20 Songs Were Misunderstood And You Still Don’t Know Their Real Meaning

We’ve all probably neglected the fact that some songs are not only there for fans, but also personal to songwriters and singers themselves. Thus, some songs are hugely misunderstood by their sweet chords or deep lyrics. Read on and check out if you get these songs right!

1. Lady Gaga: Poker Face

As sexual as it sounds, “Poker Face” wasn’t clear about if it’s actually one specific to the experience of Lady Gaga herself. According to the singer, the song describes a time she fantasized about a woman being intimate with a man, and the “poker face” would be her expression to stop the male from discovering her real thoughts. 

2. Dolly Parton: I Will Always Love You

You may not know that “I Will Always Love You” isn’t about an epic romance, but an inspiration after she decided not to work with her mentor Porter Wagoner any more. Well, it is about a relationship, just not a romantic one. She wanted him to know how much she appreciated him and things she’d learned from him. 

3. Bob Dylan: Mr. Tambourine Man 

“Mr. Tambourine Man” was widely understood as Bob Dylan’s autobiographical song about finding music inspiration through drugs. But believe it or not, it’s a tribute to musician Bruce Langhorne, who was in his band and played a large Turkish frame drum, just like a tambourine. 

4. The Beatles: Blackbird 

There have been many discussions about “Blackbird,” which is probably one of the most intriguing pieces created by The Beatles. It seems like a normal love song, but Paul McCartney suggested that he wrote it as a reference to the Civil Rights Movement that was occurring around the same time in the US. 

5. The Beatles: Ticket To Ride

You may think that “Ticket to Ride” is about a young woman riding a train to see her boyfriend, but that’s not the case. John Lennon once explained that the song means something totally different and that those cards indicated clean bills of health, carried by German prostitutes in the ’60s. It makes sense because the group was famous in Hamburg before gaining worldwide popularity.

6. John Lennon: Imagine 

John Lennon’s ballad “Imagine” was not just calling for peace in a general way but rather suggesting more specific issues. He commented in an NME interview that “‘Imagine that there was no more religion, no more country, no more politics’ is virtually the Communist Manifesto, even though I’m not particularly a Communist and I do not belong to any movement…Us, we should have a nice…British Socialism.”

7. Bruce Springsteen: Born In The U.S.A.

Believe it or not, “Born in the U.S.A.” has been misunderstood for over 30 years. Although the lyrics tell a story of a young man’s experience in the Vietnam War and psychological scars it left him, the bombastic musical arrangement in the song hides its irony and has misled many to believe it’s nothing but a fists-in-the-air anthem. 

8. R.E.M.: The One I Love

Although the song has such a specific name, “The One I Love” is not a love song. In fact, R.E.M. almost gave up recording the song because it was “too brutal…really violent and awful.” The lyrics are quite clear about the topic, and you’ll not mistake it for a love song by referring to your lover as “a simple prop to occupy my time.”

9. Green Day: Good Riddance 

“Good Riddance” became such a crossover hit for Green Day because of its use in the Seinfeld finale in 1998 and its wistful lyrics. You may have seen it at proms, graduations, and weddings, but it’s actually not a tender song at all but instead an angry rebut against an ex-girlfriend who will regret leaving the “time of her life” at some point. 

10. Green Day: Wake Me Up When September Ends

Another misunderstood song of Green Day’s is “Wake Me up When September Ends.” Since it’s placed as the 11th track on the band’s heavily 9/11-influenced American Idiot album, as well as its music video having an Iraq War theme, the song has long been believed to be political. However, it’s actually an ode to singer Billie Joe Armstrong’s late father.

11. Madonna: Like A Virgin 

Many have thought that “Like a Virgin” is literally about a young woman having sex for the first time, but it is not. The song was actually written by Billy Steinberg and Tom Kelly, and it’s describing how vulnerable Steinberg felt when getting into a new relationship. Surprise, huh?

12. Nirvana: Smells Like Teen Spirit 

Since its release in 1991, Nirvana’s “Smell Like Teen Spirit” has been a generational classic, yet not many people seem to know its true meaning, not even Kurt Cobain himself. Without knowing Teen Spirit was a deodorant brand, Kurt decided to use as inspiration something he saw written on the wall “Kurt Smells Like Teen Spirit” by a band acquaintance Kathleen Hanna. What an incredible mistake!

13. Weezer: Buddy Holly 

The truth is that most people assume it’s about romance when listening to a guy singing about a girl, which is what always happens to Weezer’s “Buddy Holly.” However, singer Rivers Cuomo explained that “It’s about a particular girl I knew…it’s about my commitment to her… my willingness to defend her. It’s very platonic. Not a romantic thing at all.”

14. Bon Jovi: Always 

“Always” became one of the band Bon Jovi’s biggest hits since its release in 1994. People must have been all too familiar with power ballads, and it made them ignore the dark side of the song. To many people’s surprise, Jon Bon Jovi explained that “It’s a sick little twisted lyric. So many people feel it’s so romantic and so wonderful, but truthfully, this guy is practically a stalker. He’s a sick human being.” 

15. Maroon 5: Harder To Breathe

It’s easy to believe that “Harder to Breathe” was inspired by one of Adam Levine’s former relationships, but that was not at all what it was about. According to Levine, it’s a result of pressure from the label. “That song comes sheerly from wanting to throw something…the label wanted more songs. It was the last crack. I was just pissed…but I’m glad they did [put pressure].”

16. The Runaways: Cherry Bomb

The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb” was not lyrically misunderstood, but the story of making it was. Iconic as the song has been since its first release, it was not designed to be the band’s big hit at all, but rather a song written in “about 5 minutes.” How can anyone believe that?

17. Sarah McLachlan: Angel 

“Angel” can be touching enough for you to think about a profound, personal loss, but it was actually based on a death read on a magazine. Sarah once explained, “I read on arrival in Rolling Stone about the Smashing Pumpkins keyboard player who had OD’ed in a hotel…I felt a flood of empathy for him and that feeling of being lost, lonely, and desperately searching for some kind of release.”

18. Bonnie Tyler: Total Eclipse Of The Heart 

As one of the biggest power ballads ever, “Total Eclipse of the Heart” had a surprising back story. After Tyler rejected first 2 songs producer Jim Steinman wrote for her, he remembered a love song for vampires he once wrote for the musical version of Nosferatu, called “Vampires in Love.” Who would have known it would become such a masterpiece after a few changes?

19. Sara Bareilles: Love Song 

Sara Bareilles’ “Love Song” is way more interesting than just a love song. It was never about a guy or a girl, but her label. The song was written after being frustrated by the record label again and again. “I started to get really insecure about it, and then I got really pissed off at myself for caring what anybody thought.” The song was her way of saying, “This is me, take it or leave it.” 

20. The Clash: London Calling

Before it has evolved to be something political, “London Calling” was simply about fear of drowning. In 1979, there was a warning about possible overflow in the Thames river, which might have flooded London. When Mick Jones found that on the newspaper, he “flipped” and brought the song into existence. 

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