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Updated by Kendra Brea Cooper on Oct 02, 2014
Headline for Caught Off Guard: 10 Songs with Unexpected Meanings
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Caught Off Guard: 10 Songs with Unexpected Meanings

When a hit song comes on the radio we can almost always guess what it’s going to be about. The pop music machine doesn’t often stray from the standard, but sometimes the lyrics slap us with a bit of reality.

Third Eye Blind-Semi-Charmed Life

This painfully upbeat Third Eye Blind song came out in the late 90s. The fast lyrics left most listeners unaware of the song’s story of a plunge into crystal meth addiction. The song itself is like a catchy blur which is similar to a drug experience where everything flies by and you can’t catch up. It masks itself as fun and easy going but there’s a shade of destruction at play.

Foster the People-Pumped Up Kicks

This was the summer hit of 2011. It was blasted from car windows and played at late night beach parties. But this song is nothing like sunshine. It’s a trip inside the fragmented mind of a young person on the edge. Unlike most made–for-mass-consumption pop music, this song sparks a conversation pulled from American headlines.

The Verve Pipe- The Freshman

Recognized as a one hit wonder from the 90s, "The Freshman" is a familiar solemn song that’s easy to sing along to. The lyrics hint to an abortion and a failed relationship. There were a few songs out of the 90s that did this:"Brick" by Ben Folds Five and "Slide" by The Goo Goo Dolls. These three songs were written from a man’s point of view about unplanned pregnancy and they were all written in the late 90s.

The Police-Every Breath You Take

The chords resemble those of a typical love song. It pulls you by your heart at first, until the lyrics leave you feeling paranoid and uncomfortable. When broken down, this song is about a possessive stalker. Its final part is a dizzying repeat of thoughts that seems as if it’s meant to reflect the obsessive feelings of the one watching.

The Goo Goo Dolls-Black Balloon

This is another that sounds like a love song, and it is. It’s a love song to a woman whose attention is wrapped in a drug addiction. The Goo Goo Dolls have a history of pop songs with narratives untouched by most chart toppers. While the others sang about a first date, The Goo Goo Dolls dabbled in the realities of life usually kept out of mainstream music.

Lady Gaga-Poker Face

Gaga told an audience that this song was about her bisexuality that she hid from a guy she was dating. Lady Gaga took a time in her life and made it a hit song. While this isn’t abnormal for artists, Gaga, in her usual fashion, takes it further by breaking open sexuality.

Born in the USA-Bruce Springsteen

Sometimes the chorus is all that catches us, and we sing along without ever getting to the real gut of the lyrics. That's what happened with this song. Many people saw it as heavily patriotic and belted the chorus in the name of the flag. But, anyone who knows how Springsteen ticks, knows that he is a political and thoughtful musician. This song is an ironic slash at the horrible way Vietnam vets were treated by the United States when they returned from the war.

Zombie-The Cranberries

The Cranberries stepped into the political and wrote this song about the IRA and the fighting that, at the time, seemed like it would never end. Like a Zombie it dies down, only to rise again in violence. After the song was released, a ceasefire was declared.

1999-Prince

By the way, you're dancing to a party song about the end of the world. Apocalyptic stories also come in the form of brilliant pop songs.

Slide-The Goo Goo Dolls

Slide sounds like a love song, and it is. It's just not your typical love song. It's written about a young couple dealing with an unwanted pregnancy from the lens of the boy.