Jeff Buckley: behind the meanings of Lover, You Should’ve Come Over

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The nights that I crossed with Buckley are not few, with his voice so perfectly arched between words, so tense to unity. The unity to which I allude is the harmonious one, the ability to fight the inevitable disintegration that time, or life, bring in our lives. Thus, even if the existence of the artist touched our waters quickly, his voice keeps resonating in the harmony.

Lover, You Should’ve Come Over is a perfect example of this harmony. Among the songs that inhabited my nights (or that I inhabited?), this was certainly the most present, pervaded as it is with a subtle and vast lyrical balance: as if penetrated by a measured grace, the song draws a fresco of the lack – of Buckley’s tension towards what’s missing. The word fills the gaps revealed by waiting, summarizing them in the image of the evoked lover, who’s never present.

The unity of love, now dissolved, retracts and leaves room for solitude, a mirror of what has been lost, and ultimately a constitutive sense of melancholia. It is perhaps no coincidence that, among his masterpieces (The Flowers of Evil, LXVII), Charles Baudelaire painted such dissatisfaction as a king living in a rainy country, where his melancholy wanders: Je suis comme le roi d’un pays pluvieux…

Looking out the door
I see the rain fall upon the funeral mourners…

These first words from Buckley could continue the ones written by Baudelaire, reproducing their emotional strength: the stasis of those who observe the funeral procession – in the dense rain – becomes tension towards the disintegration, still on this side of a door that separates two worlds. But the vocal line, in continuous growth, then gives that impression, marking it in the flesh: we burn, after all, exactly as Buckley burns for the beloved, in the vain waiting for his sweet return.

So I’ll wait for you and I’ll burn
Will I ever see your sweet return
[…]
Burning in the corner is the only one who dreams he had you with him

This fire flows in art, perhaps, when it’s condensed into iconic, poetically structured images. Buckley is able to show you perfectly the substance of absence and love, singing it as the vanity of his own kingdom, of his wealth, of his own blood, in front of the slender perfection of a fleeting kiss, a contact in sleep, the delight of his laughter.

It’s never over, my kingdom for a kiss upon her shoulder
It’s never over, all my riches for her smiles when I slept so soft against her
It’s never over, all my blood for the sweetness of her laughter
It’s never over, she’s the tear that hangs inside my soul forever

These fantasies are rightly famous. Buckley is a Baudelairian king, who sees his rainy kingdom collapse before the void. But while he sings that it’s never over, he succeeds in singing the art: just when life turns into music – in harmony – the absence of the beloved rises, to the point of living forever the soul of the artist as an eternal tear. The lack becomes music in a superior euphony, therefore, bringing back into (aestethic) unity what time breaks down.

* * *

Every analysis must stop. Of course, we could also highlight that the dialectic between the interior of the room and the rainy outside is a metaphor for the trap between adolescence and maturity (Well I feel too young to hold on / And I’m much too old to break free and run); or we could observe that the refrain of the song contains the oscillation between disillusionment and hope (the beloved should’ve come over, but – perhaps – it’s still not too late …). But the greatness of this song lies in being born in a perfect balance between pain and genius. Like a flower of evil.

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