Youth Culture Window

Fireflies from Owl City

Unless you just crawled out of a cocoon, you’ve heard a toe-tapping, electronic, synth-laden, emo song about insects that your teenage girls absolutely love. When it plays, they’re drawn to it like a moth to a flame.

But, who’s that group making all the noise at the top of the charts?

Where’s Owl City?
You won’t find Owl City on a map; it doesn’t exist. But you will find them on the music charts…near the top. Owl City – an abbreviated and fictitious name taken from the lead singer’s legit hometown of Owatonna, Minnesota – is the name of a fairly new band.

Their hit Fireflies is currently ranked #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it peaked at #1 in October. It’s also #4 on iTunes at the time of this writing. Further, the band is enjoying performances at sold out showings on an international tour. Here’s a brief review of the albums from this band you’ve never heard of.

But Owl City isn’t your typical band.

First of all, the “them” is actually just a “him.” Owl City has a population of one. The band’s only member is a twentysomething named Adam Young; he serves as vocalist, drummer, keyboardist, guitarist, producer, etc. Second, he is a confessed insomniac who became famous only after putting his nocturnal disorder to good use. (Losing sleep and not being able to sleep are themes that run throughout several pieces of Young’s music.) Finally, he talks openly about having Christian faith, and the folks at Interlinc have already endorsed him to thousands of youth workers.

I’m not a music critic – by a long shot – but if I had to classify Owl City’s tunes, I would call the music “goofy romantic.” Knowing that there would be people like me who struggle to describe his music, Young offers this depiction of his work on his Facebook page:

If your household appliances wrote love songs while you were away on vacation, their cheerful blips and bleeps would pour out the windows, sweep through the neighborhood like candy-coated tidal waves, and you would return home to find crowds of people standing on your lawn, clapping and singing along to the happiest pop melodies imaginable. Welcome to Owl City.

Young’s music has a distinct “twinkle” sound to it because of the synthesizers he frequently uses. In his music, he might be singing about visiting Seattle for the first time (Hello Seattle) or noticing the space between his fingers where his girlfriend’s fingers fit perfectly (Vanilla Twilight). He doesn’t shy away from vulnerability, either. During his song Cave In, he admits to having a backbone that is paper thin. But it’s the happy-go-lucky, feel-good vibe of Fireflies that’s making him a household name.

Fireflies is the latest and biggest hit from Owl City. Here’s a sampling of the song’s somewhat cryptic, but seeming harmless, lyrics:

You would not believe your eyes
If ten million fireflies
Lit up the world as I fell asleep

‘Cause they’d fill the open air
And leave teardrops everywhere
You’d think me rude
But I would just stand and stare

I’d like to make myself believe
That planet Earth turns slowly
It’s hard to say that I’d rather stay
Awake when I’m asleep
‘Cause everything is never as it seems

If these “dreamy” lyrics don’t tell you enough about the song, you can look over the rest of the song’s lyrics for yourself. There’s a music video available that helps tell the story, as well.

At a recent training seminar The Source for Youth Ministry was leading, we spoke with several youth pastors about the tune, and Owl City, itself. All of them agreed: their kids loved the music Adam Young produced in his parents’ basement during sleepless nights.

Much more intriguing to these youth pastors were the rumors regarding his faith. Young claims Rachel Joy Scott, John Piper, C. S. Lewis, and other believers as influences. In a recent interview with Back Beat Seattle, Adam was asked about his faith and his tour with Relient K, another band well-known in Christian circles.


    You have talked openly about your faith in Christianity. Do you consider yourself a “Christian band” and how does this play into your music? 


      Owl City is just me. I don’t write Christian songs but I am a Christian musician so I suppose the classification of the band is up to the listener. My faith is very important to me and is a very big part of who I am as an individual. It’s kind of up to you…


          Tell us a little about your tour with Relient K. What can we expect to see at Neumo’s on Sunday?


              It’s been a total blast thus far. I’ve been a huge Relient K fan since junior high and have recently become good friends with Matt Thiessen, so it goes without saying that I’m absolutely thrilled to be a part of this tour. It’s literally a dream come true.

              Young’s answers to questions about faith tend to be somewhat nebulous, though that’s fairly typical. I guess we’ll have to wait and see if he fleshes out his faith as a Christian in the limelight in a positive way…or in an embarrassing way.

              Visiting Owl City
              In my humble opinion, the music from the Owl City’s Adam beats the heck out of the other publically and offensively sexual Adam teenagers could be listening to right now. But don’t take our word for it; as always with music that makes it to the top of the charts, take a listen for yourselves.

              And don’t forget to chat with your teenagers about the song, its lyrics, its meaning, its message, and its potential impact on them. You might consider asking questions like:


              1. Why do you like this song?
              2. What do you know about the artist?
              3. What do you think the song is truly about?
              4. How does it make you feel when you listen to it?
              5. How does this song impact your relationship with Jesus?

              The jury is still out on whether or not Adam Young is a born again believer. Even if he is, there’s no mandate that his music be overtly biblical. Like most parents and youth workers, I’ll be quite happy if he turns out to be a Christ-follower that’s committed to living a godly life and producing wholesome music while in front of so many of our kids.

              David R. Smith

              David R. Smith

              David R. Smith is the author of several books including Christianity... It's Like This and speaks to parents and leaders across the U.S. David is a 15-year youth ministry veteran, now a senior pastor, who specializes in sharing the gospel, and equipping others do the same. David provides free resources to anyone who works with teenagers on his website, David resides with his wife and son in Tampa, Florida.

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