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Meaning of the song ‘rubberband’ by ‘Tate McRae’

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Released: 2021

“Rubberband” by Tate McRae is dripping with nostalgia and regret. It’s a sonically and narratively compelling pop anthem about a love lost and the subsequent struggle to forget and move on. McRae floats between narratives of past romance to the present struggle with the aid of the symbolic rubber band on her wrist.

It begins with, “Was it a wasted couple months?/ Sneaking outta the window, spending nights in limbo.” We’re launched into McRae’s introspection, evaluating whether the time spent in a past relationship was worthless. “Sneaking outta the window, spending nights in limbo” paints vivid images of youthful risk and secrecy, layered with confusion about their relationship’s undefined status, hence the term ‘limbo’.

She continues, “Does it make me the criminal?/That I let you go/That I broke us and left.” Here, McRae is wrestling with guilt, posed as the ‘criminal’ for ending the relationship. It’s a common trope in break-up narratives, questioning whether ending things was the right move.

The chorus, “And I got this rubber band on my wrist, on my wrist/And I snap it every time that I think about your lips,” reveals the song’s heart. The rubber band serves as a physical reminder she uses to snap her out of her nostalgia each time she longs for her former lover, thus manifesting her battle between desiring to forget and being helplessly stuck on sweet memories. It’s an emblem of conditioned behavior psychology – a negative stimulus in response to unwanted thoughts.

In the verse, “I know that I have never been good at this/Love you in a second, next you know I’m checking out of moments I shouldn’t miss,” Tate fesses up to her flaws, candidly admitting inconsistent commitment and the struggle of being fully present, further deepening the remorse for letting a valued relationship slip through her fingers.

In the outro, she echoes, “Tryin’ to forget,” capturing the central theme of the song— the struggle of erasing memories of a cherished past relationship. This repetition amplifies the consolation that forgetting isn’t as easy as snapping a rubber band but a process that consumes time and patience.

In “rubberband,” McRae proves adept at combining relatable teenage experiences with rich lyrical symbolism, casting a beautifully poignant, although bittersweet, exploration of young love lost and the ensuing emotional complexities.

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