16 Songs That Don't Mean What You Think They Do Bands/Musicians
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16 Songs That Don't Mean What You Think They Do

Here's a list of songs whose meanings we completely miss because we either don't listen to lyrics properly or we just take the song at face value, ignoring any origins or intent of the artist. Or we just don't even realize what the lyrics really are. Then, one day, your world breaks down. The real meanings of these popular songs will shock you.

Everything you knew and loved about these songs is about to turn out to be a lie because that songs you thought were innocent and sweet are often actually about the opposite. Think "Born in the USA" is a patriotic anthem? Think again.

Hopefully, learning the truth about these popular songs doesn't shatter your world too much, though it will certainly make you think twice at the next karaoke night.

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  1. 13

    (You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party) by by The Beastie Boys

    Without question "(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (to Party)" is one of the greatest party anthems of all time. Everyone gets pumped by mumbling their way through the verses, before shouting the refrain with such ferocity. After all, what is more important than one's ability to have a good time?

    Regrettably, that was never what it was intended to be. In fact, it was written as a parody to mock all the play hard party songs that inundated the 80s, such as Twisted Sister's "I Wanna Rock" and Motley Crue's "Smoking In The Boy's Room." After all, it's about high school kid, and no matter what Hollywood may tell you: 15 year olds are rarely - if ever - that hardcore.

    So, despite the fact that it is without a doubt the band's most well known song, the mass majority's inability to get the joke has been a cause of distress for the band, leading them to scarcely play it live and although it appears in their greatest hits - Sounds of Science -  Beastie Boys member, MCA, says little about the song other than "it sucks" in the liner notes.

  2. 11

    Ben by Michael Jackson

    This song is particularly interesting because it was not originally intended to be performed by Michael Jackson, but by Donny Osmond. Osmond, however, was on tour so 14-year-old Jackson received the honor and his first number one as a solo artist. Which is pretty cool, but kind of crazy when you learn what the song is really about.

    Ben the two of us need look no more
    We both found what we were looking for
    With a friend to call my own I'll never be alone
    And you my friend will see you've got a friend in me
    (you've got a friend in me)

    Ben you're always running here and there
    (here and there)
    You feel you're not wanted anywhere
    If you ever look behind and don't like what you find
    There's something you should know you've got a place to go
    (you've got a place to go)

    Although it is a song about unconditional love and friendship, as can be expected with lyrics like "You've got a friend in me" and "I used to say 'I' and 'me'/Now it's 'us' now it's 'we'." But what you may not know is that the friendship in question is between a boy and (wait for it) a rat named Ben. And not just any rat, but the gang leader of a group of killer rats. That's right, this sweet and tender ballad is the theme to a film about killer rats.

    Coming from the film of the same name, Ben is the sequel to the film Willard (based on Stephen Gilbert's Ratman's Notebook), which also starred Ben and his band of murderous rodents. Although the sequel tries to present Ben ahd his band as protectors of the lonely boy Danny, they still manage to cause several deaths. Imagine it to be Let Me In, but with rats rather than vampires and less sex (thank goodness).

  3. 8

    Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen

    Only The Boss could make an anti-war song sound like a jingoistic rock anthem that most people use as a pro-America anthem. The song narrative follows a working class American who gets into some trouble at home, so he goes to Vietnam to fight in the war. When he returns, he is unable to find work and is shunned by the community at large, kind of like in real life.

    Springsteen's lyrics and message were so cleverly masked, that Ronald Reagan's staff tried to get the song to be the official song for his re-election campaign (which is exactly how well they did their research), but The Boss politely declined, as he did not support Ronald Reagan at all.

  4. 2

    Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones

    Many an unsuspecting singer chooses "Brown Sugar" for karaoke and balks at the lyrics as they appear on the screen. Somehow (we don't know how) they typically understand what this song is about, even though the story is right in the lyrics. It's used in some daytime TV commercials and places all around in this fun, light-hearted manner when it is quite literally a song about slave rape.

    This song isn't a love tribute to a beloved African American woman and it is most definitely not something about the sweetener that brings us all chocolate chip cookies. This song is about white plantation owners raping their African slaves.

    Gold coast slave ship bound for cotton fields
    Sold in a market down in New Orleans
    Scarred old slaver knows he's doing alright
    Hear him with the women just around midnight.
    Ah, brown sugar how come you taste so good?
    Brown sugar, just like a young girl should


  5. 4

    This memorable '90s track is about a bar at closing time, right? RIGHT? No. No, it's about something else entirely.

    According to Dan Wilson, Semisonic lead singer, it's about being "bounced from the womb." As in, your mama's belly. In the above video he points out a lot of lyrics that make you go, "oh, yeah, I guess it is about the birth of a baby." For instance: "This room won't be open till your brothers and your sisters come."

  6. 14

    Every Breath You Take by The Police

    The sweet tenderness of this tune makes the song seem like it's just another love song we can all snuggle up and croon to. However, if you look at the lyrics for even a moment you'll realize there is something far more sinister afoot here than your typical romance.

    Every breath you take
    Every move you make
    Every bond you break
    Every step you take
    I'll be watching you
    Oh can't you see
    You belong to me
    How my poor heart aches
    With every step you take

    As you can see from the above lyrics, this song is not about the simple joys of love but rather from the perspective of a possessive lover who must be vigilant, if not in control, of his (or her) lover's actions. Down to the air they breathe. Talk about overbearing. Even the songwriter, Sting, agrees, "I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle, little love song."

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