The Meaning of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)”

When Train’s “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” was released in January of 2001, it was an instant hit, finding its way across the radio airwaves all around the world. It was the lead single from the band’s second album of the same name, which naturally went on to become the band’s best-selling album, thanks in no small part to the success of “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me).”

The lyrics to “Drops of Jupiter” were written by Train vocalist Pat Monahan, about a year after his mother passed away after a battle with cancer. In a 2008 interview with VH1’s Behind the Music, Monahan explained the meaning of the song and tells the story of his mother’s tragic passing.

Thus, while many assume that the lyrics to “Drops of Jupiter” are about a woman who leaves a relationship to go explore the world on her own, they are actually lyrics of grieving as Monahan imagines his mother returning to him in spirit after a journey through the afterlife.

In the interview, Monahan says that the opening lyric, “Now that she’s back in the atmosphere,” came to him in a dream.

“The process of creation wasn’t easy,” Monahan explains. “I just couldn’t figure out what to write, but then I woke up from a dream about a year after my mother passed away with the words ‘back in the atmosphere’…It was just her way of saying what it was like – she was swimming through the planets and came to me with drops of Jupiter in her hair.”

From there, he came up with the rest of the nostalgic, cosmic pop song, ripe with plenty of vivid imagery.

Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
With drops of Jupiter in her hair, hey, hey, hey
She acts like summer and walks like rain
Reminds me that there’s a time to change, hey, hey, hey
Since the return from her stay on the moon
She listens like spring and she talks like June, hey, hey, hey
Hey, hey, hey

First verse to “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” by Train.

Monahan explains that his mother was the most important person is his life, and he had been struggling with accepting her loss. He began to toy with the idea that nobody ever truly leaves, and “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” is the result of his imagination running wild with visions of meeting his mother again, after she spends some time swimming through the atmosphere.

But tell me, did you sail across the sun?
Did you make it to the Milky Way to see the lights all faded
And that heaven is overrated?
Tell me, did you fall for a shooting star–
One without a permanent scar?
And did you miss me while you were looking for yourself out there?

Chorus to “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me) by Train.

In this way, the song becomes a song of self-discovery, both for his mother’s imagined journey and Monahan’s own journey through life as he works through the grief associated with losing his mother.

Her spirit returns after witnessing the wonders of the heavens and the atmosphere, and offers Monahan some guidance in his own life, which mostly boils down to not being afraid to try new things and take chances, because that is the path to self-realization.

Monahan sings of this in the second verse:

Now that she’s back from that soul vacation
Tracing her way through the constellation, hey, hey, hey (mmm)
She checks out Mozart while she does tae-bo
Reminds me that there’s room to grow, hey, hey, hey (yeah)
Now that she’s back in the atmosphere
I’m afraid that she might think of me as plain ol’ Jane
Told a story about a man who was too afraid to fly so he never did land

Second verse to “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” by Train.

Naturally, Monahan has questions for his mother when her spirit returns, which he addresses in both of the song’s choruses. This is the “Tell Me” part of the song, as Monahan is hoping for his own glimpse into the afterlife.

But tell me, did the wind sweep you off your feet?
Did you finally get the chance
To dance along the light of day
And head back to the Milky Way?
And tell me, did Venus blow your mind?
Was it everything you wanted to find?
And did you miss me while you were
Looking for yourself out there?

Chorus to “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” by Train.

In the bridge, Monahan asks his mother to imagine what it would have been life had she not returned to him in spirit, and all the things they would have missed out on.

This section has a certain sadness to it, as we know that in reality his mother has passed on, and Monahan is simply finding comfort in fantasies about her presence. However, there is a feeling of hope emitting from the whole thing, as the song suggests that the people we love are always with us, whether that is physically or spiritually.

Can you imagine no love, pride, deep-fried chicken?
Your best friend always sticking up for you even when I know you’re wrong
Can you imagine no first dance, freeze dried romance, five-hour phone conversation?
The best soy latte that you ever had and me

Bridge to “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me) by Train.

From there, we have another hit of the chorus as Monahan shows of his vocal range, bringing the song’s emotional intent full circle in a way that proved to be quite memorable.

“Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” brought Train from the brink of obscurity into the forefront of the mainstream spotlight. The song peaked at number five on the Billboard Hot 100, and was also nomimated for five Grammy awards, winning two of them: Best Rock Song and Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalist, which was for noted arranger’s Paul Buckmaster’s contribution on strings.

Watch the music video for “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)” by Train below.

6 thoughts on “The Meaning of Train’s “Drops of Jupiter (Tell Me)”

  • October 12, 2022 at 12:37 am

    Wow, I am sorry Pat. I did not know your mother died from cancer. She is in the afterlife now!
    Love Artemis/Lucifer AKA Janelle Rae Moore

    Reply
    • November 13, 2022 at 5:07 am

      I’m sure glad this was explained to me. What a beautiful tribute to that remarkable person we’ve all lost. I find comfort in the imagery as I reflect on those I miss so badly. Thanks.

      Reply
    • November 27, 2022 at 8:27 pm

      I never thought this song was about grieving. Until my husband passed away. Then it began to make sense. I imagined him flying though the planets coming down to see me. In a way it made me happy for him that he could do all those cool things. I hope to do it together with him some day. Thank you Monahan for saying the words i couldn’t. Good tune.

      Reply
  • November 12, 2022 at 9:45 pm

    I don’t get the “heaven is overrate”…

    Reply
    • November 22, 2022 at 3:22 pm

      He was missing his Mom and wanted her back on earth in human form

      Reply
    • December 1, 2022 at 4:24 pm

      Heaven is overrated nothing is as good as it seems

      Reply

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