Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 04-04-2020, 07:27 AM
CastletonSnob is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2016
Posts: 320

Songs that have been misinterpreted.


A lot of songs have had people misinterpret the message of them. They might think it's about one thing, but it's actually about the opposite.



I'll start with an obvious one, Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen.
  #2  
Old 04-04-2020, 07:37 AM
TriPolar is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2007
Location: rhode island
Posts: 42,193
Helter Skelter
  #3  
Old 04-04-2020, 08:01 AM
RealityChuck's Avatar
RealityChuck is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 43,549
Any Breath You Take by the Police. A song about a stapler that's misinterpreted as a love song.

Someone once told Lyle Lovett they played "L.A. County" at their wedding. He asked "Don't you know what that song's about?" They said they changed the lyrics a bit.

I hope so. It's about a psycho ex-boyfriend who kills the bride and groom at the altar.
__________________
"If a person saying he was something was all there was to it, this country'd be full of rich men and good-looking women. Too bad it isn't that easy.... In short, when someone else says you're a writer, that's when you're a writer... not before."
Purveyor of fine science fiction since 1982.

Last edited by RealityChuck; 04-04-2020 at 08:02 AM.
  #4  
Old 04-04-2020, 08:08 AM
Yorkshire Pudding is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 731
I guess there's Every Breath You Take? Interpreted as a song of devotion and protection - and therefore used as a wedding song numerous times - but actually intended to be about some refusing to let go and obsessively stalking an ex. Maybe not the opposite meaning - more overstepping the mark - but a very different feel nevertheless!
  #5  
Old 04-04-2020, 08:09 AM
Yorkshire Pudding is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 731
Ninja'd!
  #6  
Old 04-04-2020, 08:23 AM
needscoffee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 7,785
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yorkshire Pudding View Post
Ninja'd!
Yeah, but at least you got the song title correctly.

Last edited by needscoffee; 04-04-2020 at 08:24 AM.
  #7  
Old 04-04-2020, 08:25 AM
Ludovic is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Location: America's Wing
Posts: 31,213
No, it's their lesser-known song, Any Breath You Take, about a man who wants to make his stapler come alive.
  #8  
Old 04-04-2020, 08:41 AM
Just Asking Questions is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2014
Posts: 7,970
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludovic View Post
No, it's their lesser-known song, Any Breath You Take, about a man who wants to make his stapler come alive.
And it had the lyrics that went:

When you kiss me, my lips stay together

and

Swingline my swinger, your red curves make me hot
  #9  
Old 04-04-2020, 09:27 AM
Qadgop the Mercotan's Avatar
Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Slithering on the hull
Posts: 28,028
Revolution by the Beatles got very misinterpreted.
  #10  
Old 04-04-2020, 10:05 AM
Gatopescado is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: on your last raw nerve
Posts: 23,738
Love Will Keep Us Together was really about a short pamphlet and a stapler aptly named 'Love'.
  #11  
Old 04-04-2020, 10:05 AM
ZipperJJ's Avatar
ZipperJJ is online now
Just Lovely and Delicious
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2001
Location: Northeast Ohio
Posts: 26,015
“Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band. It’s about a peeping Tom.

“Semi Charmed Life” by Third Eye Blind is about meth heads and meth benders. It’s not really the happy upbeat song people interpret it to be.

Leonard Cohen’s song “Halelujia” is sung in churches. With words changed or left out. Maybe not misinterpreted but misused.
  #12  
Old 04-04-2020, 10:11 AM
Darren Garrison's Avatar
Darren Garrison is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 13,932
Baby It's Cold Outside. It has several threads here.
  #13  
Old 04-04-2020, 10:22 AM
Jophiel's Avatar
Jophiel is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Chicago suburbia
Posts: 20,038
Sarah McLachlan's Possession is another stalker song sometimes misinterpreted as a love song. And I'm assuming those Humane Society commercials did little to explain that Angel is a song about heroin addiction.

Rubblebucket's Carousel Ride is about getting sober/clean but the guy who wrote the lyrics said he worried about people interpreting it as a "Getting fucked up" anthem. Speaking of, a lot of drunk people at parties seem to miss the point of Jimmy Buffet's Margaritaville.

