American Top 10: Most Misinterpreted Songs

In Music, Pop, Trivias, Unique on February 16, 2009 at 2:05 pm

I believe all of you would absolutely agree if I say that music plays an important role in our life. As for myself who was born in early 70, I found out that the music from the era of 70s until the 90s were great ones. I like music and always listen to it in every aspect of my life. I can say that my life has been quite musical in the sense that it’s an inseparable part of my life, I sing (in the bathroom), I hum, whistle my favorite bands’ songs and even pretending to be one of the band members performing live, lol. This post will bring you back to early 70s, 80s and also modern era where, in my opinion, lots of great bands and or music were formed. Sadly, some of us or even most of us often misinterpret the real meaning of these songs. As described in, misinterpretation is misunderstanding, mistaking, giving wrong interpretation on something. We often miss the intended context of the related songs. Here are the famous songs, in misinterpretation..

10. The Cure “Killing An Arab” from the album “Boys Don’t Cry:

Misinterpretation: This first single is often misinterpreted as an urge or promotion of violence towards Arab nations. Actually this song is about admiration or poetic beauty about a beach scene in Albert Camus’ novel “The Stranger”. This controversial misconception is strongly related with Gulf War and also September 11th attack. The song then revived in 2005 when The Cure was performing live in several European countries. The title; however, was changed into “Kissing An Arab”.

9. Babybird “You’re Gorgeous”

Misinterpretation: Many people hum, adore its lyric “Because you’re gorgeous, I’d do anything for you” for its simple, charming and also romantic line, especially those who are in love. Some of them even played the song during weddings, considering it as a love song for the happy couple. What actually Stephen Jones was referring with the song was actually a description of a young, attractive but foolish teenager who is lured into deceptive trap of a porn industry by the photographer. Wikipedia quotes that this song is about Katrina Oberholzer, an aspiring model tricked by a flattering photographer into a photoshoot. “You’re Gorgeous” remains a staple of many wedding playlists, despite its decidedly unromantic connotations.

8.Tom Jones/Randy Newman “You Can Leave Your Hat On”

Misinterpretation: This song is about a stripper who strips every piece of clothing and leave nothing else but a hat. Well, actually, you got it wrong. Many related this song as it’s featured as one of the soundtracks in “Full Monty”. This song is in fact about a person so ugly that  whomever sees him will prefer to have his face covered with a hat.

7.Bob Dylan’s “Mr.Tambourine Man”

Misinterpretation: As portrayed in the movie “Dangerous Minds” starred by Michelle Pfeiffer, this song is widely-known as a description of a lonesome hippy who cheers everybody with his tambourine. “Mr.Tambourine Man” is actually an ode to a drug dealer who always supplies all Dylan needs whenever he wanted to get high and hallucinating. Since all narcotics-related songs were forbidden in the sixties then he came up with this song. This song successfully hid the essence of narcotics in the following lyrics “Take me disappearing through the smoke rings of my mind..” and “My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip..”


6.R.E.M “Losing My Religion”


Misinterpretation: Many fans consider this as a description of R.E.M’s lead singer, Michael Stipe, sitting on a corner and losing his faith in his religion. What many do not know is that the phrase “To lose One’s religion” is a Southern way of describing One who is running out of patience and or frustrated. This isn’t about religious harmony between a man and his God but it’s about a guy who is having a crush on somebody and doesn’t want to miss a single moment without having her out of sight. He just wants to make sure that it’s not an impossible love.

5.The Vapors “Turning Japanese”

Misinterpretation:  This Britpop band lyric “I’ve got your picture, I’ve got your picture, I’d like a million of you all to myself” is not about an admiration of a guy towards his girlfriend; instead, it’s about a love-sick guy who sits alone in his room, condemning his unsuccessful relationship. He is going insane and was wishing that he were someone else, someone who is successful in love. It’s an impossible wish.

4.Maroon 5 “Harder to Breathe”

Misinterpretation: One of the hits from their “Songs About Jane” album, which often regarded as a symbol Jane’s irrepressible love. It’s about a scam that a record company put on them, forcing them to release one song after another. Their pain was described in these lines: “Does it kill, Does it burn, Is it painful to learn, That it’s me that has all control”. They were lucky it was an instant hit, a remedy for their being brokenhearted.

3.The Police “Every Breath You Take”

Misinterpretation: This song is about love, affection, adoration, admiration as well as a devotion of a man over a girl. It is not unfortunately, this song was written during the collapsing period of Sting and Frances Tomelty marriage. Instead of those affectionate lines mentioned earlier, these lyrics are actually words of sinister,  describing a controlling-character person who keeps on watching every single thing the ex-girlfriend does. As quoted from wikipedia “I woke up in the middle of the night with that line in my head, sat down at the piano and had written it in half an hour. The tune itself is generic, an aggregate of hundreds of others, but the words are interesting. It sounds like a comforting love song” Sting said. Don’t forget this line as well “Every Heart you Break, I’ll be watching you”. Gotcha!

2.Phil Collins “In The Air Tonight”

Misinterpretation: This song is not about a person who is in trouble and asks help from God, some even proclaimed that this is about Collins who witnessed a tragic accident, an onlooker who could have helped someone from drowning but failed “I was there and I saw what you did..” and “I saw it with my own two eyes..”. This song is actually about nothing. Phil even explained that this is one song out of all that he had written that he didn’t know what it is all about.

1.Bruce Springsteen “Born In The USA”

Misinterpretation: The very famous song that has successfully fooled a Ronald Reagan, former US president who thought that the song was so patriotic. This song was written as a political message about Vietnam War. Reagan had obviously missed the lyric “Sent me off to a foreign land, to go and kill the yellow man”. A stinging tale of the hardships suffered by returning Vietnam War Veterans. This is one of his  greatest hits and best-known songs.

The end

Images are courtesy of flickr, google.








  1. Bob Dylan has been quoted repeatedly that “Mr. Tambourine Man” is not about drugs. It is actually about a tambourine player. Bruce Langhorne was a tambourine player and folk musician that Dylan had worked with in the past.

  2. Fact Check: “Mr Tambourine man is about a tambourine man. Specifically, Bruce Langhorne, a folk musician with whom Dylan had recorded. Dylan said, “He had this gigantic tambourine. It was as big as a wagon wheel. He was playing, and this vision of him playing this tambourine just stuck in my mind.”

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