Vicarious
by Tool

Album: 10,000 Days (2006)
Play Video

Songfacts®:

  • This song concerns the American obsession with the television, and "Living Vicariously" through television characters. It also touches upon the American obsession with violence in television, a very psychological view on how we as a culture tend to need to watch other people or things die in order to continue feeling good about our own lives, and how when a war occurs (The Iraq War) we tend to need to watch "While the whole world dies." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Derek - Cheney, WA
  • About 5 minutes into the song, a newscaster's voice can be heard low in the mix, saying something like, "But the ballistics report and fingerprint analysis led investigators back to the home of the late Irv Benson. The evidence suggests that Benson may have been shot by his own son, Nathan, age 26." >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brad - Gainesville, FL
  • This song is similar in theme to the Tool song "Stinkfist." Depending on your interpretation of "Stinkfist," it has to do with the greed and consumption, possibly of things such as the TV. "Vicarious" speaks of devouring information from the TV (whatever that information may be). In both of these songs, this "devouring" is seen as a means for survival. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Brad - Gainesville, FL

Comments: 55

  • Joe from UsThe song is about how people vicariously live through the lives of others. Like the characters in a movie, or the people you hear about on the news. "Vicariously I live while the whole world dies, much better you than I" really sums the whole song up.
  • Rex from MnI'm with Joseph Trexler on this. I always took this as God was the narrator. But we (humans) are all each our own God since we made up the concept of God when we began to be able to reason and rationalize enough that we needed to fill the void of the unexplained.
  • Mike from UsHas anyone noticed no quarter kinda sounds like the (la da da da da da De die) in the beginning?
  • Gabe from Jackson MiJoseph Trexler, while most opinions state that it's about American entertainment and obsession, your theory is a great one with a different perspective that in all reality may have been what Tool was trying to get across or or it could even be both ideas.
  • Jake from United StatesAbout 5 minutes into the song, two newscasters overlapped voices can be heard low in the mix. One reports a father shot by his own son, the other recounting a woman poisoning her husband. Transcripts follow:

    "But the ballistics report and fingerprint analysis led investigators back to the home of the late Irv Benson. The evidence suggests that Benson may have been shot by his own son, Nathan, age 26." (thanks, Brad - Gainesville, FL)

