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Misinterpreted Song Meanings


catlover79
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(edited)

When I was a kid...

I thought that Hall & Oates' "Maneater" had to do with cannibalism. I couldn't understand why everyone seemed to love that song. It was funny getting to see them perform it live 20-odd years later for that very reason. 😂

I thought that when The Jeffersons theme mentioned "we finally got a piece of the pie", they meant real pie!! 😂

Finally, when I first heard "Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves", I thought Cher really had been born in the wagon of a traveling show. HA!! 😂

Edited by catlover79
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Also in “Gypsies, Tramps and Thieves,” the line “Three months later I’m a gal in trouble/And I haven’t seen him for awhile” flew over my head for years until the lightbulb went off:  “DUH!  She’s pregnant!”

In Jim Croce’s “Bad, Bad Leroy Brown,” “He got a razor in his shoe,” I was thinking along the lines of a Gillette Trac II(I had never seen a straight razor).  One, why would you do that, and two, wouldn’t it hurt? 🤣

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It is embarrassing to think of all the times I played "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper on cassette when I was about 8 years old.  I don't know what I thought the song was about...maybe dancing?  I even played the Cyndi Lauper tape in my grandparents' car when we travelled out of town to watch my sister in a track meet, but fortunately, they didn't seem to know what it meant either.

When I was around the same age, there was a part in "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" where George Michael suddenly decides not to go out dancing after all, and that they could just stay home in bed.  I remember thinking, "Well, that sounds really boring!"

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6 hours ago, KWalkerInc said:

It is embarrassing to think of all the times I played "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper on cassette when I was about 8 years old.  I don't know what I thought the song was about...maybe dancing?  I even played the Cyndi Lauper tape in my grandparents' car when we travelled out of town to watch my sister in a track meet, but fortunately, they didn't seem to know what it meant either.

When I was around the same age, there was a part in "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" where George Michael suddenly decides not to go out dancing after all, and that they could just stay home in bed.  I remember thinking, "Well, that sounds really boring!"

You know, until Tipper Gore singled out the phrase 'can't stop messing with the danger zone' I had had no idea that Miss Lauper's song could have possibly had anything to do with self-pleasuring.  Truly, I must have heard that song hundreds of times and it had never crossed my mind. Was I that naive or could Mrs. Gore have been too suspicious?

For all we know, it may have been boring  for whoever spent the night in bed with Mr. Michael instead of dancing as per that song. 

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On 7/25/2019 at 5:39 AM, KWalkerInc said:

When I was around the same age, there was a part in "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go" where George Michael suddenly decides not to go out dancing after all, and that they could just stay home in bed.  I remember thinking, "Well, that sounds really boring!"

I guess it would be boring if you were a woman!! (Sorry, I couldn't help it!!)

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(edited)
On 7/25/2019 at 8:56 AM, Blergh said:

You know, until Tipper Gore singled out the phrase 'can't stop messing with the danger zone' I had had no idea that Miss Lauper's song could have possibly had anything to do with self-pleasuring.  Truly, I must have heard that song hundreds of times and it had never crossed my mind. Was I that naive or could Mrs. Gore have been too suspicious?

The "danger zone" line in "She Bop" is probably the most graphic, but I think the line about going blind if she can't stop kind of clarifies what the song is about.  And I thought Cyndi Lauper says that's what it's about?

I wonder what Tipper Gore did the first time she heard "I Touch Myself" on the radio.

Edited by janie jones
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On 7/29/2019 at 3:53 PM, janie jones said:

The "danger zone" line in "She Bop" is probably the most graphic, but I think the line about going blind if she can't stop kind of clarifies what the song is about.  And I thought Cyndi Lauper says that's what it's about?

I wonder what Tipper Gore did the first time she heard "I Touch Myself" on the radio.

Oh, yeah, there's no misinterpreting 'I Touch Myself' -- though Cyndi wasn't exactly being shy about it, either. Hello, Blueboy Magazine!

The one that really shocked me because I found out about it when I was in my 30s was 'Little Red Corvette' -- that's a euphemism for vagina? Really? I thought it was about an ACTUAL car that the woman was driving. I mean, yes, 'Baby you're much too fast' clearly she was a sexually active woman... I just thought she had a cool car, too.