Music adjacent, but I remember reading about Roger Waters being dismayed to see fans dressing as the fascists depicted in the film "The Wall" for that "cool Pink Floyd look".
  #14  
Old 04-04-2020, 10:58 AM
Darren Garrison's Avatar
Darren Garrison is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Posts: 13,932
And of course there is all those people using Born in the USA in their "America, fuck yeah!" rotation.
  #15  
Old 04-04-2020, 10:58 AM
pulykamell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
Posts: 49,477
Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Any Breath You Take by the Police. A song about a stapler that's misinterpreted as a love song.
Goddamn staplers!

("Every Breath You Take" and I assume "stalker.")
  #16  
Old 04-04-2020, 11:03 AM
pulykamell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
Posts: 49,477
Oh, just thought of one. "The One I Love" by REM. It seems like it should be pretty clear that it's a biting, cynical song, but apparently not.
  #17  
Old 04-04-2020, 11:11 AM
LoneRhino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 221
Quote:
Originally Posted by CastletonSnob View Post
I'll start with an obvious one, Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen.
I always call bullshit on this one. Bruce was making a pop album and I'm sure that he knew that screaming "Born in the USA" over and over again would get the type of reaction that it got.
  #18  
Old 04-04-2020, 11:47 AM
kenobi 65's Avatar
kenobi 65 is online now
Corellian Nerfherder
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Brookfield, IL
Posts: 17,761
Another song that's been discussed in several earlier threads on this board: Lynyrd Skynyrd's "Sweet Home Alabama."

In particular, the verse which mentions "the governor" (segregationist George Wallace) is commonly seen as being supportive of him and his policies; the band insisted that it was misinterpreted, and that it was meant to be critical of Wallace, and that listeners mis-heard the "boo, boo, boo" lyric as "ooh, ooh, ooh."

The fact that another lyric, "where the governor's true," also seems to be supportive of Wallace added to the likelihood of misinterpretation.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 04-04-2020 at 11:51 AM.
  #19  
Old 04-04-2020, 11:58 AM
ThisSpaceForRent's Avatar
ThisSpaceForRent is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: University City, MO
Posts: 1,676
John Prine's Illegal Smile is quite often misinterpreted.
  #20  
Old 04-04-2020, 12:16 PM
Thudlow Boink's Avatar
Thudlow Boink is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: Lincoln, IL
Posts: 29,034
Popular songs are like SDMB threads:

Some people pay attention to the words (of the OP); others just respond to the title.
  #21  
Old 04-04-2020, 12:45 PM
EinsteinsHund's Avatar
EinsteinsHund is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: NRW, Germany
Posts: 3,839
Quote:
Originally Posted by pulykamell View Post
Oh, just thought of one. "The One I Love" by REM. It seems like it should be pretty clear that it's a biting, cynical song, but apparently not.
This is what I came to post. How anybody can think that's a lovesong goes beyond my imagination, but obviously many do. It's like playing PIL's "This Is Not A Lovesong" at a wedding.
__________________
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
  #22  
Old 04-04-2020, 12:58 PM
AHunter3's Avatar
AHunter3 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: NY (Manhattan) NY USA
Posts: 21,247
I'd say Joni Mitchell's "Big Yellow Taxi" is at least partially misconstrued as being all about ecological destruction and humankind's assault on nature. The punchline verse of the song is that her partner gets into a taxi and disappears from her life — "don't know what you've got til it's gone" — which only makes sense if you think of the eco-destruction as a sort of Exhibit A for cases where we wipe out something nice without thinking about it, and the loss of her boyfriend as the specific loss that's hurting at the moment.
  #23  
Old 04-04-2020, 01:06 PM
moojja is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jan 2015
Posts: 179
Quote:
Originally Posted by LoneRhino View Post
I always call bullshit on this one. Bruce was making a pop album and I'm sure that he knew that screaming "Born in the USA" over and over again would get the type of reaction that it got.
What do you mean? Given the rest of the lyrics is about a Vietnam vet. who's having trouble finding a job. It's definitely a criticism on the US treatment of it's veterans.
  #24  
Old 04-04-2020, 01:09 PM
needscoffee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 7,785
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThisSpaceForRent View Post
John Prine's Illegal Smile is quite often misinterpreted.
How so?
  #25  
Old 04-04-2020, 01:11 PM
Qadgop the Mercotan's Avatar
Qadgop the Mercotan is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Slithering on the hull
Posts: 28,028
Quote:
Originally Posted by moojja View Post
What do you mean? Given the rest of the lyrics is about a Vietnam vet. who's having trouble finding a job. It's definitely a criticism on the US treatment of it's veterans.
Yeah, the Boss has always been quite firm about that. And that song is certainly in keeping with a lot of his other tunes from albums like Nebraska and The Ghost of Tom Joad. Life in the USA can be tough and cruel and unfair and very unjust.
  #26  
Old 04-04-2020, 01:27 PM
pulykamell is offline
Member
 
