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Teardrop by Massive Attack

Album: MezzanineReleased: 1998Charted:
  • Massive Attack uses a variety of vocalists. On this one it was Elizabeth Fraser, whose lyrics were inspired by the death of her one-time close friend, singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley. The news that Buckley had drowned whilst swimming came while Fraser was recording this song. "That was so weird," she recalled to The Guardian in 2009. "I'd got letters out and I was thinking about him. That song's kind of about him - that's how it feels to me anyway."

    Fraser sang for The Cocteau Twins, worked on three tracks of Massive Attack's Mezzanine album and contributed to the soundtrack of Lord of the Rings - Fellowship Of The King.
  • Part of this is used in the theme music for the Fox TV show House MD. Massive Attack's Robert "3D" Del Naja told The Guardian February 6, 2010 that the band cut themselves out of a fortune with the licensing of this song to the show. He explained: "We got an email from Bryan Singer saying the entire concept of House was based on 'Teardrop.' We were flattered. We let him have it."

    Singer, who was an executive producer on the show, was adamant about using the song because its music video, featuring an animatronic fetus singing from inside a womb, inspired the show's special effects. He explained to Ain't It Cool News:

    "What I brought to the show was the idea of making that effect less CGI and using a more practical stuff, taking from the famous 'Teardrop' video by Massive Attack, building bladders and organ models and shooting them in water tanks to create a more viscerally real portrayal of the human body. I defined that element."
  • This won the 1998 MTV Europe Music Award for Best Video. The song's music video featured a plastic fetus in the womb, lip-synching the song. 3D told The Guardian: "We kept the Teardrop baby but being made of old latex, it just doesn't have the longevity. It's now just a primitive animatronic half-creature in a puddle of rotten latex. It's still quite scary: it's like a museum piece, but for all the wrong reasons."
  • Part of this song was used in Season 1 of the TV program Prison Break. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Bernadette - Manila, Philippines
  • In 2007 the British singer-songwriter Newton Faulkner released a cover of this as a download only single, peaking at #60 in the UK singles charts.
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Comments: 22

UPDATE on last line before "tumbling down"

Steve - Texas
Ok I've listened to this over and over before I found the lyrics and here is what I hear...and it makes sense..to ME with the womb and abortion and miscarriage and the friend dying and the reference to confessions and impulsions and dark and light.....

Love, love isn't fair
Love is a doing word
Fearless on my breath
Gentle impulsion
Shakes me, makes me lighter
Feel the sunlight....pray
Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

Night, night of matter
Black flowers blossom
Fearless on my breath
Black flowers blossom
Feel the sunlight...pray
Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my

Water is my eye
Most faithful mirror
Fearless on my breath
Teardrop on the fire
Of a confession
Fearless on my breath
Most faithful mirror
Feel the sunlight....pray
Teardrop on the fire
Fearless on my breath

