“king’s crossing” literary analysis pt. 1

bring your tissues people. we’re diving into the most heart-wrenching lyrics today from the song “king’s crossing” by elliott smith. (mentions themes of addiction and depression)

if you know me, or even just follow me, you know that i have a special place in my heart for the late singer/songwriter elliott smith. when i tell people this, they ask if i am okay. no. moving on. 

as a music journalist, it’s my job to overanalyze lyrics to the fullest extent. with elliott’s work, it takes longer than usual. there are so many meanings and connotations behind every single word that a single song can have two entirely different meanings at the same time. however, king’s crossing is a song that is one-dimensional in that sense, but not in any other sense. it has a set meaning, and that fact alone makes it hard to listen to as a fan. out of his discography, this has the be the most soul-crushing song he released, especially when you apply it to the context of his life. there are so many lyrics to explain and dissect, but i’ve picked out four of my favorites that i am going to analyze and give some background information about. i have also posted a live performance of this song and the link to the actual song itself, so if these lyrics interest you please do check it out!! now onto the lyric-dissecting.


“from a basement on the hill” album cover


the king’s crossing was the main attraction, dominoes falling in a chain reaction

this is the first line of the song. i know. off to a great start aren’t we? 

the “king’s crossing” is a place in portland (like the replacements song!!)  where elliott resided most of his life. the king’s crossing is a hotspot for addicts, including him. he had a plight with usage for a while but recovered soon before his tragic death. this first lyric along with the background information immediately lets you know that this song is dealing with a lot of themes of addiction and depression, so if that is something you are not comfortable with, i would stay away from this song and/or some of elliott’s music, as there are many songs with themes like this. “dominoes falling in a chain reaction” actually explains the pipeline leading to the king’s crossing. depression is the leading domino, addiction is the reaction. this first line sets up the starting domino that spirals throughout the entire song.


and i get my check from the trash treasury, because i took my own insides out”

many artists struggle knowing the most vulnerable part of themselves is served on a platter for all to see and critic, including elliott. he despised knowing his own misery was what paid his bills.  “trash treasury” is obviously a snarky remark towards record companies, but there actually is a recording studio in portland called the trash treasury. (established after elliott’s death). “because i took my own insides out” perfectly describes both the mental and physical feeling of being vulnerable. elliott tore out a part of himself in his own misery just to get paid to do it again and again. 

due to our unfortunate and inconvenient word limit, i must separate this into two parts! so i guess you’ll just have to wait to see the rest. oh well. see you next week:D

link to the song (spotify):


link to live performance (youtube): 



Author: Erin Erter

erin (they/them) is a published writer who creates in their darkest moments.

4 thoughts on ““king’s crossing” literary analysis pt. 1”

  1. I can feel your passion for Elliot Smith. I love the analysis. Personally, I’ve never heard his music but this made me want to hear it.

  2. I loved how much detail you put in to explain and describe the lyrics in Elliot’s songs. This is great for others who like this artist but have trouble understanding the real meaning behind the lyrics. Readers can tell how much you love this artist. I can’t wait to read part two to this:)

  3. I loved the way you set up this poem. the spacing really does help the reader easily figure out how to read it correctly. I really enjoyed how you broke down and explained what he means by his lyrics. You allow the readers to see into his soul before even hearing his music. Your attention to detail really allows the readers to pick up what you’re putting down. Great Job Erin!:)

  4. erin, this is such an amazing first blog! i can feel your passion for elliot’s music through your writing, and i so admire your ability to draw in your readers! also, that mention of the replacements made me so happy <3

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