In 1997, the alternative metal band Deftones released their first charting single and biggest hit, “My Own Summer,” written by Abe Cunningham, Stephen Carpenter, Chino (Camilo) Moreno, Chi Cheng, and sung by vocalist Chino Moreno. The song eventually reached number 29 in the UK Charting Singles and has maintained popularity since its release. The lyrics and sound of My Own Summer convey the themes of depression and anger by reversing traditional meanings of darkness and light.
My Own Summer describes the sweltering heat of a Seattle summer in 1994 while also exploring apocalyptic themes of a seasonal depressive episode through an escape fantasy of the singer’s unusual version of the ideal, perfect summer. The song describes a utopian summer as having “no crowds in the streets” and “no sun,” illustrating an alternate, blissfully silent, and lonely world, free from cramped streets and beaming sunlight. Typically, the sun’s bright light is used as a symbol of positivity while darkness, night, and the absence of light falls into a negative category. The song uses the sun as a unique representation of invasive negativity that must be avoided, contrasting with the relief and peace of the empty, dark streets of the night. The sun symbolizes a false happiness, illuminating the streets and exposing people to one another, encouraging criticism and judgment based on appearances. Meanwhile, the darkness leaves room for raw interaction and acceptance because it obscures physical appearances.
During an interview with Spin Magazine, Chino Moreno told the story of the song’s meaning, describing how he would stay up all night, relishing the darkness and peace, while during the day, he would shield himself from the sunlight by covering his windows with aluminum foil, treasuring the shade as “a tool, a device, a savior” while the sun plagued him. In the pre-chorus, the vocalist shouts, “Shove it!” repeatedly, insinuating helpless anger towards the sun, God, or another primordial being. The song also expresses religious themes through karma and punishment. The singer states,“God is moving its tongue,” as if he is facing God’s judgment and being punished with the heat and crowds of people. The themes conveyed in the lyrics address topics such as seasonal depression, anger, and exhaustion, as well as spirituality and religion. The lyrics tell a story of someone who is trapped by these emotions, and the only way to liberate themselves is through an escape fantasy of their own gray summer, free from crowds of people and sunlight.
My Own Summer also utilizes sound to represent the contrast between darkness and light. The heavy guitar and thumping drums strongly convey the story of inescapable summertime depression and anger experienced by the singer. For the listener, the pounding beat simulates the feeling of a headache on a suffocatingly hot summer day. The piercing screams set a tone of aggression, emotional pain, and physical discomfort. The verses of the song are ominously whispered, creating an unsettling, darkened mood. Throughout the song, there is either whispering or screaming and little in between, illustrating the contrast of night and day and powerful emotions. Whenever the sun is mentioned in the lyrics, it is always sung with an agonizing scream and the whispering relieves the listener’s ears, symbolizing the singer’s fondness for darkness.
The timeless, relatable song, My Own Summer, resonates with young people today due to increasing mental health struggles among teens. The song shares a sense of emotional pain and helpless aggression with the listener, letting them know they are not alone. It acts as an outlet for powerful, negative emotions that need to be released.