MissUnderstood: A Tale of Ignorance and Song Lyrics

Do you ever think about the first songs you knew all the lyrics to as a kid? One of my earliest memories is singing along to Real McCoy’s Another Night while in the backseat of the car, jamming along to the radio. The song itself was pretty easy to memorize as a nine year old, since it was basically the same verse and chorus over and over again.

Another night, another dream, but always you / It’s like a vision of love that seems to be true
Another night another dream, but always you / In the night I dream of love so true

But then there are songs I sang along to without knowing the meaning until later. Like way later. Like maybe in the past few years (months, days, etc.)

I came across this Spice Girls revelation on Tumblr the other day:

Screenshot 2015-08-31 11.25.38


Honestly. I thought when she said “put it on”, it was a British way of saying like, “put your sexy times mindset on because we’re gonna GET IT ON, GET IT ON”.  My logic makes sense, okay? But this is obviously not the only song that has been misunderstood and changed lives of adults all around there world. Here are some other tunes that I didn’t realize meant something else until I was much, much older. Did y’all have your own tracks you didn’t realize were somewhat offensive until recently?

Too Close by Next

Baby when we’re grinding / I get so excited
Ooh, how I like it / I try but I can’t fight it
Oh, you’re dancing real close / Cuz it’s real, real slow
You’re making it hard for me

Apparently I memorized all the words to this when I was 11, but didn’t understand any of it. Like, every single world in this is sexual. Looking back on it, I can’t believe I didn’t realize this whole thing was about fornication. How could I possibly miss all of it? Actually, I know why – because I was a naive 11 year old who just really enjoyed ’90s R&B music. I’m not a monster.

Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind

Doing crystal meth, will lift you up until you break
It won’t stop, I won’t come down / I keep stock with the tick-tock rhythm, I bump for the drop
And then I bumped up, I took the hit that I was given /Then I bumped again, then I bumped again I said… How do I get back there, to the place where I fell asleep inside you

In all fairness, Stephen Jenkins said these lyrics so fast and garbled that it was kind of hard to tell what he was saying. On top of that, add the fact that it’s a fun, bouncy pop song – about getting high on speed. He said of the song, “It’s about a time in my life when it seemed like all of my friends just sort of tapped out on speed… The music that I wrote for it is not intended to be bright and shiny for bright and shiny’s sake. It’s intended to be what the seductiveness of speed is like, represented in music.” Whoa.

Brick by Ben Folds Five

They call her name at 7:30 / I pace around the parking lot
Then I walk down to buy her flowers / And sell some gifts that I got
Can’t you see / It’s not me you’re dying for
Now she’s feeling more alone / Than she ever has before

I always thought this song was a downer, but I didn’t realize just how MUCH of a downer it was until my friends told me in college. Yes, college. Ben Folds said he wrote this song about his high school girlfriend who decided to get an abortion, and he doesn’t really like talking about it that much since it’s obviously a sad subject. The meaning is much more obvious in the music video, but this was pre-TRL so I didn’t watch music videos on the regs.

You’re Makin’ Me High by Toni Braxton

Let’s make a deal you roll, I lick / And we can go flying into ecstasy
Oh Darlin’ you and me / Light my fire
Blow my flame / Take me, take me, take me away

Toni Braxton also has a penchant for sounding like she’s gargling while singing, but I really didn’t know that in addition to this song being about getting it on, it was also a song dedicated to weed. She said during a Behind the Music special that the was introduced to pot for the first time a week before she wrote the song, and was influenced (under the influence, amirite) to add the lyric “you roll, I lick…”

Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler

Once upon a time there was light in my life / But now there’s only love in the dark
Nothing I can say / A total eclipse of the heart

Songwriter Jim Steinman, who also worked a lot with Meat Loaf (which could explain the absurdity of this), originally titled this track Vampires in Love. He said, “Its original title was ‘Vampires in Love’ because I was working on a musical of Nosferatu, the other great vampire story. If anyone listens to the lyrics, they’re really like vampire lines. It’s all about the darkness, the power of darkness and love’s place in dark.” He later used the song in his musical called Dance of the Vampires (someone has a fetish), but if you’re wondering why you’ve never heard of it, it’s because it was a total flop that lost $12 million in 2002.


Closing Time by Semisonic

Closing time / One last call for alcohol so finish your whiskey or beer
Closing time / You don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here
Closing time / Time for you to go out to the places you will be from
Closing time / Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end

Although this song was written by Semisonic frontman Dan Wilson after he wanted to write a new tune to end their concerts with, as well as the hope to be played at bars at the end of the night, he also realized it was about something else completely different – childbirth. Dan and his wife were expecting their first child when he was writing the song, when he realized it was also about childbirth and the circle of life. He said, “I had birth on the brain, I was struck by what a funny pun it was to be bounced from the womb.”

Tutti Frutti by Little Richard

My personal connection to this song is that I danced to this in tap class as a kid, complete with poodle skirt costumes to go with the 1950s theme. However, imagine my surprise when Little Richard originally wrote this song as an ode to something completely unrelated to kids’ dance class. Anal Sex. This was his first draft of the song:

A wop bop a loo mop, a good goddamn / Tutti Frutti, good booty,
If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy.

If you don’t know anything about Little Richard’s past, you should really look it up, but basically, around this time in his life, he was sleeping with the fellas, hence the inspiration for the song. The producer of the track recognized the sexual nature of the song and made Little Richard change it to “Tutti Frutti, aw rooty”. Childhood ruined.



5 thoughts on “MissUnderstood: A Tale of Ignorance and Song Lyrics

  1. I still get a giant kick out of the fact that ever middle and high school dance I went to played “Too Close” and I had no idea what it was about until I was in COLLEGE and heard it and went “wait, what?”


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