Tears Deconstructed (Robert Owen)

Robert Owen

Fyi: The song’s lyrics are at the end.


The question in everyone’s mind, what is causing all the tears behind the heart-rending song Tears which Robert Owen, with his achingly poignant vocals, serenaded club-land since its release in 1998, moving us to sorrow amidst its beauty.


Tears is a story of deep emotional turmoil associated with Tainted love, the dark side of ordinary love with its emotional and spiritual fatalism that traps the individuals it possesses; the element of unrequited love underpinning this song. And perhaps even forbidden love, if viewed through the secrecy and duplicity of the relationship that Tears narrates. 

Tears is the outpouring of pent-up emotions and the outward expression of an obliterated heart, suffering the woes and ‘pains’ of unrequited love abandonment, rejection and grief, while engaging the lover in a performance of an ‘act’ depicting that all is well.

To an already doomed relationship, the ‘act’ is adding extra layers to the unrequited aspect, with the clown’s image being a multifaceted metaphor of those layers, which are, also, substituting the invisibility and silence marking the beloved, who is suggested, mainly, through her sheer remoteness not presence, and the lack of her much-needed reciprocity to the lovers’ affections, producing the circumstances which help us to extrapolate the cause behind the tears,

‘..So, so many tears..’

‘like a clown… smiling when ever people are around’

The tears through which the lover must continue.

A happy ‘clown’, is at odds with the unhappiness filling him, and the image merely reflects his paradoxical state, also masking the loss of his dignity and pride. At the same time the lover is suffering silently while presenting the opposite to the world through the smiling jester.

The lover is, in fact, emotionally and spiritually dying an agonising death, and metaphorically ‘drowning’ in an ocean of ‘pain’ that is consuming his life, and spewing the tears which symptomise the tainted conditions and remoteness of his beloved, the source of his pain, creating the chasm from which the ‘tears’ burst forth,

“dripping and dropping
So, so many tears…,”

filling the void, the lack of affection and emptiness. The tears turning into a fatal torrent of ‘rain’, that engulf the lover’s entire being in a sea of his own tears. Consumed by despair, where hope has fled, all that remains for the lover is

“..Nothing but the pain, my heart my life my world is filled with rain.”

He cries out

“I’m drowning,”

This symbolic death spells a finality that could only refer to the lover’s rebirth, whereby he re-emerges from an experience akin to a baptism of Tears, with clarity piercing through the distortion of tears, providing an awareness of his loveless existence, both in public and private. The relationship finally meets its demise, whereas who has survived it looks back

“Regretting nothing but the pain.”

Lyrical Analysis

A stage forms the backdrop of Tears, where the players are ‘actors’ contrived by a ‘script’, totally controlling their love situation, playing ‘roles’ that must present a fake version of reality to the world, in an act suggesting something other than what is real. The song’s opening lines sum it up beautifully:

“I’m for real this actor. This is a heavy role,
Our love’s a script reading total control”

What is ‘real’, is that the lover’s love can neither flourish nor unfold naturally in an artificial environment. Or in the ways that lovers organically react towards each other when in private or public.

Suppression of the lover’s emotions is not only based on the beloved’s public rejection, but the private as well. The beloved’s distance illustrating an apathy fulfilling her lover’s emotional desires, the provision of affection for which he is pining, trapping the lover in the classic conditions that operate ‘unrequited’ love, and that are regulating not only his emotions/unhappiness but also his actions. Which leave us with a sense of the lover’s coercion into a starkly public and unbearable act.

“this is a heavy role”

and, in ‘private’

“When the curtain comes down, and the circus is through there is no one but you, me and all my tears”

Even when they are alone, the gushing tears continue ceaselessly, ‘dripping and dropping’, creating the channel for his emotions but still providing no comfort.

Their love is defined by a degree of imbalance, making the lover’s union in private as equally painful as it is when they are convening in public, but more crucially the lines highlight a void in the beloved’s feelings, hence, her love remains impalpable to the lover.

“One word” from the beloved,

“just say it to me’ one word could take their place, one word”

… murmured softly and hauntingly in the chorus, and intermittently in the background throughout the song, showing just how the beloved is totally emotionally detached from her lover, leaving the speaker repeatedly begging/pleading all the more, and crying out for the beloved to say just that ‘one word’.

