Songs From the Lineup: Young the Giant, ‘Cough Syrup’

Songs From the Lineup is a review series that unpacks the musical lineup of the Life Is Beautiful festival through individual songs by the featured artists. Look for weekly installments at, right up through the festival in September.Check out previous Songs from the Lineup here.

Rock band Young the Giant made up of lead singer Sameer Gadhia, guitarists Jacob Tilley and Eric Cannata, bassist Payam Doostzadeh, and drummer Francois Comtois, use their compatibility built from lifelong friendships to produce albums filled with songs that speak directly to the soul. “Cough Syrup” is one of those songs.

The 2011 hit is described in stages: sorrow, cries for help (and money), and the struggle to make it. The first version of the band, The Jakes, originally wrote the song, but it never got the recognition it deserved. Lyrically it is a somber tune the five college students wrote when they gave up their studies in pursuit of music. The song describes a gloomy lull, jaded feelings and the desire for excitement—or perhaps a little luck—when Gadhia sings a lyric we all can relate to: “a dark world aches for a splash of the sun.”

We’ve all struggled with failure, discontentment, or depression. My own experiences with these feelings were overcome with the help of family, friends, food and music. The soulful rhythms that entered my ears that first listen never left and despite the defeated lyrics, “Cough Syrup” was my metaphorical medicine. The song puts struggle into beautifully rhythmic notes that make the hardest shells break under Gadhia’s soothing vocals.

But in the end “Cough Syrup” is a success story. What the guys put together through anguish and anger turned out to be their second smash hit. Now with two studio albums to date (Young the Giant and Mind Over Matter) and one in the works (Home of the Strange) these guys aren’t new to the scene. But they are stepping into uncharted territory by incorporating new instruments and cultural influences on their latest record. The first single off the album “Amerika” experiments with steel guitar, electronic beats and a driving bass. As a whole, the album gives you an other-worldly feel.

They put their past behind them (without forgetting their roots) and are on to new adventures, which is part of the reason I connect with the band; it’s hard to look forward to the future when you don’t see any point in it like YTG expresses in “Cough Syrup,” but it’s even harder to step out of you comfort zone and try something new like they did with Home of the Strange.

When you hear this song live at Life Is Beautiful in September (they will play “Cough Syrup” and if they don’t you can come find me and I’ll buy each and every one of you who is reading this a shot. Scouts honor!) it should be four minutes and ten seconds of pure bliss knowing that in this chaos-filled junk drawer called life, good things can and will happen.

Vegas Seven