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Duncan Sheik - Barely Breathing - Lyrics Meaning

Duncan Sheik's "Barely Breathing" was never intended to be a hit by the song writer himself, who included the track simply to round out his album. However, the 1996 release of the song catapulted Sheik to pop fame and the song became the 4th most played Billboard hit of the 1990's. The meaning of the lyrics, however, went against the happy pop norms that typically ruled the charts.

Like many other pop numbers of the 1990's, the song deals with the subject of relationships. This song, however, focuses in on relationships that are one-sided, where one party has significantly more affection for the other. As a result, the indifference and coldness leads to a sensation of emotional and physical suffocations, hence the chorus line of "I am barely breathing".

Elements of the verses also deal with emotional troubles in a relationship, with the writer attributing the coldness of the relationship to depression and mental health issues in his partner. Finding her incapable of ever growing to return his love with an equal passion, he opts to make a clean break. However, what makes the song lyrics really powerful is the way that Sheik managed to convey the raw hurt of such a decision with just a few verses.

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