Skinny Love was the first single released from Bon Iver's 2007 debut album For Emma, Forever Ago. Justin Vernon wrote and recorded the album in his father's isolated log cabin in north Wisconsin, where he...
Come on skinny love just last the year
Pour a little salt we were never here
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer

I tell my love to wreck it all
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Right in the moment this order's tall

And I told you to be patient
And told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
In the morning I'll be with you
But it will be a different "kind"
I'll be holding all the tickets
And you'll be owning all the fines

Come on skinny love what happened here
Suckle on the hope in lite brassiere
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Sullen load is full; so slow on the split

And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
And now all your love is wasted?
And then who the hell was I?
And now I'm breaking at the britches
And at the end of all your lines

Who will love you?
Who will fight?
Who will fall far behind?


Lyrics submitted by J.Diddy, edited by mike, jennifer50, drakili, anzii, coopigat, musicjunkie27, anechiwa

"Skinny Love" as written by Justin Vernon

Lyrics © Kobalt Music Publishing Ltd.

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Skinny Love song meanings
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  • +38
    General CommentIt's about love gone sour.

    As for the title "Skinny Love" it could be an affectionate term he gave his petite girlfriend, or maby the fact that their love is wasting away- shrinking to skinny. The latter is probably more likely, due to the reference in the first line ("Come on, skinny love just last the year").


    "pour a little salt, we were never here"
    Salt has healing properties, when put on open wound they help the process along. Probably metaphorically speaking, he wants this doomed relationship to heal, to even "Just last the year."
    I like the vivid imagery to blood and crushed veneer in a sink, as if a vase was broken in a fit of rage. I dunno if that ties into the salt reference, maby indirectly.

    he then basically tells her to let him go, to cut off the tethers binding him to her.

    the third stanza deals wih a blaming the other for the failure of the relationship. She couldn't meet with his expectations, either that or she treated him poorly, probably both.

    stanza four seems like a mixture of memories, stating why have we gone wrong when we once loved each other? and how even though the burden of pain (through separating) is heavy, it's still hard to "split."

    The last part gives us a glimse as to WHY it went sour. it seems she kind of led him on, that she wasn't that into him- when he really cared for her.

    He then states that its unlikely she'll find anyone worthwhile, no one will be able to love her for all the stuff she puts her partners through.

    wonderfully honest and emotional, i love this song.
    shortandsweetemon January 03, 2008   Link
  • +27
    General CommentHere are direct quotes from Bon Iver (Justin Vernon)
    Justin Vernon of Bon Iver on "Skinny Love"

    So Emma seems to be the subject of a lot of these songs? Who is/was she?
    Well, it’s not a “she” question as much as it’s a “what” and “when” question. It’s old love. And in this case, old, sore, lost love.

    Were these songs written forever ago or are they just about “forever ago”? If the latter, did you ever set out to write this record before?
    About forever ago. They were all written at the same time. I was unable to deal with my personal shit within the constraints or boundaries of my other musical projects or personal environment.

    There’s this peaceful resignation going on all over For Emma. It suggests there’s been some time and distance between you and the stories you’re telling. Is that the case?
    In time, yes. But in earnestness and closeness of feel, they are current, or were when I wrote them. They hadn’t escaped or dissipated yet until I dealt with them, no matter how long ago they existed. It’s kind of like the sores are still open. Just scarred over. So it’s like me sitting and examining these scars. Trying to rip them off. Discard them. Or at least explain them, so I can be at peace with them.

    ”Skinny Love” seems this one is about the moment you knew things were destined to fail.
    Well, this wasn’t about who you think it would be about. Part of the trouble with the old haunting love, is that it fucks with your future loves, and can damn and/or ambush your relationships. That’s who this is about.
    djfriskon January 24, 2008   Link
  • +15
    General CommentAfter learning that Justin said this song is about the pain of past relationships making their way into new ones brings a whole new perspective to the song for me!

