Have you ever been singing along with one of your favorite pop songs at the top of your voice, and suddenly the lyrics 'clicked' and you realized what the song was actually ABOUT? Popular music (of all genres) forms the soundtrack of our lives, but what we often fail to see is what the songs are actually saying, and sometimes what they are saying is more than a little sexual, even though we may have missed the meaning. Many songwriters are very good at putting innuendo into their lyrics, and others are very blatant, but the catchy melody and/or beat or the public persona of the artist who performs the song throws us off track in seeing the true meaning. Here are a few that sometimes are missed...
Summer of '69 - Bryan Adams. Many listeners assume Bryan is talking about the year 1969, but the song is actually very autobiographical - when the lyrics talk about a band he was in where 'Jimmy quit, Jody got married', it is referring to real people in a band Bryan was in, and Bryan wasn't in his first band til in the 70's. In
1969, Bryan was 9 years old. So, what is the song about? In Bryan's own words:
"The song is a bit autobiographical,” but it’s really about summer love and, in my case being a musician. I love the song Night Moves by Bob Seger, which is about getting laid in the summer, and I always wanted to write an answer to that. There is a huge misconception that this song is about 1969, but it’s not. The reason I chose 69 is because of the sexual position. "
Yes, Bryan said the 69 in the song is about the sexual position of 69! Bryan has always had a very clean-cut image, which probably has made the meaning less obvious because the sweet boy next door Bryan wouldn't be singing to his fans about doing a '69 in one of his biggest hits ever, would he??? Why, yes, yes he would!
I Just Died in Your Arms Tonight - Cutting Crew. This 80's hit is generally believed to be about falling for someone. It's an ode to love that hits you hard and suddenly and overwhelmingly.....right? Well.... maybe there's some of that in there, but Nick Van Eede said that he came up with the lyrics during sex... in this case, it helps to understand that 'dying' is a play on the
French phrase for an orgasm, 'la petit mort', which translates into English as 'the little death', so quite literally the song is about having an orgasm... what caused this? 'It must have been something you said." As he sings later in the song "It was a long hot night, she made it easy, she made it feel right, but now it's over, the moment is gone. I followed my hands not my head" (Cleanup in aisle 3!)
Poker Face - Lady Gaga. With all the sexual innuendos in 'Poker Face', it may not be hard to deduce that the song has sexual undertones, but what she actually is referring to may not be blatantly obvious. Fortunately, Gaga has on more than one occasion given insight into the song's meaning. Back at a private gig in 2013, Lady Gaga revealed to the audience, "You know this song is actually about when I was making love to this guy that I was dating a long time ago, I was thinking about chicks every time we had sex. and I just didn't want him to figure it out because I felt so bad. But I don't anymore because I wrote a song about it."
So the 'poker face' was to keep the man she was having sex with from realizing she wasn't thinking about him, but about girls. Rolling Stone magazine asked Lady Gaga what she meant exactly by the "Poker Face" lyric, "bluffin' with my muffin." Her answer:
"Obviously, it's my p*ssy's poker face! I took that line from another song I wrote but never released, called 'Blueberry Kisses.' It was about a girl singing to her boyfriend about how she wants him to go down on her, and I used the lyric "Blueberry kisses, the muffin man misses them kisses."
Something to think about as you are belting out 'Poker Face' in your car along with Gaga next time!
December, 1963 (Oh What a Night) - Frankie Valli & the Four Seasons. This tune from 1975 comes across at first listen as a romantic, nostalgic look back at first love or awakening. However, singer Frankie Valli, who helped write the song, admitted later that it's about "losing your cherry" - having sex for the very first time. And, not only was it first-
time sex, it was a one-night stand "Oh, what a night, you know I didn't even know her name" he lilts. And in his high falsetto, Valli even describes this first orgasm "I felt a rush like a rollin' ball of thunder, spinnin' my head around and takin' my body under". Because the types of radio stations that played their music were mostly very conservative ones, the band had to downplay the sexual undertones of the song at the time, but later acknowledged the song's true intention. This song about losing virginity in a one-night stand reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, thanks to its play on conservative radio stations!
Little Red Corvette - Prince. One of Prince's biggest hits, which has absolutely nothing to do with cars! Prince never shied away from writing songs that had sexual meanings and undertones. However, many of his songs were so blatantly sexual that radio stations wouldn't play them for fear of offending their listeners, who often included families with young children. In 'Little Red Corvette', however, Prince disguises the imagery cleverly enough that many never picked up on it, and even those who did felt it was obtuse enough that it wouldn't offend people. They were right, and the song became a big hit.
