‘Lady, running down to the riptide
Taken away to the dark side
I wanna be your left hand man
I love you when you’re singing that song and
I got a lump in my throat ’cause
You’re gonna sing the words wrong’
Ah, remember 2013? Kim Jong-Un was still failing to launch nuclear missiles back then and a curly-haired Melbournian was recording an infectiously catchy ukulele track. “Riptide” has been heard on radio, TV, films, ads and probably a lot of travel videos. As we near closer to the 2017 ARIA Awards where Vance Joy is nominated for Best Male Artist and Best Independent Release for his latest hit “Lay It On Me”, it’s good to look back at what brought him to the eyes of industry and fans alike.
The initial chords of the song were written way back in 2008 but were ultimately shelved. Probably because life gets in the way for the former VFL player. After completing his university degree, Joy began creative exploration again performing at open mic gigs throughout Melbourne leading to a music career path.
Recordings began in 2012 for an EP set to release the following year and Joy was in the midst of writing a song reminiscent of the shelved “Riptide”. Inspiration struck and the two songs were combined with a draft version being uploaded to his personal Facebook page to gage feedback from friends and family. Thumbs up were given and persistence was received, Joy was about to deliver a song with mainstream success.
The final version was recorded at Red Door Studios in Brunswick Victoria and was initially released May 21st 2013 featuring on Vance Joy’s debut EP “God Loves You When You’re Dancing.” A follow up release saw the song featured on his debut studio album “Dream Your Life Away” (2014).
“Riptide” enjoyed praise from critics, noting lyrics with pop culture references and unique storytelling. It’s commercial success in Australia led to the song peaking at number 6 on the ARIA singles chart and a number 1 spot on Triple J’s Hottest 100 of 2013. But once it won over the Australian audience the following year it was picked up by the rest of the world.
In 2014 the song peaked at number 10 in the UK and grabbed the number 1 spot on the Billboard Alternative Songs Chart. “Riptide” also managed to remain the second longest charting single in the US Billboard Hot 100, staying in the mix for 43 weeks in total. Longevity of the song proved itself again when it became the longest-charting song in ARIA chart history at 120 weeks. Surpassing Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” (remember that gem?) and The Black Eyed Peas “I Gotta Feeling” (thank God).
Over 1 million copies were sold worldwide (streaming and physical sales) and a charming little music video was released to pair the lyrics with visuals in literal form. When the chorus line ‘You’re gonna sing the words wrong’ is sung, the subtitles read below ‘You gone and sank the world’s wolf’. A Classic goof. Creativity is rewarded anyhow and the music video has reached over 192 million views on YouTube (Channel V never got those numbers).
So with all this success and praise “Riptide” received, if you’re still reading this and wondering what all the fuss and hoopla was about? Give it a listen again. There’s no intention to hold this song on a pedestal as the greatest acoustic ballad to ever grace our eardrums. But to simply highlight a nice, little ukulele song that made us tap our foot and sway our head for 3 minutes and 22 seconds.
The song has a whimsical nature to it, providing a joyous tone with an indie folk sound. The lyrics reflect an imagination through metaphors and deeper meanings that we could spend ages divulging but are probably just subjective to each listener. Regardless, Vance Joy had a hit in “Riptide” and may have inspired a few people to pick up the mini-guitar and watch some YouTube tutorials. We’re just thankful the song is miles ahead of royalty free ukulele music.
For more of Vance Joy on Speaker TV, check out our interview with music’s nicest guy at Falls Festival in 2014.