Back when I was growing up in the Stone Age, we often got the lyrics to songs totally wrong. We only heard them on the radio, after all, unless we could actually spring for the cassette (or eventually the CD) and be able to read them word for word, on paper.
There was no internet we could go to, no YouTube to make us feel confident we were singing the right thing.
Even though we do have those things now, sometimes the meaning behind songs gets totally lost in translation – like with these 9 songs that the public things are about love, but actually aren’t.
9. “The One I Love” by R.E.M
Though many fans hear the 1987 staple as a genuine declaration of love, but in it, Michael Stipe refers to another person as “a simple prop to occupy my time,” soooo…
Probably more about using someone than love them I think.
In 1992, Stipe told Q magazine that “it’s probably better that they think it’s a love song at this point. That song just came up from somewhere and I recognized it as being really violent and awful.”
8. “All I Wanna Do Is Make Love To You” by Heart
This Top 5 hit, written by superstar producer Robert John “Mutt” Lange, is actually a power ballad about a woman looking to get pregnant by a stranger.
She picks him up, takes him to a hotel, tells him not to come looking for her, and after she has his kid, tells him to get lost a second time.
Heart singer Ann Wilson described the song as “kind of an empty, weird, sort of hateful story” and admits they even alter the lyrics when they sing it live.
7. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police
I think that most of us have realized at this point that the person in this song is a super stalker, but in 1983, apparently people heard it as romantic – oh, how times have changed.
Sting calls the piece “a nasty little song” about “jealousy and surveillance and ownership.”
6. “I Will Always Love You” by Dolly Parton
This song is about selflessly walking away from a relationship because you realize you’re not what they need, but original author Dolly Parton didn’t write it about a love affair at all.
She had recently made the difficult decision to split from her longtime collaborator Porter Wagoner to pursue a solo career, and the lyrics are meant to be devastating, not romantic.
5. “Marry You” by Bruno Mars
This might be a hit at weddings and proposal, but in the (repeated) chorus Mars asks “Is it the look in your eyes/Or is it this dancing juice,” suggesting that the couple has had too much to drink and are “looking for something dumb to do.”
Basically, they’re going to go get married, but “as for the next morning, if we wake up and you wanna break up, that’s cool.”
Not the way you’d want to start your life together if you could help it.
4. “One” by U2
According to Bono, “One” is about a couple of things, but neither is love.
He says the classic was partly inspired by the idea of a boy coming out to his religious father, but in a broader sense, is about the challenges people face in overcoming their differences and finding ways to live together.
“It’s anti-romantic,” he says in the book U2 by U2. “We are one but not the same. We get to carry each other. It’s a reminder that we have no choice.”
3. “Kiss On My List” by Hall & Oats
You, like many people, might think the chorus of this 1980 hit goes “your kiss on my lips,” but listen – we’re all wrong.
Co-writer Daryl Hall sings list, which suggests the narrator doesn’t actually value the woman’s kisses all that much at all – an interpretation that’s confirmed by Hall’s liner notes.
“It’s an anti-love song. It means that your kiss is only on the list of the best things. It’s not the only thing. Everyone thinks it’s ‘I love you and without you I would die.’ It’s the exact opposite of that.”
2. “One Way Or Another” by Blondie
We’ve come a long way in the past couple of decades when it comes to dating, and one thing that’s changed is the idea that pursuing someone after they’ve told you to back off is somehow romantic.
The guy who inspired Debbie Harry to write this song was the opposite of romantic, according to what she told Entertainment Weekly.
“I was actually stalked. So it came out of a not-so-friendly personal event. I tried to inject a little levity to make it more lighthearted. It was a survival mechanism.”
1. “Crash Into Me” by Dave Matthews Band
Most of us get wooed by the instrumental portion of this 1996 jam, but the lyrics actually describe a peeping Tom creeping on a young woman through her window.
“He’s the kind of person you’d call the police on,” Matthews said in an episode of VH1’s Storytellers.
Wow, so some of these really surprised me!
Did any of them surprise you? Did you learn something like this about a favorite song and have it blow your mind? Tell us about it in the comments!