A Way Too Detailed Analysis of “Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett


Jimmy Buffett, the Parrothead King

Jimmy Buffett. The island-loving, country-twanging singer-songwriter has perhaps singlehandedly defined the soundtrack to the classic middle-class island vacation. With hits like “Cheeseburger in Paradise” and “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere,” Buffett’s sound captures exactly what it feels like to get drunk for two weeks straight while at a beach resort. The best example of this feeling is undoubtedly “Margaritaville” off his 1977 album Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes. The laid back drum beat, double-tracked acoustic guitar, thumpy bass, island marimba, buzzed vocal delivery, and lyrics of island escapism instantly transport the listener to that overcrowded, hot, expensive, shrine to middle-class consumerism that is an island resort. 

Despite its seemingly vapid exterior, “Margaritaville” actually has some profound lyrics and a powerful message. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a closer look at the song.


Verse 1 reflects exactly what the album name reflects: when your latitude changes, your attitude changes. When you get away on a tropical vacation, life slows down, and things become more chilled and laid back. 

Nibblin’ on sponge cake

Watchin’ the sun bake

All of those tourists covered with oil

Strummin’ my six-string

On my front porch swing

Smell those shrimp

They’re beginnin’ to boil

“Margaritaville” verse 1

There’s a reason people love to vacation to the tropics, and this is it. Things become easier, and you never want the feeling to end. But, there’s a downside to the vacation, laid out in the first chorus.

Shrimp Boil! A classic Southern summer vacation meal


At its core, “Margaritaville” is about falling into a pit of self loathing and self destruction. Nowadays, the song has become synonymous with the restaurant chain spawned after the song achieved mega-hit status. However, in the 70s, Margaritaville wasn’t a place. It was a mindset. It represented the laid back tropical lifestyle that Buffett embodied, and the song is about the downsides to living entirely in that mind space. Take a look at the lyrics of the chorus.

Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville

Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame

But I know it’s nobody’s fault

“Margaritaville” chorus 1

Notice how Buffett is wasting away AGAIN in Margaritaville. Not only is that supposedly relaxing lifestyle taking its toll on Buffett, it’s also something he can’t escape. Perpetually living the tropical vacation lifestyle (and drinking all the alcohol that goes along with it) is breaking Buffett down. At the end of this chorus, he’s left with the question of how he ended up in Margaritaville. As he says: “some people claim there’s a woman to blame, but I know it’s nobody’s fault.”

The fabled lost shaker of salt


Don’t know the reason

I stayed here all season

Nothin’ to show but this brand new tattoo

But it’s a real beauty

A Mexican cutie

How it got here I haven’t a clue

“Margaritaville” verse 2

Buffett is lost. He’s doing nothing but wasting time, and has nothing to show for it but his brand new tattoo, the story of which he doesn’t remember (probably because he got it after a night of drinking lots of margs). Our narrator is starting to realize that he has a problem with living perpetually in Margaritaville, and he wants to change it. But, he doesn’t know how, and he thinks it’s too late to change his lifestyle. 

Buffett’s drink of choice


Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville

Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame

Now I think, hell, it could be my fault

“Margaritaville” chorus 2

In this chorus, our narrator is starting to realize that, unlike what “some people claim,” his lifestyle is not the result of a woman breaking his heart. He’s starting to think he got himself into this mess.


Eventually– and no matter how much you don’t want it to– every vacation needs to end. Our narrator’s season-long tropical escape is no different. Despite leaving the beach, however, Margaritaville comes home with him.

I blew out my flip-flop

Stepped on a pop top

Cut my heel had to cruise on back home

But there’s booze in the blender

And soon it will render

That frozen concoction that helps me hang on

“Margaritaville” verse 3

Despite the fact that Buffett is leaving tropical paradise, it was not his choice. He broke his flip flop and cut his foot on a beer can pop top. He didn’t choose to end his perpetual vacation. And, even though he’s returned to his normal life, he’s still living in Margaritaville. He’s making a margarita in his blender at home in order to take him back to that perpetual vacation, and in order to deal with his problems and “hang on.”

A blown out flip flop


Wastin’ away again in Margaritaville

Searchin’ for my lost shaker of salt

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame

But I know it’s my own damn fault

Yes, and

Some people claim that there’s a woman to blame

And I know it’s my own damn fault

“Margaritaville” chorus 3 and outro

Finally, Buffett has admitted to himself that this cycle of destructive vacationing, relaxing, and alcoholism is a cycle of his own creation. “It’s my own damn fault.” Despite the fact laid out in Verse 3– that Buffett is still stuck in this cycle after ending his vacation– he’s at least fully admitted to himself that he got himself into this mess, and only he can get himself out. 


Hopefully taking a closer look at the lyrics to “Margaritaville” has given you a deeper appreciation for it. Everyone has a Margaritaville. Everyone engages in some self-destructive activity that you know is bad for you, but you keep doing it anyway. Maybe you keep going back to that toxic ex, or have issues with addiction, or spend too much time playing video games, or doom scroll on social media too much. Find whatever your Margaritaville is, and, like we learned from Buffett, admit to yourself that it’s your own damn fault that you’re stuck in that cycle, and you are the only one that can get yourself out of it. What’s your Margaritaville?

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