"Seen And Not Seen" as written by and David/frantz Byrne....
He would see faces in movies, on T.V., in magazines, and in books...
He thought that some of these faces might be right for him...
And through the years, by keeping an ideal facial structure fixed in his mind...
Or somewhere in the back of his mind...
That he might, by force of will, cause his face to approach those of his ideal...
The change would be very subtle...It might take ten years or so...
Gradually his face would change its' shape...
A more hooked nose...wider, thinner lips...beady eyes...a larger forehead.
He imagined that this was an ability he shared with most other people...
They had also molded their faced according to some ideal...
Maybe they imagined that their new face would better
Suit their personality...Or maybe they imagined that their
Personality would be forced to change to fit the new appearance...
This is why first impressions are often correct...
Although some people might have made mistakes...
They may have arrived at an appearance that bears no relationship to them...
They may have picked an ideal appearance based on some childish
Whim, or momentary impulse...
Some may have gotten half-way
There, and then changed their minds.
He wonders if he too might have made a similar mistake.


Lyrics submitted by exact

"Seen and Not Seen" as written by Chris Frantz David Byrne

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc., Universal Music Publishing Group

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Seen And Not Seen song meanings
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12 Comments

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  • +5
    General Commenti think it's about the fact that in being/becoming ourselves, in choosing our jobs and interests and habits and clothes, we're shaping an image as much as a personality - and that there's always a certain amount of tension or fear at the thought that we might be doing it all wrong - that we might not only be making wrong decisions about our lives but systematically creating outer selves that make us even more fundamentally unknowable or wrongly known to others.
    jalopyon April 22, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General CommentHoly crap this is the most relevant song to me.

    It's about how people tend to either act how they look or look how they act, so they change themselves to conform to something. Then it starts talking about what if someone created their appearance on some whim, and the appearance did not suit their personality. The person in the lyrics thinks that he is such a person.
    Geopharmaciston April 07, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentHe wasn't high at all. Geopharm has the right idea. But it's not as lame as yeah we all conform to each other's ideas of each other. It's something much more deep seeded, truer than that. There are thoughts spoken and others that go completely unspoken, undiscussed, unacknowledged by the greater community. Byrne just happens to bring up one of those really obscure, dismissed thoughts that some of us tend to have in a moment of clear insight
    johnsonvilleon April 19, 2008   Link
  • 0
    General CommentOK, this time, I have no idea. Anyone? Maybe Byrne was just really, really, really high.
    majestikmoose9on June 20, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General Commenti always thought this song was about how people want to look and act a certain way that celebrities do, i.e. look pretty and act cool. and also how the media just goes along with this with their coverage of the stars.
    sean7711on August 25, 2006   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's a story, plain and simple, if an odd one. In terms of theme, though, I agree with Sean.
    Cynothoglyson March 25, 2008   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationIt's about worrying that decisions you've made in the past, decisions that decide who you become and what kind of identity you forge, might have been wrong, and obsession with how things might have turned out if things were different.

    Inability to get over the past, and paranioa that people are constantly shape shifting and judging your every move, so you have to keep up with the deception. Along the way, maybe the narrator risks losing a part of himself.
    degree7on October 23, 2012   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationWhat wonders me most is that the changes Byrne refers to are changes that are in general not associated with beauty.
    Not that the song is about beauty but still...
    "A more hooked nose...wider, thinner lips...beady eyes...a larger forehead.".
    One can not get more "Frankenstein" than with these features besides a couple of bolts.
    That in mind gives a copletely different meaning to the song in my opoinion.
    The meaning must be sonmething like this:
    A lot of people aim fot things in live that not stand up to ideal of the majority of people. People that have an own opinion and not act like herd animals of do not go with the flow.
    Breederson July 08, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General CommentWhen shaping your own identity, relying too heavily on the desired characteristics of others leaves you further from your true self. Sculpting your personality on the basis of observed ideals diminishes authentic expression of character. The lyrics remind of heavy Tumblr users who blog hundreds of pictures, songs, videos, quotes, etc. everyday. They spend so much time living vicariously through other people's creations/ideas that they lose a part of themselves.
    mu3slion January 14, 2015   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI think it is meant to be taken literally. At least that's the interpretation favored by Police singer Sting:

    "A peculiar question I asked him on the road from Stafford was, "When did you become beautiful?" He had an answer: "When I was 25 I think (1976-7). You know the Talking Heads song 'Seen And Not Seen' from 'Remain In Light'? It was a bit like that. I almost imposed it on myself as a result of that feeling... that it should be." He said it sounded strange to say it out loud."
    (07.07.2007 MOJO interview)
    johnny1056on April 13, 2016   Link

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