Adam Young -- the reclusive electro-pop wunderkind from Owatonna, Minnesota -- rocketed to No. 1 on the Billboard charts with his 2009 debut single, "Fireflies."
The song is a fairly straightforward firehose of soaring, saccharine synth-pop boydom, but one head-scratching line stuck with people:
"'Cause I'd get a thousand hugs / From 10,000 lightning bugs / As they tried to teach me how to dance"
Most adults aren't thinking about swarms of glow-bugs, and even fewer throw hugs into the mix, but c'est la Adam. Here's what one user from the popular lyrics annotation website Genius arrived at:
"These lines offer an example of how things are never as they seem to the singer. It’s bizarre for a group of fireflies to bother teaching a human anything, and even more bizarre that they’re teaching him to dance, something the singer might not be inclined to do in reality."
Bizarre, indeed. Mercifully, Young came to the aid of Top 40 historians on Tuesday with an explanation of his vexing bug-hug line, perhaps due to its resurgence as an internet meme. He was prompted by a tweet from a fan that questioned the mathematical logistics of said bug hugging.
"Does each firefly hug you 1,000 times or do only 1/10th of the bugs give you a hug?" queried Twitter user Pryce_d.
He was met with this extremely detailed response from Young, who's now 30:
"Pryce -- great question. I was the recipient of 1,000 hugs from 10,000 lightning bugs for a grand total of 10,000,000 hugs. As the lyrics of the song clearly state, the average layperson would not believe their eyes if 10,000,000 fireflies were to illuminate planet Earth, nor would the average person conclude by natural instinct that 10,000 lightning bugs, acting as a collective group, are capable of embracing a human being 1,000 times without difficulty.
By the same token, a gathering of lightning bugs in such vast numbers form a sort of 'swarm,'and a swarm can collectively surround a human and deliver a 'hug' that a single firefly, acting according to the dictates of his own conscience, simply cannot. Consequently, I was embraced 1,000 times by 10,000 luminescent insects.
This may seem inconceivable due to the firefly’s soft-shelled body, which is common among all winged beetles within the Lampyridae insect family. Members of the scientific community may be tempted to cast doubt upon the possibility of this exchange due to the immobility of the prothorax and pterothorax, in addition to the elytra protruding outward while a firefly is engaged in mid-flight.
However, I can testify to the accuracy of this exchange. I can furthermore add that while each individual hug took place, each firefly participated in the chemical reaction commonly known as bioluminescence in which the enzymes within the firefly, in the presence of oxygen, magnesium ions and ATP, emitted a chemically produced light or 'glow' because they were happy to be hugging me.
Please don’t hesitate to reach out with any further questions. Stream “Fireflies” on Apple Music and Spotify."
Well there you have it!
For more Owl City content, check out our cover story from 2012; here's our attempt to de-code Young during this 2015 interview. Now let's get huggin' 'n' buggin':