Thursday, September 3, 2009

Songs We Totally Did Not Understand As Children


Ah, the age of musical innocence. Back when we could spend hours recording mix tapes of songs off the radio and blasting them at full volume in our rooms from our then top-of-the-line boom boxes, never once giving a second thought to a song's deeper meaning. In all truth, song lyrics mean very little to children. At best they're just a bunch of filler words to get us through to the next catchy chorus or bridge. Sure, they were helpful to learn for singing-along purposes and to look cool in front of our friends for knowing all of the words, but as a concept they seemed pretty arbitrary.

Yes, naivete is a magical thing. For a finite but glorious period of time, we as children all got to bask in glow of our misunderstanding of safeguarded, unexplained thinly-veiled references to all sorts of inappropriate content. That's one of the most wonderful things about children. They're always more than happy to accept something at face value. Why should anything have a deeper meaning, or even a meaning at all? Songs existed solely for our enjoyment and were in no way infiltrated with all sorts of subliminal smut. Or so we unsuspectingly assumed, that is.

Though the list is far from complete, here's a choice selection of 90s* songs that we all no doubt bopped around to at one point or other without giving a second thought to its less than kid-friendly content:


Cherry Pie




If ever a song was written specifically for the purpose of having dead-eyed strippers gyrate shamefully to its beat for years to come, it was Warrant's Cherry Pie. As a child, it was sort of like, hey, what a catchy melody! And I love desserts! Who doesn't love desserts? Yum! It seemed like a no-brainer.

The metaphors in the song aren't even trying. I mean, it's about as up front as you can get without explicitly whipping out a diagram of the female anatomy and using a laser pointer to highlight its finer points. I'll spare you the gorier details, but suffice it to say that if you can't catch the references as an adult then it's likely you've lived a clean bubble-bound existence. Congratulations.



New Age Girl (Mary Moon)


Featuring clips from Dumb and Dumber! Can you get any better than that?

At the time, I was pretty fooled into thinking this song was educational. After all, it taught me the word septuagenarians. That's got to count for something, doesn't it? And it was in Dumb and Dumber, cementing its status in my mind as a work of pure mindless entertainment

For those of you who haven't heard the song in ages, the chorus goes a little something like this:

Mary Moon, she's a vegetarian
Mary Moon, Mary Moon, Mary Moon
Mary Moon will outlive all the septuagenarians
Oh she loves me so, she hates to be alone
She don't eat meat but she sure like the bone


Is that bolding too subtle for you? I could add colors or maybe animated fireworks if that would help. We used to sing this song on the playground, for God's sake. Where was the adult in this situation to tell us it's not exactly good form to scream out, "She sure likes the bone"? Who were we to know?



Waterfalls



I don't know about all of you 90s kids, but TLC's CrazySexyCool was one of those CDs I played on repeat for oh, I don't know, about two years. I loved TLC. Or at least I thought I did. I really dug "Waterfalls". I mean, really. Everyone loves a natural scenic vista, no?

Apparently not. All this time we're thinking they're singing about some lovely water-rushing scenery, they're really giving us a message about the dangers of drugs and unsafe sex. I know, I know, I didn't get it either. Obviously I never saw the above uncut version of the video.

They were pretty sneaky about it., too Those 3 letters that took him to his final resting place? HIV. If I had known or remotely understood the context, I probably would have spent a good deal less time dancing around carefreely to the song. My bad.


Little Red Corvette

Little Red Corvette


Oh, Prince, you naughty, naughty Shetland pony of a man. How can you give us a song that seems on the surface to be about a cute little sports car but is actually suggesting to us all sorts of hoo-ha references? When he said he wanted to tame my little red love machine, I thought he wanted to do a little tuning up under the hood. I mean, give me an all-over inspection. Dammit, are there any car processes that don't sound chock full of innuendo? I've got it! He's going to change my transmission fluid. Wait a minute...




Brick


Don't hate me for selecting the pop-up version of this video. I know it diminishes the emotionality...that's why I like it. Thank you for your understanding.



This was one of those songs that was hauntingly beautiful in a way that should have been suspicious enough to tip us off, but more often than not failed to warn us of the serious adult-themed content. Ben Folds Five was famous for putting out quirky, silly music, so there's really no way we could have known even on the off chance that we were legitimate child fans.

