I recently got Madden 17. Like any EA sports game, it has a soundtrack of "EA Trax", which are usually terrible. Luckily, you can disable them one-by-one in case any of them happen to be okay.

One of the last songs I disabled before turning the music off completely was River by Bishop Briggs. The music is okay and the singing is pretty good, but the lyrics don't make any sense at all, and I keep getting them stuck in my head.

Specifically, there is a refrain she says over, and over, and over:

Shut your mouth and run me like a river

What in the world does that mean?

You can't run a person, and even if you could, a river can't, because rivers don't run things.


6 Answers 6


After asking this question, it was pointed out to me that "running a river" is a way to refer to travelling down a turbulent river, usually on a raft, kayak, or canoe.

So, I think I was reading that phrase wrong. Here's the phrase:

Run me like a river

Here's how I was reading it:

Run me like a river would

Here's how it's probably supposed to be read:

Run me like you would run a river

The rest of the song seems to be talking about a difficult, turbulent relationship. I think she's comparing herself to a turbulent river, and telling her man to be strong and deal with her difficult emotions as if he was navigating rapids on a river that he was running.

It's also important that he shut his mouth to avoid drowning.

  • "Run me" as a slang term can mean "give me." "Run me that" is basically an order to hand over whatever "that" is (forcefully). It can also mean "step up" or "bring it on" in a confrontation, which could be a restatement of "stand and deliver." ("run me that sh@t"). HOWEVER, I think you were right the first time "Run me like a river [current] would." Which I think comports with the rest of the lyrics: it is a passionate relationship that the protagonist does not want to end even though it is basically over.
    – Yorik
    Oct 13, 2016 at 20:29
  • @Yorik Hadn't heard any of those slang uses, so thanks, but I don't see any obvious way for any of those to make sense. I can't parse "run me like a river current would" as having any meaning. How does a river current run a person? What does that mean?
    – DCShannon
    Oct 17, 2016 at 16:52
  • If you take run to mean "direct or control" (a common usage) then it makes all the sense in the world.
    – Yorik
    Oct 19, 2016 at 13:49
  • @Yorik This whole question is motivated by the fact that that usage doesn't make any sense in that sentence. You don't 'run' people unless you're some sort of telepath. Maybe the Purple Man runs people.
    – DCShannon
    Oct 19, 2016 at 18:36
  • Google "I run a small team"
    – Yorik
    Oct 19, 2016 at 18:42

I think it is using different meanings of the word run to ultimately suggest sensuality and sexuality. Run can refer to her as a river and him running down her. On one end this can mean something like running his fingers through her hair but on the other end this could mean "running her through" as you would do with a sword. The sword being a metaphor for sex. This would go along with some of the other imagery in the lyrics about killing and shooting and stuff. Sex is also referred to as the small death or something like that in some culture.


Lyrics: Don't you say, don't you say it Don't say, don't you say it One breath, it'll just break it So shut your mouth and run me like a river

Explanation: The relationship in question is so close to ending that a single word or breath might cause everything to crash. The singer wants her lover to not speak, but instead to make love to her before everything comes tumbling down. 'Run me like a river' is a sexual innuendo.

Lyrics: Shut your mouth, baby, stand and deliver Holy hands, oh, they make me a sinner Like a river, like a river Shut your mouth and run me like a river Choke this love 'til the veins start to shiver One last breath 'til the tears start to wither Like a river, like a river Shut your mouth and run me like a river

Explanation: She asks her lover to show love rather than speak it, to use his/her hands, to dominate her deeply, thoroughly, violently.

What have the artists said about the song?

According to FADER, Bishop said of the song’s tone:

I feel like this song has multiple personalities: strong, weak, torn, controlling, submissive. “They are all a part of me and constantly changing. I think people will feel that.

Later in the year, Briggs summarized the themes of “River” to The Huffington Post:

“River” is all about tension and release. It’s about intimacy and solace. It’s about staring someone in the face and not backing down.

