Music is so ubiquitous in modern culture that we almost seem to absorb it more than we hear it sometimes, taking its tune and feeling and meaning to heart without ever paying very close attention. I know this has happened to me when I suddenly catch myself singing along to a song I didn’t know I knew. Unfortunately, it is usually these same instances where I have severely misunderstood the lyrics, often to much hilarity. And because it makes me laugh, and will probably make you laugh, I thought I’d list out some examples.
1. Animal ~ Neon Trees
This song has been around the radio for a couple years now, and I like it quite a bit, and sing along to it basically every time it turns up. I mean, there’s just something so satisfying when the sing-song chorus comes to an end and you can belt out in full, enthusiastic abandon, “TAKE A BITE OF MY HEART TONIIIIIIGHT!!!”
…yeah, except the actual lyrics are “say goodbye to my heart tonight.” To be honest with you, when I first discovered my mistake on this song, I was super annoyed. Not because I’d been singing it wrong for more than a year, but because my mistaken version of the lyrics are so much better. I mean, come on, what dance-happy pop love song can’t be improved with a little masochistic cannibalism encouraging? Looking at you, Hannibal.
2. Black Widow ~ Iggy Azalea ft. Rita Ora
Like most of Iggy Azalea’s repertoire, this is not a song I enjoy so much as feel stalked by. It plays on the radio constantly, and as radio is the only form of music we get at work, that means that I hear it a lot. Every time the chorus crescendos, just before the music drops out into Iggy’s annoying whiny rap stylings, Rita plaintively calls out “gunna love you…LIKE A LITTLE BABY.” And that’s just creepy.
And, as the title of the song implies, not actually the lyrics. The lyrics are “…like a black widow, baby.” But I swear to god that is not what it sounds like she is saying. Every time I heard this song for a solid three months, when it got to the chorus I’d find myself utterly creeped out by the implication that a romantic relationship should be modeled off the love-style of an infant. Getting offended by lyrics you’ve misunderstood? If that were on my bucket list, it could be thoroughly scratched off. Like a little baby, indeed. Even Iggy isn’t that obnoxious.
3. No Scrubs ~ TLC
Time to get in the way-back machine for this one. This song was super popular during my middle school years, and friends and I spent many happy afternoons gleefully singing along, telling off all of those scrubs without cars who couldn’t get with our awesome 11-year-old selves. My misunderstand of the lyrics to this song take a slightly different tack than those above, though. In this case, I fully understood what the singer was saying, but I had no idea what she meant. Mostly because of this part:
No, I don’t want no scrubs.
A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me.
Mini me was endlessly annoyed by these lyrical stylings, in which the singer first says she doesn’t want a “scrub,” then goes on to define “scrub” as “a guy that can’t get no love from me.” Not knowing that “scrub” was an actual term used by actual people in the actual world to describe lazy people, I just innocently assumed the term had been invented for guys this particular girl didn’t want to date, and therefore these two lines in the chorus were just redundant and unnecessary. Of course you don’t want no scrub, TLC! That’s what a scrub is.
4. Meet Virginia ~ Train
This song makes the end of the list because it is my favorite misunderstanding, because my complete failure to hear the lyrics caused me so much trouble. Despite being made by Train, a band I will gleefully acknowledge has the worst lyrical prowess of all time, I really like this song. For a long time, I tried to figure out who this song was by and where I could get along of it. This was in the days before shazam, so I had to find the song the old-fashioned way, by looking up the the lyrics. And that was less than effective, because instead of “meet virginia,” the lyrics I heard were “SLEEP WITH GINGER. I CAN’T WAIT TO…SLEEP WITH GINGER, YEAH-YEAH-YEAAAAAH-HA-HA.”
This misunderstanding went on for years. That song came out in 1996, when I was 7. SEVEN YEARS OLD. It has been around basically as long as I have been aware of music as a thing, and in all that time, I never once questioned the sleep-with-ginger interpretation. I found out the real title and words ONE MONTH AGO. One month. In 2014. That’s 18 years of searching for a goddamn Train song and not being able to find it because I thought it was about wanting to sleeping with a character from Gilligan’s Island. I MEAN, COME ON.
What song lyrics have you severely misunderstood?
“What are you waiting for? Take a bite of my heart tonight.” -Neon Trees, in my parallel better-lyrics universe