Suggestions: songs of misunderstood intent.
February 1, 2004 7:09 PM   Subscribe

I have an idea for a theme CD- songs of misunderstood intent. Any suggestions? [more inside]

REM's "One I Love" is often misconstrued as a romantic song, as is Eric Clapton's "Wonderful Tonight". Barring any songs that sound like love songs but are actually about God, (It doesn't light up my life, personally...) any other suggestions for this disc?
posted by oflinkey to Media & Arts (39 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
"Every Breath You Take", natch.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 7:17 PM on February 1, 2004

"Born In The USA", natch.
posted by nicwolff at 7:40 PM on February 1, 2004

Liz Phair's The Divorce Song is about a woman who wakes up in bed with her ex, and the song is mostly explanation about why she never meant it to happen (again). It's on the good album.
posted by scarabic at 7:40 PM on February 1, 2004

Oh, you mean songs that listeners frequently misunderstand? Sorry, I missed that at first.
posted by scarabic at 7:42 PM on February 1, 2004

Fortunate Son and Lust for Life, since the super bowl has me thinking about commercials.
posted by Hildago at 7:50 PM on February 1, 2004

I hate this song, but "Semi-Charmed Life" by Third Eye Blind fits the bill.
posted by whatnot at 7:54 PM on February 1, 2004

"Fome Total/Hunger for Love", from Zuco 103's Outro Lado CD.

Pure Ironic Gold.
posted by Smart Dalek at 8:02 PM on February 1, 2004

Green Day, "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)"
posted by kirkaracha at 8:06 PM on February 1, 2004

I knew a few of these, but there are some I have never considered/heard of.
Thank you
posted by oflinkey at 8:25 PM on February 1, 2004

"Misunderstood" by Wilco
posted by adrober at 8:29 PM on February 1, 2004

"Song for Whoever" by The Beautiful South
posted by muckster at 8:37 PM on February 1, 2004

I would say that Brick by Ben Folds Five is often seen as a "romantic" song (it suffered overkill as a "slow song" at many a prom in my experience) when personally, it's always been my impression its about an unwanted pregnancy, though debates exist.

Also, I would suggest the original version of 99 Luftballons by Nena, better known as 99 Red Balloons. I know this is part of the likely intended brilliance of the song, but the tune was snappy and pop-y enough to make it a dance hit in the US in the 1980s, even though the German lyrics are about the world getting blown up. It's currently making the rounds in a cell phone ad (the one with the pigs?), to my own personal amusement.
posted by nelleish at 8:55 PM on February 1, 2004

with or without you, u2.

i hear it's played often at weddings.
posted by sugarfish at 9:09 PM on February 1, 2004

Just out of curiousity, why is Wonderful Tonight not a love song? It seems loveish to me, despite the alcoholic undertones.
posted by Zosia Blue at 9:20 PM on February 1, 2004

I don't know if these count, but:
Back on the Chain Gang/Pretenders (an od)
And She Was/Talking Heads (tripping)
Blister in the Sun/Violent Femmes (jerking off)
She Bop/Cyndi Lauper (jerking off)
Material Girl (anti-materialistic, but everyone thought otherwise)

and i love that song, muckster : >
posted by amberglow at 9:38 PM on February 1, 2004

Zosia Blue- It is too late for me to look tonight, but tomorrow I will find a link to the interview where I saw it. "Wonderful Tonight" is about Clapton's ex, and the idea is that she was the sort who looked for constant reassurance and attention. He is also in the throes of heroin at the time, I believe.
posted by oflinkey at 9:51 PM on February 1, 2004

Timbuk 3's "The Future's So Bright I Gotta Wear Shades". Classic case of sarcasm going unrecognized. The US military wanted to use it for recruitment ads, but the band refused. It was also used on an episode of Head of the Class with the word beer changed to cheer. "50 thou' a year will buy a lot of cheer..."
posted by teg at 10:52 PM on February 1, 2004

The Guess Who - American Woman
Nine Inch Nails - Closer
Sisters of Mercy - Floorshow
posted by Jairus at 10:59 PM on February 1, 2004

it's always been my impression [Brick is] about an unwanted pregnancy, though debates exist.

Not anymore. On his solo tour alone with a piano, he acknowledged it was about the time his girlfriend got an abortion. Basically though, he just wanted the song to convey how he felt, and not have people focused on the issue of abortion to the extent of not listening to the song, so refused to talk about it for a while.
posted by kindall at 11:50 PM on February 1, 2004

the Smiths - How Soon is Now.
Not so much misunderstood as totally butchered into something much more positive for the intro music of Charmed (which was an edit of a cover by Love Spit Love)
posted by fvw at 12:56 AM on February 2, 2004

10cc. I'm not in Love (warning popups launch virus programs, don't click in windows IE).
My best friend used to sing this to his now wife until one day she snapped, and asked (1) why he was always singing that horrible song to her, and (2) why he didn't love her.

