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.

“Drops of Jupiter” Lyrics Meaning

Let’s take a closer look at the lyrics and some of the imagery that Monahan uses in this song, starting with the first verse:

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.

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

  • September 9, 2023 at 4:32 pm

    I just saw Train live for the first time and cried through “Drops of Jupiter”.My good friend lost her son years ago and listened to this song constantly. I didn’t really relate to that until I lost my own son a few years ago. I do always imagine he is sometimes near me and sometimes off on other journeys in his “Spirit Life”. My friend also passed away a few weeks ago so this song was emotionally beautiful to hear performed live!

  • July 30, 2023 at 6:55 pm

    It’s curious; way back then, this song won me over the nostalgic idea of missing someone, as I did. But although I did get it had to do with mourning, I never quite got it was a Mother. I did lose mine in 2012 (and the World, as I knew it, DID end), so now the meaning is way clear to me. In any way and in the end, this song feels so sweet, sad but full of hope, and a certain ideal one to sing out loud.

  • July 27, 2023 at 10:35 pm

    One of my favorite all time songs especially since I know the meaning behind it. Awesome lyrics. I too miss my mom so much. What a great tribute to your mom. I’m not one that downloads song but this one I did. Amazing songwriting. Think of you every time I listen to it. What can I say except you got to me. Love and prayers coming your way Pat. ❤️

  • June 26, 2023 at 6:48 pm

    Out of the blue, my 22 year old daughter sends me a message today, saying that she’d always listen to this song because it reminds her of me. Now, my journey to the Milky Way is still pending – hopefully for a long time, as I quite like this planet here – but my daughter moved me to tears by saying that. I also have a special relation to the song since 2012 when I witnessed Train in an intimate concert with only about 200 other people.
    Reminds us that our souls are eternal 😉

  • May 29, 2023 at 3:30 am

    I am heartbroken. I am overwhelmed by this song and I can barely gather my thoughts the grief is much to handle. Thank you for this song. It’s me…

  • May 21, 2023 at 12:19 pm

    Beautiful and imaginative is the way to experience such depth of a parents love. I like to think of those divine loved ones that have passed on are often a gaurdian of hope, faith and unconditional love that is helping find your way during difficulties. To reach and stretch for the love to continue and share healing energy in life and beyond. I Love this son and the magic it inspires, both my parents have passed and I know when they are near…. feeling gratitude knowing what we have been blessed with 🙏❤️🕊✨️💞💯🌌🌠 love finds a way…

  • May 10, 2023 at 2:16 pm

    I’ve never been so moved finding out what a Song has been written about, Pat, you had me at “now she’s back in the atmosphere “. This is a grief I’m yet to experience. This song is like every single word is made from sweet buttery mouth watering candy. My husband and I always talked about writing a song that would pay your mortgage off, Pat I hope this song bought you comfort, peace & much more. Sorry for your loss. Oh and Patrick Monahan he’s obviously of Irish descent ☘️

  • April 15, 2023 at 8:31 pm

    I lost my mom a few months ago and have been playing this song over and over. I’d love to think she was having such adventures

  • March 12, 2023 at 10:37 am

    What a beautiful song❤️I never knew what the song ment so I looked it up and what a talented man you are. I’m glad I know what the song means. I look at it in a totally different direction now.
    Much❤️to you.

    • March 17, 2023 at 8:00 pm

      I too am so glad to know the meaning of this song. It has always been in my top 10 of songs but, with the meaning it’s so much more to me . I lost both parents and my only sister but, I feel now it’s a perfect song when I visit the gravestone s or even when I’m just thinking of them . Pat I too can grieve with you. I know you have made your mother so proud and you continue to everyday. When you share the lyrics and your vocals , along with the band . Praise be to you

  • November 12, 2022 at 9:45 pm

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

    • November 22, 2022 at 3:22 pm

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

    • December 1, 2022 at 4:24 pm

      Heaven is overrated nothing is as good as it seems

    • March 5, 2023 at 7:54 pm

      He missed her and thought she would be so much better with him, He wanted her back. It’s so much better here why would you want to be in heaven,

  • 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

    • 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.

    • 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.


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