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‘The Bottom’ by Chris Stapleton - Lyrics & Meaning

November 23, 2023 12:56 pm GMT
Last Edited December 18, 2023 8:27 pm GMT

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Chris Stapleton - ‘The Bottom’

Label: Mercury Nashville

Release Date: November 10th 2023

Producers: Dave Cobb, Morgane Stapleton & Chris Stapleton

Songwriters: Chris Stapleton & Lee Miller

The Background:

The vast majority of Chris Stapleton's 2023 album, Higher, serves as a heartwarming love letter to his wife, Morgane, with touching ballads such as ‘Loving You On My Mind’, ‘It Takes A Woman’ and ‘Weight Of Your World’ epitomising this mission statement.

However, Stapleton switches gears and flexes his songwriting muscles on ‘The Bottom’, which is a forlorn yet witty ode to the comfort of a whiskey bottle when nursing a broken heart.

The Sound:

Interestingly, although ‘The Bottom’ is one of the more downcast offerings on Higher, the song features a comparatively uptempo beat and melody compared to the rest of the album.

The hook is fuelled by a steady, driving drum rhythm and an arena-ready guitar riff, with the post-chorus solo injecting an additional sense of energy and vigour into this earworm. Stapleton's vocals are at their fiery, ferocious best, with the crooner accentuating the rasp in his voice as he approaches the agonised titular lyric.

The Meaning:

“Love is a mystery

It's a tricky thing

It's more than a word

It's more than a ring”

Chris Stapleton begins by reflecting on the enigma that is ‘love’, as he muses that it's far more complex and multi-faceted than a mere four-lettered word or even an engagement ring.

“When the right thing turns to wrong

Turns into a lonesome song

And everybody knows how it goes when it does”

This philosophical introduction paves the way for the heartbroken chorus, with the protagonist's thoughts quickly veering from the quality of love to the consequences of a broken heart.

“The bottle holds the whiskey

The whiskey holds the man

The man holds the bottle when it’s all that’s left

And the left hand lights what the right hand holds

The smoke can’t hide what the heart regrets

Cause the heart holds the memory

And the memory holds the past

And the past holds the woman

At the bottom of the glass

So I don’t have a problem

If I don’t see the bottom”

For the hook, Stapleton cleverly rattles through a chain of events all loosely linked to the idea of ‘holding’ onto something. This kicks off with the protagonist holding his bottle of whiskey. However, he then flips this to underline how, at the same time, the whiskey is the one in control as it has a hold over the man.

Then, the man holds onto a joint, but Stapleton underlines that the high this produces isn't enough to cure his anguish, explaining that his heart can't let go of his ex-lover's memory.

Through a colourful flurry of images, Chris Stapleton warns that these painful feelings and recollections will hit him hardest when he reaches the bottom of this glass of whiskey.

This lays the foundation for the song's despairing, alcohol-drenched punchline, with Stapleton quipping , “So I don't have a problem / If I don't see the bottom”, as he resolves to keep drinking and drinking so he never has to face his loneliness head-on.

“I played it all over

And over in my mind

I’m looking for the reasons

I just can’t find

I wish I knew what I could blame

Without a moment I could name

I don’t have a thing that I recall”

Chris Stapleton confesses that his torment is intensified by the fact that he can't put his finger on what went wrong. Without having something or someone to blame, he has nowhere to direct his frustrations other than at the drink in front of him.

“Whoa the hurt's holding me

And I’m holding on

To a hundred-proof truth

And a hope that’s long gone

So I don’t have a problem

If I don’t see the bottom”

Amidst a sea of uncertainties and self-doubts that continue to swirl around the protagonist's head, his one source of stability and “hundred-proof truth” is his liquor of choice.

Despite earlier references to drinking whiskey, this lyric is a play on the fact that moonshine is infamously described as being ‘100 proof’ due to its high alcohol content.

Towards the end of ‘The Bottom’, Stapleton describes harbouring a “hope that's long gone”, implying that a part of him still fantasises about the two getting back together, despite simultaneously acknowledging the chances of this are slim.

What has Chris Stapleton said about ‘The Bottom’?

Chris Stapleton has so far remained relatively tight-lipped about the creative process behind ‘The Bottom’, but during a conversation with Kelleigh Bannen for Apple Music, the singer-songwriter shed some light on his general songwriting approach heading into the Higher sessions, “Who knows how many songs I lost under this philosophy, [but] I used to think if I couldn't remember [a song], it wasn't any good. So there would be things like ideas I wouldn't write down or melodies I wouldn't save. And then if I would wake up the next day and I wouldn't remember it, in my mind… it was not a thing. I don't subscribe to that anymore”.

Endearing, Stapleton credits his daughter and budding songwriter, Ada, for inspiring him to test out this new mentality, “My daughter is fooling around with writing songs and she said the exact same thing to me. [She] was like, "No, no, that's not true. If you have something that you think is cool in a moment, just put it down, and… put it in your phone, and it's okay to forget things and then come back to them and go, "Oh, that was cool," and work on them some more. It's okay”.

For the full lyrics to Chris Stapleton’s ‘The Bottom’ see below:

“Love is a mystery

It's a tricky thing

It's more than a word

It's more than a ring

When the right thing turns to wrong

Turns into a lonesome song

And everybody knows how it goes when it does

The bottle holds the whiskey

The whiskey holds the man

The man holds the bottle when it’s all that’s left

And the left hand lights what the right hand holds

The smoke can’t hide what the heart regrets

Cause the heart holds the memory

And the memory holds the past

And the past holds the woman

At the bottom of the glass

So I don’t have a problem

If I don’t see the bottom

I played it all over

And over in my mind

I’m looking for the reasons

I just can’t find

I wish I knew what I could blame

Without a moment I could name

I don’t have a thing that I recall

The bottle holds the whiskey

The whiskey holds the man

The man holds the bottle when it’s all that’s left

And the left hand lights what the right hand holds

The smoke can’t hide what the heart regrets

Cause the heart holds the memory

And the memory holds the past

And the past holds the woman

At the bottom of the glass

So I don’t have a problem

If I don’t see the bottom

Cause the heart holds the memory

And the memory holds the past

And the past holds the woman

At the bottom of the glass

So I don’t have a problem

If I don’t see the bottom

Whoa the hurt's holding me

And I’m holding on

To a hundred-proof truth

And a hope that’s long gone

So I don’t have a problem

If I don’t see the bottom”

For more on Chris Stapleton, see below:

Written by Maxim Mower
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