Frontman Rob Thomas, drummer Paul Doucette & bassist Brian Yale were members of an Orlando Florida band called Tabitha’s Secret. They split from other members i.e.John Goff & Jeff Stanley to start a new band. This band came to be known as Matchbox Twenty in the year 1995 when they recruited two guitarists. They were Kyle Cook from the Atlanta Institute of Music & Adam Gaynor of the Recording Studio called Criteria.
Soon, they had launched their debut album in 1996. Titled as Yourself or Someone Like You, all its singles did well across rock radio stations. While Long day was their biggest hit, Push garnered headlines for its controversial lyrics. To some critics the Matchbox Twenty Push lyrics meaning amounted to a celebration of domestic violence against women. While the vocalist & songwriter clarified that the song was about him being a victim of psychological & emotional abuse at the hands of a woman, feminist groups lashed back at the band. Even the 1997 video of the band explicitly showed Rob Thomas as the person who felt abused by someone or something that is never revealed to the audience. Nonetheless, you could read on for the interpretation of the Matchbox Twenty Push lyrics meaning
What does the title mean?
The title is about the singer imagining himself in the role of his lover. He sings these words, imagining them to be her words. In this sense, the title is about Pushing your loved one around. It is a simple four letter word that represents a powerful action of exerting force on someone else against their will. It also signals at the singer or the abused being a pushover.
Verse 1- What does it mean?
Said I don’t know if I’ve ever been good enough
I’m a little bit rusty, and I think my head is cavin’ in
And I don’t know if I’ve ever been really loved
By a hand that’s touched me
And I feel like something’s gonna give
And I’m a little bit angry, well
The first few lines express the discontentment of the female partner. She is agitated that she never felt true love & the singer has been inadequate in loving her. This dissatisfaction also comes from the fact that she has been touched by his hand, but not in a loving way. She is unsure if she was ever good enough for him. The more she thinks about it, her head implodes & she also feels old & rusty in the relationship. Herein, the rust may refer to the unsmooth & deteriorating nature of their relationship. These lines are an admission of not having any clear thoughts about it, but feeling this anger & disgust that she may lose her patience. The woman feels adverse emotions towards the singer, instead of love or remorse.
This ain’t over, no, not here
Not while I still need you around
You don’t owe me, we might change, yeah
Yeah, we just might feel good
These words are his words. He replies to her complaints & reassures her that things are not over in the relationship. He will make every effort to convince her that it can last, as long as he is still around. He reassures her that she does not owe him anything & she doesn’t have to feel obligated to him. Even then, both people can change & it may feel real good.
Chorus- What does it mean?
I wanna push you around
Well, I will, well, I will
I wanna push you down
Well, I will, well, I will
I wanna take you for granted
The chorus is in the words of the girlfriend. Even the song carries them in a female voice of backing vocals. Herein, the woman says that she wants to take him for granted. She wants to treat him like a person who depends on her i.e. someone who will never go away even if she pushes him around & puts him down. Her anger towards him is justified & she will treat him as someone beneath her. She says it with the words “will” & “wanna”, expressing a desire & determination to abuse him for being the way he is. How he tells her that she is not obligated while pushing in the idea that they may change. He is being sly because he fears losing her. She intends to exploit this fear.
Verse 2- What does it mean?
She said I don’t know why you ever would lie to me
Like I’m a little untrustin’
Here, the singer explicitly mentions her as the speaker. She believes that he shared the hope that they may change for good, but he never tells her the truth. He never shares the desirable changes that he expects of her. It is either in terms of him or both of them, but he is deceptive about his wants & desires in the relationship.
When I think that the truth is gonna hurt ya
And I don’t know why you couldn’t just stay with me
You couldn’t stand to be near me
When my face don’t seem to want to shine
‘Cause it’s a little bit dirty, oh, well
Now the singer switches to his own words. How he lacked the courage to say the truth because it may hurt her. He also expressed his feelings when he asked why she avoided staying with him. Why she could not be by his side, when his face was dirty & without any shine. The singer is expressing his anguish that the woman may be ashamed of him.
Well, don’t just stand there, sayin’ nice things to me
‘Cause I’ve been cheated, I’ve been wronged and you
You don’t know me, yeah, well, I can’t change
Well, I won’t do anything at all
This time, the words switch back to those of the woman. This song is like a back & forth conversation. She demeans him again & says that his kind words are untrue. He has cheated her by hiding his true feelings towards her. She feels wronged because he does not really understand her. She finally tells him that she won’t do anything to change. It is also implied that he never understood her, so he would never realize that she has put in an effort to change. Therefore, he has to accept her the way she is. Thereafter, the song goes into the chorus again.
Verse 3- What does it mean?
Oh, but don’t bowl me over
Just wait a minute, well, it kinda fell apart, things
Things get so crazy, crazy
Don’t rush this, baby
Don’t rush this, baby, baby
Eventually, the singer is pleading with her. He has been pushed around in the song. His integrity & devotion towards the relationship has been questioned & he continues to pursue her. He tells her not to throw him off like a bowling ball & have some patience. If she could give him a minute, he does realize that things have gone crazy & fallen apart. Even then, if she could pause and not rush out of the relationship, things could work. At the end of this verse, the woman still repeats her act of pushing him over & taking him for granted.
Since this song is not a duet, listeners may presume that all the words are those of the singer. Instead of a conversation, it may be seen as a narrative. When this happens, the lyrics may come out as abusive towards women. Then again, the words like “she said” do clarify that the lyrics are about a conversation between two lovers, where the man is the victim of abuse. Perhaps you could listen in & clarify your interpretation of the Matchbox Twenty Push lyrics meaning.