STORY OF SONG

“Bon Iver” is an American indie folk band from Wisconsin, founded by singer-songwriter Justin Vernon in 2006. The name “Bon Iver” is taken from the French term “bon hiver” meaning “good winter”. There are five members of Bon Iver: Justin Vernon, Sean Carey, Michael Lewis, Andrew Fitzpatrick and Matthew McCaughan.

In 2006, Vernon moved to his father’s isolated cabin in Dunn County, Wisconsin. He moved there primarily to try and heal from previous events in his life like not only a breakup of a relationship, but also the breakup of a previous band he was in (DeYarmond Edison) as well as a bout of mononucleosis hepatitis. It was in this cabin that Vernon wrote Bon Iver’s first album (and arguably their best) “For Emma, Forever Ago”, and wrote, recorded and played everything himself, without the help or aid of producers. “Skinny Love” is the third track off the album and probably the most well-known and popular song of the band’s. Despite it only having two verses, the song still manages to be extremely heart wrenching and relatable.

“Come on, skinny love, just last the year
Pour a little salt, we were never here
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer
I tell my love to wreck it all
Cut out all the ropes and let me fall
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Right in this moment, this order’s tall”

The first verse starts with the namesake of the song: “Skinny Love”. With an interview with Pitchfork, Vernon explained the phrase “skinny love” as not having weight: “Skinny love doesn’t have a chance because it’s malnourished”. Vernon is hoping it will last a little longer, at least for the rest of the year, and hopes that by pouring salt, it’s healing properties will help heal the wound that is the relationship, as if it never happened. The “my, my, my…” line could be a reference to when an individual says “oh my” in shock. “Staring at the sink of blood and crushed veneer” could be alluding to the fragility of the relationship in the song. He wants his lover to ruin the relationship, and to just let him go and fall; to give up on him. But, he knows that in this moment this a big thing to ask of his lover (this order’s tall).

“And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
And in the morning I’ll be with you
But it will be a different kind
And I’ll be holding all the tickets
And you’ll be owning all the fines”

The chorus shows Vernon as an extremely bossy and demanding lover, telling his lover how to act. Perhaps this is just him telling the lover how to act with him, to his patience while he’s in a dark time of his life. He’ll still be with his lover in the morning, despite him feeling as if that they haven’t been all the things they wanted them to be, so it will feel different. And because of this, he’ll be giving the lover “tickets” that she needs to pay the fines for – which could mean that Vernon is blaming the lover for the fact that he is feeling this way or that this is why the relationship is “skinny”.

“Come on, skinny love, what happened here?
Suckle on the hope in light brassiere
My, my, my, my, my, my, my, my
Sullen, load is full, so slow on the split”

The second verse is Vernon trying to figure out why the relationship turned sour, and how he’s still holding onto the relationship hopefully via the form of physical intimacy: “in light brassiere”. “Sullen, load is full, so slow on the split”, could be referring to how Vernon felt he had a lot going on in his life and in his mind, so he was slow to split the relationship.

“And I told you to be patient
And I told you to be fine
And I told you to be balanced
And I told you to be kind
And now all your love is wasted
And then who the hell was I?
And I’m breaking at the britches
And at the end of all your lines”

The chorus repeats again, but with the last four lines different from the first. Vernon feels as if the lover’s love towards him has been wasted and was this entire time, leading him to question and think about his own identity and whether he was of any worth to her. He’s now breaking at the “britches” which is another term for trousers, so using imagery to further emphasize how him and this relationship are falling apart, but he’s still being held onto by his lover, but that is breaking too.

“Who will love you?
Who will fight?
Who will fall far behind?”

The final verse of the song is fairly ambiguous, as it’s not made clear whether these are questions Vernon is asking himself or the lover. If directed towards himself, it could be viewed as the beginning of the breakup and mourning period of the relationship; if it’s directed towards the lover (maybe now ex-lover), it could be Vernon firing back at them, asking them how they’ll ever find someone who will love and fight for them, and fall behind for them like he did.

There is no official music video for the song, despite its immense popularity.

Release Date: 8th July 2007

Songwriter/s: Justin Vernon

Album: For Emma, Forever Ago (2008)

Genre: Rock, Indie, Folk

Chart Rankings (2011- 2014): #2 in Australia, #15 in Austria, #3 in Belgium Ultratop 50 Flanders Charts, #4 in Belgium Ultratop #50 Wallonia, #2 in France, #73 in Germany, #22 in Ireland, #29 in Japan, #2 in the Netherlands Dutch Top 40, #1 in the Netherlands Single Top 100, #2 in New Zealand, #88 in Poland, #17 in Scotland on the Offical Charts Company, #19 in Switzerland, #17 in the UK Singles Charts, #37 in the US Billboard Adult Top 40, #40 in the Alternative Songs chart, and #24 in the Hot Rock Songs chart.

Certifications: 7x Platinum in Australia, Platinum in Belgium, Gold in Canada, Platinum in Denmark, Platinum in France, Platinum in Italy, Gold in Switzerland, and Platinum in the US and the UK.

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Tala Woods

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