1. “Semi-Charmed Life” – Third Eye Blind
The upbeat nature of the song and the heavily edited radio cut has made many people miss out on the sneaky hidden message in the song – namely all the hidden drug references that hint towards crystal meth addiction.
“The sky was gold, it was rose
I was taking sips of it through my nose
And I wish I could get back there, someplace back there
Smiling in the pictures you would take
Doing crystal meth, will lift you up until you break.”
2. “Every Breath You Take” – The Police
Think this is a classic love song? Think again – essentially the song is about a possessive and controlling stalker. Even Sting himself has called the song “very sinister” and “ugly”.
“Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I’ll be watching you.”
3. “Slide” – Goo Goo Dolls
Once again, this sounds like a love song – but actually isn’t. According to frontman John Rzeznik “Slide” is about a teenage girl, raised in a Catholic environment, who has become pregnant. The girl and her boyfriend are debating about having an abortion or getting married.
“Don’t you love the life you killed?
The priest is on the phone
Your father hit the wall
Your ma disowned you.”
4. “Closing Time” – Semisonic
It’s blared out of many pubs and clubs to signify – you got it – that they’re closing, but the song is really about singer Dan Wilson’s impending fatherhood. Wilson disguised the real meaning as he knew his bandmates would get sick of playing a song about his children.
Time for you to go out to the places you will be from
This room won’t be open till your brothers or your sisters come.”
5. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” – Bonnie Tyler
At face value, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is a love song – but songwriter Jim Steinman has admitted it was a vampire love song, originally titled “Vampires in Love”. If only Twilight had been around then.
“Every now and then
I know there’s no one in the universe
As magical and wondrous as you.”
6. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” – Green Day
The video for this song made many people believe it had hidden connotations about the war. Actually, however, the song was written in memory of lead singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s father, who died when he was a child.
“Like my father’s come to pass
Twenty years has gone so fast
Wake me up when September ends.”
7. “Like a Virgin” – Madonna
Forget the song title – “Like a Virgin” is not about losing your virginity. In fact, the song, written by Billy Steinberg, was about how he was left “emotionally battered” after a failed relationship but then ended up in a new relationship that made him feel all shiny and new.
“Oh, your love thawed out
Yeah, your love thawed out
What was scared and cold.”
8. “Harder to Breathe” – Maroon 5
It sounds like another song about “Jane” (Adam Levine’s ex, who was the muse for Maroon 5’s first album), but “Harder to Breathe” was actually penned after the record label put pressure on the band to write more songs. The song is a frustrated retaliation – but hey, it all worked out for the best in the end.
“How dare you say that my behaviour is unacceptable
So condescending, unnecessarily critical.”
9. “Waterfalls” – TLC
The song is definitely not about chasing waterfalls, for anyone that thought it was. While the chorus is supremely catchy, the song’s lyrics (particularly the verses) tackle issues such as promiscuity, HIV/AIDS, and the illegal drug trade.
“One day he goes and takes 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.”
10. “I Don’t Like Mondays” – The Boomtown Rats
If you take the song based on the title most of us would agree – Mondays are the worst. However, the song is actually about a teenager named Brenda Ann Spencer, who went on a shooting spree at an elementary school in San Diego in 1979. Her unapologetic reasoning? “I don’t like Mondays. This livens up the day.”
“I don’t like Mondays.
I want to shoot
The whole day down.”
11. “Pumped Up Kicks” – Foster the People
The jaunty tune of “Pumped Up Kicks” can actually be quite misleading. However, if you do listen to the lyrics closely enough, you can tell it’s another song written about a school shooting. Lyricist Mark Foster explained that the song came about after he read some shocking statistics regarding the growing trend in teenage mental illness. In writing the song he wanted to get inside the head of a “isolated, psychotic kid” and raise awareness about the issue of gun violence amongst young people.
“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run, outrun my gun
All the other kids with the pumped up kicks you better run, better run faster than my bullet.”
12. “Poker Face” – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga’s songs aren’t exactly black and white at the best of times. After numerous different accounts of what the song really meant, Gaga herself has admitted that “Poker Face” was written about her personal experience with bisexuality – where she was with a man, but fantasising about being with a woman, hence the poker face.
“No he can’t read my poker face
(she’s got me like nobody).”
13. “Summer of ‘69” – Bryan Adams
Most people originally believed the song was reminiscent about the year 1969. However, Adams himself has admitted it’s really about sex. Not a huge plot twist if you take into account Adams would have only been 10 years old during the summer of ‘69, hence they were probably not the “best days of his life” just yet.
“Standin’ on your mama’s porch
You told me that you’d wait forever
Oh, and when you held my hand
I knew that it was now or never
Those were the best days of my life.”
14. “Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds” – The Beatles
Although this song is commonly referred to as being about LSD (or at least written while on LSD), John Lennon actually said the song was about a painting his son Julian made in art class, featuring his friend Lucy…in the sky with diamonds.
“Lucy in the sky with diamonds.”
(Pretty self-explanatory now you know the backstory.)
15. “Hotel Calfornia” – Eagles
The lyrics may spin a fictitious tale of tired travellers checking into a luxury hotel. However the song is really about self-destruction and greed in the music industry. Lead singer Don Henley described it as a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream.
“You can check out any time you like,
But you can never leave.”
16. “Turning Japanese” – The Vapors
There’s been rumours surrounding this song for years that it’s a reference to masturbation. However, songwriter David Fenton did say the song was about angst and “turning into something you didn’t expect”.
“You’ve got me turning up
And turning down
And turning in and turning ‘round.”