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9 Catchy Pop Songs About Horrible Circumstances

Singing these peppy songs in the car just made the morning commute a whole lot darker.

Photo by Bob Riha Jr / WireImage | Licensed to Alpha Media Group 2012

Most of us don’t have the time or patience to actually pay attention to song lyrics. If we did, the world would be a horrible and grim place. These well-known toe-tappers are really about sad, depressing, nightmarish situations. Prepare to have your mind and sunny disposition blown.


Born in the USA

Artist: Bruce Springsteen

What most people think it’s about: A fun, patriotic ode to the land of the free and the home of the brave.

What it’s really about: A fucked-up Vietnam vet returning “home” to a country that doesn’t care about or want him.

Telling lyric: “You end up like a dog that's been beat too much”


Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone

Artist: The Temptations

What most people think it’s about: A groovy Motown jam about a hip dad.

What it’s really about: A deadbeat, alcoholic, philandering man who leaves his struggling wife and children and then dies.

Telling lyric: “Folks say Papa never was much on thinking / Spent most of his time chasing women and drinking”


Janie’s Got a Gun

Artist: Aerosmith

What most people think it’s about: A sexy girl acquires a gun.

What it’s really about: A young woman shoots and kills her father, who sexually molested her as a child.

Telling lyric: “What did her daddy do? / He jacked a little bitty baby”


Semi-Charmed Life

Artist: Third Eye Blind

What most people think it’s about: A jaunty ‘90s anthem about a rock star having fun with girls in little red panties.

What it’s really about: A harrowing look at crystal meth addiction.

Telling lyric: “Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break”


The Freshman

Artist: The Verve Pipe

What most people think it’s about: A nostalgic look at that super exciting first year of school.

What it’s really about: A man’s heart-wrenching guilt over his ex-girlfriend’s suicide.

Telling lyric: “His girl took a week's worth of Valium and slept / And now he's guilt stricken sobbing with his head on the floor”


Under the Bridge

Artist: Red Hot Chili Peppers

What most people think it’s about: Chilling with your buddies under a pretty bridge in the city you love.

What it’s really about: The abject isolation you feel when strung out on heroin and cocaine.

Telling lyric: “Under the bridge downtown / Is where I drew some blood”


Pumped Up Kicks

Artist: Foster the People

What you think it’s about: A pair of cool new sneakers.

What it’s really about: A troubled youngster contemplating shooting up his school.

Telling lyric: “You better run, better run, faster than my bullet”


99 Luftballons

Artist: Nena (Note: the video is the badass Goldfinger version)

What most people think it’s about: A German girl from the ‘80s’ love of colorful things that float.

What it’s really about: Children’s balloons are mistaken to be missiles, starting a war between the East and West and resulting in global nuclear Armageddon.

Telling lyric: “99 years of war left no room for victors / There are no more war ministers nor any jet fighters / Today I'm making my rounds / See the world lying in ruins”


To Be With You

Artist: Mr. Big

What most people think it’s about: A guy waits around for the woman he loves.

What it’s really about: A gang bang.

Telling lyrics: “I’ve waited on a line / Just to be the next to be with you”

Another lyric if you still don’t believe us: “Build up your confidence / So you can be on top for once.”

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