A drawing that emulates the cover of Mazzy Star's album "So Tonight That I Might See"
Roshni Mohan/MiC

I was 16 years old the first time I really listened to it. It was soft, but in the first 20 seconds, the sharp strumming of the guitar and the piano chords sliced through the jumble of thoughts in my head, soon rendering the song the only thing I could focus on. The first 20 seconds cleared a direct path to every part of my brain, preparing it for the song that would soon become a staple in my life. And for those next four minutes and 55 seconds, nothing mattered but this song.

“Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star was released in 1993 as a part of their album, So Tonight That I Might See. It’s an alternative/indie song filled with dream pop undertones. Everything about the song is beautiful, especially its vagueness; it feels as if Hope Sandoval, the band’s lyricist and lead singer, wanted you to create its significance, making it twice as meaningful every time you listen. It’s a song that will always relate to you no matter what stage of life you are at. 

To many, it’s a love song. It’s the song people add to their Instagram stories when they soft-launch their boyfriends or play in the background of their TikToks while talking about their significant others or serenade each other with at karaoke after one too many mixed drinks. And these interpretations make sense because it sounds like a love song. The music is sweet, the perfect sound to awkwardly rock back and forth to at your high school dance, stepping on your partner’s feet while maintaining an extreme amount of unbreakable eye contact. Sandoval’s voice is subtle, yet flooded with infatuation. It slowly drowns and suffocates you with love and sweetness every time you hear it, enough to start to truly feel it yourself.

But with every listen you learn more and more from the vague lyrics, and you come to realize the song can be about the ending of an unrequited love. It can be a realization of how one-sided this deep longing actually was, or how it was not truly love but a scary obsession. With this new perspective, my favorite line — “a million smiles cover your heart” — may not refer to how beautiful the partner’s love is, but how fake and deceitful it actually was. Or how the lyric and title “Fade Into You” may not mean to become one soul with the person you love, but to lose every part of yourself that made you who you are.

When I listen, I see the significant other — the “you” portrayed in the song — as something bigger than just a significant other. It’s someone or something that is holding you down. Like a darkness you can’t escape, trailing behind you until it finally catches up, grabbing you, slowly spreading through you until there’s nothing left and draining you until there’s nothing more to give. It’s a darkness filled with hopelessness and emptiness that drowns you until there is no “breath that’s true” left to take. It’s a deep pain and heartbreak that takes every bit of cheery color from your cheeks and every hint of sparkle from your eyes until there’s nothing but an empty soul and remnants of the person you once were. As it falls, it takes you with it, chaining your arms and legs together and leaving you no room or energy to fight back. But you sink into it willingly, not even attempting to resist because of the hope and light the song promises you through Sandoval’s melody and voice. Because of the comfort being with it brings you.

The comforting and calming melody contrasts with the equally strong pain-stricken lyrics, intensifying the hurt you feel from the song while still allowing you to listen to it in any situation. The melody acts as a distraction and uplifts you with a feeling of happiness when you’re with people, and the lyrics wrap their arms around you when you’re alone, asphyxiating you.

I first really listened to the song while on a picnic with my friend. It paired perfectly with the cool, soft breeze that was only strong enough to move around a few strands of my hair on that sunny summer day. It played loudly out of my friend’s broken speaker resting near the old walnut tree next to our picnic blanket. But it was still quiet enough that it didn’t clash with the music coming from the other blankets scattered throughout the park. The music glided into our ears, coating our minds with Sandoval’s soothing voice and sedative melody. As it flooded into us, my body sank deeper and deeper into the ground under our blanket, as if her voice was holding me down, clinging onto me as she faded into the deep darkness. And I slowly faded with her.

MiC Columnist Roshni Mohan can be contacted at romohan@umich.edu