The song by Leon Bridges titled, “River” off his album called Coming Home, is one of the most lyrically brilliant songs of the 2010’s. Bridges’ album was highly anticipated and was seen on Spotify’s Top 10 Most Viral Tracks. The song was featured on the hit television series Big Little Lies. He is typically known for his R&B/Soul music; however, he has been involved with other genres.
“River” uses a great variety of storytelling techniques including: anecdote, imagery, metaphor, and repetition to convey the poet’s journey to finding God and being baptized. The song has a positive message about relying on God and starting over.
The song begins with,
Been traveling these wide roads
For so long
My heart’s been far from you
Ten thousand miles gone
The speaker of this song has been struggling for a long time, they haven’t been their true self and they’ve made mistakes. Bridges’ uses metaphor in this first verse. The “wide roads” are the blocks that are in the way of the speaker being able to connect with God and find purpose. He/she’s whole life has been a “wide road”. The speaker continues to use metaphor by inferring that the “you” is God. They have been searching to find themselves but they are “ten thousand miles gone”. In the literal sense, the speaker is ten thousand miles away from home. In the metaphorical sense, the speaker is incredibly far away from his relationship with God and the Bible.
In verse 2 the speaker states,
Momma’s word reoccur to me
“Surrender to the good Lord
And he’ll wipe your slate clean”
Through this verse, as the reader, we understand that the speaker is either a son or a daughter that is going through the journey to find purpose in their life with God. The word “reoccur” mentions that religion may have been a part of the speaker’s childhood but they moved away from it. Leon Bridges uses an anecdote by mentioning a quote that the speaker’s mother once said. The word “surrender” implies that the speaker must give all of themselves to the Lord in order for the relationship to be fulfilling. In return, God will “wipe your slate clean”. The speaker’s mother means that the Lord will forgive you for your past sins and you may start clean. This also is referring to being baptized because your new life with God begins.
The chorus begins with,
Take me to your river
I wanna go
The speaker is now not lost traveling the “wide roads” after remembering their mother’s words. They now want a relationship with God by saying “take me”. The “your” in the chorus refers to God and the “river” represents the water that the speaker wishes to be baptized with.
Finally, in verse 3, the speaker describes,
Dip me in your smooth water
As I go in
As a man with many crimes, come up for air
As my sins flow down the Jordan
The song once again continues to refer to God and baptism. Bridges uses imagery in this verse to describe the speaker’s baptism. He starts by saying, “dip me in your smooth water”, the speaker is mentioning the aspect of baptism when the priest pours holy water over the persons’ head. This phrase says, “my sins flow down”, the speaker is mentioning that when baptised you are released of all past sins by God and can start over again. Finally, the speaker mentions the Jordan River which flows through the Middle East and is referred to in the Bible.
Overall, Leon Bridges creates an excellent story that describes the pain of being lost and the happiness in finding yourself with God.