So, if the song ISN'T about a little red corvette, what IS it about? In this song, Prince does some gender-role swapping, describing a girl who is having serial sex with men and leaving them behind as fast as she finishes with them (often considered more of a male behavior), and he is the one who needs to slow her down and show her some real loving (more traditionally viewed as the female behavior). The 'little red corvette' is a metaphor for how quickly she runs off and leaves men behind after she's had her way with them.
Prince reveals in the song lyrics, "I guess I must be dumb 'Cause you had a pocket full of horses - Trojan and some of them used" Trojan here refers to the condom brand, and she had a 'pocket full of them, and some of them were used. This shows she had had lovers (he calls them jockeys in the song), and she is anticipating more (only SOME of them are used).
He describes how promiscuous she has been with the lyrics "I guess I should've closed my eyes When you drove me to the place where your horses run free
'Cause I felt a little ill when I saw all the pictures Of the jockeys that were there before me", and he tells her "Now, move over, baby Gimme the keys I'm gonna try to tame your little red love machine." There are some indications that the 'little red corvette' may also be a reference to her vagina when Prince sings "Honey, you got to slow down (Got to slow down) Little Red Corvette, 'Cause if you don't, you're gonna run your little red corvette Right in the ground". Whatever it is, however, the little red corvette is NOT a car!
Dancing with myself - Billy Idol. Like many songs, this iconic song has meanings on more than one level. As referenced in the beginning lyrics, Billy saw people who would quite literally spend hours in Tokyo dancing with themselves, and this was the inspiration
for the song on the surface level. The song has, however, another level of meaning, and uses 'dancing with myself' as a euphemism for masturbation. Idol admits that when he was recording the album this song was on, he was doing little but having sex and taking drugs, often at the same time, and while the song's inspiration came from literal dancing, Idol's brain at the time was obsessed with sexual imagery, and when he sings "When there's no one else in sight, In the crowded lonely night, Well, I wait so long for my love vibration, And I'm dancing with myself" it is at least partly referring to his self-pleasure as he was often in hotel rooms touring and was left on his own. While Idol insists the song isn't JUST about masturbation, he told Rolling Stone magazine "There's a masturbatory element to it, too." (Party of one?)
Ticket to Ride - The Beatles. While there are certainly some songs of the Beatles that are clearly referencing sex (e.g. Norwegian Wood), 'Ticket to Ride' has a somewhat fuzzy meaning, only one of which seems to have sexual intention. However, since that explanation comes from one of the authors of the song, John Lennon, it's something we have to give some credible thought to!
The song was written in 1965, and became a huge hit, both in the UK and the US, for the Fab Four. While there wasn't much said about its meaning at the time, in later years both Paul McCartney and John Lennon voiced opinions on the meaning of the key phrase in the song, which totally impacts the way the song is interpreted. McCartney, who was somewhat more politically correct, especially as he grew older, explained that the 'Ticket to Ride' was a ticket for a ferry going to the Isle of Wight, to the town of Ryde. In that explanation, it makes the song about a girl who's leaving her fellow and going to the town of Ryde to get away from him, which certainly would fit the meaning of the song that is often assumed, and which most likely was the type of meaning assumed by The Carpenters when they covered this song in the '70s.
However, the idea for the song was originally John Lennon's, and his explanation of the phrase 'ticket to ride' is starkly different. In their early days, the Beatles spent a lot of time playing in Hamburg,
Germany, in an area which was the seedier side of town, and where prostitutes could be easily found. However, since prostitution was legal in Hamburg, it was also regulated, and prostitutes were required to be regularly tested for VD, and they were provided a card that gave them a clean bill of health and meant they were allowed to practice prostitution. According to Lennon, the Beatles, using 'Ride' as slang for having sex, called these cards that were given to prostitutes a 'ticket to ride' which meant it was a green light to have sex with them. So in this context, the song appears to be about a girl who has gotten her card to allow her to become a prostitute, her 'ticket to ride', and she's chosen to leave him for the life of a prostitute because she wasn't fulfilled with him.
The song declares "She said that living with me is bringing her down, yeah
She would never be free when I was around", which indicates either she felt him too controlling or else she was more sexually liberated than he was. In any case, Lennon's take on the meaning of 'Ticket to Ride' takes us down a totally different path as to why the girl in the song is leaving! While it's not so hard to believe that the irreverent Beatles would write a song with that kind of meaning, it certainly makes the smooth version of this tune sung by the silky voice of Karen Carpenter a little more something to smile at as you realize the Carpenters probably never knew about or understood this inside joke of the Beatles.
While there are many songs with hidden or less than clear meanings that may have some disguised sexual intentions, these are a few of the ones sometimes missed by many. Have some you think deserve mention? Share them in the comments!
Here's a light hearted look at a few songs that are a bit more obvious, but might fit the bill as well!