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19 Songs That Mean Something Totally Different If You Really Look At The Lyrics

Are you really listening to those lyrics?

Warning: Some of these songs speak of addiction, abuse, rape, death, and suicide.

1. Outkast, "Hey Ya"

LaFace Records

What it sounds like: It's the ultimate dance track, so you don't even think about the lyrics.

What it's actually about: The real story is hidden behind the catchy beat. The entire song is actually about a complicated relationship where the two are trying to figure out whether they're together out of love or comfortability.

Most questionable lyric: "So why oh why why oh why are we so in denial, when we know we're not happy here? Y'all don't want to hear me, you just want to dance."

2. TLC, "Waterfalls"

LaFace Records

What it sounds like: A soulful tune about the dangerous appeal of cascading streams of water.

What it's actually about: The song speaks of the deathly consequences of illegal drug dealing and contracting AIDS from unprotected sex.

Most questionable lyric: "One day he goes and take a glimpse in the mirror, but he doesn't recognise his own face. His health is fading and he doesn't know why, three letters took him to his final resting place."

3. Passion Pit, "Take a Walk"

Columbia Records

What it sounds like: A cheerful song that one would assume is about a man who loves to walk. A lot.

What it's actually about: A man drowning in debt, struggling to create and keep up the "perfect life" for his family.

Most questionable lyric: "I watch my little children playing board games in the kitchen, and I sit and pray they never feel my strife."

4. Rihanna, "Love on the Brain"


What it sounds like: A love song where the woman just wants her man to never stop loving her.

What it's actually about: A twisted love story about a woman who can't resist the pain of the man who hurts her, emotionally and physically.

Most questionable lyric: "It beats me black and blue but it fucks me so good. And I can't get enough."

5. Ben Folds Five, "Brick"

Sony Records

What it sounds like: A sad love song about a breakup between young lovers.

What it's actually about: The song tells the story about a young man and his girlfriend getting an abortion in secret and their subsequent feelings of guilt and pressure.

Most questionable lyric: "They call her name at 7:30, I pace around the parking lot. Then I walk down to buy her flowers, and sell some gifts that I got."

6. The Lumineers, "Ho Hey"

Dualtone Records

What it sounds like: A wedding-perfect, folky love song about two people being perfect for each other.

What it's actually about: Aaaaactually, the entire song is about a man being in love with his ex and her being with someone new.

Most questionable lyric: "I belong with you, you belong with me, you're my sweetheart. I don't think you're right for him. Look at what it might have been."

7. The Rolling Stones, "Brown Sugar"


What it sounds like: Pretty much just a story about a white guy enjoying sex with a black woman.

What it's actually about: It's about young, female African slaves being raped by their white owners down in New Orleans.

Most questionable lyric: "Hear him whip the women just around midnight, Brown Sugar, how come you taste so good? Brown Sugar, just like a young girl should."

8. Lil Uzi Vert, "XO TOUR Llif3"


What it sounds like: An upbeat song with a story of a messy breakup between lovers.

What it's actually about: It's a story about a breakup, but it's messier than most. It's about a man who's being manipulated to not leave the relationship because his girlfriend keeps threatening suicide. So he turns to Xanax to try to deal with the pain of it all.

Most questionable lyric: "She say I'm insane, yeah, I might blow my brain out. Xanny, help the pain, yeah. Please, Xanny, make it go away."

9. Smashing Pumpkins, "Today"

Virgin Records

What it sounds like: A man singing about how much he loves the day at hand.

What it's actually about: It's a radio-friendly tune about loving today because your life can't get any worse. It's a song riddled with talk of suicide and self-harm.

Most questionable lyric: "I wanted more, than life could ever grant me. Bored by the chore, of saving face."

10. Hailee Steinfeld, "Love Myself"

Republic Records

What it sounds like: A feel-good song about loving yourself for who you are.

What it's actually about: It's literally a whole song about a girl masturbating.

Most questionable lyric: "I'm gonna touch the pain away, I know how to scream my own name."

11. Hozier, "Cherry Wine"

Columbia Records

What it sounds like: A sweet, sweet love song about a man being infatuated with his lover.

What it's actually about: In actuality, it's the story of someone in a relationship suffering through physical abuse in the name of love.

Most questionable lyric: "The way she tells me I'm hers and she's mine, open hand or closed fist would be fine. The blood is red and sweet as cherry wine."

12. Aqua, "Barbie Girl"

Universal Music

What it sounds like: Literally just an innocent song about Barbie dolls.

What it's actually about: The song is all about women being used as sex objects, however men please.

Most questionable lyric: "Make me walk, make me talk, do whatever you please. I can act like a star, I can beg on my knees."

13. Of Monsters and Men, "Little Talks"

Republic Records

What it sounds like: One of those happy, catchy songs with lyrics that seem like they were just thrown together with no sense.

What it's actually about: A woman slowly losing herself to mental illness and grief following the death of her partner.

Most questionable lyric: "You're gone, gone, gone away, I watched you disappear. All that's left is a ghost of you. Now we're torn, torn, torn apart, there's nothing we can do. Just let me go, we'll meet again soon."

14. Billie Holiday, "Strange Fruit"


What it sounds like: A haunting tune about the anatomy and activity of trees. Also the main part of Kanye West's "Blood on the Leaves".

What it's actually about: The issue of racism and the high rates of lynching of black people, particularly in the South.

Most questionable lyric: "Black bodies swinging in the Southern breeze, strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees."

15. Foster the People, "Pumped Up Kicks"

Columbia Records

What it sounds like: A boppy tune where the beat's so good you kinda end up just mentally blocking out the lyrics.

What it's actually about: It's the internal monologue of a troubled kid planning bloody and violent revenge on his peers.

Most questionable lyric: "Yeah found a six-shooter gun, in his dad's closet hidden in a box of fun things. I don't even know what, but he's coming for you, yeah he's coming for you."

16. Ed Sheeran, "The A Team"


What it sounds like: A man singing about all the things he loves about his girl.

What it's actually about: The song actually details the life of a crack-addicted prostitute.

Most questionable lyric: "And go mad for a couple grams, and she don't want to go outside tonight. And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland, or sells love to another man."

17. Nirvana, "Polly"


What it sounds like: It literally sounds like it's just a song about a parrot.

What it's actually about: The relationship between a rapist and the girl who he's holding captive, abusing, and raping. And it was actually based on a real event.

Most questionable lyric: "Polly wants a cracker, maybe she would like more food. She asked me to untie her, a chase would be nice for a few."

18. Sia, "Chandelier"

RCA Records

What it sounds like: The beat of the song, the music video, and the switching singing styles really do distract you from the actual lyrics.

What it's actually about: The song details how a seemingly happy girl uses alcohol and drugs to deal with her depression and suppress her fears.

Most questionable lyric: "Help me, I'm holding on for dear life. Won't look down, won't open my eyes. Keep my glass full until morning light, cause I'm just holding on for tonight."

19. Los del Rio, "Macarena"

RCA Records

What it sounds like: It was the biggest dance hit at all your primary school discos where everyone just mumbled along to the chorus.

What it's actually about: A girl named Macarena's boyfriend going out of town and her cheating on him with his two cute friends.

Most questionable lyric: "Now come on, what was I supposed to do? He was out of town and his two friends were so fine. Dale a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena, que tu cuerpo es pa' darle alegria cosa buena*."

*Give your body happiness, Macarena, because your body is for receiving happiness and good stuff.

This post was inspired by this Reddit thread.