    "____ thirty-eight year old Dalty Digger following the twenty-nine month local trial which ended in a verdict of guilty on all charges. Digger was accused of first degree murder following the death of her billionaire husband, {name}. Autopsy reports indicated foul play that had determined that she had used a poison in his tea. Family members looked on in horror as surveillance tapes recount the long-term, calculated event, which had been spread out over five months…Then ____ and laughing in his face and then kissing him goodbye."
  • Joseph Trexler from Jensen Beach, FlMaybe I'm wrong, but I've always thought he was talking about God watching from a distance while we all kill each other, wage wars, and destroy ourselves. Vicariously He lives while the whole world dies. Now that I'm reading the comments, though, I suppose I could have interpreted wrong and its actually people watching and living vicariously through television, which is plainly stated in the lyrics: "stare like a junkie into the TV." I'm open minded enough to admit I got this one wrong... Haha. My favorite lyric would have to be 'the universe is hostile, so impersonal... devour to survive, so it is, so its always been.' Sooo fckin true, man.
  • Kyle from Sand Lakes Provincial Park, MbI think of this song whenever I see someone glued to a TV screen! Hehe
  • David from Deer Park, Txas a huge fan of tool and rush, there is definetely correlating messages in this song and test for echo anyone else agree?
  • Alec from New Orleans, LaPahahahah MUSLIM SUPERPOWER?! come on Karl, use your a brain a little.
  • Callie from Madison, InI think that this song is about the world turning everything good into violence.
    The way the song is sung makes me picture God singing it and he is upset because of how s--tty the world is now.
    Also, the video shows the... "robot" observing the "tripod". then eventually, by "realizing his flaws" he is able to defeat the beast..
    Just my opinion...
  • Jon from Neenah, WiIt is so refreshing to hear (see) a band that can display an image or a thought so in depth. Tool will forever be an alltime favorite band with such a strong message to send Thanks Jim( Maynard James Keenan)
  • Ben from Pittsbugh, Payou people are talking bout what the song means not the song itself, its a great song. i learned it in two days, the riffs chorus, its just a great music song, but its meaning is important as well
  • Mindy from Bon Aqua, TnI think that half of the comments are posted by boy band fans. Music by Tool is always vague enough for fans to interpret differently, yet it is also clear enough for fans to get the basic concept and mood of the music. Don't try to pick apart every verse or you could go insane (or at least get a really bad headache). The musical genious involved with the members of Tool will always inspire and entertain fans.
  • Karl from Syracuse, NyThe war in Iraq was to prevent a Muslim superpower. Pre-emptive strike by America.
  • Karl from Syracuse, NyI think it is saying hey, if I am evil, then everyone must be. People watch from the suburbs while people die and basically do pretend that they care while at the same time washing their hands of it. I think this is an accurate song.
  • Johnny Thunder from Lakeside, Cai feel as though it has to do with video games you know. being someone else and there pretty violent too
  • Mike from Ottawa, OnFirst and foremost a RUSH fan but have a definite respect and love for ten thousand days! Tool is an awesome band with a heavy edge that says "We're doing it the way WE THINK...not for you record company jerks!). That's something we can all agree is worth listening to! Also, this is a "desert island top 20 pick" right up there with Radiohead Ok Computer, Rush 2112, Aerosmith Rocks, Ry Cooder Chicken Skin Music, Max Webster Universal Juveniles, ...anything by THE DOORS!
  • Colby from Henderson, NvWhy does it necessarily have to be relating to America's population? Has anyone seen the crazy stuff they have on Japanese television (for example)?
  • Joe from El Paso, Txpersonally, i think this song is about how we watch tv advertisements such as "Save the starving kids in Africa" and "The poalar bear's home is melting" and not do anything about it, how they are dying and cant do anything about it while we are safe at home; while thay are starving 2 , and we are eating food like theres' no 2moro.
  • Dale from Arouca, Trinidad And Tobago Grreat song. Grant from Cincinnati,I did not hear "it's the VIRTUE OF EMPIRE", I heard it's the VIRTUAL VAMPIRE .The virtual vampire concept is what I believe ot be one of the major premisses of the song . In it Mayynard attempts to show people that his thirst (or hunger) for the dark side. ( Like:
    "Killed by the husband" ...
    "Drowned by the ocean" ...
    "Shot by his own son" ...
    "She used a poison in his tea,
    Then kissed him goodbye"
    That's my kind of story
    It's no fun til someone dies.)
    is being being fed by the modern day electronic Trojan Horse (The TV )and from past tool lyrics we know that these scenarios are relatively rather mild ,the shock value is at an entertaining level . Yet there is a plea to the audiance not to look at him as if he is a monster , Because what he is infering is the virtual vampireis are in us all (at least all who listen to Tool music) The only differance is he is admitting to what may appear to be a character flaw and at the same time saying its a universal concept. Will refer to the concept of masterbation we were onced schooled to believe that it was bad for you . Know we realise everyone does it , well at least the vast majority of us And taking part in the act of sexually self gratifying one self does not justyfy perversion ,in the same vein enjoying one self or it not being fun till someone dies will not be proof that the voyer is a monster.
  • Nathan from Old Bridge, NjTo me, this song isnt about watching TV or media. i think thats a metaphor for how we look at one another. when someone around us feels pain, we have little idea what its like, so we just accept it and pretend to pity the person.

    For example, the last line "Much better you than I." We would rather someone else feel pain other than ourselves, and thats one of the messages of this song
  • Grant from Cincinnati, OhI believe Ed from Manchester is on to something. This is in reference to the top posting here, where he touches on the underlying effects, the conditioning, that living in a very imperialistic society most likely has on all of us. Also - is it just me that hears Maynard saying "we all feed on tragedy, it's the VIRTUE OF EMPIRE" at the end of the song - rather than the "it's like blood to a vampire" interpretation that everyone posts on their lyric sites??? I was starting to think i was going nutz being the only person who heard "virtue of empire" where everyone else was hearing "blood to a vampire" at the end of Vicarious, but now I'm not so sure... Let me know what you think.
  • Ed from Manchester, United KingdomI really think this is NOT true of a general human nature, but one that is part of an imperialistic environment. One that is conditioned to put itself higher in the system than those it watches die. to the point that even seeing its own die is a "consumable"

    so, this is true of rome as it is true of america today.

    and yes, it is imperialistic...look at the middle east and the expansion into the pacific.