Sometime in college after I hadn't heard the song in ages I suddenly remembered it, downloaded it, listened, and immediately felt an unquenchable urge to sob for an indeterminate period of time. I didn't know. In case you didn't either, the song is about an abortion. The song is incredibly heartwrenching. As a kid, I thought, wow, what a pretty song. Listen, there's some piano. Hey, why is everyone crying...?




Semi-Charmed Life



I'm not embarrassed to admit I'm still a loyal Third Eye Blind fan. I went to see them way back in eighth grade and then again this past year when they premiered Ursa Major at South by Southwest, and I have to say I'm still feeling it ten years later. Semi-Charmed life, was, without a doubt, one of my favorite songs as a kid. It was catchy, it was uptempo, and it was sort of fun to see if I could keep up with singing along to the warp-speed lyrics.

Until I bought the CD, the edited version I recorded off the radio said "Dkjadcjkajdflkd will lift you up until you break". On the CD, however, I found those suspicious jumbled words to be "doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break". Which still meant absolutely nothing to me. I was a kid. What did I know from drugs? I just liked the part that went doot-doot-doot-doot-do-do-do-doot. My mistake. Whatever. I still like it.


It's totally possible that many of you were better informed children than I was, but it's a lot more likely that you were scratching your heads right along with me. I prefer to remember these song they way they were in my mind's eye, though--simple, innocent, and made expressly for my appropriate musical enjoyment.



*I know Little Red Corvette came out in the early 80s but you need to understand I sort of have a thing for Prince. We're both from Minnesota, and anyone from Minnesota knows of and fervently loves Minnesotan celebrity. It's in our rule book. It comes right before the pronunciation guide for "Dontcha know?"

39 comments:

CTB said...

What a great post!

Nic said...

Haha! The innocence of youth. I've heard many songs as an adult and thought, "How the hell did I miss that?"

nikki said...

I have every Ben Folds CD and have seen him in concert five times. Everytime I hear Brick, I get chills. That and Fred Jones are his two songs that are completely sad but beautiful.

Also at school dances in 8th grade, the Humpty Dance was a crowd favorite. Now I'm like, really? 8th grade? "In the 69 position my nose'll tickle your rear." Soooo not subtle. Even though I was clueless about 69, I bet eighth graders now would get it.

the pizza said...

waterfalls - I was old enough to "get" this song. I should probably be reading children of the 80s. ;)

little red corvette - I love, love, love that you called prince a shetland pony of a man. so funny.

brick - somehow I've completely missed this song, as in I've only heard it once. And it was a fat guy doing it at karaoke. so I'm not really sure what else to say.

Gracie Beth said...

I miss pop up video, and I am not going to lie I loved the song brick until I heard what it was about...then I was horrified.

Badass Geek said...

I didn't listen much to popular radio as a kid, but hearing these songs now that I'm older, I can't believe that they let them on the air. Some of them are just plain crass.

And yes, that makes me sound like a prude, but I don't care.

Mike K said...

doot-doot-doot-do-do-do-doot

I lol'd :)

Glamour Girl said...

I heard most of these songs as an adult and still didn't really get the meaning. Shows you how much I pay attention. haha!

Warren said...

I heard TLC's Red Light Special recently and it blew my mind. I hope I never listened to that in front of my parents. I thought the song was about shopping or something.

Mrs. Hibit said...

In middle school, my friends and I would feel very mature because we were able to "figure out" a few of these. (The HIV reference in 'Waterfalls' was a major one.) Because it takes some serious maturity to understand such things.
Riiight.

Like Totally 80s/ 90s 411 said...

Love the post! I didn't realize until last year (LAST YEAR) that "She Bop" by Cyndi Lauper, a song I listened to a thousand times as a kid of the 80s, was about masturbation. Now, I listen to the lyrics and CANNOT believe that I never got it, but I just thought it was about dancing! Ah yes, the time of innocence . . .

Melanie's Randomness said...

I remember my mom telling me about the "Brick" song & being like Oh. Woa. It was such a chart topper!!!

Aww TLC, i remember them.

Love this blog. totally.

Anonymous said...

I loved the Outhere Brothers when I was younger, and would hang out with friends and sing along to "Boom Boom Boom" and "Don't Stop.. Wiggle Wiggle"..

Holy shit. I am SO embarrassed over it now! I had NO idea what we were singing!!

