Decoding The Lyrics: What Does That Song Mean?

Have you ever heard a song on the radio and have no idea what they are talking about? Fear no more because the truth is that you are not alone. Sometimes it can be tricky figuring out what an artist is trying to say, but hopefully these explanations will help clear the confusion.

1. “Can’t Feel My Face” by The Weeknd

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KEI4qSrkPAs&w=640&h=360]
This song is about a woman who threatens to hurt the speaker. If she kills him they will both “feel numb” because he is dead and she is heartless. There is no point in trying to escape because bad things are inevitable. However, he feels beauty and youth when he’s with her making him happy. She wants him to relax and “not worry about it” regardless of how many times she has hurt him. He’s addicted to his unhealthy relationship and thinks he won’t be happy without her. However, in the chorus the woman turns out to really be an addictive drug. Being high makes him not be able to “feel his face,” making him unable to experience emotions and have an enriching life.

2. “Uma Thurman” by Fall Out Boy

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2VTxYQL2SbA&w=640&h=360]
The chorus of this track references the scene in Pulp Fiction where Uma Thurman’s straight-faced character asks John Travolta to dance with her during the twist contest at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. There are also references to another Tarantino movie, Kill Bill. Bassist Pete Wentz told the story of the song:
“Originally, when we came up with the idea, and there was this sample in it, which is a sample from The Munsters TV show, people kept saying ‘oh cool, like Quentin Tarantino, cool’ when we played it. We decided why don’t we kind of create this world around that? To me, Uma Thurman and Winona Ryder, they were these women in pop culture who were quirky, but that made me only crush on them harder, and rather than going with the traditional Uma Thurman role, we thought a lot about Kill Bill and who her character was in that, and this kind of resilience and this violence, but there’s something that’s authentic about it (like a woman taking revenge or being empowered). So that’s what the chorus of the song’s about, and the verses are what you would do to try and capture this woman’s affection.”
The song’s music video also follows a girl named Sarah who wins the prize of becoming Fall Out Boy’s assistant for 24 hours. Her tasks include walking Joe Trohman’s zebra, singing karaoke with Patrick Stump, going paint-balling and go-kart racing with Pete Wentz, and working out with Andy Hurley. Sarah’s last task is to get inside a tank and smash a truck with the letters “Article 1, Section 36.03” written on the side: a reference to Alabama’s Supreme Court blocking same-sex marriage in the state.

3. “Pumped Up Kicks” by Foster the People

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SDTZ7iX4vTQ&w=640&h=360]
The lyrics to “Pumped Up Kicks” are written from the perspective of a troubled and delusional youth with homicidal thoughts. The lines in the chorus warn potential victims to “outrun my gun” and that they “better run, better run, faster than my bullet.” Foster said in a statement to CNN.com, “I wrote ‘Pumped Up Kicks’ when I began to read about the growing trend in teenage mental illness. I wanted to understand the psychology behind it because it was foreign to me. It was terrifying how mental illness among youth had skyrocketed in the last decade. I was scared to see where the pattern was headed if we didn’t start changing the way we were bringing up the next generation.” In writing the song, Foster wanted to “get inside the head of an isolated, psychotic kid” and “bring awareness” to the issue of gun violence amongst youth, which he feels is an epidemic perpetuated by “lack of family, lack of love, and isolation”. The song’s title refers to shoes that the narrator’s peers wear as a status symbol.

4. “CoCo” by O.T. Genasis

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6vYnas6q3Sg&w=640&h=360]
Basically this song is about a guy selling cocaine and buying it for a cheap price. Here are some abbreviations the rapper uses in his song and what they mean:

  •  P.O = Probation Officer.
  • C.O = Correctional Officer; the officers who guard Jails.
  • Nino = Nino Brown; A drug lord in the film “New Jack City” played by Wesley Snipes.
  • Nemo = The famous Fish in “Finding Nemo”, and whipping is the process when you dissolve cocaine in water with baking soda to make crack.
  • Treinta ocho = 38 in Spanish, Reference to the .38 Caliber pistol.
  • Thirty six that’s a kilo =36 ounces is equal to a kilogram, A one kilo cocaine brick.
  • Plug = Drug dealer.
  • Loco = Crazy.
  • Cholo = Friend, same as “Amigo”.
  • Popo = Police.
  • Feds = FBI.

