Song Meanings that will Surprise You

Not really the party anthem you thought it was

Prepare to have your mind blown right out of your goddamned head, or not, I don’t know the extent of your musical knowledge. Here are 10 songs that mean something totally different than you thought.

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweats – “S.O.B.”

Nathaniel Rateliff and the Night Sweat’s song “S.O.B.” sounds like a party anthem, but it’s actually about Nathaniel Rateliff’s struggle with alcohol dependency and delirium tremors.


Ben Folds Five – “Brick”

This is going to make this song even more sad, but Ben Folds wrote “Brick” about when he was in high school, and he and his girlfriend had an abortion. They didn’t want their parents to know so they sold Christmas presents at a pawn shop to afford the abortion.


R.E.M. – “Losing My Religion”

“Losing my Religion” is an old expression that basically means you’re at the end of your rope, so this song isn’t about abandoning your religion, it’s actually about unrequited love.


X Ambassadors – “Unsteady”

The singer and keyboardist from X Ambassadors are brothers, and you have to listen closely to realize that this is actually about their parents’ divorce when they were kids.


M.I.A. – “Paper Planes”

M.I.A.’s “Paper planes” has nothing to do with getting as high as a plane—she’s actually making fun of the negative immigrant sentiments some people have.


Bruce Springsteen – “Born in the U.S.A.”

You can laugh every time an American sports team patriotically plays “Born in the USA,” because Bruce Springsteen wrote this song about how terribly the U.S.A. were treating their Vietnam veterans.

Foster the People – “Pumped Up Kicks”

Foster the People’s “Pumped Up Kicks” was one of the biggest songs of 2011, and it’s actually about a teenager who feels trapped and isolated and is fantasizing about going on a killing spree.


Third Eye Blind – “Semi-Charmed Life”

“Semi Charmed Life” was an anthem in the ’90s, and it’s really about a crystal meth binge. The song has such a light and fun sound because it reflects the “bright shiny feeling you get on speed.”


Nirvana – “Heart-Shaped Box”

Many people think Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” is about Courtney Love, and it may be, but Kurt Cobain has said it was inspired by a report he saw on TV about kids with cancer.


Bryan Adams – “Summer of ’69”

Bryan Adams was 10 years old in 1969. The hook was inspired by the sexual position.