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“Closing Time” by Semisonic
The lyrics of the ’90s hit seems pretty self-explanatory: The bar is closing, so finish up and leave … right? No, actually. In a reunion tour in 2008, lead singer Dan Wilson admitted he’d purposely hidden the real meaning of the song. “They think it’s about being bounced from a bar, but it’s about being bounced from the womb,” he explained. Um, what? Wilson didn’t want to be that annoying parent who can’t stop talking about his kid, so he hid the meaning behind a more rock star-worthy message. Once you hear it, you can’t unhear it, and some of the other lyrics (“This room won’t be open ’til your brothers or your sisters come”) suddenly make a lot more sense.
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“Born in the U.S.A.” by Bruce Springsteen
At its surface, this 1984 song sounds like the kind of flag-waving tune you’d hear at an election campaign (in fact, Ronald Reagan wanted to use it when running for reelection). Listen to anything more than the chorus, though, and you’ll hear a different story. Lyrics like “I had a brother at Khe Sahn/ Fighting off the Viet Cong/ They’re still there, he’s all gone” reveal a darker story about a veteran struggling after the Vietnam War.
These are the little-known facts about the greatest songs ever.
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“Losing My Religion” by R.E.M.
The song’s namesake line is the only overt mention of religion or God or anything similar. Weird, huh? Not when you realize that the line isn’t referring to the singer literally losing his faith. In the American South, to say you’re “losing your religion” is an expression used to say you’re reaching your breaking point—which is exactly what the rest of the lyrics suggest the singer is doing.
Check out the origins of nine commonly used phrases.