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This one is really stupid, but when I was in middle school (7th grade going into 8th), I had no clue that "Monkey" by George Michael (again) was not about an actual monkey!  My friends and I would see the video on MTV with George dancing around while wearing a big hat and running back and forth across the stage and talk all about it.  Apparently we were so distracted by him we didn't even care what the song was about!  The first time I got even a hint that there might be more to it was when a friend who was in high school said she thought it was about drug abuse, but she said it really sheepishly, as if SHE was the clueless one who needed to be embarrassed.  My sister was in college at the time, and I don't think she gave the meaning of the song any thought either, or else she wouldn't have hesitated to correct me.

This isn't really about misinterpreting a song, but rather an artist's name.  When the rapper Father MC started getting airplay, I thought he was a minister.  Given some of the lyrics in his hit "I'll Do 4 You," it would have had to be one really liberated and understanding congregation!

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On 10/8/2019 at 5:53 AM, KWalkerInc said:

This isn't really about misinterpreting a song, but rather an artist's name.  When the rapper Father MC started getting airplay, I thought he was a minister.  Given some of the lyrics in his hit "I'll Do 4 You," it would have had to be one really liberated and understanding congregation!

😂😂😂😂😂

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Thought of another one: in Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” the lines “I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold/And I’m gettin’ old” made me picture a man with a long white beard, wearing one of those helmets with a light on them, crouched in a mine holding an actual golden heart(the Valentines Day kind).

In my defense, I was six.

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2 hours ago, smittykins said:

Thought of another one: in Neil Young’s “Heart of Gold,” the lines “I’ve been a miner for a heart of gold/And I’m gettin’ old” made me picture a man with a long white beard, wearing one of those helmets with a light on them, crouched in a mine holding an actual golden heart(the Valentines Day kind).

In my defense, I was six.

You mean like the Miner Forty-Niner from Scooby-Doo? That guy?

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Yeah, I never really paid much attention to the lyrics of that song, either, when I was a kid. It wasn't until I was a teenager and properly listening to the song one night that I suddenly went, "...oh. Oh...".

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On 1/4/2020 at 6:41 PM, Kjharrison said:

I thought “Physical” by Olivia Newton John was about exercising when I was little. Face palm! My adult self is embarrassed. 

 

On 1/5/2020 at 4:39 AM, smittykins said:

Well, the video didn’t help!

To this day, my youngest sister brings up the ginger body builder from the video any time this song comes on.

And, I have to admit he always pops into my head when I hear the song, too... I mean, he stands out. But even more, I think of the gigantic headband craze that this song helped catapult into the stratosphere. Everybody had at least one of those things. Worn across the forehead like it was meant to be a sweatband but... no, it wasn't. Mine was blue and white and had silver sparkly twine braided into it.

The 80s were ridiculous.

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Adolescent me totally misinterpreted a chunk of "Alive" by Pearl Jam. After the chorus, when he jumped ahead in his narrative to this bit: 

While she walks slowly across a young man's room
She said, "I'm ready for you"

I was still hung up on the earlier part about his mom telling him his dad wasn't his bio dad and thought these lines were still somehow about his mother. I remember thinking, "Jesus, this is taking a strange turn..."

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When I heard "Summer of '69" by Bryan Adams tonight, it reminded me that when the song came out when I was a kid, I thought he was singing about his own life and experiences and was like, "Wow, I guess he's older than I thought he was!"  (He would have only been 9 in that summer, but I had no way to know his age unless I had looked in the World Almanac or something.)

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In a case of me clearly not paying attention to any of the lyrics of a song except maybe the chorus, I used to think "Encore" by Cheryl Lynn was just about giving an encore at a concert.

When "Thanks for My Child" by Cheryl "Pepsii" Riley was out in the late '80s, I assumed it was autobiographical and that she was a single mom.  It was only when she appeared on Unsung that I learned that she didn't have any children at the time of the song.  (She later helped raise her second husband's son.)

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This one is embarrassing, but when I recently heard "Nightshift" by the Commodores, I remembered that as a kid, I thought it was somehow connected to the movie "Night Shift," directed by Ron Howard and featuring the misadventures of overnight staff at a morgue!  (After reading a description of the movie, I hope I wasn't allowed to watch it as a kid.  I probably didn't, as otherwise I wouldn't have thought a movie described as a "sex comedy" had anything to do with a sad song like "Nightshift.")  Sadly, I didn't know at the time who Marvin and Jackie were that were mentioned in the song.  I think the movie had come out several years earlier, so I wondered why it took so long for the song to come out.  I was basically clueless on all fronts.

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My comment is about nonsensical song lyrics, and since there isn't really a topic for those, I thought this topic was the best suited place for it.

