Behind The Song: Seal, “Kiss From a Rose”

“Kiss From a Rose,” written and performed by Seal, is one of the greatest examples ever of a song that the artist thought had no potential that ended up being an international number one hit. 

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While Seal had no confidence in it, the song resonated with millions of listeners once it was made available to the world. At the 1996 Grammy Awards, it took the top prizes for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, and Best Male Pop Vocal Performance. From Seal’s eponymous second album, “Kiss from a Rose” was first released as a single in July 1994, and was later included on the Batman Forever soundtrack, which helped it top the charts in both the U.S. and Australia. 

On the website a few years ago, Seal explained the song’s history, and how he never intended for it to be released. “I wrote it way before I wrote any of my first album,” he said. “I wrote it about three years before I was even signed, before I had a deal. It is really old. The song started off as an experiment. When I was just starting out, I was living in a squat. I had one of those four-track port-a-studios, basically a tape machine that takes a cassette and splits it up into four tracks.”

He laid the song down but apparently didn’t think much of the results. “I threw the tape in the corner. I was embarrassed by it so I wouldn’t play it for my producer, Trevor Horn. But I played it to a friend. So then, when I was recording my second album, Trevor kept asking me about this ‘rose’ song he’d heard about. My friend had told him about it. I finally played it to him on the second album, because he kept brow beating me into it.”

“To be honest, I was never really that proud of it, though I like what Trevor did with the recording. He turned that tape from my corner into another 8,000,000 record sales and my name became a household name. I realized it just wasn’t a song from a tape in the corner when I was picking up Grammys for it. Of course I love it now and I am just so appreciative of the fact that I have a song like that, that most people love.”

Seal’s singing here is powerful yet vulnerable, and when a lyric about a rose was combined with a great melody against great chord changes and strings, it was bound to be romantic by default. The words are somewhat cryptic, especially the lines about a “greying tower,” and the Internet is rife with opinions about what it all means, from growing old to some type of drug reference. We’ll just have to keep guessing, because Seal told that same website, “I have avoided explaining these lyrics for over 25 years. I am not going to start doing it now.” 

The point here, though, is that we should never doubt our creativity and original music. If a song doesn’t initially knock you out, put it aside for a minute, a day, a year. But go back and give it a listen, rewrite and rewrite if you have any faith in your idea at all. Don’t just throw it in a corner, because you may be throwing away the best thing that could ever happen to you.

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