Music is everywhere, but what goes on in these tunes is way more than great melodies. Some artists are straightforward, while others use lyrics with hidden messages. Everyone has that one song they thought meant something else, and it turned out to be completely different. Here are deep songs that you didn’t know have a deeper meaning.
1. Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd
Nothing is ever black and white with The Weeknd. When you listen to the song, your first thought would be it’s a love song, but the actual lyrical meaning is something else. Can’t feel my face is the literal description of what happens when one takes too much of a certain substance. The artist metaphorically described his relationship with this substance as if it was a woman. It’s more like the confessions of a drug addict.
2. Poker Face – Lady Gaga
Lady Gaga has always explored her bisexuality, especially in her early hits. Poker Face was one of the songs about meaning that was not very clear. However, she clarified in an interview that the song is about being in a relationship with a guy while fantasizing about a girl. Bisexuality was the idea behind the song. That is why the lyrics have various sexual innuendos.
3. Chandelier – Sia
When this song came out, most people interpreted it as a party song. Deep songs are easily misinterpreted all the time. Sia talks about her struggle with alcoholism and addiction. Her boyfriend was hit by a taxi, and she turned to alcohol and drugs to cope with the loss. She poured her emotions into the song. However, that didn’t stop it from being one of the biggest party anthems in pop.
4. Closing Time – Semisonic
On the surface, this is a song about a bar closing after merrymaking. But at the core, it’s about the lead singer’s impending fatherhood. Dan Wilson said he did not realize the song was about his unborn child until he wrote it. The subconscious inspiration dictated the lyrics. If you listen to the song again, you will realize what the artist is talking about.
5. A Little Bit Longer – Jonas Brothers
This song sounds like a breakup song, which most people assumed. But it turns out it’s about Nick Jonas’ struggles with type 1 diabetes. He says he wrote the song in twenty minutes one day when his sugar was out of rage. That is when some of the lyrics started making more sense. You could easily dictate the more profound meaning and spot some of the things you missed the first time in the song.
6. Gangnam Style – Psy
This was a viral music video in 2012, mainly because of the comical horse-riding dance. It’s all fun until you realize the deeper issues Psy was trying to address. Gangnam is a very privileged and wealthy South Korean district. The artist was making fun of those who think very highly of themselves and mimicking them to an extent. It’s a great socioeconomic satire piece and a great song you can let loose and dance to.
7. Pumped Up Kicks – Foster The People
You’ve probably grooved to the Pumped Up Kicks song at one point in the last ten years. The song is about an alienated kid that fantasizes about shooting his school for revenge. The artist says he wanted to write from a victim’s perspective but decided instead to get into the killer’s mind. According to him, it’s supposed to be an anti-gun song. But some critics felt that he was exploiting the issue.
8. Let It Be – The Beatles
If you know Paul McCartney, you could probably guess what the song is about. The lyrics don’t say it directly, but Paul’s late mother inspired the song. She died of cancer when he was only 14, and that’s why he wrote this track. His mother was also called Mary. When asked if the song was referencing the Virgin Mary, the Beatles said it was up to the fan’s interpretation.
9. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) – Green Day
People lay this song at funerals, graduations, weddings, and other goodbye parties. The lyrics fit such occasions because it indicates moving to the next chapter in life. But according to the lead singer, the song was written when he was resentful and bitter over a breakup. His girlfriend at the time was moving to Ecuador. He decided to name the song Good Riddance to show his anger.
10. Blackbird – The Beatles
The Beatles had many songs with hidden meanings. This song is not about a bird with broken wings; it’s symbolic. It’s talking about the civil rights movement in America. This should show you that you always need to watch for the deeper meaning when you listen to any of the band’s songs. But you can also take the literal meaning if you don’t want to rock your brain.
11. Born In The USA – Bruce Springsteen
You might be among the majority who think this song is about U.S pride and patriotism. This is arguably one of the most understood songs ever. The dominant tone in the lyrics is about criticism of American policy and society. He criticizes how the veterans were treated after returning from the Vietnam war. Now that you know the deeper meaning, you can listen to the song from a different perspective.
12. Harder To Breathe – Maroon 5
At first glance, this song is a steamy love song about a rocky relationship. But when you dig deeper, you will learn the song is about the pressure the band’s record label was putting on them. The label wanted more songs for the 2002 album, and this was one of the 11-hour songs. It highlights the pressures of the music industry. People learned the inspiration and true meaning behind the song from multiple interviews with the artists.
13. I Shot The Sheriff – Bob Marley
The reggae icon was not talking about shooting an actual sheriff. According to his ex, the song was about Bob Marley not wanting her to take birth control pills. The sheriff in the song is the doctor that prescribes her birth control pills. That is when lines like, ‘every time I plant a seed, He said kill it before it grows’ make more sense.
