If you’re anything like me (hearing music without properly LISTENING TO what the song is saying), you might be surprised to find out how messed up some songs are once you pay closer attention to the lyrics.
Back in the day when I lived in Richmond, VA, I used to attend these awesome free comedy nights hosted by the 955 comedy club. For some odd reason, I remember this one joke told by a comedian about how people think new rap/hip hop songs are just too messed up: what you’re going to do with your girl (or all the girls?), where, and how hard? Well, thanks for trying, but Dean Martin is more messed up and hardcore than all of you hip hop folks. Why? Well, because he’s “Standing on the corner watching all the girls go by / Standing on the corner giving all the girls the eye / Because you can’t go to jail for what you’re thinking” – wait, what?
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO GO TO JAIL FOR DEAN? … JUST HOW YOUNG ARE THESE GIRLS?
This made me think about the large number of songs that are kind of messed up if you listen to the lyrics. I know I’m guilty of listening to a song in general, but not really paying attention to what the lyrics are actually saying. Perhaps I can blame that on being a musician/instrumentalist and not finding myself very good at writing lyrics/poetry so I just skip over that part
So, without further ado, here are my top choices for what songs are kind of messed up if you pay a bit more attention to the lyrics:
1. Escape (The Piña Colada Song)
I was working in Puerto Rico one day and heard the beginning of this song in our runner van waiting to head to the airport. I didn’t recognize it at first and was trying to figure out what was going on in the song, as it starts with “I was tired of my lady / we’d been together far too long.”
Once the chorus started I think I made some giddy squeal noise and asked my coworkers if they realized what was going on in this song?? Perhaps I, alone, had been ignorant my entire life as to the true meaning!?!?!? The majority of them had never realized it either!
Take a listen below:
A man is tired of his relationship, so he takes out a personal ad in the paper (if you like Piña Coladas..). A lady responds (yes I like Piña Coladas…) and they meet in person. She looks up and says, “Oh, it’s you” – IT WAS HIS OWN “LADY”!
So these two are in a relationship, realize they are bored with each other, and decide to potentially cheat on each other without sharing their feelings nor intentions. In the end they learn a bit more about each other (“I never knew!”) and fall more deeply in love (we assume). So…. it’s messed up, but has a happy ending. I guess.
Fun facts (according to Wikipedia): Apparently Rupert Holmes doesn’t even like Piña Coladas. He chose them because it was the first tropical cocktail he could think of (the lyrics were originally going to be “if you like Humphrey Bogart”).
2. Pumped up Kicks
Foster the People
I think by now the majority of people have listened to the lyrics a little bit (especially with the version done by “Weird Al” Yankovic in his Mandatory Fun: Now That’s What I Call Polka), but just in case you haven’t, check out the lyrics here:
Frontman Mark Foster said the following in an interview about the song
I wrote ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness. I wanted to understand the psychology behind it because it was foreign to me. It was terrifying how mental illness among youth had skyrocketed in the last decade. I was scared to see where the pattern was headed if we didn’t start changing the way we were bringing up the next generation.
(visit teenmentalhealth.org if you or someone you know needs help)
3. Baby It’s Cold Outside
(the obligatory christmas song entry)
Dinah Shore and Buddy Clark, Margaret Whiting and Johnny Mercer, Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan, Seth MacFarlane and Sara Bareilles, and Zooey Deschanel and Will Ferrell amongst many others.
This one I’ve known, but it definitely bears mention even if just for one line:
“Say, what’s in this drink?”
Pretty much- she says no- a BAJILLION times… and he keeps persuading her- arguably with more than just his charm.
It’s date rape kiddos. Not cool.
Please- Somebody write another hit holiday male-female duet so people will stop performing this song!!!
Ok, apparently I’m a bit slow with this one. I had never seen the video. If you HAVE see the video (like a number of my friends had), it’s quite obvious what is going on. I, however, had only heard the music- and how in the world am I ever supposed to know what Vedder is saying with that style of vowel-singing? Check it out:
In an interview in Seattle, Eddie Vedder had this to say about the song:
It came from a small paragraph in a paper which means you kill yourself and you make a big old sacrifice and try to get your revenge. That all you’re gonna end up with is a paragraph in a newspaper. Sixty-three degrees and cloudy in a suburban neighborhood. That’s the beginning of the video and that’s the same thing is that in the end, it does nothing … nothing changes. The world goes on and you’re gone. The best revenge is to live on and prove yourself. Be stronger then those people.
5. Fixer Upper
(obligatory Disney entry)
from Disney’s Frozen
written by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
We know there’s some messed up things in a lot of Disney movies, if you look past the candy-coating.
Kristoff brought a friend to meet his family –a friend who is in a life or death situation and REALLY needs help. Instead of helping her (think of how much time was wasted with this song- ANNA IS DYING!), they sing a song about how the two should be together. Allowing a girl to die in front of them while they sing the worst song in the movie, that’s bad enough, yes?
No! Kristoff tells his family that she’s engaged, and the trolls pretty much tell her to forget about it and marry Kristoff anyway. No regard to her feelings or wishes or anything. Rude.
Oh, and let’s not forget the line: “His thing with the reindeer that’s a little outside of nature’s laws”
ummm… what are they implying that Kristoff and Sven do together?
6. Possum Kingdom
I ALWAYS thought this song was messed up…. always always.
I’ll show you my dark secret
I’m not gonna lie
I want you for mine
My blushing bride
My lover, be my lover, yeah
Give it up to me
Do you wanna be
Do you wanna die?
Possibilities of stalking, raping, controlling, murder, necrophilia, obsessiveness…..
Too bad it’s kind of catchy in the midst of all its f*ck-up-ed-ness.
Oh, but then we see the end. All better!
The individual who dragged the body bag from the river then opens it and begins violently hacking away at it. The video ends by revealing the individual is actually an ice sculptor that is creating the image of a beautiful woman. A drop of water is seen streaming down her face.
Jump was Van Halen’s first #1 hit (and their only one with David Lee Roth as the lead singer). The video was groundbreaking, in that it was the first of its kind: the low-budget music performance style, which became ever-popular in the 80s. (In my research, I was pointed to this link if you want to see a video of this style done quite poorly.)
But there’s more to this song than I had ever noticed: Watch the video (enjoy the awesome performance), but then also read below to see what DLR had to say about it:
“Jump” is a song that we wrote for several different reasons, primarily because it is leap year and secondly, because I was watching television one night and it was the five o’clock news and there was a fellow standing on top of the Arco Towers in Los Angeles and he was about to check out early, he was going to do the 33 stories drop – and there was a whole crowd of people in the parking lot downstairs yelling “Don’t jump, don’t jump” and I thought to myself, “Jump.” So, I wrote it down and ultimately it made in onto the record, although in a much more positive vein. It’s easy to translate it the way you hear it on the record as a “go for it” attitude, positive sort of affair – I jog, therefore, I am, approach.
There are plenty more, but I’m going to leave this right here. Leave a comment at the end to share your favo(u)rite messed up song.
- What did I miss? What are your favorite messed up songs?