It's tumbling down
It's tumbling down

I could be wrong but so could we all...THANKS
Steve - Texas
The digital sheet music from Massive Attack's record company (the first page of which is accessible free) says "Love, love is a verb/Love is a doing word/Fearless on my ... " It's here: http://www.musicnotes.com/sheetmusic/mtdFPE.asp?ppn=MN0065937&.Heather - Utah, U.s.
Hey I see everyone talking about the "Fearless on my breath part". I've listened to that part many times, and finally I think I know what she's actually saying. I'm pretty sure the line goes "If you love someone, Pray". I think.Zac - Westmoreland, Nh
The harder I try to find the correct lyrics to the much mentioned "Fearless on my breath" line, the more versions I find. Just on this site there are four more versions, and I found somewhere the "Feeling somewhat brave" interpretation of this line. I agree with Dixxy that lyrics sites seem to copy each other, and in my opinion this "fearless" version has no sense at all, people just take it as a very indistinct and poetic text, so they explain it as an artistic phrasing of death. As I here the last word is rather "pray" or "brave", and in the context of the rest of the lyrics (and the video) I think the "Feel like someone, pray" or "Feeling somewhat brave" has the most sense, but I'd like to know what's the original. Considering there are other lines which are differ in the many lyrics can be found on the net, does someone know about an official lyrics?Klaudia - Budapest, Hungary
Actually, this is what the real story is if you look on any legit website concerning this song:
Massive Attack took Liz Fraser into the recording studio for this song just a couple days after Jeff Buckley went missing in the Wolf River in Memphis, just a few days before he was confirmed dead. Liz and Jeff were great friends and ex-lovers who had tons of respect for each other creatively. The guys of Massive Attack told her to sing stream of consciousness which is what Liz does best. They took that material, moved it around a bit and voila! Teardrop. You can see Liz talk about Jeff in the Jeff Buckley documentary "Everybody here wants you"
Kathryn - Atlanta, Ga, Ga
This is on the 2009 Triple J Hottest 100 of All-time. My dad has also told me his connection with this song; just after this song and the video were released, his close friend had a miscarriage. She was devastated and when he sees this video since, it disturbs him becuase of what his friend was going through.Emma - Adelaide, Australia
Jose Gonzalez recorded a version of this song on his 'In Our Nature' album. It's quite lovely to listen to.L - Melbourne, Australia
Perhaps i'm being daft, but isn't the meaning of the first two lines (assuming the lyrics here are correct for those lines) straightforward and obvious?
"love is a verb. Love is a doing word." Love is something you do, not something you say. (for all those who abuse, abandon, or otherwise harm those they claim to love or, more kindly, a gentle reminder to those who have not yet learned what it is to love)
James - Wiesbaden, Germany
Why does everyone link the line "love is a doing word" as meaning that life is meaningless?? I interpret it as a liberating thing - love is something that can be done as well as felt, given as well as received. Also I originally thought the line which is commonly cited as "fearless on my breath" was actually something more like "feel like someone, pray" which now that I type it sounds kinda silly...but there you go it's all quite vague. I love when songs are so open and you put your own words to it - I think it's a good reflection of where you're at in life.Stacey - Brisvegas, Australia
The song is actually about abortion and how even though a foetus isn't born yet, it is still a living being and shouldn't be treat any less. The music video also heps to illustrate how a baby feels during a termination and how it becomes distressed during the procedure and fears for its safety. It is a very powerful song and I felt it was quite thought provoking.Deborah - Leeds, United Kingdom
It's "feathers on my breath" not fearless! I think yoy'll find Elizabeth Fraser has a bit of a reputation for strange pronunciations in her singing.Peter - Adelaide, Australia
Heard a different version of this song a while back. Music is the same, and the singer sounds about the same, but the lyrics are all different. Looking around online and these are the only lyrics I have found, and all the other versions sound totally different music-wise. Anyone know where other versions of the lyrics are?Chris - Fennimore, Wi
Check out the vh1 website--they have a different version of the lyrics that, to me, rings slightly more true to the video not to mention change part of the meaning of the song.Heather - Ogden, Ut
Theo, Songfacts lives on contributions of its members ;) if you notice that a song isn't in the database yet then YOU should submit some facts about it, it will get reviewed and then posted :)Martin - Rostock
why the hell is massive attack's greatest ever song, Angel, not listed here???massive attack are probably one of the most innovative and underrated bands ever.Theo - Johannesburg, South Africa
Every single lyric site is wrong. Seems they copy each other. The Fearless on my breath" bit I'm referring to. The last word is definitely "Pray", I think the whole line is "Feel the summer, Pray". They also claim the last two lines are "stumbling a little" - uh? What song were they listening to? It could be "You're totally un-done". I don't really understand what she's singing about, maybe it's just a nice mash of ideas that make a great song for when you're feeling sad. Add your own interpretation and a box of kleenex.Dixxy - Soton, England
I keep getting caught up on the lyrics that many believe it is "Fearless on my breath". I don't think this is right. I hear it as "Feel this on my brain" because it suits my take on this song. I want to say that it is about the realization that the emotions we have are all born in our brain rather than a soul. "Teardrop on the fire" is this realization. The lyrics are ambiguous and open for interpretation, but I think that the video supports my understanding, as a fetus has no grasp of faith, but just its own mechanical operations.Seeds13 - Madison, Wi
I thought I heard that this song was vocalized by the lead singer of Portishead. Maybe not. "Teardrop" is also the theme to the Fox television show "House", without the vocals, I think.Chris - Austin, Tx
The first line is "Love, love is a verb. Love is a doing word" - a wonderful idea. I don't know if they're saying life is completely meaningless though. The line you refer to, Clare, is "teardrop on the fire," which may mean something different...Rob - Auckland, New Zealand
This song talks about how life is void and meaningless "teardrops on fire...". The video also confirms this. Great song, very haunting.Clare - Seattle, Wa
Love the video clip for this, would love to know what the lyrics mean, any ideas?Jolene - Melbourne, Australia
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