bands/musicians 16 Songs That Don't Mean What You Think They Do  

Molly Mahan
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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.
1

The Ice Cream Truck Song


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That utterly American ice cream truck song you thought meant "hey kids, come enjoy a cold treat on this fine sunny day!" actually has some of the most racist lyrics in the history of music. Recorded for Columbia records 1916, the melody is from a song called "N**** Loves a Watermelon Ha Ha Ha" by a terrible man named Harry C Brown. Here's a sampling of the lyrics:

You N***** quit throwing them bones and come down and get your ice cream
Ice cream?
Yes, colored man's ice cream: watermelon!
N***** loves a watermelon ha ha ha
N***** loves a watermelon ha ha ha
For here they're made with a half a pound of cool
there's nothing like a watermelon for a hungry coon.

2

Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones


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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

Yikes.
3

Tutti Frutti by Little Richard


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You probably heard this song a lot as a kid and didn't think much of it. Well, give this record a spin and really listen to the lyrics - you'll realize that the song is all kinds of rough. Not only is it about some guy getting it on with multiple girls - Sue and Daisy - they both "know what to do" (so they're very experienced), and they all drive him crazy.

Also, the repeated hook of "Tutti frutti, aw rooty" was not the original lyrics of the song, before it got picked up to be recorded. When performing live, Little Richard sang the following:

Tutti Frutti, good booty / If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy.

The lyrics were then changed in studio to "Tutti Frutti, all rooty" (all rooty was slang at the time for "alright") so that the rest of the song didn't make sense, making it more marketable. Yes, that's right. The song you most likely danced to like an idiot when you were three and didn't know better was really... much more adult.

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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."
see more on Closing Time by Semisonic