“Hey, Soul Sister” by Train

Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” is a love song. And apparently the title, though sounding like it was derived from 1970s-ish African-American lingo, has nothing to do with race. Rather, it reads as if “soul sister”, as used throughout, is more or less synonymous with ‘soulmate’. Or stated otherwise, the lyrics are dedicated to the singer detailing why he loves his sweetheart so much.

And as you have probably figured in light of the aforementioned analogy yes, the wording of this song is sort of cheesy. Or rather let’s say that the singer’s goal of effectively relaying his feelings takes precedence over doing so artistically. So for instance, we witness elementary forms of flattery, such as the vocalist putting forth that he ‘smells’ his sweetheart ‘in every single dream he dreams’. 

He also resorts to other apparent unorthodox instances of utilizing Black colloquialisms throughout the song. For example, he refers to himself as being “so gangster” and “so thug”. And those statements are somehow related to the less-than-elaborate metaphor of dude “watching” his boo being “the only drug (he) needs”. 

And we can go on with more instances of such wording, but hopefully the reader has gotten the point. But that being said, “Hey, Soul Sister” still proved to be a greater success for Train than most other musical acts have ever experienced.

Lyrics of "Hey, Soul Sister"

Soul Sister loves to Dance

Meanwhile going back to the titular allegory, it is possible that what the singer means by “soul”, once again kinda related to African-American slang, is his lover’s ability to dance. In fact if there’s one thing he enjoys watching her do, it is apparently “cut(ting) a rug”, i.e. dancing.  And considering the sound of the track and all, it isn’t a stretch to believe that Train intended “Hey, Soul Sister” to be sort of a dance song.

Soul Sister has a Special Bedroom Skill?

And before closing there’s a couple of other things we wanted to point out. First is that according to an article published by The Village Voice, there may be at least one genuinely-clever metaphor at the beginning of the first verse which may allude to how much the singer enjoys the addressee performing oral-themed sensual simulation on him. 

Or rather, the reason he finds her unforgettable is as a result of such skills. 

A Shoutout to Madonna and Mr. Mister

Additionally, there are notable shoutouts given to Madonna and a 1980s’ rock band, Mr. Mister in the lyrics. And concerning the latter, it is reportedly because “sister”, i.e. the title of the song, rhymes with “mister”.

Lyrics of Train's "Hey, Soul Sister"

In Conclusion

So conclusively, this is a celebration of the love the singer has for the addressee. He may like the way she dances and what have you. But more importantly, he obviously considers her to be akin to his “soul” mate.

Music Video

The music video to this tune was filmed in a part of Los Angeles known as Echo Park. It features actress Kiana Bessa, who also appeared on Train’s “When I Look to the Sky” (2003) video. And it also features an actor by the name of Andrew Feld (aka Andrew Craghan).

Release Date of “Hey, Soul Sister”

Being released on 11 August 2009 as the lead single from “Save Me, San Francisco”, this was the first song Train head dropped after coming off of a two-year hiatus (and a three-year pause overall). This was following the commercial failure of their 2006 album, “For Me, It’s You”. However, Pat Monahan did come out with his own debut album during that time, which is called “Last of Seven” (2007).

Who wrote “Hey, Soul Sister”

Pat Monahan, the lead singer of Train, is also recognized as the primary writer of “Hey, Soul Sister”. He wrote this and the second single from “Save Me, San Francisco” – “If It’s Love” – in a single day. And he reportedly did so after depriving himself of sleep in the name of heightened creativity.

The other co-writers are Espen Lind and Amund Bjørklund, a Norwegian duo who collectively are known as Espionage.

Espionage, as a unit, also produced “Hey, Soul Sister” with Gregg Wattenberg and Martin Terefe. And it was Espen Lind who, according to Pat Monahan, introduced the prominent presence of a ukulele into this song. It is worth mentioning that ukulele on the track contributed massively to its success. Interestingly, Espen didn’t expect that the track would be a hit. 

And the primary intent of the creation of this song, at least as far as Monahan was concerned, was to create a sound similar to that of Australian rock band INXS.

Pat Monahan had also collaborated with the Espionage boys in writing “Brick by Brick”, another song from “Save Me, San Francisco”.

Such a Successful Track

Train is a rock crew from San Francisco that has been dropping albums since 1998.  In between 1998 and 2017, they released 10 altogether. And within that timeframe “Hey, Soul Sister”, which is from the aforementioned album, has been their most-successful single and will likely remain so throughout the band’s existence.

For instance, as far as the universally-popular iTunes Store is concerned, this was the best-selling song of 2010. It also placed second on the list of best-selling tracks in America during that same year. In fact this tune is RIAA-certified sextuple-platinum, a feat it also accomplished in Australia, in addition to going multi-platinum in the UK and Canada.

Accordingly “Hey, Soul Sister” topped a couple of Billboard charts (Adult Contemporary and Adult Top 40). As if that wasn’t sufficient, it achieved number 1 status in a handful of other nations and overall charted in approximately 25 countries.

“Hey, Soul Sister” achieved a peak position of number 3 on the Billboard Hot 100. And according to The Village Voice, it “was the only rock song to land in the top 10” of the Hot 100 during 2010.

Grammy Glory

Moreover, a version of the song that Train recorded for a live album entitled iTunes Session (2010) won a 2011 Grammy Award. It won in the category of Best Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. And this marked “the first-ever Grammy for… content” created originally by iTunes. And just to note, at the time it marked the band’s third Grammy win overall.

Even More Accomplishments

This song has also earned Train an ASCAP Pop Music Award (Song of the Year, 2011) and a Billboard Music Award (Top Rock Song, 2011).

There was also a moment in time where “Hey, Soul Sister” had recorded more downloads than any other song ever released by Columbia Records, with the other label behind the track being Sony.

Train has also had the privilege of performing it on some of the most-popular talk shows in the United States, such as the following:

  • The Ellen DeGeneres Show
  • The Tonight Show with Jay Leno 
  • The Howard Stern Show

Additionally it made appearances on TV series like CSI: New YorkGlee and the Hawaii Five-0 reboot, as well as a plethora of reality-talent shows.

This song also contributed to “Save Me, San Francisco” re-charting on the Billboard 200 after it had promptly fell off the list.

Additionally Train put out a brand of wine called Soul Sister Pinot Noir under their Save Me, San Francisco Wine Company.

But that is not to say things have been all love for this tune. For instance, the aforementioned Village Voice gave it the distinction of being ‘The Worst Song of 2010’.

Also according to Entertainment Weekly, the presence of Hey, Soul Sister in advertising became so ubiquitous that hearing the song became annoying. So in all, this track was basically loved and derided at the same time.

At the time of the release of this track, Train consisted of vocalist Pat Monahan, guitarist Jimmy Stafford and drummer Scott Underwood. And just to note, it is Espen Lind who plays ukulele on the track (though it is Jimmy Stafford playing on the video).

3 Responses

  1. arrisa the jacket says:

    What a great comprehensive article! Its great for me to learn. I love soul sister!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Nah – The term “soul sister” means a female African-American, not a “soul mate.” That racial aspect of the song is re-enforced with other race-oriented lyrics including the “gangsta” reference and the milque-toast-white band Mr. Mister reference.

  3. JustMe says:

    It was definitely about an African American woman

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