It was a moment of pure comedy.
posted by seanyboy at 3:01 AM on February 2, 2004

One more. Turning Japanese.
Which isn't at all about becoming Japanese.
posted by seanyboy at 3:06 AM on February 2, 2004

REM - Losing My Religion isn't about religion at all.
posted by armoured-ant at 3:39 AM on February 2, 2004

Alanis Morissette's "Ironic".

She thinks her examples are about irony, but they're just about misfortune. It's quite something when the writer of the song gets it wrong.
posted by Blue Stone at 3:54 AM on February 2, 2004

- Diane by Husker Du seems like sort of a love song unless you catch the "rape you and kill you instead" line.
- "Sound of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel is not a nice song about peace
- I always used to think that Nirvana's song Sliver has some sort of menacing tone towards a date or girlfriend, but it's about a visit to Grandma's house
- Cream's "I'm so Glad" are not the words of a truly happy man
- "This Land is Your Land" when sung with the full lyrics is not patriotic as much as it is populist. For example
"In the squares of the city - In the shadow of the steeple
Near the relief office - I see my people
And some are grumblin' and some are wonderin'
If this land's still made for you and me."

- "You Are My Sunshine" - the Louisiana state song is blue and creepy, lyrically
posted by jessamyn at 5:08 AM on February 2, 2004

Night & Day, written by Cole Porter, sung by various.

A wonderful song but when you listen to the lyrics, it is like Every Breath You Take, a thinly veiled song by a obsessive stalker.
posted by Dagobert at 5:34 AM on February 2, 2004

"Short People," Randy Newman

"Smells Like Teen Spirit," Nirvana

You could also go the veiled drug references route.
posted by staggernation at 6:10 AM on February 2, 2004

"There She Goes" by The La's.
posted by soundofsuburbia at 6:19 AM on February 2, 2004

I thought "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed was about heroin.
posted by salmacis at 7:01 AM on February 2, 2004

"Mickey" by Toni Basil. Seriously.
posted by Tacodog at 7:01 AM on February 2, 2004

"Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd has made its way onto many a romantic mix tape, even though it's supposedly about former Floyd member Syd Barrett and his internment in an insane asylum.
posted by Prospero at 7:04 AM on February 2, 2004

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this one yet:

"Puff The Magic Dragon"
posted by briank at 7:08 AM on February 2, 2004

('cuz it's about a magic dragon, see, and not about drugs like everyone thinks...Peter Yarrow says so)
posted by briank at 7:09 AM on February 2, 2004

Nirvana's "Polly"

Cobain was distressed to find out that what he wrote and how it was interpreted could quite often be miles apart. He was appalled when he found out that Polly a heavily ironic anti-rape song had been used as background music in a real gang-rape.

(From here)
posted by Ljubljana at 9:51 AM on February 2, 2004

How about "Long May You Run" and "Rosie"? Or are those too obvious?

This may be the place to restate my conviction that "Kiss Me" by Sixpence None the Richer is about two women rather than a woman and a man. I know the Jesus-friendly band won't admit it, but read the freakin' lyrics. "You wear those shoes and I will wear that dress" - why would this need to be specified unless the garments were interchangeable? "Bring, bring, bring your flowered hat" - uh, whose "flowered hat" would that be? Come on. There are plenty of other hints. The song works perfectly as a scene of two girls slipping off into the woods, and very imperfectly as a boy and a girl doing same. OK, I won't mention it again.
posted by soyjoy at 10:39 AM on February 2, 2004

Mama, by Genesis. A lot of people think it's about abortion, but it's really about a hooker.
posted by vorfeed at 10:55 AM on February 2, 2004

How about just about every Bob Mould song? Thanks to his universal use of the handy-dandy, orientation-concealing second person, they're just boy-girl relationship songs...or ARE THEY??!!!!???

posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 12:17 PM on February 2, 2004

idea about 'Kiss Me': the guy in the band wrote the song (Matt, i think), so the POV bends the gender perspective a little.
posted by Sean Meade at 5:26 AM on February 5, 2004

Prospero: The Wish You Were Here album, and Shine on You Crazy Diamond in specific are about Barrett. The song Wish You Were Here however is about David Gilmour's ex-wife and their divorce. This was in an interview, can't find it right now but excessive googling should find it for you.
posted by fvw at 1:16 PM on February 5, 2004

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