And around the same time, Bishop summarized the track as this:

“River” is all about staring someone in the face and pushing them to their limits – whatever those limits may be.

  • 3
    Do you have links to the articles you are quoting from?
    – Bebs
    Jan 13, 2017 at 15:49
  • I suppose you could take that sexually, as you could pretty much anything, but I'm not seeing compelling evidence that that should be the primary interpretation.
    – DCShannon
    Jan 13, 2017 at 17:44
  • As the singer even says in interviews, its a very sexual song, but using phrases so it can be played on the radio or so you can tell your little kids its about a river =). while everyone who is familiar with the inuendos to have no problem understanding exactly what she's saying and asking her lover to do to her. The answer above does a good job of describing 'cleanly' what she's referring to. Instead of 'run' some slang people may use 'drill', 'plow' or countless other words but will leave it at that. Jan 11, 2022 at 19:38

It means the act of navigating something or someone. As in white water rafting and the act of navigating numerous potentially dangerous obstacles in an effort to continue on your journey relitively unscathed.

It makes perfect sense when alternatively applied to a relationship and the ups and downs (esp. if more downs than ups and the fact that one party of said relationship is unable and doesn't know how to react to said "obstacles".

The specific lyrics can easily be in reference to the more problematic half of the relationship telling the other person not to give up and leave but to try and simply navigate around the difficult "obstacles" as they come up rather than think so much about each one and get stuck.

"When going through Hell, keep going"! :)

  • I truly didn't interpret it as a song that is primarily focused on sex though. Seems too easy to simply assume that every song these days is either about sex and/or drugs however I could be wrong. Naaah! LOL
    – Miche Zaun
    Apr 30, 2017 at 21:11

"Run me" as a slang term can mean "give me." "Run me that" is basically an order to hand over whatever "that" is (forcefully). It can also mean "step up" or "bring it on" in a confrontation, which could be a restatement of "stand and deliver." ("run me that sh@t").

HOWEVER, I think you were right in your first assessment (via an answer) that "Run me like a river [current] would" is a proper reading. I think that comports well with the rest of the lyrics: it is a passionate relationship that the protagonist does not want to end even though it is basically over.

It is not unusual to say that one has been "swept away" which is perhaps more associated with rivers than brooms.

In further comments we discussed the idea of the River current might "run" "rule" or "guide" something, as well as which meaning of "run" we might use here. I think the usage is in the sense of e.g. "I run a small team." I do not think that there is any reason to think that any kind of actual agency on the part of the River is required in order to apply such a metaphor to an encounter with a natural phenomenon. A quick check of google book search for the sentence fragment "the river had other ideas" (in quotes) brings up many hits for fiction.

Even so, the earnest idea of a River having real agency is well-attested by Romantic art (weak sense) and animism (strong sense) to name two.

To be clear: I agree with you that realistically a River cannot do these things (i.e. I am not a Druid), but such metaphors are well-attested in art and literature.

One thought I have is that the Singer (and presumably songwriter?) spent a large part of her formal-education years in Japan and also an English-language private school in Hong Kong. It is possible that this is a limited form of disfluency(?) from studying International English at such a school and/or it is borrowing from Japanese or Hong Kong Cantonese culture.

  • 1
    So when you refer to a river 'guiding' something, what are you talking about? You mean being carried by the current?
    – DCShannon
    Oct 19, 2016 at 23:24

Clearly this song is about a relationship that is either basically over or is very volatile. I also find it to be a very sexually charged song, especially if you hear her sing it live. "Run me like a river" means she wants her lover to have his/her way with her before he/she speaks and ruins everything. It's a relationship hanging on by a thread. Or maybe it's about make up sex. But it's definitely sex. That's how I read it.

River stands for roughness and wetness. Loss of control and complete surrender while from being carried by it.

  • Could you add more references from the song?
    – Bebs
    Jan 28, 2017 at 5:39

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