"Sea of Love" as written by and George Khoury Philip Baptiste....
Will you say you love me Jo?
How am I supposed to know?
When you go under the waste
What am I supposed to say?

I see people on the floor
They're slidin' to the sea
Can't stay here anymore
We're turning into thieves

If I stay here trouble will find me
If I stay here I'll never leave
If I stay here trouble will find me
I believe

Jo I'll always think of you
As the kind of child who knew
This was never gonna last
Oh Jo you fell so fast

Hey Jo sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?
Hey Jo sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?
Hey Jo sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?
Hey Jo sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?

I see people on the floor
They're slidin' to the sea
Can't stay here anymore
We're turning into thieves

I see you rushing now
Tell me how to reach you
I see you rushing now
What did Harvard teach you?

I see you rushing now
Tell me how to reach you
I see you rushing now
What did Harvard teach you?

I see you rushing now
Tell me how to reach you
I see you rushing now
What did Harvard teach you?

I see you rushing now
Tell me how to reach you
I see you rushing now
What did Harvard teach you?


Lyrics submitted by SongMeanings, edited by Nitro1515, flamebroiledchicken, merepseud, j0nnynoname, letsgetitright, thiagode, sparkygirl

"Sea of Love" as written by Matthew Donald Berninger Aaron Brooking Dessner

Lyrics © BMG RIGHTS MANAGEMENT US, LLC

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Sea of Love song meanings
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15 Comments

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  • +11
    General CommentThis song, like so many on the album, is about a casual relationship that evolves into a lopsided one. I love this theme personally, as The National continues to be unafraid to capture actual human experiences, and not trumped-up love fairy tales. In this case, and elsewhere throughout the album, he's describing the painful experience of falling in love with someone who is reluctant to move beyond the previously established casual nature of the relationship. Unlike the rest of the album though, this time the narrator is the one watching the other person fall into some "sea of love", and he's the one who won't be dragged down with her. Funny how it can feel life-shattering when you're the one in too deep ("you said it would be painless, it wasn't that at all" - Pink Rabbits), but when it's the other way around, it becomes "hey, sorry I hurt you... welp, at least love is a virtue! Cheers!"

    Interesting to compare this to songs like "Pink Rabbits" "This is the Last Time" or "I Need my Girl", all of which allude to the narrator slipping into the dreaded Sea of Love alone, while the girl he loves stands steadfast on the shore. All beautiful, real, completely relatable songs. I personally have been on both sides of this arrangement and there are some lines (not to mention some swelling brass-filled crescendos) scattered throughout this album that are straight piercing to listen to, but in a wonderfully alive way. Which to me is the point: sure their music can be downright depressing, even death-obsessed at times, but it is more in touch with actual human emotions than anything else out there right now--what better way to feel alive?

    (Point of reference: Jenny = he's in love and she won't reciprocate, Jo = vice versa.... as Matt says, Sorry Jo)
    Janglinon June 13, 2013   Link
  • +7
    General CommentOfficial lyrics from album sleeve:

    Oh, you say you love me Joe
    How am I supposed to know?
    When you go under the waves,
    what am I supposed to say?

    I see people on the floor
    They' slide into the sea
    Can't stay here anymore
    We're turning into fiends

    If I stay here trouble will find me
    If I stay here I'll never leave
    If I stay here trouble will find me
    I believe

    Joe, I'll always think of you
    as the kind of child who knew
    this was never gonna last
    Joe, you fell so fast

    Hey Joe, sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?
    Hey Joe, sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?
    Hey Joe, sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?
    Hey Joe, sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?

    I see people on the floor
    They slide into the sea
    Can't stay here anymore
    We're turning into fiends

    I see you rushing down
    Tell me how to reach you
    I see you rushing down
    What did Harvard teach you?

    I see you rushing down
    Tell me how to reach you
    I see you rushing down
    What did Harvard teach you?

    I see you rushing down (don't drag me in)
    Tell me how to reach you
    I see you rushing down (don't drag me in)
    flamebroiledchickenon June 09, 2013   Link
  • +4
    My InterpretationI think this is the story behind it: Jo has been hanging around with bad people. The narrator wants to get to her and help her, but he doesn't know how to do it. Then he realizes that if he stays with her, he might never be able to leave because he'll be caught up in the same mess she is in. So he goes away, but is still holding on to her.

