What You Are

Album: Audioslave (2002)
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Songfacts®:

  • This is about someone who could have been either a lover or a good friend. Chris Cornell sings about wanting to do everything for this person, but being taken for granted in return and not knowing what to do about it. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Sinead - Galway, Ireland
  • Audioslave formed when Tom Morello, Tim Commerford and Brad Wilk needed a new frontman after Zack de la Rocha left their band Rage Against the Machine. Instead of rebranding Rage, they teamed up with ex-Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell and created an entirely new band. The glue was producer Rick Rubin, who worked on their first two albums (they made three total, the last produced by Brendan O'Brien).

    Their self-titled debut album got a lot of attention and yielded five singles, the last of which was "What You Are."

Comments: 24

  • Julian from Ogden, UtI agree with a lot of these interpretations. For me, it is most definitely about a failed relationship that led to both physical and psychological damage. The song in general, verses and bridge, are the reflection of the past. The rage of Chris Cornell in the chorus is relatable to the present rage of how much you're damaged. The solo makes me think of the point where the psychological damage comes in, losing your mind and just... completely losing all control of yourself. And then after the final chorus, that low B at the very end of the song resembles a final crash and crumble to everything, a deep depression to follow your damages.
  • Dronejockey from TexasThe song means whatever you want it to mean but, for me, it is so obviously about addiction as to almost defy any other interpretation. Lines like "I withdrew", "I set myself on fire" and "I'll give you up forever" just scream it at me. And Morello's weird and wonky guitar solo sounds just about exactly how withdrawal feels. Great song, one of the best ever in my opinion.
  • Gush Gosh from BrazilIt's about a physically abusive relationship as well as psychologically.
    No reason to be ashamed guys.
  • Sean from Springfield, MaThis is the exact story of my relationship. The most powerful part to me is when chris sings "And if I go far away I know You'll find another slave" because this is what happened to me in the past. It helped me realize that I was taken for granted and move on.
  • Jcooltrane from Philadelphia, PaChris is an amazing song writer. I think his skills are over looked and he doesn't get enough credit. You listen to songs like this and "Like a Stone" and you're like, "wow. powerful" I initially thought the song was about a girl but now I think it's more about a drug addiction that kept demanding more and more. Regardless of which interpretation is correct, it works both ways. Perceive it the way it makes sense to you. peace
  • Andrea from Fargo, Ndmarco, it is very well known that when chris cornell was in soundgarden he had a very large herion addition problem. this song may not be about herion, but that doesn't mean that he didn't do drugs.
  • Joebob from New York, NjMost of this first album is Chris Cornell complaining about his ex-wife. He doesn't even try to hide it.

  • Brittany from Rainy River, Canadathe one lyric is "when you asked for light i set myself on fire" not "when you asked for fire i lit myself on fire". anyway, i love that lyric, and also "when you asked for blood i cut my veins"...very powerful.
  • Tim from Indianapolis, InThis song, to me, is obviously about drug addiction written for people to interpret their own way. So many people relate to this song about a relationship. I have been clean and sober for 4 years now after battling active drug addiction for 15 years. I had such an "intimate" relationship with my drug of choice that it could easily have been replaced with a significant other.
  • Wegwad from Lawrence, NyWhen he says "when you asked for fire i lit myself on fire" you can hear someone take a deep breath or something - anyone know what thats about?
  • Adrian from Brookings, SdThis song will always represent a specific part of my life because it was getting significant radio airplay in the late spring/eary summer of 2004 right after I had gotten out of my first relationship. The girl I had dated was controlling, cruel and never returned the attention I showed her (we all make mistakes when we're young, don't we, lol) and at the time, "What You Are" was the perfect anthem for me and my immature bitterness. The structure of the song is so simple and direct and I love how the chorus just expodes with rage, much in the way I wanted to express my feelings at the time. It's always funny how popular music always manifests itself to the real lives of its listeners. Kudos to Audioslave. It's a real shame that had to break up. They were one of the only good rock bands left. Oh well, bands never last forever, but thank god the music always will.
  • Brandon from Saskatoon, Canadayes, how is this song about heroin, that makes no sense. dammit, i wish audioslave came to saskatoon, maybe next tour. so excited for their third album this spring probably, gonna be awesome
  • Phil from Hampshire, EnglandChris never had a herorin addiction jonny, it is quiet obviously about a one sided relationship where one partner would do anything for the other but the other person just uses this to make there life easier
  • Marco from Stanfield, United Statesthe song is not about heroin addiction, chris never has done drugs! just cause he says the words "veins" and "blood" people automatically think "o no hes a druggie!" he saying wo wuld do anything for someone like...umm...i dont know...GIVE BLOOD??!!
  • Michael from Columbia, MoActually, Chris was about as open as can be about being in alcohol rehab. I don't think that musicians always sing about the here and now, meaning that just becuase he is married doesn't mean he wont sing about a horrible past relationship.
  • Kelsey from Madison, WiBecause I'm sure all rockstars talk about their illegal drug usage to the press ;)
    Sure it could be about a relationship, but Chris IS married.
  • Michael from Columbia, MoI listen to the song all of the time, and it has nothing to do with heroin, Cornell was an alcoholic, but he wasn't a heroin addict. I believe the song is about what sinead said, giving everything and doing everything you can for someone you are in a relationship with, and that person takes you for granted and throws it right back in your face.
  • Kelsey from Madison, WiI agree. When I first heard this song I didn't think it was about a girlfriend.
    I immediately precieved it to be about a drug addiction Chris had.
  • Jonny from Edinburgh, ScotlandSorry, but this song is clearly bout Cornells Heroin addiction! listen to the lyrics!- jonny Scotland
  • Ali from La, CaMy own interpretation of the song is of someone frustrated with their ego. No matter what we do, our ego always screws us in the end. Do whatever you can to please your ego, and it only pleases your ego.
  • The Jorge from Hell, OtherI like the guitar solo, my first thought when I heard it was that it was like a cheetah or lion or some form of rabid cat. Tom's guitaring is awesome throughout the entire song!
  • Scott from Bismarck, NdCoolest part (in my opinion) is when Chris makes is voice go really high in the parts where he sings the line "Far away" (y'all know what I'm talkin' about right?)
  • Will from Portland, OrI just heard this song the other day. Wow! Tom Morello is amazing! That sound effect with his guitar, wow! it was cool. he is definitely one of the best of all time. top 20 at least.
  • Jess from Springfeild, IlThis song always made me think about being stuck in a relationship you wanted out of but you still kept doing things for your love.
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