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

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This story is part of the book:

Mama Mia Let Me Go!
A journey through the most intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music

Buy it on Amazon

The nights that I have spent with Jeff Buckley are not few in number. His voice floats so perfectly over his words; it is so immersed in unity. The unity to which I refer is harmony – the ability to fight the inevitable degradation that time, or life, bring to our lives. And even though the existence of the artist himself came to an abrupt end, his voice lives on, resonating in harmony.

Lover, You Should’ve Come Over is a perfect example of this harmony. Among the songs that occupied my nights (or that I occupied?), this has certainly been the most ever-present, all-pervading as it is with its subtle and vast lyrical balance: as if penetrated by a measured grace. The song draws your attention immediately to the feeling of lacking – of Buckley’s acknowledgement of what’s missing. The words reveal all, outlining the image of a 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 sense of melancholy. It is perhaps no coincidence that, among his masterpieces (The Flowers of Evil, LXVII), Charles Baudelaire painted such dissatisfaction in 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 those written by Baudelaire, reproducing their emotional strength: the still gaze of those who observe a funeral procession in heavy rain. There is an anxiety in the tone, and the vocal line, as it swells and grows, acknowledges this, and marks it in the flesh. We burn, after all, exactly as Buckley burns for his beloved, waiting in vain for her 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 through art when it’s condensed into iconic, poetically structured images. Buckley is able to perfectly show you the very essence of absence and love, singing as he does from a position of vanity – it’s his own kingdom, his wealth, his own blood – the perfection of a fleeting kiss, physical contact while asleep, and the delight he derives from her 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 well-known. Buckley is a Baudelairian king, who sees his rainy kingdom collapse before the void. But while he sings that it’s never over, he also succeeds in creating art. When his life turns into music and its harmony, the absence of his beloved grows to the point at which it lives forever within the soul of the artist as an eternal tear. This lacking then becomes beautiful music, thereby returning aesthetic perfection to that which has been broken down by time.

* * *

But there comes a time when analysis must grind to a halt. Of course, we could also highlight that the contrast between the interior of the room and the rainy exterior is a metaphor for being trapped 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 demonstrates a swing 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 its perfect balance between pain and genius. It’s beautiful, yet simultaneously evil.

This story is part of the book:

Mama Mia Let Me Go!
A journey through the most intriguing lyrics and stories in rock music

Buy it on Amazon

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