    I almost feel like he's talking to himself. Both people that are living inside of his heart, the broken one and the one that is trying to hard to move on. So often we let the broken one lead our lives and sabatoge future happiness so he's trying to hold onto his small ability to love, skinny love, and get through the hurt that still harbors in his heart.

    "pour a little salt, we were never here" is a defense mechanism just trying to erase someone from your mind, the past love still haunting you.

    "i tell my love to wreck it all, to cut all the ropes and let me fall" again a self-sabatoging act. So stuck on the fact that the former lover couldn't love you that you push away anyone else that might come close to making you so vulnerable again.

    I hear the chorus as a self-mantra, said in the mirror:
    I told you to be patient
    I told you to be fine
    I told you to be balanced
    I told you to be kind
    In the morning I'll be with you
    But it will be a different "kind"
    I'll be holding all the tickets
    And you'll be owning all the fines

    He is talking to both people inside. Asking himself to be patient, fine, balanced, and kind even though the hurt part usually wins out. He will wake up and be better and he will own up to the past yet leave the hurt or "fines" behind. He wants to be stronger....

    The most gripping part of the song is "Now all your love was wasted? Well then who the hell was I?" Almost like a flashback to this past love.....that one thought we have that makes us cringe immediately with hurt.....Bringing him back to that sad vulnerable place

    and it ends with him still wounded....hopeless...afraid he'll always be his own worst enemy as he pushes away love because of the past. Because some won't fight too hard for love, after awhile most will just fall far behind:

    Who will love you?
    Who will fight?
    Who will fall far behind?

    Brilliant song, brilliant lyrics, amazing all together
    lyriclover81on July 09, 2008   Link
  • +11
    My InterpretationI believe this song is about a relationship where the singer is desperate for a relationship, any kind, even if it doesn't have love. And the other person wants the relationship to be more than that but is just as needy as he is and unable to end the relationship- in the end it's just a "skinny love" destined to end because it's starving for real affection from both of them.

    Come on skinny love just last the year (He wants the relationship to last as long as possible)

    Pour a little salt we were never here (Sowing salt is a way of making a land unplantable where nothing will/can grow, so hes saying that they're already such a shriveled small thing that it won't even matter, they were never really there to begin with)

    Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer (Blood is considered symbolism for pain or experiencing pain and sometimes death while veneer is a covering, like a clear layer over the sink showing that on the outside they look together and happy but deep down the relationship is bringing more pain than happiness and he knows it but he can't stop)

    I tell my love to wreck it all
    Cut out all the ropes and let me fall
    Right in the moment this order's tall (In these three lines he is telling her to end it, to just leave him and let him go because he can't, but he knows it's a hard order to fulfill for whatever reason)

    And I told you to be patient
    And told you to be fine
    And I told you to be balanced
    And I told you to be kind (She does want him to love her, she feels she needs that love, and he's asking her to wait, to be patient and just stay okay for a little while and not judge him too harshly, to be fair and kind with him)

    In the morning I'll be with you
    But it will be a different "kind" (Even though they're together and and in a sexual relationship he won't really be there, it's simply physical not emotional)

    I'll be holding all the tickets
    And you'll be owning all the fines (She needs him to love her but he just can't so she technically has to pay for his faults and actions. He's getting the tickets and she has to pay for them)

    Come on skinny love what happened here (He doesn't know where it all went wrong, because he just wanted to be happy and still hasn't found it. It's just becoming more and more painful and he doesn't know why)

    Suckle on the hope in lite brassiere (She keeps hoping that it will turn around, that he'll love her because hes staying with her, that he'll find it in him to invest his love into the relationship)

    Sullen load is full; so slow on the split (They both know they're not healthy for each other and they need to end it but both of them can't and it's making them both irritated with each other)

    And now all your love is wasted? (She really did love him, and she wanted him to love her but he couldn't and now shes saying that she wasted it on him)

    And then who the hell was I? (He knows he was using her but can't admit it, because he still needs to try and feel something, even though the relationship will bear no fruit)