Most everyone agrees that the Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" is complete nonsense... after 20 years, I don't think anybody, not even the Backstreet Boys themselves, knows what "that way" is.  It has been reported many times that the issue is that Max Martin, the Swedish songwriter, didn't really speak English well, so that's why the words are the way they are.

He seems responsible for many of the nonsense lyrics in many popular songs even in recent years.  Ellie Goulding's "Love Me Like You Do" was written by him.  It was used on the "Fifty Shades of Grey" soundtrack because the general theme is about a woman telling her man to love her in his own way.  But some of the actual lyrics themselves, apart from the chorus, don't make a whole lot of sense to me.  It's like he speaks English enough to write down phrases, but the phrases themselves don't really go together.  "You're the fear / I don't care / Cause I've never been so high / Follow me, through the dark / Let me take you past our satellites / You can see the world you brought to life"

The theme of this movie (at least in the first one) and this song is that the man is in control and the woman is letting him be in control.  If she is afraid of the unknown, why then is she the one leading him into the darkness?  And now she's taking him into outer space?  So strange.  I get that it's all metaphors but sometimes the metaphors don't go well together.

My question is, if the Backstreet Boys and other singers and their producers, who are all native English speakers, realise that Max Martin's lyrics often don't make sense, don't they have some degree of creative control that they could make changes or suggestions?  Or do they simply not care, and just accept that part of the appeal of a song by Max Martin is that it might not make sense?

 

 

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I've seen BSB asked about what the heck IWITW means, and they say it doesn't make sense. My guess is they figure Max Martin is a hit maker and to just go with it. 

When I got the first Spice Girls CD, I knew not to play Naked because it was inappropriate and I figured my parents wouldn't approve. I blasted all the others all the time though, including 2 Become 1 . . .

I had no clue what Ginuwine was referring to when he was singing about riding his pony either . . .

 

 

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When Shalamar came on R&B Classics today, it reminded me of how I would constantly listen to the Footloose soundtrack as a kid.  I really liked their song "Dancing in the Sheets," and I would dance around and probably sing along, but I had no clue what the song was actually about.  I wouldn't have had to worry about my mom hearing if I had understood, because I only listened on my Walkman and didn't have any other tape player.

When I was in 3rd grade or so, I would play with the kids next door and we would listen to the radio.  The girl (who was a couple years younger) and I would make written lists of songs we liked, but her mom objected to her including "Infatuation" by Rod Stewart.  Neither of us had any idea or cared what the word meant, so her mom is probably lucky that her protests didn't make my neighbor get curious and look it up!

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In Tom Jones’s “Green, Green Grass of Home,” I did realize until fairly recently that when he wakes up from his dream, it’s the morning of his execution(I could never decipher the line “There’s a guard and there’s a sad old padre”).  I knew he was in prison, but I assumed he was serving a life sentence.

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Alanis Morissette You Oughta Know

I was in middle school when it came out.  I could tell she sounded angry but never really understood it until I was older.

LL cool J Doin It.  Again as a middle school this was all just grown up stuff to me he was rapping about 

Candy by Cameo.  Supposedly the songs about cocaine not a woman.  Ditto Rick James Mary Jane 

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Lady Gaga's Love Game.  I'm sure a lot of girls didn't know what taking a ride on a Disco Stick meant.

Her Poker face song as well.  I've read it's really about thinking of someone else well when your having a Disco Stick moment.  

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This is not major, but, the song Bust a Move goes:

Your best friend Harry has a brother Larry
In five days from now he's gonna marry
He's hopin' you can make it there if you can
'Cause in the ceremony you'll be the best man

For decades I wondered why the guy would be his friend's brother's best man. Is Larry not also his friend? Why did Larry choose his brother's friend to be his best man over the brother? I always thought the whole thing was nonsensical. Then sometime within the past couple years I realized that he's going to be Harry's best man, and Larry was just mentioned for the rhymes and the additional syllables. But I still think it's dumb because it's confusing.

(Sidenote: I also hate the way he pronounces "materialistic" in that song.)

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I also wondered why he was going to be his friend's brother's best man, but never actually figured out what they were really going for.  I would hear the song and think that maybe Harry was out of town and couldn't make the wedding.  What was also annoying was in the music video, during the part of the song about flirting with the bridesmaid, Young MC actually runs off with the BRIDE.  I thought that was stupid and it bugged me.

