"What You Are" as written by David John Matthews and Glen Ballard....
I walk into this room
All eyes on me now
But I do not know the people inside
Look straight through me these eyes
Seeking more wisdom
Than I have to give away
Realize realize
What you are

[Chorus:]
What you've become
Just as I have
Are you and I so unalike
Huddled here
You just as I am
Afraid if we dance
We will die
Mock the world
Live safe say why
Don't you know
When you give life
Then you become
What you are

The sea is unsparing
We're all drifting away
Away from you
But I pray for you now
Hoping to god on high
Is like clinging to straws
While drowning oh

[Chorus]

What you are
Is a best in a lover's arms
What you are
Is the devil in a sweet sweet kiss
What you are
Is a puzzle to me

[Chorus]


Lyrics submitted by Demau Senae

"What You Are" as written by David Matthews Glen Ballard

Lyrics © THE BICYCLE MUSIC COMPANY

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What You Are song meanings
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41 Comments

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  • +2
    General CommentI always assumed this song was written about the tragedy of his sister and her husband. The one who killed her and ultimately killed himself...

    What you are is the beast in a lover's arms
    What you are is the devil in the sweet, sweet kiss
    What you are is missing a piece
    What you are is a puzzle to me

    The beginning is almost like as if he is describing walking into her funeral. Like everyone is looking to him for answers...

    I walk into this room
    Oh, all eyes on me now
    But I do not know the people inside
    They look straight through me, these eyes
    Seeking more wisdom than I have to give away
    Realize, realize what you are...

    The seas unsparing
    We're all drifting away
    Away from you, I pray for you now
    But hoping to God on high
    Is like clinging to straws while drowning, oh
    Realize, realize what you are...

    He knows that his sister is gone, "drifting away." "I pray for you now... He is an atheist so of course to him, hoping to God that she is at peace is like clinging to straws while drowning...

    The first time I heard him play it live and he said get down on your knees mother fucker! I had this eerie feeling that he was talking to his sister's husband, but he was the yelling at him to get down on his knees, like he was about to kill him. It was the first time where I felt a really dark vibe coming from Dave and even the inflection in his voice had a sinister tone.
    deedubbadooon February 06, 2009   Link
  • +1
    General CommentPerhaps it's the "afraid if we dance, we might die" that first struck me, but when I heard this song first years ago, I was walking along a college campus, my (now, five-part) novel series in its infancy stages. It hit me so strongly due largely to the fact that it fit my central characters so predominantly, that I'm just as perplexed as to its actual intended meaning as the rest of the forum members. But I'll offer my $0.02 anyhow.

    To me, it represents two people from very different walks of life. The narrator of the song pleads continually with the recipient over this fact: "are you and I so unalike?" The characters in my novels are a serial murderer and investigator who grew up together as kids and were best friends long before the hell of adulthood forced them onto opposite sides of the law.

    I think that this song can mean just about anything you want it to; the bottom line is that there is an air of mystery, suspence, and a darker quality. The speaker uses all sorts of intriguing imagery to bring the listener onto his side, to the point of intimidation. "What you've become, just as I have." He's saying you're no different than I am. You think you're so much better, you think you're righteous, (remember the album just before this one, everyone, and some of those themes) you think you could never be in my shoes -- think again. In the immortal words of Robert Ressler, any (profiler) could have taken that different road. Who are we to say that when faced with those circumstances we wouldn't have done the same? We can't. "What you are is the Beast in the lover's arms. What you are is the Devil in the sweet, sweet kiss ..." I think it's a wonderfully powerful song full of intensity. It tells a story, but it also tells MANY stories. Pick one. There's your meaning. It fit so perfectly for my instance that I selected it back in 2003 for the radio drama adaptation of the third book.

    One of the reasons I appreciate Dave's talent so much; it's incredibly versatile as well as universal.

    Anyhow, just my thoughts.

    - Aubigne Spratling
    mindhuntresson March 10, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI totaly agree. This is so obviously a cry out of frustration. I graduated from a divinity school, so I know a thing or two about religious f**kers that think they are holy and righteous. He (much like myself) is tired of hearing about how much better you can be. He is saying that he is sick of always feeling inadequate becuase some hypocrite told him that he needed to change things about himself.

    My favorite part is in the live version where he says, "But you pray down on your knees mother F*ckers, you don't say God is on my side." To me, this is a reference to these religious people. They view themsleves as so holy, and they are doing all of the right actions, but there is nothing in their heart to back it up. They look at him and tell him that he's not going to go to heaven because Christianity is like a club to these people. Dave is not in their club. He, however thwarted his actions may be, has a much clearer interpretation of who God really is.
    famenon May 02, 2006   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI acctually feel different than anyone I have seen post so far. I think it is talking about his daughters and being a father. "When you give life, then you become what you are" The song makes a lot of sense if you read it as though he is talking about his family.
    dmbcanadaon January 27, 2009   Link
  • 0
    General Commentwell, i'll be the first to comment on this song, it's not one of my favorites, but it's far from being bad.....i think that dave is talking to his fans, saying hey, i'm just like you guys, i don't have answers....he is also saying that people are scared to do what they want because they fear what others think......
    don't trust me
    trust you
    it's up to you
    that is saying, don't listen to what other people tell you to do with your life, it's up to you, trust your own feelings.
    daverockson May 28, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Commentjust wanted to say that it's not "Are you and i so alike" it's "are you and i so UNALIKE" makes more sence this way too, to fit in Daverocks' idea
    Lissy Ratzon August 01, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General CommentAnybody have the NEW live Outro lyrics? He played it on Last Call with Carson Daily and numerous other live proformances. All i can hear is "Get donw on your knees!" (intreaging enough)
    Lissy Ratzon August 07, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment'What You Are' wasn't initially one of my favorites, but it seriously grew on me. I love the eerie tone at the beginning of the song-- kind of the same feeling I get from 'The Stone' and 'Halloween.' In college, my friends used to like to pre-party to hip-hop style music to get pumped up for a night of beiruit-- but DMB always did it for me ;)
    des325on August 29, 2002   Link
  • 0
    General Comment3 words to decribe this "BEST SONG EVER"...it kicks ass...anyways....lissy ratz...he says "get down on your knees mothafucka" thats why you can't hear the rest...it's censored.
    dpu2002on March 11, 2003   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI love this song, but I really have no idea what this one's supposed to mean...I first thought that it was about religion, but that beast in a lover's kiss thing threw me off.
    DMBs_Crushon June 26, 2003   Link

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