing him off track. 'Off the coast' meaning his life has suddenly taken a little detour, and 'headed nowhere' is him realizing that becoming a teenage father will get him nowhere in life.
"They call her name at 7:30"
'They' meaning the people at the abortion clinic.
"Then I walk down to buy her flowers
and sell some gifts that I got"
Buying her flowers is maybe the one indication in the whole song that he still cares for this girl. He is selling some gifts (Christmas gifts, remember this is the day after Christmas) to help pay for the abortion.
"Can't you see
It's not me you're dying for"
This is an interesting two lines, as it is him talking to the unborn child.
"Now she's feeling more alone
Then she ever has before"
This is where we finally learn the girl's state of mind in all this, and this indicates she's not doing too well. This girl is very upset about the abortion, and might be becoming depressed.
"They told me son its time to tell the truth
She broke down and I broke down
Cause I was tired of lying"
The parents have finally realized something was up with those two, and both of them broke down and told the truth.
"Driving home to her apartment
For the moment we're alone
Now I know it."
This is perhaps the saddest part of the song. Even though they both went through this experience, they aren't truly in it together. 'For the moment we're alone' makes you think he means that the two of them are away from everyone else, but the next two lines show that what he really meant was that she was alone, and he was alone. Despite being "alone" in the car together, they were separate. Going through this kind of experience is tough, and it helps if you're going through it together. But we finally realize they are on two totally different wavelengths, and while they may still love each other (I am assuming here that they do), they will never be as close as they were before. (thanks, Jen - Mt. Laurel, NJ)
When Ben Folds Five were recording this song at his Chapel Hill, North Carolina home, friends who heard it play weren't enthused. "To do a song that was just so simple and commercial-sounding was bumming the peanut gallery out," Folds recalled to Spinner
. "They said, 'What's that song? Is that going to really be on the album?' [I asked,] 'Why, you don't like it?' 'Well, was it the record label's idea?' It's just called growth and being honest doing what you do. It's about something and it just captures the feeling pretty well. I always felt that was our moment. I thought 'Brick' was a very dignified thing for us to have our biggest hit."