A few weeks ago when I was listening to Melanie C's version of "I Know Him So Well" with Emma Bunton (from an album she did of songs from musicals), it reminded me of hearing Whitney and Cissy Houston's version on Whitney's second album when I was in 7th grade.  At the time, for some reason I thought the song was them arguing over who knew Whitney's dad better!  I think maybe Cissy sang all the parts that were obviously about romantic feelings, but this is still embarrassing to remember!  On top of everything else, Whitney's parents probably were not even together by that point.  My excuse is that I probably wasn't paying all that much attention by the last song of the album and was just getting ready to flip the tape back over to side 1 where most of the biggest hits were.

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I'd say it technically is patriotic in the sense that it's bringing awareness to the struggles veterans face, and criticizing a government that doesn't treat them well. Calling out an injustice and criticizing those who aren't taking care of people the way they should sounds like patriotism to me.

But yeah, in terms of the "RAH RAH 'MURICA #1!"' flag waving type of patriotism....no. That song definitely doesn't fit in that category :p. And the fact so many misinterpreted it to be that kind of patriotism is...mind boggling. God forbit somebody actually look at the lyrics of a song before using it for a specific purpose or anything. 

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On 10/26/2022 at 11:04 PM, Annber03 said:

LOL, yeah, I knew it had some sexy overtones to it, but a lot of the innuendo still went over my head :p. It's interesting the things one doesn't catch until they're older. 

Yes, Billy Joel’s song Zanzibar.

There’s a line in there I’m waiting to steal 2nd base if she’ll only give the sign.  Being he mentioned the Yankees in the song I thought it was about baseball fandom as a kid 

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On 9/28/2019 at 4:32 PM, catlover79 said:

Again - when I was a little kid, I thought "Wichita Lineman" was about football!!

I was watching a football game with my family and at one point during the game I sang out loud, "I am a lineman for the Raiders."  Hilarity ensued.

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On 10/26/2022 at 11:04 PM, Annber03 said:

LOL, yeah, I knew it had some sexy overtones to it, but a lot of the innuendo still went over my head :p. It's interesting the things one doesn't catch until they're older. 

And yet another one by Mr Joel.

Only The Good Die Young.  Again when younger I thought it meant it’s better to live a care free life in your youth to avoid the stress of old age.  Didn’t realize it was a song about getting into a Catholic girls pants!   
 

🤔A lot of his songs I didn’t discover the meaning of until growing up 

Edited by BlueSkies
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This is a song I misinterpreted just off of the title before I had heard it.  I was buying the Silk Sonic album, and iTunes offered either clean or explicit versions.  The only song listed as explicit was called "777."  For some reason, I then assumed the title referred to some sex thing, so I decided to play it safe and get the clean version.  It turns out that it's actually about going to Las Vegas and wanting to roll all sevens at the casino!  I felt stupid but laughed really hard after I heard it.

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A couple of Prince songs I didnt used to get:

Purple Rain- I just thought that was like his favorite color kind of thing.  Plus him being from Minnesota and the Vikings colors are purple.  didnt realize its about the end of the world king of thing.

1999- didnt realize this song was again about the end times 

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I thought Like A Virgin as a kid was a song celebrating losing a persons virginity...

But its more the feeling of something or someone that makes you feel innocent/pure/new like a virgin.  I'd say that song doesn't have to necessarily be sexual either 

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On 11/19/2022 at 7:35 PM, BlueSkies said:

I thought Like A Virgin as a kid was a song celebrating losing a persons virginity...

But its more the feeling of something or someone that makes you feel innocent/pure/new like a virgin.  I'd say that song doesn't have to necessarily be sexual either 

I agree with you but others beg to differ 😄

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(edited)

I had a vague notion of what Joni Mitchell's Raised on Robbery was about; that the lady in lacy sleeves was engaged in the world's oldest profession.  When I bought the album and played it during high school, I missed a lot of the nuances in the lyrics and I really enjoy listening to this track now.

I bought Court and Spark (obsessed with A Free Man in Paris) and also For The Roses.  Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire taught me all about heroin addiction.  It freaking terrorized my young mind.

I loved her, and I had her all to myself within my family because my brothers didn't like her music.

Edited by Oosala
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I just recently heard Stevie Wonder's "I Just Called to Say I Love You" and remembered that as a child, I thought that song was so sad. I thought when he was saying things like "no first of Spring" or "no Halloween", he meant that literally - there was no more Spring or Halloween or whatever. I didn't get that he just meant he wasn't calling because of those occasions...even though it's explained right in the title of the song! 🤦‍♂️

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