5. “Gasolina” by Daddy Yankee

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGKrc3A6HHM&w=640&h=360]
Literally this one just means “gasoline.” However, there is a sexual interpretation of this song that the gasoline is really sperm and.. well you get the picture. Or it could just mean “the streets” meaning that you like to go out.

6. “Watch Me (Whip / Nae Nae)” by Silentó

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vjW8wmF5VWc&w=640&h=360]
The “Whip” is a type of dancing that involves lifting the knee opposite to the arm you are using. Then you drop your knee and extend your arm straight like driving a car. The “Nae Nae” is a dance inspired by female character Sheneneh Jenkins on the ‘90s sitcom Martin. Basically its a side-to-side bounce with your leg and body. You put one of your hands in the air and drop the other to your hip and bounce.

7. “This Summer” by Maroon 5

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wa64gOwuIyE&w=640&h=360]
This song tells the classic tale of a boy who is captivated by a beguiling, beautiful young woman he sees partying and gallavanting around town. He is entranced by her, absolutely enthralled by her beauty. But, at the same time, he realizes that she is a superficial girl who is only concerned with the material things in life. Much to his chagrin, she’s also not very intelligent and this becomes a problem for the protagonist of our littler story here. He knows he has no future with her but he can’t resist her.

8. “The Hanging Tree” by James Newton Howard

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r-Oi43EsQNU&w=640&h=360]
From the movie The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1, “The Hanging Tree” is primarily a forbidden rebellion song that Katniss’ father used to sing to her when she was little. In the Mockingjay book, Katniss recalls the song in a monologue:
“… We didn’t sing it anymore, my father and I, or even speak of it. After he died, it used to come back to me a lot. Being older, I began to understand the lyrics. At the beginning, it sounds like a guy is trying to get his girlfriend to secretly meet up with him at midnight. But it’s an odd place for a tryst, a hanging tree, where a man was hung for murder. The murderer’s lover must have had something to do with the killing, or maybe they were just going to punish her anyway, because his corpse called out for her to flee. That’s weird obviously, the talking-corpse bit, but it’s not until the third verse that “The Hanging Tree” begins to get unnerving. You realize the singer of the song is the dead murderer. He’s still in the hanging tree. And even though he told his lover to flee, he keeps asking if she’s coming to meet him. The phrase “Where I told you to run, so we’d both be free” is the most troubling because at first you think he’s talking about when he told her to flee, presumably to safety. But then you wonder if he meant for her to run to him. To death. In the final stanza, it’s clear that that’s what he’s waiting for. His lover, with her rope necklace, hanging dead next to him in the tree….I used to think the murderer was the creepiest guy imaginable. Now, with a couple of trips to the Hunger Games under my belt, I decide not to judge him without knowing more details. Maybe his lover was already sentenced to death and he was trying to make it easier. To let her know he’d be waiting. Or maybe he thought the place he was leaving her was really worse than death…”

9. “Human” by The Killers

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RIZdjT1472Y&w=640&h=360]
There remains confusion and debate over the line “Are we human, or are we dancer?” in the song’s chorus due to its grammar. Debate raged across the Internet over whether the lyric said “dancer,” “dancers” or “denser,” a misunderstanding which elicited conflicting interpretations of the song’s meaning. On the band’s official website, the biography section states that Flowers is singing “Are we human, or are we dancer?” and also says that the lyric was inspired by a disparaging comment made by Hunter S. Thompson, who stated that America was “raising a generation of dancers.” In an interview with Rolling Stone, Flowers said that he was irritated over the confusion about the lyric and also that fans were unhappy with the song’s dance beat: “It’s supposed to be a dance song, [the beat] goes with the chorus…If you can’t put that together, you’re an idiot. I just don’t get why there’s a confusion about it.”

10. “Poker Face” by Lady Gaga

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bESGLojNYSo&w=640&h=360]
Gaga admitted herself at a performance that her song “Poker Face” is about her personal experience with bisexuality and being with a man but fantasizing about a woman.

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