Days like this, I don't know what to do with myself
All day -- and all night
I wander the halls along the walls and under my breath
I say to myself
I need fuel -- to take flight --
And there's too much going on
But it's calm under the waves, in the blue of my oblivion
Under the waves in the blue of my oblivion
Is that why they call me a sullen girl -- sullen girl
They don't know how I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea
but he washed me ashore and he took my pearl
And left an empty shell of me
And there's too much going on
But it's calm under the waves, in the blue of my oblivion
Under the waves in the blue of my oblivion
Under the waves in the blue of my oblivion
It's calm under the waves in the blue of my oblivion

Lyrics submitted by SNYder, edited by MrRoboto

Sullen Girl song meanings
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  • +6
    General CommentFiona once said that Sullen Girl was about the tendency of the misunderstood to sink into their own little world, letting life pass them by. In a September 1996 interview with CMJ New Music Magazine she said, ""Sullen Girl' is... complicated for me. It's about a lot of things. It's about when I was doing the album and everything was happening all at once and I just felt like 'Oh my God, what's going on here?' The second verse is a... I went through a really hard time when I was a very, very cold person. I didn't like to be near people. When I was 12, I was raped by a stranger and that's what this song is basically about, because I felt like everybody in my life thought there was something wrong with me and it was just my wondering 'was that what changed me?' Like the second verse, 'Is that why they call me the sullen girl/They don't know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea/But he washed ashore and took my pearl and left an empty shell of me," "and it was really just because I felt like "well I used to be this really lighthearted person. And I am a lighthearted person, but everyone looks at me and they think I'm really serious and depressed and sullen. Do I come off that way because of this experience?' It was something that caused me a lot of pain, and I just felt like 'Is that why I'm being misunderstood?' So that's when it started getting bad, when people started assuming that things were bad and started labeling me as a sick person.' "It's part of who I am, I don't regret it. I'm happy with who I am, so how can I be unhappy with anything that's happened to me? That was an experience that made me a lot stronger. It taught me a lot about who I am and life. Things happen and you go through pain. It doesn't have to be such a big deal. It's like 'yeah, I was raped.' It's over, though. And I learned from it. It's sad, but good thing come out of it, too."...

    ... Like this song, for instance.
    sullengurlon August 25, 2010   Link
  • +3
    General Commenti think the part where she says "and he washed me ashore..and he took my pearl, and left an empty shell of me" is about her bein raped....

    this song is just so beautiful and sad...i absolutely love it. fiona apple is such an awesome musician AND poet...could someone please tell me again why people like j-lo and britney spears are at the top of the charts?!?!? grrrr
    starla33on May 09, 2002   Link
  • +3
    Song ComparisonJust like the debut by Tori Amos, who was also raped a few years before her debut album, Apple's Tidal was such stunning brilliance, and you can't help feeling partly-fuelled by the preceding few years of working through the emotions and torment the violence perpetrated on each.

    While Amos's "Me and a gun" dealt directly with the violence, perhaps because she was older and more able to deal directly to it, "Sullen Girl" is so tenderly tragic, a symphony of sweeping, drowning emotions that so powerfully echo the adolescent mindset. Screaming her overwhelmed emotions with the line: "it's calm under the waves, in the blue of my oblivion", Apple emotionally retreated, retracted: "They don't know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea, but he washed my shore and he took my pearl and left an empty shell of me." It's such a powerfully beautiful song for all its tragedy, BECAUSE it so poetically captures the theme of her emotions following that event.

    There are such horrible acts of violence some men perpetrate against women, but sometimes, just sometimes, the world is blessed from the depths of these womens' recovery with beautiful artistry of such tender and insightful expression.

    And, on Tidal, without doubt, "Sullen Girl" is Fiona Apple's pinnacle.
    aragondon January 13, 2012   Link
  • +2
    General Commentyeah i just hate it when people think this is a song about a boy breaking her heart or something and that the line "he washed my shore and he took my pearl
    And left and empty shell of me" is some metaphor for that.
    its not.
    its about rape.
    i think people can't truly understand this song unless they have been in a situation like she was.
    evenifon February 12, 2008   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis used to be me. People called her (Fiona) a "sullen girl", but they don't know what she's been through "they don't know I used to sail the deep and tranquil see". She doesn't talk about it though. She's all empty and alone. I tried my best to explain what it means, hope I did it right.
    FeyTHon April 14, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentDealing is the only way i can describe this song but not really dealing in your own way that people don't under stand. It is Someone dealing with a life altering event.
    "but he washed my shore and he took my pearl
    And left and empty shell of me"
    This line feels like violation to me, like a hateful act that leaves you emotionally inept but little do people know that is how you deal that it how you shut everyone out so they call you a "sullen girl." Yes he broke her heart but in a way he broke her soul too and she must look within herself to find and repair the damage. I have heard interviews with fiona and she said this song was about her rape.
    Eggos=yumon April 26, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentShe has said in many interviews that this was about her rape.
    "But he washed my shore, and he took my pearl"--means he forced himself on her and took her innocense. She didn't give it up willingly, because he took it, therefore it is about rape.
    psychogroupieon June 02, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentI really think that this song refers to the aftereffects of someone (Fiona particularly) who has been raped or somehow broken by someone they loved. It expresses how they thought they used to be normal, living life to the fullest and having this treasure. I hear all the time about how when someone is raped, they feel so dirty. And, when you're so young and have been through something like that, you have this....depth that not many can really relate to. You become confident in yourself, which is a good thing by all means, but at the same time you're lonely and misunderstood. I can totally relate to this feeling, but not to being raped. Being broken way too many times, yes, but not rape. This song is the cry of my heart.
    alabaster20on June 22, 2002   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThe song is an account of her life after becoming a victim of rape. The incident occurred the day before Thanksgiving when she was 12 years old. The man followed her into her apartment complex and caught her just as she was trying to unlock her apartment door. Fiona thought that she was going to die during the assault, she remembers hearing her dog bark on the other side of the door, and picturing in her mind that the attacker was Jimmy Hendrix. Afterwards, she was upset because she knew that she would have to go back into therapy.
    kmk_natashaon March 24, 2005   Link
  • +1
    General CommentThis is possibly my favourite song by Fiona. Her voice is so soft and sad, and the instrumental at the end is just so powerful and moving, when I hear it, it sounds like the crashing of waves, and you can just imagine yourself laying at the bottom of an oceane and it's all going on ontop of you.
    I read also, that the pearl reference was about her rape ordeal. She has also explained the metaphore of being ''calm under the waves'' in the blue of her oblivion. To me, this has always been so easy to relate to. When you are at a bad time in your life, and there is just so much going on, the depression you feel is almost a comfort, because you're numb to all the problems.
    ''Days like this, I dont know what to do with myself, all day, and all night. I wander the halls, along the walls, and under my breath I say to myself, I need fuel, to take flight.''
    Those just strike me as being really incredible lyrics, especially since she was so young when she wrote them. It's describing the feeling of being so depressed, you just don't know what to do with yourself, and the days seem so long you just need something, anything, to happen thats going to give you the strength to do something with yourself.
    And finally,
    They don't know I used to sail the deep and tranquil sea - those words always used to make me feel so sad, because it's seems like a messege to the people who misunderstood her as a child, when she was troubled, she's saying they have no idea that she used to be okay.
    that_sullen_girlon August 25, 2005   Link

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