You may not know as much about some of the popular songs out there. For example, you think a singer is telling a beautiful love story, but in reality it’s about being a creepy stalker. Or what you thought was an innocent song about being a happy teenager is actually about being addicted to drugs. On the surface of every song there are obvious meanings, but once you discover what the true meanings really are, you’ll never be able to listen to them the same way again.
Below are 10 songs that mean something totally different than what you thought.
10 10- “Semi-Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind
Third Eye Blind delivered a major hit in the 90’s (reaching number 4), called “Semi-Charmed Life,” but the perspective may not be what you think. Many take this song as a cheery anthem for consumerism, and its sunshiney melody made it an instant hit. However, underneath the mile-a-minute lyrics are gloomy hopeless lyrics about a drug user’s downward descent into the drug world.
This single was actually written from the dreary viewpoint of a couple on a crystal meth binge. A desolate picture is presented of a man and woman spiraling out of control, and the sexual acts they encounter. Lyrics like “I was taking sips of it through my nose,” and “those little red panties they pass the test…” are little hints of the couple’s drug and sex filled encounters. The song was edited greatly so it could be appropriate for the radio and TV. Almost an entire minute is removed in the edited version, and the words “crystal meth” are masked to make the song more appropriate.
9 9- “Papa Don’t Preach” Madonna
“Papa Don’t Preach” by Madonna became an instant pop culture phenomena, reaching number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100. While some think the song is a love story, it’s actually discussing teenage pregnancy and abortion. In the video, Madonna is trying to tell her father about the pregnancy, but it’s dominated by images of Madonna singing, dancing, and spending a romantic night with her boyfriend, hence putting the pregnancy and abortion story to the side.
The beat of the song became loved by many, but it was quickly judged and criticized. Many take the song as pro-life, while others think the song is telling youth that it’s cool to get pregnant. Madonna will not comment on the anti-abortion stance, but has said that “Papa Don’t Preach” is a song that everyone is going to take the wrong way.
8 8- “My Sharona” by The Knack
It’s evident to almost everyone that the rock anthem “My Sharona” by The Knack is about sex, but did you know it was about having sex with an under-aged girl? Initially the song comes across as a guy professing his love in a sweet way for a girl named Sharona. In reality, the song is actually about The Knack’s drummer, 25 year old Doug Fieger, and his lust for Sharona Alperin, who was just 16 years old. The catchy lyrics and intense musical choruses helped the song reach number one on the Billboard Hot 100 singles, where it stayed in the lead for 6 weeks.
The two actually dated for 4 years, and she even appears on their cover. Things didn’t last for the couple, as the passion sizzled out. Sharona herself stated in an interview that “he was madly in love with me but it was obsessive.” If you listen closely the lyrics are quite lewd and racy.
7 7- “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
Nirvana's ultimate pop song “Smells Like Teen Spirit” is widely interpreted to be a youth anthem, as it has a “teen revolutionary theme.” The rotating loud and quiet energy throughout the song is addicting and helped the song reach huge success. In fact it reached number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 and has been celebrated as one of the greatest rock songs of all time.
The lyrics are hard to decipher due to the irrationality and because of Cobain’s slurred singing voice. Some argue that the song is about Cobain’s relationship with his ex-girlfriend especially when you take into account these lyrics- “she’s over-bored and self-assured.” Cobain himself said this song is “made up of contradictory ideas. It’s just making fun of the thought of having a revolution.” A little clarity came about when the video was released, confirming the anthem and teenage revolution theme. However, many will admit that they love the song, but couldn’t begin to tell you what it was about.
6 6- “One” by U2
“One” by U2 has made a lasting impression on the music industry, and has even been featured as one of the greatest songs of all time. Despite its popularity, there is confusion in the meaning behind the song. Think again before you have this on your IPod under “love songs.” The lyrics were inspired by the band members’ broken relationships, leading it to actually be about breaking up. Many fans have only focused on the lyrics “one love, one heart,” even having chosen to play the song at their weddings. This made Bono himself laugh as he stated “Are you mad? It’s about splitting up!”
5 5- “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga is no stranger to controversy, as she speaks her mind and explores her feelings in the lyrics of her songs. One of her hit singles “Poker Face,” which became an international hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 at number 1, comes across to many as being about sex and gambling. But if you look into it even deeper, you will realize it describes a world of bisexuality. Initially it seems the song is about a girl who dates a guy whose into sex, gambling, and alcohol. However, according to Lady Gaga, the idea behind the song was a girl being with a man, all the while fantasizing about a girl.
4 4- “Slide” by Goo Goo Dolls
“Slide” by the Goo Goo Dolls reached number 1 on the Billboard Adult Top 40 in the late 90’s, but many do not know the real meaning behind the song. While it comes across as a love story, it actually has another hidden story that deals with pregnancy and abortion. The hints regarding abortion can be easily missed as the context takes many angles.
“Slide” tells a story of a teenage girl who has become pregnant. She and her boyfriend are debating the possibility of abortion or marriage. It’s been argued that the end verse suggests the couple opts for an abortion, and her boyfriend is being very supportive asking her to just “let it slide” as they move on with their lives.
3 3- “Like A Virgin” by Madonna
Madonna’s “Like A Virgin” was her first number 1 single on the Billboard Hot 100, and escalated to a huge level of success, making her a pop culture sex-queen icon. What comes across as a girl describing her feelings, is actually about a guy. Yes, the writer wrote this song about his personal relationships. Writer Billy Steinburg said that the song is about starting over, specifically how he was “starting a new relationship and it just feels so good.” So as you are singing this 80’s hit and picturing Madonna walking through the streets of Venice, remember, it’s actually about a guy getting over a breakup.
2 2- “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams
The song “Summer of ‘69” by Bryan Adams is a classic rock hit that has made its way onto numerous music charts and loved by many. First impressions of the song is that it is about the year 1969. But in all actuality the title comes from the idea of 69 as a metaphor for sex.
The “Summer of ‘69” is a simple song that can be misconstrued as someone looking back on the summertime of a particular year… 1969. However, dig deeper into the story and you will find it’s got a naughtier side. Yes, it’s about a boy looking back on the summertime, but it’s also about having sex, and ’69 was a metaphor for sex, not referring to the year.
1 1- “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police is not that joyous love song you thought it was, it’s actually the opposite. The sweet melody of the song makes you think it’s a ballad perfect for describing love. However, the lyrics are far more sinister and paint the picture of a controlling man who is watching “every breath you take; every move you make.”
The song was one of the biggest hits of 1983 and Sting himself said he was “disconcerted by how many people think the song is more positive that it is.” Many find the song uplifting and play it at their weddings thinking the lyrics portray a lover’s vow, but little do they know, it’s actually about a man with an obsession with a lost lover and the jealousy that results. So before you go and play this song thinking it’s a gentle love ballad, listen closely to the ugly, destructive, and disturbing lyrics.
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