    Anyway, this is a great song! I'm really digging this new album.
    bybymcon May 11, 2013   Link
  • +2
    My InterpretationI have to agree that I think the song is about someone who is simply not committed in their relationship, and doesn't really love the other. The narrator is the person who does not want to take the "next step," to advance their relationship, the one who doesn't want to fall into the "Sea of Love." They really emphasize the "Hey Jo, sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?" in the bridge, just to point out the difficulty of breaking up with someone, and to find an excuse, in this case, the purposefully very weak "love is virtue" excuse. They repeat it to emphasize how much it hurts the other lover in the relationship, how dismissive it is.

    I'm really interested in "What did Harvard teach you?" part. My guess is that it's narrator meeting with the person they dumped after a few years, and they've advanced farther without the narrator, ending with an ultimate feeling of regret, and shame.

    Just my two cents.
    DrZaloskion September 12, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General Commentlisten to "heavenfaced" .... he's in a relationship and he wants to quit.....
    wohoooon June 05, 2013   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI think the whole song is from the side how the Girl is thinking of Joe

    Oh, you say you love me Joe
    How am I supposed to know?
    When you go under the waves,
    what am I supposed to say?

    = Joe is in Love with this Girl, maybe he hide the love for her?

    I see people on the floor
    They' slide into the sea
    Can't stay here anymore
    We're turning into fiends

    = she saw people in similar Situations and saw how they slide into some things, they don´t really wanted a relationship comes in mind
    or how she fights with "Joe" and turning into fiends


    If I stay here trouble will find me
    If I stay here I'll never leave
    If I stay here trouble will find me
    I believe

    = then she tell the hard truth to Joe, she can´t stay with him, there is something but if she stays she will never be able to break Joes Heart
    but she not really knows, she believe

    Joe, I'll always think of you
    as the kind of child who knew
    this was never gonna last
    Joe, you fell so fast

    = She really like Joe, she remember Joe as the Kid he was, but Joe changed over the Years, Joe fell too fast for her, to reach him...

    Hey Joe, sorry I hurt you, but they say love is a virtue don't they?

    = here it seems she don´t overthink this and see what it really is, a virtue but asks again..

    I see you rushing down
    Tell me how to reach you
    I see you rushing down
    What did Harvard teach you?

    = she see Joe is rushing down, but she can´t help him at all, she like him as a friend not more
    the havard line maybe will say, look you where at Havard did they don´t teach you how the react in those situations

    i could be complete wrong and sorry for my english, im not a native speaker
    this makes this even more difficult for me
    i hope you understand what i try to say
    thanks
    BonHiveron July 16, 2013   Link
  • 0
    Song ComparisonHarvard...well, William anfdMary won't do.
    erosPrieston May 28, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI don't think this song is about a romantic relationship, as many seem to assume, especially if the lyric is indeed "Joe" and not "Jo." Matt has shown himself willing to write about male friendship in other songs, such as the opening track from this album, which is about his brother.

    Anyway, the sense I get is that Joe is a childhood friend that Matt has now grown apart from, perhaps one who is now struggling and unable to help himself. Matt feels guilty for not helping his struggling (former?) friend, but he doesn't know how to help ("tell me how to reach you") and is afraid of being dragged down himself ("If I stay here trouble will find me"), an understandable yet selfish impulse.

    Reminds a lot of "Abel" from the album Alligator, though with a more grown-up sensibility.
    benjam326on July 25, 2013   Link
  • 0
    General Commentactually i think this song it's all about love. from the titile of the song to the lyrics it's quite obvious what the song it's all about. i think that Matt it's talking about a stolen love, a love that he stole from his friend "joe". he apologize with his friend as we can read in the line 'ehy joe sorry I hurt you but they say love is a virtue'. it's like he's findind an excuse when he says that love is a virtue, because actually he has stolen joe's love.
    koukooon September 02, 2013   Link
  • 0
    My InterpretationI think this is a response to the sudden fame that followed High Violet. Matt sings to "Joe/Jo" (an everyman/woman sort of situation) who claims to love him, but he has no way of knowing because he/she is only a fan that he is meeting. He could never tell if they truly love him once their affections are lost in the "sea" of affections that he faces when he's on stage. He starts a night on stage by "seeing people on the floor" but they "fall into the sea", as their individual personhood just becomes a wave of affection that he isn't certain he deserves. He knows that in the limelight, only "trouble will find him" and he feels as though they (the band) are "thieves" stealing adoration that he doesn't feel entitled to. He feels like he has to step away from the fame which would "hurt" Joe/Jo.


    He may also feel like people are rushing into fandom because it's what they have heard smart music people (ie, critics) tell them to do. ("I see you rushing now (after not flocking to them before), what did Harvard teach you? (what did the smart people tell you to love)"). He may be frustrated with the appearance of these fans who are becoming more anonymous to him as their fandom grows.
    KittenMittonson January 25, 2015   Link

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