10 songs that aren’t about what you think they’re about
Staff writer - July 07, 2020

10 songs that aren’t about what you think they’re about

Guess which karaoke classic is really a vampire love song...
Madonna in a hat

Are there some songs you know all the words to but you’ve never really considered what the lyrics actually mean?

Well, prepare to feel a bit embarrassed, because you may very well have been singing something rather dirty in front of your parents...

1. Every Breath You Take - The Police

On the surface, this classic track seems to be a love song. But Sting himself has confirmed that the song is in fact about a creepy-ass stalker.

The singer revealed in an interview that the hit track is about a possessive lover and finds it surprising how many fans think it’s a positive song and play it at weddings...

Every breath you take
Every move you make
Every bond you break
Every step you take
I'll be watching you...

2. Summer of ‘69 - Bryan Adams

The biggest clue that this evergreen track is not about the sunny season of the year in 1969 is that Bryan Adams would have been 10 years old at the time.

Despite the apostrophe indicating that the "69" in question refers to a year, it’s actually a bit raunchier in nature… Adams himself confessed the number is a reference to a sex position. Innocent readers are free to Google its specific meaning...

Back in the summer of '69, oh
It was the summer of '69, oh, yeah
Me and my baby in '69, oh
It was the summer, the summer, the summer of '69, yeah

3. Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - The Beatles

Remember that really “insightful” stoner you met at a party once who proudly told you that The Beatles’ ‘Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds’ was actually a reference to the drug LSD? Because that’s what the initials spell out. Get it?

Well, plot twist! Your far-out friend was wrong. John Lennon confirmed in an interview that the song was in fact written about a painting his young son made for him. Maybe. The lyrics are pretty trippy...

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes

4. Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler

Who doesn’t love to belt this cracker out at karaoke? Thing is, Bonnie Tyler's classic power ballad is actually a vampire love song. Composer Jim Steinman confirmed it was originally written for a 'Nosferatu' musical.

However many cool points you lost by singing it in the first place are officially doubled.

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

5. All My Life - Foo Fighters

While Foo Fighters’ lyrics are not always innocent in nature, the true meaning of this track may have escaped you.

Lead singer Dave Grohl made no bones about the fact that this song is about his fondness for performing a certain sexual act...

Yep. Story checks out.

Don't let it go to waste
I love it but I hate the taste
Weight keepin' me down

6. Like a Virgin - Madonna

Despite what the characters of 'Reservoir Dogs' say in the film’s famous opening, Madonna's ‘Like a Virgin’ actually has nothing to do with sex.

According to songwriter Billy Steinberg, the song is really about a new relationship that makes you feel better after a previous one that didn’t go so well.

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

7. Poker Face - Lady Gaga

This is not simply a song about keeping your cards close to your chest. Laga Gaga herself revealed that the song’s lyrics actually refer to hiding her bisexuality.

The singer was apparently in a romantic relationship with a man, while attempting to bury her true feelings for a woman.

Can't read my, can't read my
No he can't read my poker face
(She's got me like nobody)

MORE: Lady Gaga - Chromatica Ball Tour 2021: all you need to know

8. Harder to Breathe - Maroon 5

Love songs often describe being short of breath, but there’s very little love to speak of in this Maroon 5 track…

Adam Levine penned this angry song after consistent pressure from the band’s label to write more material. Even though it was written out of spite, it ended up charting and paving the way for the band’s future success.

How dare you say that my behaviour is unacceptable
So condescending unnecessarily critical
I have the tendency of getting very physical
So watch your step 'cause if I do you'll need a miracle

9. The One I Love - R.E.M

Another rather dark track that’s often mistaken for a love song. Lead singer Michael Stipe has said, “it’s probably for the best that people think it’s a love song at this point,” considering it gets so much airplay from people calling in to dedicate it to significant others.

But while the first line would on the surface appear perfect for telling someone how you feel over the airwaves, the song is actually about using people and according to Stipe, is actually quite violent.

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
Fire (she's comin' down on her own, now)

10. Smells Like Teen Spirit - Nirvana

The true meaning of this song is still open to debate, not least because the words are so hard to make out in the first place.

Teen Spirit was a popular deodorant in the 90s. One origin of the song's title is that Kathleen Hanna of punk band Bikini Kill wrote “smells like Teen Spirit” on the wall of Cobain’s apartment in protest of his then girlfriend, who used the product. Cobain apparently liked the phrase, but didn’t know it was a brand name. So even the band didn’t know what it was about.

A mulatto
An albino
A mosquito
My libido
Yeah, hey, yay

MORE: 10 most devastating band break-ups of all times

Stay tuned to LineUp for more music features that find the deeper meaning in your favourite tracks.