Few songs in the history of music wreak of the ’80s like Matthew Wilder’s “Break My Stride” does. It has the catchy tunes, the cool lyrics, an even cooler singer and all the flashy girls and costumes and strobe lights in its music video. Matthew Wilder’s debut release in his career became one of the biggest hits in his life. Let us explore the lyrics and meaning behind this classic hit.
“Break My Stride” is the lead single off of Matthew Wilder’s debut studio album ‘I Don’t Speak The Language’ released in 1983. The song became an instant hit upon the release on November 22, 1983. The song charted in the top 10 in many countries, reaching #4 on the UK Singles Chart and #5 on Billboard Hot 100 chart.
In an interview in 2002, Matthew Wilder recalls how “Break My Stride” was almost never released and how he had to change his record label just to release the song; “So now we’re around Christmas, 1982. I had submitted several songs as sort of my last ditch effort to win people over at the label… So I heard him scrambling across his desk to find the cassette of tunes. Clive (owner of Arista Records) was notorious for writing notes, and all those notes would always accompany the cassette, or actually be attached to the cassette. So I hear him reading Clive’s note to me, and he mentions every tune but “Break My Stride.” I said, “What about ‘Break My Stride’?” And he reads Clive’s note that says, “Interesting song, but not a hit.” When I heard that, I said, “Listen, I’ve been at this label for two years, and if you guys can’t hear this, there’s nothing I can do for you anymore. I think you should let me go.” I don’t even think I got to the G in “go” before the phone was ringing from the attorney for the label after I hung up with the A&R guy, saying, “I understand you want to leave the label.” I said, “No, I don’t want to leave the label. I want you to release my material, I want to put it out there.” And then, for all intents and purposes, he told me, “Look, I come in at the beginning and at the end of relationships with artists at the label. Yours happens to be at the end. And you and I have never spoken before, and this is a little awkward, but we’re going to let you go.”
Matthew Wilder moved on to Private I record label, a subsidiary of Epic records where he got to release his songs.
Watch “Break My Stride” Live Performance by Matthew Wilder
The song speaks about how the singer pursues a girl he likes and she has little to no care for his feelings. The song has been interpreted as the singer being unaffected by this, as well as the girl being unaffected by this sentiment.
In the first verse of the song, Matthew Wilder sings about a dream that reflects his affection and devotion for this girl. He sets sail to China from the USA just to see this girl. His journey must have been excruciating and painstaking. When he landed in China and went to see this girl, her reply was that ‘she had to do laundry’ at the time. She explains that she doesn’t want him to be hung up on her. The singer is baffled and asks ‘what it all means?’ Then, her response moves the song into its catchy chorus.
The girl says that she is moving on and there is no one to stop her or ‘break her stride.’ She possibly moved to China in hopes of getting away from everyone and finding herself. And she will keep on moving from place to place and person to person until she believes she is ready to settle.
In the second verse of “Break My Stride,” Matthew Wilder, bewildered by her responses, raises some serious accusations at her.
Matthew Wilder recalls how their road was ‘rocky’ and he stood by her side through it all. Now that those lows have passed away, she seems to have forgotten the past. She is on a “roll” says Wilder and assures that it will eventually pass. And when she does need him back, he will be long gone.
It is not a good habit to run from your past. That baggage will keep on following you no matter what. It is not advisable to carry your past on your shoulders either. Just let it sit, wherever it does and move on with your life.
Matthew Wilder promises to himself that he will not let another girl treat him like this again. Next time, he will be the one to say that he is moving on. Never will another girl ‘break his stride’ again.
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Check out the complete lyrics to the song and further meaning analysis on Genius.