14. Imagine – John Lennon
Imagine may not be as innocent as you initially thought. This song is like an actual communist manifesto. According to John Lennon, communism is accepted through the song because it is sugar-coated. The artist waited until the song was a major hit before revealing the serious communist underpinnings. He said now he knows what to do, put messages out with a little honey.
15. No Tears Left To Cry – Ariana Grande
Ariana Grande kept a lot of serious stuff hidden in this iconic pop anthem. The lyrics go hand in hand with her feelings after the terrorist attack during her concert in Manchester. She never came out openly to explain the lyrics, but it’s similar to everything in the album Sweetener, which came after the attack. She asserts that moving forward is the best thing through this song.
16. American Woman – The Guess Who
This 1970 song is about a woman who did the singers wrong. That is what you will get from the literal meaning of the lyrics. However, the woman represents America. They wrote the song after an attempt to draft the band while they were playing in North Dakota. That is why the Canadian band felt like the country did them wrong.
17. I Cry – Flo Rida
When you listen to the songs about meaning, you will understand that Flo Rida talked about victims of terrorist attacks and natural disasters. These victims find comfort in religion. The message is not very hidden when you keenly listen. You might cry when you learn the meaning behind the harmless lyrics.
18. Semi-Charmed Life – Third Eye Blind
This upbeat song was super edited to be played on the radio. That is why there are no illicit substance references. But you will understand the deeper hidden meaning of the song when you look at the original lyrics. The clean version won’t give you a hint that the song is about a couple tripping together.
19. In The Air Tonight – Phil Collins
After leaving Genesis, Phil put out his first solo track, In The Air Tonight. The song starts with a disturbing monologue of what sounds like a man refusing to save someone who is drowning. But Phil Collins later revealed that it was about something else. It’s a look at his divorce, showing the bitter and angry side of separation.
20. Like A Virgin – Madonna
Contrary to what most people think, this song is not about virginity. The deeper meaning is about the writer’s relationship. Billy Steinberg’s failed relationship left him emotionally battered, and that’s what he wrote about. a new relationship made him feel renewed again after the emotionally challenging relationship. The lyrics were inspired by how he coped with the situation.
21. The A Team – Ed Sheeran
This powerful ballad from Ed is very catchy and easy to sing along to. But did you know what you were singing about really? The song lyrics are about a sex worker addicted to illicit substances, more specifically a “class A drug”, hence the name The A-Team. If you are a little keen, you will find out there is something more going on with the lyrics.
22. Wolves – Selena Gomez
Every time Selena Gomez puts out a song, her army of fans, aka Selenators, are always ready to dig for the song’s more profound meaning. They interpreted this song as her struggles with lupus. Lupus directly translates to a wolf in Latin. But Selena said the lyrics have a whole story about them, and she was going through some stuff at the time, which is what the song mirrored.
23. Slide – Goo Goo Dolls
At first, everyone thought this was a love song. But it turns out the meaning behind everything is darker than anyone anticipated. The song is written about two catholic teenagers who got pregnant and are now torn between abortion and getting married. But that is when the secret meaning suddenly becomes clear when you take a second look at the lyrics.
24. Chop Suey! – System of A Down
The original name of this song was suicide, but the label wanted the bad to change it to avoid controversies. The song is not just about putting makeup on. The band members are having suicidal thoughts. It also talks about drug abuse and whether death is deserved.
25. Chocolate Rain – Tay Zonday
Chocolate Rain became a very popular meme in 2007. His moving away from the microphone every time to breathe was hilarious. The video became viral, but most people don’t know the meaning behind the lyrics. He talked about the issues people of color face in a racist and oppressive society.
26. Cake By The Ocean – DNCE
Joe Jonas is part of the DNCE group, and this was their first single. The song received a radio-friendly edit that changed the chorus lyrics and title. The song is not talking about eating cake by the ocean. Cake means sex; they used clever rewording to hide the true meaning. Sex on the beach would not have been a kid-friendly title, which is why the edits were necessary.
27. Spice Up Your Life – Spice Girls
This popular song has recipes or instructions for cooking a certain substance. Despite being a great upbeat, fun song, there was a lot of speculation and criticism that the lyrics have innuendos about this substance. The song was featured in the popular T.V. show Breaking Bad. However, the Spice Girls never gave in to the interpretation.
There you have it, twenty-seven songs with deeper meanings.
As the Head Editor at Music Grotto, Liam edits content produced from over 30 professional music/media journalists and contributing writers. He works closely with journalists and other staff to format and publish music content for the Music Grotto website. Liam is also the founding member of Music Grotto and is passionate in disseminating editorial content to its readers.