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Misaimed Fandom: Music
He's the one
Who likes all our pretty songs
And he likes to sing along
And he likes to shoot his gun
But he knows not what it means
Nirvana, "In Bloom".

A lot of people don't seem to listen to song lyrics. They hear a pleasant melody or a nice refrain and don't bother to listen and think about the other lines. Other times they interpret the message of a song as the complete opposite of what the singer or group intended. Sometimes they've simply misheard the lyrics (see Mondegreen), but often it's just a matter of being too lazy or ignorant to really read the text. Even perfectly intelligent and perceptive people often simply can't make out very many of the words in the music they listen to. They're lucky if they can get the choruses right. So in the music world, Misaimed Fandom is not restricted to Stealth Parodies. It can affect anybody at any time. (If you cue up a song at a wedding without looking up the lyrics, that's still on you.) No wonder some songs get a Misaimed Fandom.

Note how close typical pratfalls of a Repurposed Pop Song to this.

Music interpreted as a "love or celebration song", while it's actually a criticism

  • Kendrick Lamar's "Swimming Pools" is frequently played at alcohol fueled events, even though it is stark criticism of the lifestyle.
  • The Barenaked Ladies song "Alcohol" sounds like a peppy, upbeat party tune, but it's actually a sarcastic song about a miserable, self-hating alcoholic. A browse through the Youtube comments on it will show that some people get it, and others don't.
    • Likewise, Peter, Paul and Mary song Puff the Magic Dragon is NOT about drugs (despite many assertions to the contrary), but of the end of childhood and innocence.
  • The MGMT song "Time to Pretend" is a general send-up of the hedonistic, drug-and-sex-filled lifestyle that many artists choose to follow, describing how such a life is empty and shallow and how genuinely caring about those you love is more fulfilling. Unfortunately, due to the style of the song and especially its... colorful music video, many listeners boil it down to "OH MAN THIS SONG IS SO TRIPPY THEY WERE ON DRUGS LOL" or worse as an endorsement of the very lifestyle it mocks without bothering to listen to the lyrics.
  • Due to their (debatable) assertion that Obama has an anthem — and that it was instrumental in his rise — the Tea Party movement has adopted Cult of Personality by Living Colour as one of their unofficial-official anthems. Never mind that it doesn't really portray a Cult of Personality as an intrinsically bad thing (mentioning Gandhi and Kennedy as well as Stalin and Mussolini), and has lines about leaders dying while they speak, which can send the wrong message from a political opposition movement.
    • Similar to the above, the much-covered song "I Fought The Law" (originally by The Crickets [post-Buddy Holly] , Covered Up by the Bobby Fuller Four and re-popularized by The Clash) is often thought of as a rebel song about heroically if futilely opposing The Man. Either you think that the song is about the righteous legal system catching a dangerous fugitive or you think that it's about a righteous rebellious criminal hero being locked up by the tyrannical legal system. One way or the other, somebody is in a Misaimed Fandom. Unless ambiguity was intentional.
  • Gangsta Rap - Originally the genre focused on shining the light on the harsh world in the inner city, with the lyrics often condemning social ills such as crime and police brutality. Unfortunately, once it became popular, it morphed into a genre that glorified violence, gang life, crime, and murder. It doesn't help that many of the present rappers were part of the misaimed fandom.
  • Two songs by hide often get this, as a result of Lyrical Dissonance running headlong into the Language Barrier and people not checking translations. Those are Eyes Love You and Genkai Haretsu.
    • Eyes Love You is a scathing indictment of empty, possessive relationships (and possibly Hollywood fake glamour, with one of its remixes even being called the "Death Hollywood" version) implying the predator's desire to commit Date Rape via drugs in one line (which could also refer to Hollywood/the music scene's use of drugs to hook people into situations they don't desire). Either way it's a very complicated, conflicted song, and NOT a love song in any sense of the word (in fact, the English lines make that abundantly clear with "My eyes love you, but my heart can't love you, so...")
    • Genkai Haretsu gets it even worse. It's often seen as a "love song" or "summer jam" due to its fast guitar and upbeat sound... except a look at the PV or the lyrics will tell you that the entire song is about a Villain Protagonist engaging in Date Rape, and finally poisoning and necrophilia because he believes Sex Is Evil and I Am Horny, and wants to "break the limits" with... a dead victim.
