"From Above" as written by and Benjamin Scott/hornby Folds....
They even looked at each other once across the crowded bar
He was with Martha, she was with Tom
Neither of them really knew what was going on
A strange feeling of never, heartbeats becoming synchronized

It's been that way forever but most of the time it's just near misses
Or kisses once at a bookstore, once at a party
She came in as he was leaving and years ago at the movies
She sat behind him, the 6:30 showing of "While You Were Sleeping"

He never once looked around

It's so easy from above
You can really see it all
People who belong together
Lost and sad and small
But there's nothing to be done for them
It doesn't work that way
Sure we all have soulmates but we walk past them every day

And it's not like they were ever
Actually unhappy in the lives they lived
He married Martha, she married Tom
Just this faint notion that something was wrong
An ache, an absence, a phantom limb

An itch that could never be scratched

It's so easy from above
You can really see it all
People who belong together
Lost and sad and small
But there's nothing to be done for them
It doesn't work that way
Sure we all have soulmates but we walk past them every day

Neither of them knew what was going on
A strange feeling of never,
Heartbeats becoming synchronized

Stay that way forever

Who knows whether that's how it should be
Maybe a ghost lived in that vacancy

Maybe that's how books get written
Maybe that's why songs get sung
Maybe we are the unlucky ones

It's so easy from above
You can really see it all
People who belong together
Lost and sad and small
But there's nothing to be done for them
It doesn't work that way
Sure we all have soulmates
But we walk past them every day

Maybe that's how books get written
Maybe that's why songs get sung
Maybe we are the unlucky ones
Maybe that's how books get written
Maybe that's why songs get sung
Maybe we are the unlucky ones


Lyrics submitted by blutos

"From Above" as written by Benjamin Scott Folds Ben Folds

Lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc.

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From Above song meanings
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9 Comments

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  • +1
    Song MeaningThe lyrics are not quite correct, but "bluets" made a noble attempt. Since you posted this, the actual words were released in the liner notes. However, the fact that some of these lyrics sound like something else actually seems to present a double meaning. Keep in mind that the songwriters are not always completely truthful in interviews because they have to be careful to not set themselves up for lawsuits, or worse, hurt the friends that they love. Also, the video itself, although terribly cute, is somewhat misleading since it adds an extra storyline, and sometimes distracts from the lyrics.

    When I read the lyrics, I take it to mean that Nick Hornby is talking about some friends (let's just make up some names here and call them Charles and Ruth). While sitting in a bar with their respective significant others, Charles had an epiphany: Ruth and he were met to be together -- they are soulmates. However, Charles misses the boat and Ruth goes off and marries Tom. Charles figures he'll marry Martha.

    Both Ruth and Charles seem perfectly happy in their respective marriages, but they aren't -- not really. They are simply existing. All their friends know it. Everybody who really knows them knows it: that ideally, Charles and Ruth should be together. However everyone wonders if anything can be done about it or not.

    Both start to feel it:
    Just this vague notion that something was wrong

    During this time, they also recognize that they are somehow connected:
    Neither of them knew what was going on
    A strange feeling of never,
    heartbeats becoming synchronized.

    A couple of places the double meaning really pops out for me (although I'm sure there are more) are in the lines:

    "Maybe our ghosts live in that vacancy." Sounds like: "Maybe I'll go slow in that vacancy," suggesting that Charles is rethinking his marriage with Martha, but is going to go slow.

    And maybe we "owe" the unlucky ones. Sounds very much like: Maybe we "are" the unlucky ones, once again, voicing the realization and fear that perhaps they are not with their soulmates. Adding the second female lead here late in the song suggests that Ruth has now also determined that Charles is her soulmate, but was slower to come to this realization. I get the impression at the end of the song that now that both Ruth and Charles are aware that they should be together, they intend to do something about their situation, but are stuck.

    I would love to hear a sequel to the song -- what eventually happens to Ruth and Charles? Do they ever get together?
    sunshine33on December 27, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General Comment"Sure we all have soulmates but we walk past them every day"

    This line sums up the entire song.

    Its about how everyone has a soulmate, but they don't alway wind up together. Despite this people can still live a happy life.