    looks like the fore fathers intention of forming a democratic free constitution went out the window around 1911-1913 when the federal reserve made the financial and imperialistic aganda top of the priorities and began to undermine and re write the constituion of what could have been the greatest free demoicracy int e world.

    someone's always gotta spoil it for everyone else...well...at least we have "Gladiators" (as Bill Hicks put it)

  • Joe from El Paso, Txi agree with jordan, we laugh at other ppl pain, if we see a video of a man getting kicked in his balls, we laugh like hell.
  • Reilly from Rosa , CaThe need to watch things die at a safe distance is not just part of American culture. Look at the Collesuem of Rome. Its part of human nature, not just one particular culture.
  • Gundy from Orange City, IaYeah this song has multiple levels for sure. It is definitely about our obsession with death (not just Americans, by the way). We become "Warriors" and "Voyeurs" when we watch. We get the adrenalin rush from watching both news and war movies; we get off on it like we are watching porn. The existance of God is definitely not challenged in this song. God exists, but He is a "monster" of what Christians believe Him to be. He created us to watch us die. He lives vicariously through us while we go through the death throws because He cannot die. Amazingly deep song.
  • Kyle from Dinwiddie, Vaon this video, who is the inmate in the courtroom hearing at 1:25 through the video? just wondering... anyways, this song is great and it has a good meaning to it that is 100% accurate about the common person. we do self-indulge ourselves and stay glued to the televisions when something terrifying or deadly comes to our attention, it draws us attentively without us noticing. No criticism here, because I'm innocently one of these persons and so are 99% of the people around us everyday. just my two cents.
  • Jordan from Wagoner, Oksorry,its me,jordan again...
    Vicarious means living or feel ing through someone else!!!
  • Jordan from Wagoner, Okthis song is about how we,as humans enjoy watching other human tragedy.
    some lines in this song give the point away...
    like"we all feed,tragedy,".
    also,"i need to watch things die,from a distance,Vicariously i, live while the whole world die .you all feel the same so,why cant we just admit it?"
    it focuses around how ,for example,when your driving ,say you see a car crash,no matter what, just admit it,it thrills you.
    ",cause trgedy thrills me,"
    thats all i got for this song it rules!!!
  • Dave from Latham , NyThis song is in 5/4. It is obvious during the bridge at 3:25, where an extra beat is cleary added to each measure!
  • Ben from Andover, Ksthe fact at the top of the page hits the nail on the head
  • Ammon from Houston, TxWhen I first heard this song, I thought that it was simply about a tyrant who enjoyed killing things but couldn't handle doing the dirty work himself. But after reading the lyrics, I have to agree with this interpretation.
  • Ammon from Houston, TxWhen I first heard this song, I thought that it was simply about a tyrant who enjoyed killing things but couldn't handle doing the dirty work himself. But after reading the lyrics, I have to agree with this interpretation.
  • Mahlon from Bloomfield, NjYou TOTALLY misunderstood the lyrics to Stinkfist...which is...quite distinctly....about sexual fisting as a form of mind expansion.

    "...turn around and take my hand."
    double meaning...both referring to a "reach around" and also "take" my hand...as in...take it in.....get me? Vicarious has NOTHING to do with that...its a TOTALLY DIFFERENT topic....TV as a nullifier calming our need to kill one another by allowing us to watch the outcome of REAL and Fictional killing...but to keep it at a distance...best shows...CSI....COPS....War TV and News....anything with death in it...fascination with the fear of death...and so therefore we are thrilled be SEEING death and experiencing it second hand ...aka...vicariously.

    then he kind of branches that though forward into astral meta-physics...The universe is hostile


    AND THEN he goes one step further...
    a TOTAL dismissal of ANY god
    (not just christ or christianity but ALL RELIGIONS or spirituality)

    compares the "is was and always will be" of God to Darwin's survival of the fitest boiled down to Mr. Keenan's own mantra
    "Devour to survive, so it is So it's always been"

