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:
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?
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...
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...?
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?"