music 15 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.

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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.

Artist: The Rolling Stones

Albums: Sticky Fingers

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2

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.

Artist: Little Richard

Albums: Here's Little Richard


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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."

Artist: Semisonic

Albums: Feeling Strangely Fine

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"Like a Virgin" isn't about a sensitive girl, and is, in fact, not about a girl at all. Lyricist Billy Steinberg explained in an interview with the LA Times that he did not intend for a woman to sing the song, and that the song was about his personal experiences of going through the emotional ringer in the past, and how he felt new and unhurt the next time he fell in love, as if he had never been hurt before. Like a virgin.

I was beat, incomplete
I'd been had, I was sad and blue
But you made me feel
Yeah, you made me feel
Shiny and new

Says Steinberg, "I was saying ... that I may not really be a virgin – I've been battered romantically and emotionally like many people – but I'm starting a new relationship and it just feels so good, it's healing all the wounds and making me feel like I've never done this before, because it's so much deeper and more profound than anything I've ever felt."

Artist: Madonna

Albums: Like a Virgin

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