Join Date: May 2000
Location: SW Side, Chicago
Posts: 49,477
Quote:
Originally Posted by LoneRhino View Post
I always call bullshit on this one. Bruce was making a pop album and I'm sure that he knew that screaming "Born in the USA" over and over again would get the type of reaction that it got.
Yes, from idiots who don't actually listen to the lyrics, i guess.

It's pretty clearly critical with a generic jingoistic chorus that is meant to be cynical and ironic but, hey, if people don't listen to lyrics ... that just underscores the point, doesn't it?
  #27  
Old 04-04-2020, 01:47 PM
TreacherousCretin's Avatar
TreacherousCretin is online now
Horrified Onlooker
 
Join Date: Oct 2008
Location: Moscow, Idaho
Posts: 5,938
Sir Mick and the Stones: "Mother's Little Helper"
  #28  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:26 PM
Beckdawrek's Avatar
Beckdawrek is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Boonies??
Posts: 23,556
No one misinterpreted a song as much as I did 'American Pie'...


Last edited by Beckdawrek; 04-04-2020 at 02:27 PM.
  #29  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:31 PM
EinsteinsHund's Avatar
EinsteinsHund is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: NRW, Germany
Posts: 3,839
Quote:
Originally Posted by TreacherousCretin View Post
Sir Mick and the Stones: "Mother's Little Helper"
In what way was it misinterpreted? It's about regular housewives living on prescription drugs of the same kind the evil rock stars and counterculture depend on, isn't it?
__________________
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
  #30  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:34 PM
WildaBeast's Avatar
WildaBeast is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Folsom, CA
Posts: 1,383
Quote:
Originally Posted by RealityChuck View Post
Any Breath You Take by the Police. A song about a stapler that's misinterpreted as a love song.
Well I sure love my red Swingline stapler. They tried to make us switch to Bosch, but I kept my Swingline because it doesn't bind up as much. And if the boss tries to take it I could burn down the building.
  #31  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:41 PM
Beckdawrek's Avatar
Beckdawrek is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Aug 2017
Location: Boonies??
Posts: 23,556
For you Swingline lovers I offer up "We shall not be moved " by Mavis Staples.
Theme song? I think so.
  #32  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:47 PM
Chefguy's Avatar
Chefguy is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jun 2003
Location: Portlandia
Posts: 44,098
"The Star Spangled Banner", version by Hendrix. A lot of people got their knickers in a twist over that, thinking that he was mocking the flag or being unpatriotic. While it may have been a statement about the war politics, he wasn't being disrespectful.
  #33  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:49 PM
ThisSpaceForRent's Avatar
ThisSpaceForRent is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: University City, MO
Posts: 1,676
Quote:
Originally Posted by needscoffee View Post
How so?
Did you follow the link?

From the link...

"I have to confess, the song was not about smokin' dope," the folk singer-songwriter told Performing Songwriter of the opening track from his debut album. "It was more about how, ever since I was a child, I had this view of the world where I can find myself smiling at stuff nobody else was smiling at. But it was such a good anthem for dope smokers that I didn't want to stop every time I played it and make a disclaimer."
  #34  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:56 PM
Yorkshire Pudding is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Nov 2017
Posts: 731
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ludovic View Post
No, it's their lesser-known song, Any Breath You Take, about a man who wants to make his stapler come alive.
I was going to ask about that. I mean, it looks like a typo, but you never know. It might have been a transatlantic difference. The example that came to mind - for obvious reasons - is British "ticket touts" being US "scalpers".

But fair enough: a stapler is just a stapler. A rock of dependability in a sea of global crisis. A stationery point, if you will...

