Teardrop

Album: Mezzanine (1998)
Charted: 10
  • 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 song was used as the theme music for the Fox TV show House. 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."
  • The track is built around a sample of the 1973 song "Sometimes I Cry" by the jazz pianist Les McCann. It's taken from a vinyl record with lots of pops and scratches that are essential to the sound. When Massive Attack performed the song live in 2019, they replayed the sample from a reel-to-reel tape recorder to preserve the analog sound.
  • 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.

Comments: 25

  • Vald from MoroccoThe song is about being in love with someone who cannot hear it, due to death. It's hard when you lose someone you love, which is what the lyricist Elizabeth Fraser was feeling when she lost her good friend Jeff Buckley. This is what I believe is the analysis of the song.

    "Love, love is a verb
    Love is a doing word
    Fearless on my breath"
    -In this instance, she states that love is what she feels and that she's not afraid to say it.

    "Gentle impulsion
    Shakes me makes me lighter
    Fearless on my breath"
    -This is speaking of living on without the person she loves, as impulsion means the act of impelling, driving onward, or pushing. The thought of living without this person is bittersweet as it shakes her to tears but it also make her happy to have known that person.

    "Teardrop on the fire
    Fearless on my breath"
    -This can mean two things at once. A teardrop cannot put out a fire. Therefore this means that though she cries for this person, the sadness will not extinguish the passion she has for this person. The other thing this means is that she will not spend the rest of her life crying for this person, as crying when grieving is healthy, but one cannot cry forever if they want to live on.

    "Nine night of matter
    Black flowers blossom
    Fearless on my breath
    Black flowers blossom
    Fearless on my breath"
    -This has to do more with the actual person that died, Jeff Buckley. I believe the nine represents the 29th, which is the day he died, May 29th. Night refers to the last time he was seen alive. Black flowers represent death and farewell. The fact that they are blossoming means that it is not a dismal farewell but one that she grow from.

    "Teardrop on the fire
    Fearless on my..."
    -I believe this is a reflection, like she was thinking strongly of the person lost, because after this there is an instrumental part before it starts up again.

    "Water is my eye
    Most faithful mirror
    Fearless on my breath"
    -She states that the tears she cries for the person are an honest reflection of her feelings.

    "Teardrop on the fire of a confession
    Fearless on my breath
    Most faithful mirror
    Fearless on my breath"
    -I believe the confession she is speaking of is a confession of love, which now falls on deaf ears since the person the love confession is to has died and can no longer hear it. She repeated the part about most faithful mirror which goes back that she is being honest about her feelings.

    "Teardrop on the fire
    Fearless on my breath"
    -Repeated from above.

    "Stumbling a little
    Stumbling a little"
    -This is showing how it has been hard to deal with the death.

    Also, the "fearless on my breathe" throughout the song refers to not being afraid to speak. In this case, it is that she not afraid to express her feelings about the death.

    Leon Ineke
  • Venetia from Tasmaniap.s . just things happening, as in the lady writing the song and then it relating to something happening that is so potent and a translation coinciding. This occurs so much in life . births , deaths ,love affairs and significant events. We always know before we are told. We feel and know things about people we love before we are told so often.
  • Venetia from TasmaniaI haven't listened to this since I was about 20, until tonight. I looked up meanings and became upset. Then I saw singer"s mention of Jeff Buckley. Oh it is all so heart breaking. I remember hearing this when I was so young and knew it was something so utterly heart breaking then but not what. These sort of things tend to synchronise, at least in my life. So it is a love message for him. Now I know.
  • Steve from TexasUPDATE on last line before "tumbling down"


    Fade...sunlight...pray
  • Steve from TexasOk 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
  • Heather from Utah, U.s.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&.
  • Zac from Westmoreland, NhHey 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.
  • Klaudia from Budapest, HungaryThe 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?
  • Kathryn from Atlanta, Ga, GaActually, 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"
  • Emma from Adelaide, AustraliaThis 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.
  • L from Melbourne, AustraliaJose Gonzalez recorded a version of this song on his 'In Our Nature' album. It's quite lovely to listen to.
  • James from Wiesbaden, GermanyPerhaps 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)
  • Stacey from Brisvegas, AustraliaWhy 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.
  • Deborah from Leeds, United KingdomThe 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.
  • Peter from Adelaide, AustraliaIt'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.
  • Chris from Fennimore, WiHeard 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?
  • Heather from Ogden, UtCheck 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.
  • Martin from RostockTheo, 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 :)
  • Theo from Johannesburg, South Africawhy 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.
  • Dixxy from Soton, EnglandEvery 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.
  • Seeds13 from Madison, WiI 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.
  • Chris from Austin, TxI 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.
  • Rob from Auckland, New ZealandThe 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...
  • Clare from Seattle, WaThis song talks about how life is void and meaningless "teardrops on fire...". The video also confirms this. Great song, very haunting.
  • Jolene from Melbourne, AustraliaLove the video clip for this, would love to know what the lyrics mean, any ideas?
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