Five Songs That Were Grossly Misinterpreted
Photo by Abrahan Garza
Songs get misinterpreted all the time. Sometimes it's because they have vague lyrics, others it's because singers can't enunciate properly -- looking at you, Eddie Vedder -- and still others it's just because they're misleading and people don't take the time to think them through all the way.
That happens with satirical songs a lot, and these five have for sure been taken too much at face value. Especially in the realm of pop, it's easy to just look at a title and assume you know what it's about, but satire can take on many different forms, as seen here.
5. Morrissey, "The National Front Disco" The National Front doesn't mean much to those of us in America, but in England they are a group of right-wing nationalists who want to kick anybody who isn't white straight out of the country. You could say they're the English version of the KKK...so what was Morrissey doing writing a tribute song to them?
Obviously anyone who knows Moz's music and his sense of humor could guess that he was being satirical with this so-called anthem, but that didn't stop the music media from viciously reaming him for it upon the song's release. Questions abounded about whether he might really be a racist, and his typically sardonic responses probably didn't help his own case much.
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4. Bruce Springsteen, "Born in the USA" Most people now are in the know with this one, understanding that it's a hell of a lot closer to a protest song than a patriotic anthem. Nonetheless, this distinction has continued to elude politicians since the song's release in 1984.
Ronald Reagan, embroiled in a reelection campaign at the time, famously came out in support of the song and Springsteen himself, completely oblivious to the song's true meaning or Springsteen's own political ideals. It was an embarrassment for conservatives among the young and in the know, but it didn't hurt Reagan enough to prevent him from winning the presidency in a landslide victory.
3. Black Sabbath, "N.I.B." This one wasn't really a joke, but more posturing. Black Sabbath were well aware of how to craft an image, and also what they were interested in doing lyrically. When they came up with "N.I.B.," along with many others dealing in Satanic imagery, it was born from the same horror-movie mindset that spawned the band's name and artwork.
That didn't stop them from becoming the poster children of Satanism in the 1970s, though. This was an especially hilarious occurrence, because soon after this they released the song "After Forever," which deals heavily in pro-religious themes. This confusion over their true beliefs would become a recurring theme throughout front man Ozzy Osbourne's solo career as well.
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2. The Police, "Every Breath You Take" Given the amount of people who took this one as a touching love song, it just goes to show how creepy love can be when you're in the throes of it. Sting's sinister anthem isn't really very romantic at all, instead being about a stalker. You have to think Sting was laughing pretty hard at all the people playing this at weddings, not paying attention to the lyrics.
Still, given its romantic adult-contemporary sound, it isn't hard to understand how someone would misunderstand it. It's practically a parody of '80s love songs, and when Stephen Colbert released his own parody titled "Charlene (I'm Right Behind You)," thematically it was barely different than the original.
1. R.E.M., "The One I Love" Like "Every Breath You Take," this one has often been misunderstood as a love song, but a cursory look at its lyrics show that it's a crass appraisal of someone who just uses his or her lovers as "props" for their own ego.
Time and time again, any song with "love" in the title has managed to become a massive hit, and this one was no different. I have to wonder if it would have gone over so well had it been titled after the second part of the chorus, "the one I left behind."
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