10 Famous Songs That Don’t Mean What You Think They Mean

So it happens that sometimes we sing our lungs out to songs we don’t even know the meaning of. We dance to lyrics of songs which if we listen closely, are in fact very depressing. That’s why we’ve decided to clear out the fog, and let you know about ten songs whose meaning you’ve been misunderstanding all along.

The list of 10 famous songs that are misunderstood

Hey ya – Outcast

The first of 10 famous songs is the song  Shake it like a Polaroid picture. Although you don’t really shake a polaroid picture, this phrase, the beat of the song and its whole vibe give out the feeling that we’re listening to the most cheerful song ever. Hence, this song is the highlight of nights out and was the most downloaded song on ITunes in the first year after it was released.

What you did not know is that there is a darker meaning behind the song. It actually talks about how many people stay in unhappy relationships rather than understanding when it’s time to leave. The impermanence of love is what the song is all about.


If what they say is “Nothing is forever”
Then what makes, then what makes, then what makes
Then what makes, what makes, what makes love the exception?

So why oh, why oh, why oh, why oh, why oh
Are we so in denial when we know we’re not happy here?



Pumped up Kicks – Foster the People

Pumped up Kicks was known as one of the greatest hits of the summer of 2011. It was mainstreamed as part of TV ads and funny videos, and it made people start moving with its outstanding indie-rock tune. It still has the same impact.

However, some radio stations started pulling the song from the air when they understood that the song is actually about a mass shooter. Foster the People were moved by statistics of mental illnesses in young people, and decided to get into the mind of an isolated, traumatised mass shooter through the lyrics of the song, to raise social awareness.


Robert’s got a quick hand
He’ll look around the room; he won’t tell you his plan
He’s got a rolled cigarette
Hanging out his mouth, he’s a cowboy kid
Yeah, he found a six-shooter gun
In his dad’s closet, oh in a box of fun things
I don’t even know what
But he’s coming for you, yeah, he’s coming for you


Hotel California – the Eagles

The second choice of 10 famous songs is The Eagles’ most legendary song, “Hotel California”, was a massive success. The song was on top of all the charts, specifically staying as No.1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart for straight up, 19 weeks. The song even won its own Grammy, in 1978, as record of the year.

The real meaning of “Hotel California” is deeper than you might have imagined. It turns out that Glenn Frey and the two band members – Don Henley and Don Felder – wrote this song as a commentary on the hedonism and self-indulgence of America. They have stated in many interviews that they sang about the fine line between the American Dream and the American Nightmare, along with the loss of social activism in the ‘70s.


There she stood in the doorway
I heard the mission bell
And I was thinking to myself
“This could be Heaven or this could be Hell”
Then she lit up a candle
And she showed me the way
There were voices down the corridor
I thought I heard them say

“Welcome to the Hotel California
Such a lovely place (Such a lovely place)
Such a lovely face
Plenty of room at the Hotel California
Any time of year (Any time of year)
You can find it here”


Like a Virgin – Madonna

Surely, everyone thinks that the meaning behind this song is very literal, treating first time intercourse. However, ignore the song title as the writer of this song, Billy Steinberg, has confirmed that this song is not about losing one’s virginity. In fact, as he once explained it to an audience, the song was really written to express his emotional exhaustion after a broken heart and a failed relationship.

It further goes on to express how, after this devastation, he ended up in a new relationship that made him feel the sparks again. Those sparks and new emotions made him feel fresh, new, and untouched, like a virgin.


I made it through the wilderness
Somehow I made it through
Didn’t know how lost I was until I found you
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


The A Team – Ed Sheeran

It is nothing new for the famous artist Ed Sheeran to use his songs to express his personal experiences. In the A Team song, he did just the same. You might be thinking that the song deals solely with a cheeky, depressed young girl who earns her living through sexual relations and is addicted to drugs.

However, the song was inspired when Ed performed at a homeless shelter, where he met a homeless girl named “Angel” – as you can hear her being mentioned throughout the lyrics of the song. Ed Sheeran composed this song, to raise awareness about those who are struggling in the streets. So you’ll probably appreciate this song even more from now on!


The worst things in life come free to us
Cause we’re just under the upper hand
And go mad for a couple grams
And she don’t want to go outside tonight
And in a pipe she flies to the Motherland
Or sells love to another man
It’s too cold outside
For angels to fly
Angels to fly


Chandelier – Sia

Sia’s song “Chandelier” is used most often as a party anthem, due to its – 1 2 3 drink lyrics, and other verses which may leave the impression that you’re supposed to live and party like there’s no tomorrow.

However, there’s nothing cheerful about this song. Sia actually admitted that the song really talks about her story and dependency on alcohol. She used her personal experience to raise awareness about people who seek escape in parties, substance, and alcohol abuse. And if you look at the song’s lyrics closely, you will understand the sad undertone in it.


But I’m holding on for dear life
Won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
Help me, I’m holding on for dear life
Won’t look down, won’t open my eyes
Keep my glass full until morning light
‘Cause I’m just holding on for tonight
On for tonight!


I Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

This major hit was released in 2015 as the third single from the album of The Weeknd. Rolling Stone ranked it as the best song of 2015, and the song experienced commercial success, peaking at number one on both the US Billboard Hot 100 and the Canadian Hot 100. It was also dancing your feet off the song, with people playing it at parties or night clubs.

People think that the song is really dedicated to the woman who got the Canadian singer so “sore” in love. However, the song is really dedicated to the numbing effects of cocaine and its addiction properties. In this song, the artist expresses his “romantic” feelings toward the substance, letting people know just how important a part of your life drugs can become.


And I know she’ll be the death of me
At least we’ll both be numb
And she’ll always get the best of me
The worst is yet to come
But at least we’ll both be beautiful and stay forever young
This I know, yeah, this I know.


The One I Love – R.E.M. Songs

Listening to this song in the beginning, you may think that it starts out as a sweet dedication – “This one goes out to the one I love”, however, more quickly than you know, the song is no longer talking about someone who is alive at the present, but someone whom Michael Stipe, the singer, has left behind. And it becomes more violent and hateful while you continue to listen to it, expressing an inner, confusing rage.

“I don’t know. That song just came up from somewhere, and I recognized it as being real violent and awful,” Michael Stipe told Rolling Stone in 1987. “But it wasn’t directed at any one person. I would never, ever write a song like that. Even if there was one person in the world thinking, ‘This song is about me,’ I could never sing it or put it out.”


This one goes out to the one I love
This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind
A simple prop to occupy my time
This one goes out to the one I love



Total Eclipse of the Heart – Bonnie Tyler’s Songs

Most of those who have listened to Bonnie Tyler’s arguably most famous song, “Total Eclipse of the Heart”, probably think that this song deals with the totally consuming, yet destructive love that is taking all the light and happiness out of Bonnie’s life.

However, it turns out that the song has a deeper, bizarre meaning. Songwriter Jim Steinman has admitted that he originally wrote the lyrics to express a vampire love song, originally titled “Vampires in Love”.

See for yourself, if the lyrics match the songwriter’s intent.


And we’ll only be making it right
‘Cause we’ll never be wrong
Together we can take it to the end of the line
Your love is like a shadow on me all of the time (All of the time)
I don’t know what to do and I’m always in the dark
We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks
I really need you tonight
Forever’s gonna start tonight
Forever’s gonna start tonight

More about different meaning of songs you can read it here.

Photos: Shutterstock / Photomontage: Martina Advaney

Read more from the author.

More about songs read here.

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