“If You Could Only See” by Tonic

Tonic’s “If You Could Only See” can be interpreted differently than actually intended, if a listener doesn’t know the background story upon which it is based. That is to say that the “she” being referred to, as in the vocalist’s romantic interest, is not the same as the addressee. Nor is the titular “you” a reference to you, the listener, per se. Rather the addressee throughout the most-revealing parts of this song, i.e. the person who is noted as being untruthful, manipulative and emotionally abusive in the third verse, is actually another party, not for instance the singer’s selfsame lover, as can easily be presumed.

In reality, the intended addressee is supposed to be the vocalist’s, Emerson Hart’s, mother. And what happened is that he was dating a woman, one whom mom duke very-strongly disapproved of, reportedly due to the fact that said lady was significantly older than Emerson.

The Addressees of the Song

More actually explained, there are two addressees of this piece. For the most part, even though the lyrics do have sort of general feel to them, that would be Emerson’s mom. She is the person who does not approve of the relationship he has with the woman he loves. 

And you know how sometimes when you tell a loved one that they shouldn’t be dating a person they’re already smitten by, how said loved one may instead turn on you? All things considered, that’s sorta how the first verse reads, as if at the time Emerson was so angry with his mom’s disapproval that he perceived her as the enemy, someone who’s like intentionally trying to mess up this good thing he has going. 

And that would also explain the somewhat-confusing nature of the pre-chorus also. In other words, with that understanding in tow, it becomes more obvious, at least theoretically, that the singer is accusing this person of not supporting his relationship because they themselves don’t understand true love.

You, the Listener

The second verse meanwhile takes us in a slightly different direction. In it, the addressee can be taken as the listening audience at large. And what the vocalist is saying, most simply explained, is that sometimes risks must be taken in life in the name of achieving a higher sense of edification. Or put differently in context, it can be said that he understands, on a fundamental level, the gripe someone like his mom would have with the woman he loves. 

He is also able to perceive that yes, there is a risk factor involved in falling in love with her. But at the same time, following this unconventional romantic path has indeed brought the singer genuine happiness. So it’s like in his mind, you can’t win the prize if you’re afraid to run the race.

Thesis Sentiment of “If You Could Only See”

But ultimately, the thesis sentiment being put forth is neither advisory or confrontational. Rather what Emerson is relaying to naysayers is that the reason they disapprove of the romance he’s in is because they simply do not know just how much his partner loves him. 

So it’s like from their perspective, they probably perceive her as someone who is using him. But the singer is assuring such individuals that such is not the case as. And whether these individuals approve of his relationship or not, this is in fact true love.

Tonic, "If You Could Only See" Lyrics

Interesting to Note:

The relationship which inspired this song began when Emerson was in his early 20s. At the end of the day, the relationship didn’t work out. Several years later, Emerson ate humble pie and accepted that his mother was right about the relationship.

Emerson Hart explains inspiration behind "If You Could Only See"


Tonic is a crew of rockers from the prominent music city of Los Angeles, California who have been active since the early 1990s. The crew, which since day one has been fronted by singer Emerson Hart and guitarist Jeff Russo, never achieved A list status. However, during their early goings, they did score a couple of notable hits. 

“If You Could Only See”

“If You Could Only See” came out on 30 April 1997.

It topped Billboard’s Mainstream Rock chart in addition to the Canada Rock/Alternative listing. This track was eventually certified gold in Australia, where it proved to be enduringly popular. Other regions where this song also proved popular include:

  • United States
  • Netherlands
  • Canada

Owing to the above success, “If You Could Only See” can be considered the signature piece in the band’s catalog.

This song was originally featured on “Lemonade Parade”, Tonic’s debut album, which is a product of A&M Records. At the time, besides for Hart and Russo, Tonic also consisted of the following:

  • bassist Dan Rothchild
  • drummer Kevin Shepard

This track was written by Emerson Hart.  As the story goes, he was reluctant to record it due to the vulnerable nature of the lyrics. 

“If You Could Only See” was produced by prolific behind-the-scenes’ man Jack Joseph Puig.

The music video to this track was managed by director Ramaa Mosely.

If You Could Only See

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