Last edited by Yorkshire Pudding; 04-04-2020 at 02:57 PM.
  #35  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:57 PM
Peter Morris's Avatar
Peter Morris is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: The far canal
Posts: 13,196
The Hallelujah Chorus, from The Messiah. Did you know that it's about the end of the World, as described in the Book of Revelation?
  #36  
Old 04-04-2020, 02:58 PM
needscoffee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 7,785
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThisSpaceForRent View Post
Did you follow the link?



From the link...



"I have to confess, the song was not about smokin' dope," the folk singer-songwriter told Performing Songwriter of the opening track from his debut album. "It was more about how, ever since I was a child, I had this view of the world where I can find myself smiling at stuff nobody else was smiling at. But it was such a good anthem for dope smokers that I didn't want to stop every time I played it and make a disclaimer."

He's got to be fibbing. The title is Illegal Smile. There's nothing illegal about daydreaming. It's very clearly about dope.
  #37  
Old 04-04-2020, 03:01 PM
EinsteinsHund's Avatar
EinsteinsHund is online now
Member
 
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: NRW, Germany
Posts: 3,839
Quote:
Originally Posted by needscoffee View Post
He's got to be fibbing. The title is Illegal Smile. There's nothing illegal about daydreaming. It's very clearly about dope.
And daydreaming doesn't cost not very much, but is for free.
__________________
And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
  #38  
Old 04-04-2020, 03:08 PM
WildaBeast's Avatar
WildaBeast is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2019
Location: Folsom, CA
Posts: 1,383
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chefguy View Post
"The Star Spangled Banner", version by Hendrix. A lot of people got their knickers in a twist over that, thinking that he was mocking the flag or being unpatriotic. While it may have been a statement about the war politics, he wasn't being disrespectful.
And perhaps less well known, the same thing happened to José Feliciano (Best known for "Feliz Navidad" if you don't know the name) when he sang "The Star Spangled Banner" in a slow, Latin folk style at the 1968 World Series. From a modern perspective, it sounds no different from how any pop singer would put their own twist on the national anthem, but back then he apparently got death threats from people who thought it was disrespectful. Obviously people's ideas about how the proper way to sing the anthem have changes a lot since then.
  #39  
Old 04-04-2020, 03:20 PM
ThisSpaceForRent's Avatar
ThisSpaceForRent is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: University City, MO
Posts: 1,676
Quote:
Originally Posted by needscoffee View Post
He's got to be fibbing. The title is Illegal Smile. There's nothing illegal about daydreaming. It's very clearly about dope.
jeeze... he wrote the song...he EXPLAINED the song, yet you refuse to believe it.

If you were in st Louis and old you might remember Jim White's (KMOX radio) catch phrase...
  #40  
Old 04-04-2020, 03:30 PM
needscoffee is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Oct 2009
Posts: 7,785
Quote:
Originally Posted by ThisSpaceForRent View Post
jeeze... he wrote the song...he EXPLAINED the song, yet you refuse to believe it.



If you were in st Louis and old you might remember Jim White's (KMOX radio) catch phrase...
He can EXPLAIN it all he wants. How do you EXPLAIN the title?

Or the entire chorus: "And you may see me tonight with an illegal smile, It don't cost very much, but it lasts a long while. Won't you please tell the man I didn't kill anyone, no I'm just tryin' to have me some fun" ?

Whatever John claims now he was writing about, I'd say his lyrics and title speak very well for themselves. He's a very precise wordsmith.
  #41  
Old 04-04-2020, 03:58 PM
ThisSpaceForRent's Avatar
ThisSpaceForRent is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Dec 2005
Location: University City, MO
Posts: 1,676
Cite #2
  #42  
Old 04-04-2020, 04:20 PM
DrDeth is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: San Jose
Posts: 44,781
They used
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm_N_WVrwqA

The ides of March by Vehicle

to sell cars.

I'm a friendly stranger in the black Sedan
Won't you hop inside my car?
I got pictures, got candy
I'm a lovable man
And I can take you to the nearest star
  #43  
Old 04-04-2020, 04:27 PM
nearwildheaven is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 14,243
Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Morris View Post
The Hallelujah Chorus, from The Messiah. Did you know that it's about the end of the World, as described in the Book of Revelation?
And it's definitely not a Christmas song! It's more appropriate for Easter.

