Sometimes, the more you know about a song the less you enjoy it. You start out thinking the singer of some ballad totally identifies with your situation, then later find out most musicians are creepy sex maniacs, and boring at the same time. And they never fail to flaunt it in public with their double meaning songs. With that in mind, here’s 11 hugely popular songs that aren’t nearly as awesome once you find out what they actually mean.
1 | Sting “Every Breath You Take”
Here is a song I love bursting people’s bubbles with, since the sweet tenderness of the 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 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.
And, in the off chance, you think I’m just using my fancy liberal arts degree to over analyze and destroy your favorite song, here’s what Sting, the songwriter himself, has to say about it from a BBC interview. “I think the song is very, very sinister and ugly and people have actually misinterpreted it as being a gentle, little love song.” He also claims when people tell him how much they love it, and used it as the main theme for theirwedding, he scoffs and says “Well, good luck.”
2| Phil Collins “In the Air Tonight”
“In the Air Tonight” stands alone as Phil Collins’ sole flirtation with being awesome. It’s meaning varies wildly depending on who you’re talking to, but the most popular story behind the song, and the one awkwardly quoted by Eminem in the almost as popular “Stan,” goes like this: As a kid, Collins witnessed a tragic incident in which a man drowned as another man who could have helped stood by and did nothing. Later, presumably through some form of leprechaun magic, Phil tracked the no-good Samaritan down and arranged for him to be sitting in the front row of the concert where he debuted “In the Air Tonight,” singing the song directly to the man who sat uncomfortably under a spotlight.
On the VH1 Classic series “Classic Albums,” Collins explained that he made up the lyrics to “In the Air Tonight” in the studio, based on what he felt was appropriate for the vibe of the song. Yes, after all that, it turns out the song literally has less coherent meaning than “My Humps.”
3| Billy Idol’s “White Wedding”
Eddie Van Halen and Valerie Bertinelli played this song at their wedding, and since that is documented as a love match, we can imagine that even great guitarists fail to listen to the lyrics. If he had, it’d be pretty obvious to him how inappropriate that song was for such an occasion. But hey, it’s an awesome song, and their marriage is over now anyway.
“Hey little sister what have you done?
Hey little sister who’s the only one?
Hey little sister who’s your superman?
Hey little sister who’s the one you want?
Hey little sister shot gun!”
From the lyrics and video (which is awesome!), we get the notion that the speaker in the song (be it Billy himself or someone else), is watching someone he cares about being forced into marriage after he’s been gone away. “Shotgun!” is cried three times in the song, leading to the possibility that he killed himself or he killed the bride. Quite gruesome for a love song.
5| Dire Straits “Money For Nothing”
Probably best known for the repetitive chanting of “I want my MTV” by Sting, the song is often believed to be an anthem for the MTV generation. In most MTV tribute montages you’ve seen throughout the years as the network fell deeper and deeper into a pop culture coma, producing nothing but flatulence and occasional blips of signs of life, this song serves as the soundtrack.
Told from the perspective of a blue collar worker, the song contains lyrics that discredit and dismiss the musicians and their ability such as “See the little faggot [a word which is used liberally and with absolutely no hesitation throughout the song, by the way, which according to the song writer is actually part of the 'point' of the character that sings the song] with the earring and the make-up” and comments on how their music “ain’t working”. Still, he laments their ability to get “money for nothing, and their chicks for free.” In the end, he decides that maybe he should learn how to play guitar.
This song is not so much a celebration of that scene, but it was a condemnation, then a hesitant joining of it which in of itself becomes insulting — since joining it requires no mind, talent or heart. Money for what the songwriter saw as quite literally “nothing”.