When it comes to popular music, it's common for the true meaning behind lyrics to go right over my head. If a song's got a catchy hook and a talented artist, I'll gladly belt that out without even knowing what I'm singing. It was only a couple years ago that I discovered TLC's "Waterfalls" is all about gang violence and HIV.
But, some songs contain such shocking and unexpected messages hidden under their appeal, the truth needs to be shared with the world.
1. Little Richard's "Tutti Frutti" is all about anal sex
Who says the 1950s was all about conservative values and family-friendly media? Certainly not Little Richard, who pushed the boundaries of propriety with his unapologetic make-up and sexual dance moves. His best-known song "Tutti Frutti" that was so overt in its references to gay sex, the original lyrics are still pretty graphic even by today's standards:
A wop bop a loo mop, a good goddam
Tutti Frutti, good booty,
If it don't fit, don't force it,
You can grease it, make it easy.
In fact, "frutti" isn't just some gobbledygook rhyme, it's a direct reference to "fruity," meaning "gay-acting." The lyrics were changed before the song hit the mainstream, but that couldn't totally obscure this original meaning.
2. Tool's "Stinkfist" is nowhere near as gross as it sounds
I think it's only fair that if I ruin one song's formerly innocuous meaning that I should defend another's reputation for a similar accusation. When most people heard the term "Stinkfist," their minds immediately (and understandably) went to the sexual act of fisting. As a result, radio stations and TV shows edited the track to get around the perceived subject matter.
In actuality, the song is a symbolic discussion of Tool's drummer Danny Carey who "isn't afraid afraid of getting his hands dirty." The association is really a metaphor for "choosing compassion over fear." In other words, get your mind out of the gutter, world!
3. Mary J. Blige's "Family Affair" does not include the word 'dancery'
I must admit that this one may be the most devastating thing I've learned all week. Mary J. Blige's seminal classic "Family Affair" is a surefire way to get everybody jumpin' with their bodies bumpin'. The most unforgettable aspect of the song was Mary J.'s vocabulary, which introduced us to words like hateration, holleration, and dancery.
But wait! According to Tea & Breakfast, this modern-day Shakespeare is actually saying "dance soiree." And my soul is officially crushed. Some refuse to believe this fact, however, but surprisingly enough most lyric sites also don't use the word "dancery." They claim she repeats "dance for me," but I refuse to believe that's true. Even with evidence to the contrary, there's no way in hell I'm giving up dancery when belting out this song.
4. Bryan Adams' "Summer of '69" is not about the year
Ahhh, the nostalgic sumer of 1969. Even though I wasn't even close to being born, this line still fills me with a yearning to get back to the good ol' days when Cokes were a quarter and free love was everywhere, or something.
Well, we may be feeling like that, but, being only 10 years old then, Bryan Adams' wasn't even referring to the year. He was simply making a reference to one of his preferred sexual positions, as he admitted in an interview back in 2001.
5. Mr Big's "To Be with You" is not as romantic as it appears
We all love to belt out a nice soft rock song now and again (right?), and Mr. Big's "To Be with You" is a '90s throwback that often fits the bill. Though everyone seems to know the chorus, there's that one line in the middle that we always ends up mumbling. It's actually "waiting on a line of greens and blues," which raises the question, what the hell does that mean?
Well, though some assumed it alluded to the jealousy and depression he felt when seeing the girl he loved go out with other women, the truth is actually far more simple:
‘Waiting on a line of greens and blues…’ I had a mood ring when I was a kid. I threw that in to be quirky.
6. Taylor Swift's "All Too Well" exposes some truths about her relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal
Yeah, yeah, I know what you're thinking. All of Taylor Swift's songs revel in her relationship woes, so is it ever really that surprising when she reveals something about a famous ex? In this case (and, admittedly, in many others), I say, "duh!"
For starters, many people thought the relationship between Taylor and Jake Gyllenhaal was cooked up by their PR teams due to their nine-year age difference. But, "All Too Well" makes a really solid case for their relationship being genuine (and pretty impactful) with Taylor even meeting Jake's mom. The dead giveaway: the scarf that Taylor left at Maggie Gyllenhaal's house that Jake's "still got in [his] drawer even now."
In the picture above, you can see Jake wearing Taylor scarf, and that was taken after the fateful break-up.
7. Phil Collins's "In the Air Tonight" is not about murder, goddammit
For some reason, most people think this song refers to Phil Collins watching someone sit and do nothing while someone else drowns right in front of him. Other versions speculate that Phil witnessed a murder and later saw the murderer at one of his own concerts, which prompted him to drum solo him into a confession.
Seriously not sure how either of these got any traction considering their are some major holes in both, but they've held surprisingly firm over the years (eve getting called out in Eminem's "Stan"). Yet, sometimes the biggest shock comes from just bringing people back down to reality. That's what Phil did back in 1997, when he admitted to VH1 that the all the lyrics just came after coming up with the drum solo. So, no death here, folks, just a killer drums.