top of page
  • Writer's pictureMarqs

Songs You Totally Misunderstood

Updated: Nov 22, 2022

The radio is blaring in the car as you drive down the highway, singing at the top of your

lungs along with this familiar, iconic song. But, do you know what you're singing about?

Sometimes we may love a song because of its great melody, cool rhythm, or catchy lyrics, but that doesn't necessarily mean we know what the song means. Here are a few songs you may love, but not really understand the meaning and message they carry!

Who Let The Dogs Out - Baha Men

A feminist anthem - really?? Yes, this song is all about women standing up against men who treat them as sex objects, catcalling and showing disrespect to them as equals to

the men. The lyrics give us insight with "Well the party was nice, the party was pumpin' And everybody havin' a ball, Until the fellas started name callin' And the girls responded to the call. I heard a woman shout out 'Who let the dogs out?'" Who are the dogs? Well, despite the fact that the video does show some actual dogs, the dogs in this song are NOT four-legged creatures. Anslem Douglas, the writer of the lyrics, said "a woman shouts, Who let the dogs out? And we start calling men dogs. It was really a man-bashing song.

In the music video, actual dogs are shown, but we see women kicking at the dogs and eventually the dogs turning into men, so the identity of the dogs is clear. After all, if the women are the 'cats' in the catcalling, who chases cats? Dogs! In this song, the women stand their ground and call out the men for being dogs in their behavior. Who would have thought this song, often played in clubs and parties, was actually a song bashing men for not treating women with respect? Who? Who? Who? Who? Who?

Blackbird - The Beatles

"Blackbird" is a beautiful tune with some great work on the guitar released on the Beatles' "White Album' in 1968. Despite the title and lyrics referring to a blackbird, the song is not

about our feathered friend. "Bird" is British slang for a girl, and Paul McCartney, who wrote the song, has said that the blackbird in the song should be interpreted as 'black girl'. In the late 1960's as the civil rights movement in the US was growing, and the riots and marches were dominating world news, McCartney and his band mates were increasingly aware of what was happening across the ocean and were very much supportive of the

civil rights movement. With lyrics like "All your life, You were only waiting for this moment to be free" and "Blackbird fly, blackbird fly Into the light of a dark black night", McCartney was acknowledging the growing civil rights movement and expressing encouragement for them to 'fly' - to not be held down any longer, because 'You were only waiting for this moment to arise".

In 2016, Paul McCartney had the opportunity to meet two of the 'Little Rock Nine" - the 9 black children who were the first to integrate what had previously been an all-white school in Little Rock, Arkansas. Afterward, McCartney tweeted "Incredible to meet two of the Little Rock Nine—pioneers of the civil rights movement and inspiration for Blackbird".

Though it's not 1968, racial equality is still very much a current topic, which makes "Blackbird" just as relevant today as it was then!

Born in the U.S.A. - Bruce Springsteen

Springsteen's iconic tune has been chanted, sung, and played over loudspeakers at political rallies and community events which were patriotic in nature. Political figures have raised their hands singing the chorus loudly as they declared their commitment to the nation. It's a great patriotic song, right?

Actually, it's a protest song and does not paint a very positive picture of how the U.S.

treats its working class and veterans, particularly those of the Vietnam era. The song is about the predicament of the working class, the tragedy of the Vietnam War, and the displacement of veterans. Bruce talked of how the system takes advantage of the middle-class people and gives them little in return for their hard work in his lyrics "You end up like a dog that’s been beat too much, ‘Til you spend half your life just to cover up

In an era of high unemployment, high inflation, and factories closing as US jobs were shipped overseas, being a working person was becoming increasingly hard. Add to that the plight of veterans who had returned from Vietnam, and the situation was even worse. These were mostly young men who had not gone to college, and when they returned from the war they couldn't get a job and had nowhere to go.

Springsteen talks of the veterans in his lyrics "Got in a little hometown jam, So, they put a rifle in my handSome of those who were sent to Vietnam had been in some legal trouble at home, so the government offered them a way out: go to war. What happened to them? "Sent me off to a foreign land, To go and kill the yellow man" The imagery is nothing like the patriotism of WWII when young men voluntarily signed up to go fight for their country. Many of the soldiers who went to Vietnam were there against their will, fighting an enemy they had no desire to kill. The song goes on to describe how the soldiers returning from the war found no jobs to come back to: "Come back home to the refinery, Hiring man says, ‘Son, if it was up to me’" . Even years later, the veterans had nothing - the US government that took them and sent them to war gave them nothing when they returned home, no job, no help, no dignity "I’m ten years burning down the road

I’ve got nowhere to run and nowhere to go”"

The chorus of "Born in the U.S.A." , which is what most politicians and other people see as the patriotic message of the song, is actually not so much an expression of pride in the country as a use of irony... being born in the USA has always been taught to American children as a great blessing, after all, isn't the US the 'greatest country in the world?'... but Springsteen talks of how hard life is and how the system has failed those who were 'born in the USA', especially the working class. In interview, The Boss said "When you think about all the young men and women that died in Vietnam, and how many died since they've been back—surviving the war and coming back and not surviving—you have to think that, at the time, the country took advantage of their selflessness." Next time you hear this song played at a political rally, you can be sure the people chanting and singing along have no clue that the song is actually a protest against the values they represent.

Total Eclipse of the Heart - Bonnie Tyler

This enduring classic rock hit from the 80's is about the longing of love, right? Yes it is, but what many did not know, including Bonnie Tyler, is that the song was originally written

for a musical, “Nosferatu", which was never completed, about... vampires. "Total Eclipse of the Heart" was originally intended to be a vampire love song.

The original title of the song was "Vampires in Love", and the writer of the song, Jim Steinman, says “If anyone listens to the lyrics, they’re really like vampire lines. It’s all about the darkness, the power of darkness and love’s place in dark,” says Steinman.

In 1997, Steinman had the opportunity to write the music for a musical called "Dance of the Vampires", and he included a version of Total Eclipse of the Heart.


What songs do you know that have a meaning that most listeners don't know or miss? Songwriters and performers sometimes intentionally make songs ambiguous or hide meanings in the lyrics. Sometimes the meanings are clearly there, but are simply misunderstood or misinterpreted by listeners. Either way, what you THINK you are singing about when you sing along to the hits may NOT be the message of the song!