Seal in the Kiss from A Rose music video
Screen shot from Kiss from A Rose music Video. Warner Brothers/Warner Brothers Music.

Wait, Is “Kiss From A Rose” Really About…Cocaine?!

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The internet can sometimes be useful, it can help historians find volumes of Shakespeare once owned by John Milton. But can Twitter solve one of the greatest mysteries of the nineties and decode the lyrics to Seal’s hit, “Kiss From A Rose?” Well, one twitter user has a theory.

This a pretty bold claim, but is it just crazy enough that it might be right? The song has always been kind of a riddle of the sphinx when it comes to meaning. I’ve always loved the it and put my own interpretation over the lyrics that seem to be about a transformative relationship, but I, innocent as I am, never thought it was about drugs. So when I read that tweet, my mind was more than a little, uh, blown. And I wasn’t alone.

If Ava DuVernay is considering it, we have to investigate.

“Kiss From a Rose” gained popularity in the US after it was played over the credits to Batman Forever in May 1995/ The jam however was not composed for the movie, so we can eliminate any theories that it’s somehow about Bruce Wayne’s relationship with Dr. Chase Meridian. The song was written way back in 1988, when Seal was just a struggling musician without a record deal living in London. According to Seal himself, he didn’t think much of it:

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-tracks port-a-studios, basically a tape machine that takes a cassette and splits it up into four tracks.

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.

Thanks to all the brow beating, the track ended up on Seal’s second album and charted in the UK in 1994, but didn’t make any sort of splash in the US until it was used in Batman Forever. You might not remember it, but Batman Forever was the biggest movie of the summer of 1995, and at that point, one of the biggest openings of all time so a big hunk of America heard the song and also saw the video when it was in heavy rotation on  MTV.

It’s not a bad choice at all for the bat-soundtrack. The lyrics “you became the light on the dark side of me” seem to fit pretty well with the films thmes of Batman’s deeper psychology and his relationships. Also, the Riddler is one of the villains, so why not pick a moody track that’s a bit of a riddle for the soundtrack? Prince made an entire Batman album, so why not just slap some Seal on Batman Forever?

But what does the song mean? Well, I don’t know if it’s about drugs, honestly. The tweet above seems to be about this line:

But did you know that when it snows
My eyes become large and
The light that you shine can’t be seen?

Snow, can be a euphemism for coke. Coke can cause sensitivity to light so it’s not impossible that Seal is talking about drugs in this line, and it was written in the 80s. Another lyric references drugs more clearly: “Love remained a drug that’s the high and not the pill,”  and cocaine is not a pill, but we do have as well as “To me you’re like a growing addiction I can’t deny.” The song certainly compares love to addiction, but the cocaine connection may be a stretch. And that still doesn’t explain what the heck a Kiss from A Rose is, aside from a kinda cool…metaphor? One things is for sure, Seal won’t be sharing the truth anytime soon:

The only thing I know is that “Kiss from a Rose” still slaps.

(image: Warner Brothers)

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Jessica Mason
Jessica Mason (she/her) is a writer based in Portland, Oregon with a focus on fandom, queer representation, and amazing women in film and television. She's a trained lawyer and opera singer as well as a mom and author.