    One MIGHT interprit this as him saying
    " to murder Is to be god "

    if you compare THAT to stinkfist you need to clear the wax out of your ears son.
  • James from Chaventry, United KingdomIMO I believe this song is primarily about American culture, and its ties to television. More over it seems to link in with George Bush the line "Cause I need to watch things die
    From a distance" implies his on going attacks to the middle eastern countries. Finally " While the mother holds her child, Watches him die,Pleas to the sky crying, "Why, oh why?!"to me represents the lack of help for people in poorer circumstanses.
  • Cj from Vermont, VtMt friend told me that vicarious means living an exprience throught someone else so I, in my opinion, the song is about living life but not really living it lol kinda contradicting lol
  • Sarah from Chicago, IlThis song is completely true and makes an awesome point.
  • Alec from Lemont Furnace, Panice song by a awesome band
  • Tyler from Alexndria, Lai agree with navid. i personally think this song is about god watching the earth crumble because of all the bad doings and all
  • Craig from Allentown, PaAs with most Tool songs (and art in general) the specific meaning is up to you, the audience. In this particular case I believe this is more of a commentary on life or existence as a whole, but each individual can narrow it down and apply it to the crisis of the day. In general we don't want to admit it's a dog eat dog world out here, but it is; "The universe is hostile, so Impersonal,
    Devour to survive, so it is, so it's always been" and "Much better you than I". You can take this general message and narrow its scope to apply to "the Iraq war, poverty, violence, etc."
  • Austin from Smallsville, NeI think its about our obsession with vilonce. That is why we all watch scary movies and drive slowly by a car. Also I think it is about us not addmiting it "don't look at me like I am a monster" so that means we all like vilonce but no one will admit it
  • Matt from Auburn, Wai believe it is my duty to inform everyone that with the release of this album, all of tools music (including salival) accumulates to 6 albums 60 songs (not including hidden tracks) and 6.2 hours total play time.
  • Hans from Davenport, Ianavid, the song isnt about god...theyre talking about the people watching it happening on tv
  • Brendan from Hobart, Australiathe outro of "pretty handsome awkward" by the used bares a striking resemblance to the outro of vicarious
  • Spog Zallagi from Blue Hill, MePersonally I like playing violent games and watching blood and gore shoot em up movies, but when sh*t like that is really happening to real people I'm not watching it. The Media is sh*t too. Every time I put on the news it's either "A black guy killed the poor white man" or someone else getting killed. The "War on Terrorism" I don't watch the news anymore but rather just go to BBCnews. They're the only ones that are good and not in bed with the government. Personally I like watching Europeans criticize my country because it NEEDS criticism.
  • Navid from Tehran, IranI think this song is somehow religious too! the part that it says : "Stare like a junkie into the TV, Stare like a zombie! While the mother, holds her child, Watches him die. Hands to the sky crying. Why, oh why?" and the response is : "Cause I need to watch things die, from a good safe distance! Vicariously I Live while the whole world dies!"
    and who is the one who watches the whole world dying from a good and safe distance?! He's God, ain't he?!
  • Jhon from Miami, FlGreat Song, I think this song is about how we like when other people suffer. And this suffer make us laugh of the others, and we are like monsters and that make us feel good.
    And Is how we live, "Life Feeds on Life", we live by the others, we need them to make us feel good.
    And we are like leeches sucking the "blood", i mean taking the life of the others till we have it all.
    And We deny that we are like that. We are animals, we need "blood" to live.
  • Trent from Binghamton, NyThis song is my fav song of all the other Tool songs i luv.
  • Brian from Altoona, Payou are right Jim, i was at the beginning of my Tool journey when i first posted
  • Jim from Rogers, ArThe music is also very similar to Stinkfist. The introduction is almost the exact same thing,on guitar atleast, the only differences are a few notes and the rythm.
  • Jim from Rogers, ArThis is the basic primiss for this song, but that perspective can be applied to so many things its insane...its not weird for tool to come out with a song that has a simple answer, it would be wierd if that answer didnt follow some complex and near universal concept.
  • Kevin from California, PaTo me this song describes how we as americans believe everything that we see on tv. our society thrives on tradgedy and the pain and suffering of others. For example daily news reports of people being shot dead in the streets. " I need to watch things die... from a distance
    Vicariously I live while the whole world dies " is saying that we sit back and watch these horrific events take place and sadly its our entertainment. We feed on tradgedy. thas us as a american society and we need to just admit it.
  • Brian from Altoona, Pawe need more comments on this song...it is kinda weird for a tool song...the meaning is too obvious
  • Brian from Altoona, Paanother kickass long tool song...they are such a good band. hard to get used to, but when you get used to them...you cant turn them off.
  • Fremont from Concord, NhAwesome song, even awesomer CD. In my opinion, the best song on the CD is "The Pot", but this is right up there with it. This song is also getting more radio play than any other Tool song that I've heard in the past 10 years.
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