Our love of music often stems from the brilliance of song lyrics. From Taylor Swift’s witty, romantic lines to John Mayer’s deeply moving verses, lyrics make up the heart of the song, building meaning while digging wells of emotion.
Since lyrics are so critical to a song, listeners could be left hanging with lines that deal with more abstract matters. In those cases, delving deeper can help draw treasure troves of poetic meaning. One great example of this is “Drops of Jupiter” by Train, a song that employs sweeping symbols and extended metaphors about space while even managing to add deep-fried chicken to the mix.
The whole song is built around a celestial theme. Many of the lyrics are bizarre enough to be literally out of this world. At one point, Train croons, “Now that she’s back in my atmosphere, with drops of Jupiter in her hair.” The idea of “drops of jupiter” is a highly abstract concept that in itself doesn’t really make sense at first. These outlandish phrases, however, come together later in the song with the chorus. The following lines, “And tell me, did you fall for a shooting star, one without a permanent scar and did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?” provide a much deeper understanding to the somewhat confusing metaphor in the verses.
The song uses celestial imagery to expand on the metaphor that the main female of the song is looking for something out in the world, but to the singer, it seems as though she transcends the galaxy. The speaker takes on a slight melancholy tone when he sings, “Did you fall for a shooting star, without a permanent scar?” Yet, when the woman returns to the singer, she has the remnants of the world out there still with her –– in other words, the “drops of Jupiter.” This could indicate her inability to fully leave behind the adventure she embarked on even while she was trying to find herself outside of her relationship with the singer.
The line, “She listens like spring and she talks like June,” also draws interesting analogies. Spring is often associated with new beginnings, beautiful weather and blooming flowers. June, as a summer month, could be associated with the warmth and carefree feelings that come with summer. By using these two seasons to describe his love, the artist paints a vivid image of her with multiple dimensions.
There is also a line that delves into Greek mythology. “So tell me, do you sail across the sun?” could be an allusion to the story of Icarus, the wax-winged boy who flew too close to the sun. His wings melted and he fell to his death, a tragic touch that reflects the singer’s feelings towards his love’s decision to depart and find herself. Perhaps she made another mistake in love and got “burned” by that person, flying too close to the sun.
Going even deeper into the song, the singer brings up “told a story about a man who was too afraid to fly so he never did land,” an interesting stray from the lover aspect of the song. In fact it represents a parallel to the girl in his story, saying that she was afraid that she was going to end up like the man too cowardly to fly. Since he was too afraid to ever take off, he could never find his adventure or who he was supposed to be while on the other hand, she flew too high and burned — perhaps by the shooting star she fell for.
In the second verse, the singer also brings up how the girl “listens to Mozart while she does tae-bo” which, on a surface level, seems like a bizarre description to attribute to someone. This is a key line, however, brings yet again a more humanistic aspect to the singer’s love. Through this line we see her as someone interesting, quirky and very, very human, ironic because there are times when this gal with drops of Jupiter in her hair is also seemingly otherworldly.
The above is only one interpretation of this song, but it definitely shows the range of possible meanings that abstract and seemingly confusing song lyrics can take on. Artists like Train, John Mayer and many others are known to use metaphors and allegories that might seem strange in the world of bubblegum pop music. Looking beyond the surface, however, it is those seemingly misfit lines that are truly testaments to the artist’s breadth of creativity and talent.