At first glance, Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” appears to be a vapid song about having a good time at a club. Yet every time I listened to it, and threw my hands up, I was left with a slightly disturbed feeling. I later realized that this was a subconscious reaction to a very disturbing song. It turns out that “Dynamite” is a song chronicling the last moments of a suicide bomber. The song is a trip through his twisted psyche as he prepares to pull the trigger to blow up himself at a dance club.
“Dynamite” isn’t merely the title of the song because it is repeated throughout the chorus; it signifies what is most important about the song. That is to say, it is about blowing things up. Quite literally. The low-hanging fruit for this complex interpretation is the chorus:
‘Cause we gon’ rock this club
We gon’ go all night
We gon’ light it up
Like it’s dynamite
Cause I told you once
Now I told you twice
We gon’ light it up
Like it’s dynamite
This club is going to be rocked and lit up, which indicates the violence of an explosion. We know this is the most significant part of the song because Taio Cruz has to tell us twice. The repetition emphasizes the final moments of the suicide bomber: the explosion of his self and the surrounding club. Now, the suicide bomber isn’t literally covered in dynamite, but the dynamite represents the bombs he has strapped to himself.
Another set of lyrics delves deeper into the terrorist’s psyche. The line “I’m gonna take it all out” expresses his desire to not only take out the club, but to take out the entire Western-imperio-capitalist regime. When he says, “I’m gonna be the last one standing,” he doesn’t mean he will be literally standing there after the explosion. It means he is going to win the war. Even with his confidence in winning the war, he also cries, “I’m alone and all I.” Despite the presence of his comrades and Allah, he still faces the existentialist void alone. When he dies, he dies alone. This is an expression of fear, which is understandable given that he is about to commit suicide. After this, he reassures himself through an appeal to faith: “I’m gonna be the last one landing / ‘Cause I, I, Believe it.” It is only through his trust in Allah that he is able to complete the mission.
Having established the basics of my interpretation, let’s look at some earlier lyrics. The suicide bomber resorts to extremism because of a sense of futility. When he says, “Cause it goes on and on and on / And it goes on and on and on,” he recognizes that this conflict continues and will always continue, unless something drastic is done to change the dynamic. We also get to see the method of ignition for the bomb: “Just drop the phone, came here to do, do, do, do.” He will utilize his cell phone to set off the charge.
One may dispute the legitimacy of my interpretation by pointing to the lyrics about “Brands, brands, brands [etc].” The suicide bomber, being a religious zealot, would not pay attention to brands, one may argue. Yet this is false because fundamentalism is a response to modernity. The more the suicide bomber enjoys these brands, the more he stokes his self-hate, and the more he clings to his fundamentalism. It is his entrancement with capitalism that drives him to this suicide mission. This is analagous to the fundamentalist’s response to sex, desiring it, but repressing that desire, and expressing the self-loathing by repressing women along with the desire.
Another possible interpretation is that the lyrics about brands are expressed ironically. The suicide bomber is mocking the capitalist’s love of identification with brands. This is a hilarious perversion because the only true self-identity is with Allah. However, I do not believe this interpretation works by itself. This is not because of any particular textual interpretation from this song, but because of my familiarity with the songwriter. Because Taio Cruz’s lyrics are layered with complexity that mirrors the twisted psyche’s of his songs’ subjects, I think my image of a terrorist wrestling with modernity must be the correct one. That’s not to say that the irony is nonexistant. This may be indeed what the suicide bomber is telling himself to think, but he is also still tortured by his love/hate relationship with modernity.
For an example of complexity in his lyrics, let’s return to the chorus. Why does the suicide bomber have to tell himself twice that “We gon’ light it up / Like it’s dynamite”? It should suffice to mention this once, or even to merely repeat it. There should be a reason he must literally enumerate the tellings. Even though the suicide bomber is a religious zealot, he still has his doubts. He is daunted by his impending mortal end, and so he is psyching himself up, so to speak. He reassures himself that he will complete his duty.
I’m not entirely sure how to address the topic of moving. The terrorist tells us, “I came to move, move, move, move / Get out the way me and my crew, crew, crew, crew.” Now, this could refer to the displacement of the Palestinians in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He could also be expressing a desire to move them away and populate the terrority with his people, just as they did to him. However, this dilutes the universality of the message. Another interpretation is that he wants to eject American occupiers from the region. Yet this falls prey to the same lack of universality, especially along temporal lines. The lyrics may also refer to the establishment of a global Islamic caliphate. This interpretation also has its problems. The caliphate will establish dominion over all and will involve conversion of non-believers. It is not about displacing peoples. This certainly requires further investigation by those more talented than I.
Taio Cruz’s “Dynamite” is a complex look at a suicide bomber’s mind as he prepares to blow up a club. The lyrics show a literal explosion — emphasizing it — while also looking at the doubts the speckle the zealot’s faith. He is enticed by capitalism and afraid to kill himself. The song expresses the churning layers within the terrorist’s mind. In the end, after much self-reassuring, he is prepared for his final moments on Earth. We normally think that a terrorist must be able to kill himself because he’s so sure about his religion. While this is partially true, it doesn’t show how a tortured mind comes to that conclusion. “Dynamite” shows that terrorists are still human. In fact, that their complexities mirror our own doubts and self-loathing may be the most disturbing thing of all about this song.