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Owl City leader Adam Young told the story behind the song in an interview with Christianity Today magazine: "I enjoy writing largely from the imagination, and usually that produces rather abstract imagery. But with 'Deer in the Headlights,' I wrote a personal song that plays close to the chest in a way that no other song I've written ever has. I was ending a serious relationship at the time, and I was harrowed by the fact that so many people (specifically me) have a funny tendency to desire romance merely for the sake of avoiding loneliness, which ultimately means it's not about LOVE at all! Sometimes it's easy to be 'blinded by the light' and forget all about what true romance is designed by God to be. When all you focus on are the warm fuzzies, a relationship can become dangerous and disastrous very quickly. So the song plays closely to the fact that I needed to pull myself out of the lights and remember what's more important than the romantic butterflies."
When we spoke with Young in 2012, we asked him what became of this relationship. Young replied: "It was a huge bummer and it ended up ruining both lives that were involved. One of those 'never make the same mistake twice' kind of things. It's funny how people think of it as a happy song but it's really completely depressing."
The third single from All Things Bright and Beautiful, the third album by Owl City, features drums, bass, and electric guitar high up in the mix. "It's big and energetic — it's got a huge sound," he told Spin magazine. "There's this vibe of almost it being like blink-182, but with a couple of synth leads. It was a new frontier for me writing this song."
Young explained the concept behind the video and song to AOL Music: "It's a quirky video for a cheeky song that quips, 'Why are we in love if it's for all the wrong reasons?'," he said. "The song is about fending off the blinding light of superficial fluff relationships and saying, 'Thanks, but I'd rather be alone and thus avoid a million shallow heartbreaks until I meet the girl of my dreams'."
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