Andhari said...

OMG I have no idea the message behind Waterfalls is about sex..until NOW. LOL. How ignorant :P That's the first song I try rapping on.

Adorably Distracted... said...

hahah i remember driving to the beach and my sister whipping out a mix tape and saying... this is the best summer mix tape Ever!! and just rewinding and ffwd over and over again!

lovelila said...

I hadn't heard a lot of these until I was older, to be honest. I was way into R&B and Hip-hop as a kid. So obviously, I knew about the TLC song. Never had a problem understanding that one, though I know there are lots of songs that I would sing along to without knowing what they were about.

Little Ms Blogger said...

I still own TLC and it's great to work out to.

3rd Eye Blind's tune, very fun.

Prince, Red Corvette, was the 90s? Song rocks and if you can, SEE him in concert.

Cherry Pie - sucks.

KASHMIR-THE PARADISE said...

Nice

Sadako said...

I knew Brick was about an abortion because it was my favorite song back in 98 so I read about it and actually listened. Good song.

But I don't think I knew about Waterfalls until a few years later.

Beth Dunn said...

So true. I never really think of the lyrics until I've heard the song a million times and then it dawns on me-duh! xoxo

Mrs. Potts said...

I loved all these songs! Especially Little Red Corvette. I used to love love love Darling Nikki.

Shelley~Maren said...

Third Eye Blind - Pretty little songs, with dirty little lyrics. (No idea who said it first, but it sure wasn't me!) lol I still love them anyway.

Ursa Major is FULL of them though! lol

Jaime said...

I used to LOVE Pop-Up Video. :]

Lauren Kelly said...

Oh my word, my best friend and I growing up use to make up dances to "Water Falls." Too funny!!! :)

Carrie said...

I just found your blog and I LOVE IT Mary Moon how great is that I am for sure becoming a follower!

pocket full of pink said...

I'm so glad you found my blog! I loveee yours, what an awesome idea for a blog!!

Ashlee said...

I remember being told that the Third Eye Blind song is actually about, erm, a lady doing something nice for a guy using her mouth.
I mean, the song has the line 'she goes down on me.'

Miss Neira said...

third eye blind and TLC..ahh its love

the waterfalls came on the radio the other day and I totally knew all the words..haha love it

Glamorous Newlywed said...

Oh, I totally had NO idea what any of these songs were talking about when I was a kid... :) Love this post!

Hanako66 said...

this is hilarious...I completely relate to how you felt about all of these! the one exception is waterfalls...I guess I figured it out from the video? I don't know, but it made me not like the song!

La La La Leah said...

Ok I knew that about TLC because I had to write a poem about it in the 8th grade..... NICE.

I still don't like Brick. Its a sad song.

Lil' Woman said...

Ahhh TLC. I rocked the shit out of that CD, and I didn't get the 'three letters thing' till about 2 years ago, at first I thought they were talking about S-E-X...I was like 'sex kills? keep me away from that' either way I guess it worked.

Simply_Megan said...

I didn't know Semi-Charmed Life was about drugs until I was watching one of those Top 100 Songs of the 90s Countdowns. They were talking about how the song was always used in montages of people shopping or cleaning but it was really about crystal meth.

for the love of pictures said...

Ahh, memories of the more innocent times :)

K @ Blog Goggles said...

Haha, you're right, I definitely did not get Waterfalls. It's ok - they're still awesome!

Southern Starlet said...

This was great! I'm a little older, so my age of innocence was really during the late 80s- early 90s, so I appreciate the Prince reference. All of his songs were laden with questionable material. Ha! And I remember the songs I would listen to from 2 Live Crew and think, "My gosh, why doesn't my mother come clean my ears out with soap??" I didn't really pay attention to the lyrics back then, so I guess maybe that's why my mom never cared. Ahhh, youth.

Randi Troxell said...

i actually have and still do love brick... i think that maybe after like the 3rd time i listened i got it... this post though sorta reminds me of the movie "drop dead fred" for some REASON when i was a child my mother would let me watch it all the time... well hubby and i saw it other day and watched it again and i'm all.. "WHAT!!! i cannot believe my mother let me watch this!!"... lol

Kandace said...

I did pay attention and know about TLC. But I was just informed by you about semi-charmed life. I suppose I never heard the unedited version.

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