The lover may have felt that that ‘one word’ could have removed the tears and ‘take their place’’, halting his despair, but in reality, it would have only protracted the pain. The beloved doesn’t even notice her lover’s tears, and by extension his pain.

“Girl look into my eyes, can’t you see I’ve been crying?”

We are dealing not only with a lack of empathy but also unrequited love and its nihilism.

The lover’s story is relayed by Robert Owen through an achingly gripping and moving lyrical and vocal rendition that connects so deeply with its listeners upon whom it has impacted for years, and still does – perhaps evoking the reminiscences and reflections of their own misfortunes of love. But as art, the song testifies to the very effects of great Art, in the way Tears has captured the emotions and moves the listeners in a manner that Beauty impacts upon them!

Thank You Robert Owen
“I Love You”

The end


The song:

“I’m a real good actor.This is a heavy role

Our love’s a scriptAnd you can read total control

Like a clown, I’ve been smiling

When ever people are around,

But when the curtain comes down

And the circus is through

No one is left but me you and all myt ears

So many tears, my tears

One word could wash them away

One word could take their place.”




  1. I tought about not doing this to you, but couldn’t resist, the clown motif being so universal in relationship songs.

    Anda true classic (!) from my youth. Gary didn’treally have a band, he had Leon Russell and the Wrecking Crew which is why even pop fodder like this went number one.


  2. Finally found time to address this post, Lily. Interesting. Love is primarily a feeling so it’s not something someone else can make you do, or have. I don’t do love so I empathize with the ‘beloved’ and not the lovesick lover. If she doesn’t feel it, then she doesn’t. Plenty of fish in the sea, move on… it’s not the end of the world that someone won’t fall in love with you, it’s just luck of the draw. It is a well-worked theme because unrequited love is felt even more than when two people actually fall in love. So much emotional drama in unrequited love.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I agree with all that you say, and on luck also…

      the solution to this crippling internal force is always in sight… when the lover or the beloved disappears the problem is solved…

      Sha’tara, it boggles me to think why we allow ourselves such pain and from the affections of another draw its remedy, even when they don’t give a damb, or are absent, abusive etc…
      thank you for making time.xx


      1. It is something I’ve thought much about also. “In-loveness” is a form of temporary insanity. For some it is an addiction that they feed throughout their life – usually people who cannot maintain normal relationships and try to attract another, or others, to fill that gap for them. This includes users and abusers who cannot conceive of love unless it is total control: their own control over another’s thoughts, feelings and body. If two people are fully “in love” with each other and grow out of it together then the abuse can be avoided. Otherwise the “beloved” becomes the abused. It may interest you to know that I see/sense religion; the need for that abusive father figure god, to be the same as the madness of “in-loveness.”


      2. Yes, perhaps feeling love, for a little bit of time, ‘spells’ the abuser’s aberration from cruelty- the mask stays on only temporarily. if ‘insanity’ is veering away from normal behaviour, then, the brief spell settles it, – love is madness :-))
        v. interesting, the ‘abusive father figure god’ idea, reminds of Freud…,
        But as you ‘sense’ it, it could well have much to do with’ god or religion (or else), at least, s.thing bigger than just mortals bcs’ humans have no control over it. religious love and religious suffering, are classic and unrequited love must also be classic :-), ordained by god or religion – the beloveds are eternally pining for the love of god, the church (or else)…

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Speaking of songs of unrequited love, Orbison’s “Crying” is another one. “What now my love”, another. “Lemon Tree”… Neil Diamond’s “Red, Red Wine”… Ian and Sylvia’s “Four Strong Winds”… just in passin’! I think it’s nice to be older and safely past all that silliness, hm?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. and Tainted Love, many artists did a cover, liked this a lot back then, and is as painful now (..’touch me, please i cannot stand the pain’)… Yes Sha’tara, so unfortunate negative relationships/love…. do you think it doesn’t strike adults as much, bcs they’re in a place were they’re not as susceptible to it- what do you think the reason? thx.


      1. Hi Lily, well, some of it of course is biological – the reproductive drive eases of with age. Some of it is simple “settling for” whatever. Some is common sense and a tiny bit is philosophical? If we existed “forever” in this form I suppose the “love” thing would simply periodically re-awaken, perhaps every hundred years or so and those individuals would go through the madness then come out of it again to live a normal life… 🙂


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