- Not all is it seems when it comes to the 15 songs listed below.
- All have a much darker meaning than it may appear.
- For example, The Police's "Every Breath You Take" is about a possessive lover watching "every move you make."
"Delilah" by Tom Jones
Grandma's certified favorite sing-a-long after a few sherries, Tom Jones' "Delilah" tells the story of a man stabbing his girlfriend to death after finding her cheating on him.
"She stood there laughing /I felt the knife in my hand and she laughed no more," Jones sings.
Why, why, why, Tom?
"Gangnam Style" by Psy
Psy's 2012 mammoth hit "Gangnam Style" and its video are, according to Adrian Hong, a Korean-American consultant, a satire about the affluent Gangnam region of Seoul and how others from South Korea aspire to live that lifestyle.
"Koreans have been kind of caught up in this spending to look wealthy, and Gangnam has really been the leading edge of that," Hong told The Atlantic.
"I think a lot of what [Psy] is pointing out is how silly that is," he added. "The whole video is about him thinking he's a hotshot but then realizing he's just, you know, at a children's playground, or thinking he's playing polo or something and realizes he's on a merry-go-round."
"99 Luftballons" by Nena
Released in 1983 in the midst of the Cold War, Nena's "99 Luftballons" is a protest song that warns of the dangers of the conflict.
The song imagines a scenario in which 99 balloons are released into the air from West Berlin and accidentally fly over the Berlin Wall into East Berlin, which at the time was under Soviet control. The balloons are mistaken for UFOs, resulting in a cataclysmic war.
"Man, who would have thought that it would come to this?" Nena sings. "99 years of war leaves no room for victors."
"Hotel California" by Eagles
Eagles' 1977 classic "Hotel California" isn't, despite what the title may suggest, about a hotel in California. Nor is it about a man dying and going to hell, as some fans have suggested.
"It's basically a song about the dark underbelly of the American dream and about excess in America, which is something we knew a lot about," frontman Don Henley said in a 2002 interview.
"Under The Bridge" by Red Hot Chili Peppers
"I don't ever wanna feel / Like I did that day," goes the chorus to the Red Hot Chili Peppers' 1992 song "Under the Bridge."
The day lead singer Anthony Kiedis is referring to was at the height of his heroin and cocaine addiction when, instead of being at home with his girlfriend, he was "downtown with fucking gangsters shooting speedballs under a bridge."
"I Can't Feel My Face" by The Weeknd
Another song about drug use, this time buried beneath the guise of a cheesy pop hit about a whirlwind romance, is The Weeknd's "I Can't Feel My Face" from 2015.
"I know she'll be the death of me /At least we'll both be numb," the song opens.
The Weeknd appeared to confirm the song's hidden meaning on 2017's "Reminder" as he referenced its nomination for song of the year at the Nickelodeon Kids' Choice Awards.
"I just won a new award for a kids show / Talking 'bout a face numbing off a bag of blow," he sings.
"Pumped Up Kicks" by Foster the People
A bona fide indie anthem, Foster the People's 2010 smash hit "Pumped Up Kicks" describes the homicidal thoughts of a troubled youth named Robert, who is jealous of his peers' shoes.
"All the other kids with the pumped up kicks /You better run, better run outrun my gun," goes the chorus.
Mark Foster, thegroup's singer, told CNN in 2012: "I wrote 'Pumped Up Kicks' when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness.It was terrifying how mental illness among youth had skyrocketed in the last decade."
"Hey Ya!" by Outkast
Having topped the charts all over the world and sold over 4 million units, Outkast's "Hey Ya!" is one of the most successful songs of the 2000s.
Beneath its upbeat melody and catchy chorus, it's also André 3000's sad take on the state of modern-day relationships.
"Why, oh, why, oh, why, oh /Are we so in denial when we know we're not happy here (Y'all don't want to hear me, you just want to dance)," he sings.
"Every Breath You Take" by The Police
Although often thought of as a love song, The Police's 1983 song "Every Breath You Take" is in fact about a possessive lover who is watching "every breath you take" and "every move you make."
"I didn't realize at the time how sinister it is," frontman Sting, who wrote the song in the wake of his split from Frances Tomelty,told The Independent in 1993.
"American Pie" by Don McLean
As Don McLean alludes to in his 1971 song "American Pie," the track is about the "day the music dies."
The phrase refers to a plane crash in 1959 that killed Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper, and Ritchie Valens and effectively ended the early era of rock 'n' roll.
"I can't remember if I cried /When I read about his widowed bride," McLean sings.
"Electric Avenue" by Eddy Grant
Electric Avenue is the name of a market street in Brixton, London, that, in the late 1800s, became the first in the world to be lit by electricity.
In 1981, the area wasthe center stage for the Brixton riots, which came about as a result of the high levels of poverty and unemployment prevalent among the Caribbean migrants in Britain at the time.
Eddy Grant's 1983 song of the same name is about the riots.
"Who is to blame in one country /Never can get to the one /Dealin' in multiplication /And they still can't feed everyone," sings Grant, who emigrated to London from Guyana in 1960.
"Dancing in the Moonlight" by Thin Lizzy
Thin Lizzy's 1977 hit "Dancing in the Moonlight" sounds like a cheery song, both in title and in sound.
Really, however, it's a track about heroin addiction, with which frontman Phil Lynott struggled throughout his life.
"I always get chocolate stains on my pants /And my father, he's going crazy /He says I'm livin' in a trance," sings Lynott.
"Dancing in the Moonlight" by Boffalongo
Not to be confused with Thin Lizzy's song of the same name, Boffalongo's "Dancing in the Moonlight" — which was most famously covered by Toploader in 2000 — has a very dark backstory.
"At that time, I suffered multiple facial fractures and wounds and was left for dead," he added. "While I was recovering, I wrote 'Dancin in the Moonlight' in which I envisioned an alternate reality, the dream of a peaceful and joyful celebration of life."
"One in Ten" by UB40
UB40 are known for their feel-good reggae anthems, but a number of their songs have darker meanings, most famously "Red Red Wine," which is about, who would have guessed, alcoholism.
Another is "One in Ten." The song title refers to the approximately 10% of the local workforce claiming unemployment benefits in the British band's home region during the summer of 1981.
"Nobody knows me, eventhough I'm always there /A statistic, a reminder of a world that doesn't care," goes the song.
"Born in the U.S.A." by Bruce Springsteen
On the face of it, Bruce Springsteen's "Born In The U.S.A." is anuncomplicated celebration of American patriotism.
Scratch beneath the surface, however, and what you get is instead a bitter critique of American society, told through the lens of a Vietnam veteran struggling for work upon his return from the war.
"Come back home to the refinery / Hiring man says, 'Son, if it was up to me,'" sings Springsteen in the third verse.
In the fifth and final verse, he sings: "I'm 10 years burning down the road / Nowhere to run ain't got nowhere to go."