It’s no secret that there’s a lot more to some songs than meets the eye. Some have hidden meanings, while others are so deeply personal to the songwriter that the average listener couldn’t possibly hope to understand. There are some completely misunderstood songs out there, though; songs whose lyrics have been so misconstrued by people over the years that the original intention was lost completely. Whether it is because of urban legend, misleadingly sweet chords that eschew sinister lyrics, or just plain misinterpretation, when the public gets hold of a song, it can morph into something entirely new.

Is it for better, or for worse? Take a look at these commonly misunderstood songs and let us know what you think, and don’t forget to SHARE if you want others to know what the true meanings are!

‘The One I Love’ – R.E.M.

Here’s one more song that was never supposed to be a love song. The band actually almost didn’t record the song because they felt it was “too brutal, … really violent and awful,” according to lead singer Michael Stipe.

The title may be misleading, sure, but the lyrics sure aren’t. Calling your lover “a simple prop to occupy my time” sure doesn’t sound like a romantic overture.

‘Alive’ – Pearl Jam

While Pearl Jam’s 1991 hit may initially sound like an anthem of perseverance — particularly when singer Eddie Vedder belts out “Yeah, yeah I, oh, I’m still alive” — a deeper reading reveals something else entirely. The track is actually based around Vedder learning as a teenager that the man he thought was his father was actually his stepfather, and that his biological father was dead.

“He’s still dealing with love, he’s still dealing with the death of his father. All he knows is ‘I’m still alive’ … That’s totally out of burden,” Vedder once explained to Rolling Stone.

‘Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)’ – Green Day

Green Day’s acoustic ballad became a massive crossover hit — partially thanks to its use in the Seinfeld finale — in 1998. The track, with it’s seemingly wistful lyrics about the passage of time, has become a favorite at proms, graduations, and weddings.

However, those happy couples probably should have examined the lyrics — or at least the song’s title — just a bit closer. The lyrics are not a tender goodbye at all, but rather an angry rebuke against a girlfriend who will one day regret leaving the “time of her life.”

‘Closing Time’ – Semisonic

Semisonic’s “Closing Time” has become an anthem for last calls around the world, as countless bars and clubs play the track as their last song of the night. However, the song’s lyrics have little to do with a bar.

Instead, they were initially written by singer Dan Wilson about his girlfriend’s pregnancy. The band realized the bar connection early on, however, and admitted they realized that’s what audiences would think the song’s about.

‘In The Air Tonight’ – Phil Collins

This Phil Collins track is thought by many to be one of the darkest pop hits of all time. According to urban legend, the song tells the story of a man watching another man drown and doing nothing to save him, all supposedly seen by Collins himself. The singer then wrote the song, invited the man to a show, and sang it right to his face.


The story spread far and wide in the early days of the internet, and was even mentioned in Eminem’s hit “Stan,” which contained the lyric, “You know the song by Phil Collins, ‘In the Air of the Night’ (sic) about that guy who coulda saved that other guy from drownin’, but didn’t, then Phil saw it all, then at a show he found him?” According to Collins, the song has no specific story to it at all, and is more a stream of consciousness on the feelings he had after his divorce.