    That's my interpretation.
    jtk1993on August 12, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentIt's about two people, who are soul mates, that walk by each other everyday but don't know it, and eventually they go off and lead their own lives never knowing. Ben Folds and Nick Hornby explained this in an interview...

    Love the song! I'm super stoked for this album, looks like it has some nice riffs in it.
    schmuckoftheirishon August 15, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI might be wrong, but to me it sounds like "Staying that way forever"
    prayingmantis84on September 25, 2010   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationIt tells the story of two people who were in relationships with other people and moved around their soulmates and got a couple of stolen moments together "It's been that way forever but most of the time it's just near misses And kisses once at a bookstore, once at a party". And they feel an emptyness they cant explain because they'll never be with their soulmates.
    But in the end he says "Maybe we are the unlucky ones" emplying that knowing your soulmate/or at least knowing that's what your missing can be worse then never knowing them at all.
    lilkaykayon September 30, 2010   Link
  • 0
    General CommentThis song sums up perfectly how I'm feeling right now. I just found the person that I'm sure I'm supposed to be with, but we cant be together. So he'll find his Martha and I'll settle for my Tom and we wont be unhappy exactly but it will always feel like something is missing. We are definately the unlucky ones.
    Liathanoon January 04, 2011   Link
  • 0
    General CommentI agree in general with the interpretations here. However anybody that has ever heard the magnificent Tom Waits song 'Martha' would instantly realise that this is intended as a companion piece, written about the two people that Tom and Martha each married (rather than each other as was 'meant to be'). Whilst Waits' song is subjective, this is objective - hence it being 'so easy from above'. If you're not familiar with 'Martha', I recommend you check it out because:

    a) You'll instantly see the connection to this song and
    b) It's one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

    songmeanings.net/songs/view/50509/
    Ainaroon January 10, 2011   Link
  • 0
    Song MeaningAinaro, you are brilliant! Although I love Tom Waits, I had never really paid attention to these lyrics before, so I'm posting them below. Let's hope that the real life friends Hornby is referring to in "From Above" don't wait 40 years to talk this over.

    Martha
    by Tom Waits
    youtube.com/…

    Operator, number, please:
    it's been so many years
    Will she remember my old voice
    while I fight the tears?
    Hello, hello there, is this Martha?
    this is old Tom Frost,
    And I am calling long distance,
    don't worry 'bout the cost.
    'Cause it's been forty years or more,
    now Martha please recall,
    Meet me out for coffee,
    where we'll talk about it all.

    And those were the days of roses,
    poetry and prose and Martha
    all I had was you and all you had was me.
    There was no tomorrows,
    we'd packed away our sorrows
    And we saved them for a rainy day.

    And I feel so much older now,
    and you're much older too,
    How's your husband?
    and how's the kids?
    you know that I got married too?
    Lucky that you found someone
    to make you feel secure,
    'Cause we were all so young and foolish,
    now we are mature.

    And those were the days of roses,
    poetry and prose and Martha
    all I had was you and all you had was me.
    There was no tomorrows,
    we'd packed away our sorrows
    And we saved them for a rainy day.

    And I was always so impulsive,
    I guess that I still am,
    And all that really mattered then
    was that I was a man.
    I guess that our being together
    was never meant to be.
    And Martha, Martha,
    I love you can't you see?

    And those were the days of roses,
    poetry and prose and Martha
    all I had was you and all you had was me.
    There was no tomorrows,
    we'd packed away our sorrows
    And we saved them for a rainy day.

    And I remember quiet evenings
    trembling close to you...
    sunshine33on January 12, 2011   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationMy interpretation stems from my personal experience, I'm sure. It seems most people picture strangers in this song, I see it a little differently.

    To me, this song is about two people who were meant to be soulmates that actually had been together before. Circumstances forced them to break up and they remained good friends. They could never shake the feeling of "what if?", but they just couldn't get the timing right over the years. Sometimes she would be with Tom, and other times he was with Martha. They both know deep down that they should be together (and their mutual friends see it too), but it just doesn't seem possible most of the time.
    I'm in this situation, it's quite bittersweet and confusing.
    helplessromanticon December 19, 2011   Link

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