    And now I'm breaking at the britches (His pride is starting to shatter and fall apart)
    And at the end of all your lines (She confronts him and starts arguing with him and telling him they're over)

    Who will love you?
    Who will fight? (These three lines are him playing at her insecurities, he need to feel/be loved as a last attempt to get her to stay, because as stated before, he feels this need to be in a relationship even if it's shallow)

    Who will fall far behind? (This very last line is him basically saying, ok they're over, but now who will be able to move on first? Which one of them, with their issues, is going to be able to find love and which one will just end up stuck in the same "skinny love" relationship again with someone else.)
    Beleafingon November 01, 2012   Link
  • +9
    My InterpretationI gotta say, I've listened to most of the versions of this song, and I have to say that Birdy's version is technically fine, but it just sounds like a sad girl singing a song. The version of this that Bon Iver sings on Jools is by far the best. He's not just sad, but he captures the essence of a failing relationship. You can just feel the anger, depression and desperation in his voice when he sings it. With that said, this is my interpretation.

    First, I believe skinny love to just mean a relationship where the love has faded and the relationship is weak. But I believe the proper term should be "anorexic love", because he is trying to inject all the love he can into the relationship, but it seems as if she keeps rejecting it, and letting the love waste away.

    Come on skinny love just last the year

    **He may be talking to the figurative relationship, or he may be actually talking to his girl, but I think he's just begging for the relationship to last a little longer. He knows it won't work out because she can't nurture the love, so he's just begging that it last long enough so that he can prepare himself for the inevitable breakup.


    Pour a little salt we were never here
    Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer

    **They must have just had a big fight and hes just asking to pretend it never happened. Just pour salt to help the wound heal, and pretend they were never there fighting. Then he starts surveying that damage done in the relationship. Its like if you've been punched in the mouth, you run to the sink to wash up and you're spitting out blood and teeth into the sink. The interesting thing is veneer is what you use for fake teeth, but it's also a term to describe polishing something to make it look better than it really is.

    So "crushed veneer" is also another was to say that his view of how good and awesome he may have thought the relationship was, has just been crushed.


    I tell my love to wreck it all
    Cut out all the ropes and let me fall

    ****He knows the break is going to happen so he's trying tell himself to cut off his emotions and fall out of love so it won't hurt as bad.

    Right in this moment this order's tall

    ***A tall order is another way of saying you are asking too much out of something. As much as he want's to cut his emotions, he know's it's not a feat he can accomplish. He loved her too much and knows he can't just fall out of love right on the spot.

    And I told you to be patient
    And told you to be fine
    And I told you to be balanced
    And I told you to be kind

    ***These are the things he's been asking his love to do, and if she would just do them, the relationship would've lived and been perfect. Notice in this instance, kind means her just being nice to him, but then. . .

    In the morning I'll be with you
    But it will be a different "kind"

    ****He knows when he wakes up the next morning with her, everything will be different. He'll be with her, but it will be a different "kind" of being with her. In other words, he'll be physically next to her, but not as a couple. Also it means that she will be kind to him, but not in a loving way, but more of a kindness that comes out of pity, because she is trying to let him down easy.

    I'll be holding all the tickets
    And you'll be owning all the fines

    ***As someone else said, basically he's holding all the memories and punishments for the relationship, while she makes out like a bandit with the fine money so to speak. In other words, he left feeling shitty about what has happened, while she wont care as much and sees the break as getting her freedom back.


    Come on skinny love what happened here
    Suckle on the hope in lite brassiere

    ***This one's kinda tough. I think he's just pleading with his love to feed off whatever little hope there is left in the relationship. Babies suckle, but if it's a light brassiere then that means there's not much in that bra to suck on. Basically, he's pleading with his love to just stay with him a little longer and just hope she will love him more.

    Sullen load is full; so slow on the split

    **Sullen means kinda like beat up and moving slow. So I think that's the skinny, malnourished love they had. They aren't breaking up in some passionate way, its just that the love is dying slowly, hence, slow on the splt (up).