"There She Goes" by the La's, and later Sixpence None The Richer, is also about heroin.

And y'all knew I was gonna say it:

SPOILER:
"More Than Words" by Extreme
  #44  
Old 04-04-2020, 04:28 PM
nearwildheaven is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2013
Posts: 14,243
Quote:
Originally Posted by DrDeth View Post
They used
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Vm_N_WVrwqA

The ides of March by Vehicle

to sell cars.

I'm a friendly stranger in the black Sedan
Won't you hop inside my car?
I got pictures, got candy
I'm a lovable man
And I can take you to the nearest star
Don't you mean "Vehicle" by the Ides of March?
  #45  
Old 04-04-2020, 04:47 PM
GESancMan's Avatar
GESancMan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Portland
Posts: 3,434
Kinda surprised Extreme's "More Than Words" hasn't been brought up yet. The lyrics are clearly saying "you are so emotionally distant, I don't think I can be with you anymore, this is your last chance." But people think it's a sweet love song.
  #46  
Old 04-04-2020, 05:04 PM
LoneRhino is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2017
Posts: 221
Quote:
Originally Posted by moojja View Post
What do you mean? Given the rest of the lyrics is about a Vietnam vet. who's having trouble finding a job. It's definitely a criticism on the US treatment of it's veterans.
Yes but the tone of the song matters. It's written and sung like an anthem. It's probably supposed to be ironic but you can't really be surprised when it gets misinterpreted. imagine hearing the song for the first time on the radio. What's going to stick with you? The verses which you have to really listen to or the catchy chorus repeated over and over.
  #47  
Old 04-04-2020, 05:04 PM
don't mind me is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: somewhere over there
Posts: 1,477
Born in the USA and Vehicle have both been mentioned, but we can add "Fortunate Son" as an unfortunate choice for a commercial. These were all only misinterpreted by the advertiser, hence generations of fun. I suspect the ad folk of the day were laughing up their sleeves.

As for the Prine controversy, trust the tale, not the teller.
  #48  
Old 04-04-2020, 05:10 PM
don't mind me is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2003
Location: somewhere over there
Posts: 1,477
Quote:
Originally Posted by LoneRhino View Post
Yes but the tone of the song matters. It's written and sung like an anthem. It's probably supposed to be ironic but you can't really be surprised when it gets misinterpreted. imagine hearing the song for the first time on the radio. What's going to stick with you? The verses which you have to really listen to or the catchy chorus repeated over and over.
"Being misinterpreted" is not the same as "bullshit," which is what you called. Like Revolution #9, a song that needs to be listened to rather than just bopped along to is a cut above the rest.
  #49  
Old 04-04-2020, 05:33 PM
RealityChuck's Avatar
RealityChuck is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Apr 1999
Location: Schenectady, NY, USA
Posts: 43,549
I do remember a local radio station advertising an "I Don't Like Mondays" contest. But it was never run and I suspect they finally figured out what the song was about.

A school shooting.

No word on whether a stapler is involved (damn autocorrect!)

Last edited by RealityChuck; 04-04-2020 at 05:34 PM.
  #50  
Old 04-04-2020, 05:35 PM
Colibri's Avatar
Colibri is online now
SD Curator of Critters
Moderator
 
Join Date: Oct 2000
Location: Panama
Posts: 45,555
Quote:
Originally Posted by CastletonSnob View Post
I'll start with an obvious one, Born in the USA by Bruce Springsteen.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LoneRhino View Post
I always call bullshit on this one. Bruce was making a pop album and I'm sure that he knew that screaming "Born in the USA" over and over again would get the type of reaction that it got.
Quote:
Originally Posted by LoneRhino View Post
Yes but the tone of the song matters. It's written and sung like an anthem. It's probably supposed to be ironic but you can't really be surprised when it gets misinterpreted. imagine hearing the song for the first time on the radio. What's going to stick with you? The verses which you have to really listen to or the catchy chorus repeated over and over.
In other words, you're admitting now that it was MISINTERPRETED. Springsteen intended the meaning of the song to be what he wrote, not how it was MISINTERPRETED.
Reply

Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 04:18 PM.

Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2020, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@straightdope.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Copyright © 2019 STM Reader, LLC.

 
Copyright © 2017