Here, Beck sings about emerging from a "panic cycle." When pressed by NME to elaborate on this period of darkness, Beck replied, "I did have some challenges and some struggles, just like anybody has. The challenges of life."
"When you make music for a lot of years," he continued. "there's sort of an expectation that you're going to go away. In popular music it's built in for people to come and go. There are points where you wonder if you're overstaying your welcome. It's not even insecurity; it's trying to be real with yourself. Maybe it's a common thing for musicians – at some point you wonder, do you get out of the way? When's the point when somebody taps you on the shoulder and goes, 'It's time to go home'?"
The song features backing vocals from Feist. Beck previously collaborated with the Canadian singer-songwriter when he remixed her Metals track "How Come You Never Go There."
Fall Out Boy's "The Kids Aren't Alright" song title is not a reference to The Offspring's 1998 single of the same name. It actually alludes to The Who's 1979 rockumentary film called The Kids Are Alright.