    And now all your love is wasted?
    And then who the hell was I?

    ****He's saying that if the breakup happens, any love she managed to have for him is wasted. He feels like her love was all that ever mattered, and that anything good he felt about himself was because of that great feeling being loved gives you, so he defined himself through her love and the relationship. As a result, if her love was just a big waste, what does that make him?


    And now I'm breaking at the britches

    ***Him breaking at the britches just means he's falling apart now.

    And at the end of all your lines

    ***Just imagine her as a metropolitan bus line and now he's at the end of any line that bus could take him. He can't even transfer to another bus because there are no more buses that will take him any further.

    Who will love you?
    Who will fight?
    Who will fall far behind?

    ***Now he's just wondering who will love her and fight for her as hard as he was willing to, and he believes that most of the men she will date will just fall behind in deserving her love.

    Anyways, this song is very personal to me because I went through pretty much the same emotions as he did about a year ago. Love sucks sometimes.
    parchon June 17, 2012   Link
  • +8
    General Commentwell in light of djfrisk's post this song takes on a whole new incredible meaning IMO, i still agree the song can legitimately be understood as shortandsweetem analyzed, altho to me the line "pour a little salt..." recalls conquerors sowing fields with salt to make the infertile, and so to sow the fledgling relationship with salt to kill in before it ever happens, which anticipates the cutting of the ropes

    Now the other interpretation. Imagine that Bon Iver has had a terrible, horrible break up years ago and his "skinny love" is a new girl he is beginning to see. and it is also important that in this scenario bon iver's relationship with the skinny love is ruined by his long ago breakup

    First, he hopes they can make it a whole year since it is so hard for him to keep a relationship together.

    Then he TOLD her that SHE had to be the patient, balanced, etc. partner in the relationship. And in the morning he will be better, no longer haunted by the ghosts of the past that come out at night perhaps, and in this way the morning will be a different "kind" in quotes.

    "suckle on the hope in lite brassiere" a wonderful line, combining maternal love (suckle) and conjugal love (lite brassiere) into an expression of how bon iver hopes that with this love he can bury his past.

    now i propose that the speaker changes. I would argue that the lines from "now all your love is wasted..." until the end are spoken by ms. skinny love herself who does not understand bon iver's internal struggles.

    his love has been wasted on his former love, no one will love him when is stuck in the past, no one can fight his past for him and he will fall far behind

    this leaves the speaker of the the second appearance of the "i told you to be..." section interestingly ambiguous, it could be bon iver telling her again and again that he needs her to be the rock, or it could be ms. skinny love telling him that she needs a rock of her own.... who can tell? :)
    sagaxfiloson March 23, 2008   Link
  • +7
    General CommentLove this one. Thanks to whoever-you-are for getting these lyrics up so quickly.
    sifellt neytandion October 09, 2007   Link
  • +7
    My InterpretationA lot has been said about this song, but it's one of my favorites ever, so I figured I'd put down my thoughts.

    His heart has been broken, smashed into a million pieces. But Skinny Love isn't about the one who broke his heart. He's trying to find something in new relationships now, but is unable to. He's pretty much at rock bottom. He pleads with his new girl, "skinny love" to just last the year. He needs someone, he hasn't had a meaningful relationship since his heart was broken. But he knows it's his fault. "Cut out all the ropes and let me fall:" forget it, it's not going to happen, and it wouldn't be easy, "this order's tall." It's a tall order to try to deal with him right now in this state.

    In the first chorus, I think this "skinny love" is speaking to him. She tells him to be patient and kind and maybe this will work. But she knows it won't, and in the morning, she'll be a different "kind." Not a genuine kindness like before, but a false, pity sort of kindness. She's leaving. She holds the "tickets," a list of all of his faults and mistakes, and he is left to work through them alone, to "pay the fines."

