Summer is finally coming around the bend. That means it’s almost time to throw on my Ray-Bans, grab a roadie (don’t tell my mom), hook up my Can’t-Fail Spotify playlist and ride around town with my sunroof open while bumping Africa by Toto way too damn loud. Every once in awhile, I’m singing out loud in my car to some song on the radio, and the person riding shotgun goes, “Taylor…what did you just say?” Shortly after, I’m hit with another realization that I’ve been singing certain lyrics wrong my entire 23 years of life.
For just a quick example, let’s look at, Jet Airliner by Steve Miller Band. I thought the lyrics were: “big ol’ Jed and Lina, don’t carry me too far away,” when in fact, they are: ”big ol’ jet airliner, don’t carry me too far away,” you know, just like the fucking TITLE of the song. I literally thought that jam was about a kidnapping. I was 21 when I found out the truth. This happens more often than I’d like to admit. If it’s not the lyrics I’m getting mixed up, it’s the entire message of the song, and I know I’m not alone in this.
Turns out, there are a ton of crowd favorites out there that really don’t mean what you think they mean. That’s right, I’m here to ruin your favorite summer playlists. Here are a few tracks that you might mindlessly listen to while you’re grilling out in the backyard or tossing some cornhole, but are actually 100% totally not chill.
1. Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind
I’m a huge Third Eye fan. Been jamming these guys since middle school. This song always puts a huge smile on my face, and I like to sing it loud with a hard buzz going while crushing cold beers on the patio. But, guess what? This song is about crystal meth addiction. It’s not about the sand in-between your toes, little red panties, or smiling in pictures. “Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break,” is a really big giveaway that this song is not all about the doo-doo-doos, even though you gotta admit that’s your favorite part, too. The majority of Third Eye Blind’s songs are actually super morbid and creepy. Regardless, I’m still live Snapchatting me singing this depressing-ass song every time it comes on, because I’m all about the Snapchat karaoke. Just ask my pals.
2. Jump by Van Halen
You have probably been blackout drunk fist pumping to this song at least once in your life before, and it’s no secret that most of our parents have done the same exact thing during their prime. The synthesizer in this song absolutely bangs, and has been known to bring the bar down. Unfortunately, this little ditty is not about jumping around in the bar or the pool while trying not to spill your Tom Collins. This song was actually inspired by a story of a man who was going to jump off a high building and commit suicide, so apparently David Lee Roth thought the perfect follow-up set of lyrics to this situation would be, “might as well jump.” What the hell? I might still throw this one on the jukebox at the local dive, though. I’ll just try to ignore the morbid undertones.
3. Hey Ya! by Outkast
Not gonna lie, I used to imitate the shaking of a Polaroid picture to this fire track at my middle school dances. Coupled with the triple-claps and killer green pants they’re rocking in this music video, the theme of this song is actually about the hopelessness of finding love. What a combination. “Nothing lasts forever…then what makes love the exception?” Damn, Andre. You really had me going there with the whole, “Hey ya!” part; it’s just so fucking catchy. But apparently, all he wants to know is, “What’s cooler than being cool?” And y’all know, the answer is always ice cold.
4. Born in the U.S.A. by Bruce Springsteen
It’s not really a secret that this song is a pretty bold political and social critique of the 1980s era. But it never fails, somebody throws this one on at a tailgate and tries to get everyone riled up, screaming the lyrics and waving a flag around. I’m like, hey dude, tone it down, Bruce didn’t mean it that way, man. It’s still a summer anthem and always will be, but it’s a tongue-in-cheek critique of mindless patriotism. Stay woke, folks. And quit playing this one at the lake on July 4th.
5. Brown Sugar by The Rolling Stones
Let me preface this by stating that I have a soft spot for the Stones. I was raised listening to these guys, and I remember distinctly the year my dad went to the Forty Licks concert and did not bring me back a t-shirt. It wasn’t until I was taking an American Studies writing course in college that studied music in relation to society and politics, that I realized that these guys wrote some really messed up songs. Of course, they were blowing people’s speakers out back in the 1960s, and the term “politically correct” probably did not exist at that point in time. Actually, we can pretty much guarantee that it did not, because the Stones released this very catchy song about slavery and rape. Yowza, my dudes. They have countless other tracks that include all sorts of controversial themes such as prostitution and drug use, but this one kinda takes the cake.
6. No Rain by Blind Melon
This song came out the year I was born, but please don’t think it hasn’t been in my musical library since about the 3rd grade. This song has some killer-yet-mellow guitar shredding going on, and an extremely catchy chorus. Unfortunately, this song is not about the kind of no rain that results in an eternal sunshine; it’s about crippling depression. Try not to remember that the next time it’s playing on your outdoor stereo while you’re mixing up that white peach sangria.
7. Badfish by Sublime
If Sublime doesn’t have a spot on your summer tracklist, you’re doing it so, so wrong. The beachy and reggae vibes immediately put me into a hammock and Landshark mood. Badfish has been one of my favorites since college, when I went through my Grateful Dead, DMB, Sublime, and Expendables phase. I used to play this one very innocently on the front porch of my house as a senior in college, when my roommates and I would start getting after it at 1 p.m. every Friday. Turns out, this song is very much about drug and alcohol addiction, so the irony that a bunch of drunk college kids sat around getting fucked up in the early afternoon while listening to this song is not lost on me.
8. Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Rupert Holmes
First of all, I don’t even really like pina coladas. I think they’re too caloric, with not enough alcohol content. But- this song comes on at the pool and I’m immediately searching for the rum and a blender. I didn’t really even realize what this song was about until a year ago. When I found out, I could not stop laughing. What a fucked up song. Long story short, this one tells a little tale about a man who is so bored of his own wife, that he answers to a personal ad in the paper that literally lists “making love at midnight in the dunes of the Cape” as an interest.
This dude responds by submitting his own personal ad, talking a bunch of mess about being into champagne and not liking health food, and asks this mystery woman to meet him at a bar the following day. Lo and behold, this dickhead shows up at the bar, and his OWN WIFE walks in to meet him. Turns out, that little cheater was bored of him, too, and had put out the ad in the first place. The song ends with them laughing at themselves, discussing how in the world they didn’t know each other’s preferences in alcoholic beverages, and tossing around the idea of knocking boots in the sand on a public beach. Very sweet sentiment. I love it.
There are many more where this came from, but these were just a few of my own personal favorites. For the record, I’m going to continue to listen to these songs in ignorance. They can’t and won’t kill my summer vibe. It’s back. And it’s bulletproof..
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