    He is speaking again and asks her "What happened here?". Now he's really at the bottom. He has his heart broken again, this time essentially by himself, and is as full of sadness as he could be. "Sullen load is full."

    Then I think in the next chorus he is speaking to himself. "I told you to be patient...fine...balanced...kind." You need to be those things for a relationship to work. Then in his despair, he addresses the original heartbreaker. "Who the hell was I?" Maybe he was cheated on. He's broken, and it's all her fault. He realizes how broken he really is, and why "skinny love" didn't last.

    I imagine him looking in the mirror and asking himself: "Who will love you? Who will fight? Who will fall far behind?" If someone is going to really love his broken soul, they're going to have to fight for it. They're going to have to fall behind in life to go pick him up out of the hole he has fell/dug into. Is there anyone out there who will fight that hard for him?
    llscienceon July 29, 2012   Link
  • +7
    General CommentTHIS SONG IS NOT ABOUT ANOREXIA. Have you people ever heard of a Metaphor? Imagery anyone?

    To me, this song is about someone in a relationship that is dying, and is barely holding together, hence "come on Skinny Love just last the year" the love they have is barely there, and he wants to hold on to it.

    "I tell my love to wreck it all,
    Cut out all the ropes and let me fall"; He wants to end the relationship, wants her to leave him, but neither of them can bring themselves to do it, they keep coming back to one another.

    "And I told you to be patient
    And told you to be fine
    And I told you to be balanced
    And I told you to be kind"

    He's telling her how to make the relationship last as long as it can, and they are both trying to sort it out, and end it, to clear up their feelings.

    "In the morning I'll be with you
    But it will be a different "kind""; They have once again reconciled, and their attempts to end the relationship have failed, they wake up together, and this was not what he meant by being "kind", he meant have a gentle break up, but she has been "kind" to him in the romantic sense, taken pity on him, and got back together with him.

    "I'll be holding all the tickets
    And you'll be owning all the fines"; He will accuse her of different reasons they keep getting back together, and she will be owing him apologies in his eyes.

    "Come on skinny love what happened here"; He's asking their strained relationship what happened, their love used to be a "Well rounded love", but now it is a "Skinny Love"

    "Suckle on the hope in lite brassiere"; They keep getting physically intimate, and he is hoping that they can make it work each time, but it only shows how they are attracted to each other physically but not emotionally.

    "so slow on the split"; They are taking too long to split up and stay apart, instead they are trying to drain the relationship dry of any affection, when he thinks they should just be moving on.



    "And now all your love is wasted?
    And then who the hell was I?"; All the love she put into their relationship at the start is wasted, as they have dragged out the relationship and ruined it. He's asking himself, "Who was I?" because he used to be so in love with her, and all that love is gone, and he cant figure out how to get it back.

    "And now I'm breaking at the britches" He's illustrating how sexual their relationship is now, and all the emotion has gone out of it, he's not thinking with his head, but only his body, just acting on his lust for her, and not thinking about moving on.

    "And at the end of all your lines";When she has grown old.
    "Who will love you?"; She is scared to be alone, that's why she can't to move on from him, she can't bear the idea of growing old alone, without being with someone.


    "Who will fight?" Who else is going to fight to keep their relationship together? He has made so much effort to fix their relationship, she doesn't know if she's ever going to find anyone again that will fight that much for her.

    "Who will fall far behind?" Which one of them is going to be crushed in the end? Which one of them will be left behind by the other? They are both fighting to keep ahead.

    I know many people feel this is about illness, but I believe a strained relationship is illness enough. To me, many of Bon Iver's works speak of little, barely tangible tragedies in life.
    Trellison September 27, 2012   Link
  • +7
    Song Meaning"It’s about that time in a relationship that I was going through; you’re in a relationship because you need help, but that’s not necessarily why you should be in a relationship. And that’s skinny. It doesn’t have weight. Skinny love doesn’t have a chance because it’s not nourished.” - Bon Iver

    diannaeanderson.net/
    nyjbon January 11, 2013   Link

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