  • On the topic of "love" songs, people dedicate Dolly Parton or Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You" to their loved ones. Either they realize that the song is about leaving somebody, or they don't.
  • Also on the topic of love songs, "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails (colloquially known as the "fuck-you-like-an-animal song") is considered, by some of its listeners, to be a wonderfully hot and sexy song. Yet the lyrics are very, very clearly about a psychological wreck of a man using sex as an escape from his own self-loathing. Romantic, huh?
    • Then again, that's kind of the point. It's got a "porno music" beat (what with the song being about sex) but the actual lyrics are closer to Nightmare Fuel and if they ever let their attention get distracted to the lyrics during the act, its stands a fair chance of killing the mood pretty quickly.
    • Admittedly, given the meme that crazy people are better in bed, the madness might be part of the appeal.
    • There's also the alternate interpretation that the song is from the point of view of an intravenous drug
    • Speaking of Nine Inch Nails, the same album features a song named "Big Man With A Gun", a scathing indictment of misogyny. Some people honestly believe it's about how cool it is to be hyper masculine and exert your control over a woman.
    • The entire album of "The Downward Spiral" is about the negative effects of Sex, Drugs and Rock & Roll.
  • Continuing on from 1990s Industrial Metal concept albums with messages that are taken in the utterly opposite direction, there's Marilyn Manson's album Mechanical Animals. There are two central characters, Omēga and Alpha. Omēga sings empty anthems about sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Alpha is based on Manson, and sings about love, and the negative effects of sex, drugs and rock'n'roll. Guess which one's songs are more popular.
  • Furthermore, "Dance Me to the End of Love" by Leonard Cohen is considered by many fans and cover musicians to be a passionate love song. However, according to Leonard Cohen, the song is in fact about the Holocaust. In other words, all those "sexy" lyrics tell the story of a Jewish couple struggling to hold on to their love life before Nazis show up and take them away to concentration camps. A wee bit disturbing, don't you think?
    • To be fair, the majority of the blame for this can be chalked up to Madeline Peyroux's cover of the song, which is done in a smooth jazz style, going for a Hotter and Sexier feel, especially with Peyroux's seductive singing style.
  • For an opposite mistake, "Time To Say Goodbye" is not a parting song; the two lovers are not saying goodbye to each other, they are leaving together (as indicated by the original Italian title, Con te partir˛ - "I will leave with you").
  • Even classical music that has no lyrics can be subject to this with some people declaring all of it so relaxing and soothing, ignoring or including extremely aggressive pieces. To lampshade this attitude, a classical radio station recently advertised a segment as 'Songs that have never been used successfully to put down a child that has been fussing and needs to go to sleep.'
  • R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" appears to be a straightforward love song ("This one goes out to the one I love") but the idea that the one I love is "a simple prop to occupy my time" and is ultimately replaced by "another prop" is usually lost between the choruses.
    • That's partially due to the fact that the song itself is unclear as to the antecedent of "a simple prop". It could refer to "the one I love," but it could just as easily refer to the song itself being "a simple prop". My guess is that those who see it as a love song prefer the latter interpretation.
    • R.E.M.'s "Shiny Happy People" has suffered a similar fate, though unlike "The One I Love", the band itself acknowledges the utter fail of the song on every conceivable level as far as their song mocking Chinese communist propaganda, which bragged that Communist China was full of "shiny happy people", came off in execution as a happy pop song about... well, shiny happy people holding hands. Hence the band pretty much going above and beyond to pretend that the song never exists. The extremely heavily played music video [1] didn't help as it featured adorably cute kids, children's paintings as the backdrop, a nice old man riding a bike to move the backdrop, the band all smiling and laughing along with the extremely pretty and smiley Kate Pierson from the B52s as a guest vocalist, a whole bunch of people doing happy sixties style dancing and a guy on stilts dancing all performed in a completely straight and non-ironic way. It's not really surprising the satirical intent missed by a mile.
      • When Michael Stipe was interviewed in Space Ghost Coast to Coast, he said bluntly, when Space Ghost asked him to sing the song, "I hate that song."
  • Bruce Springsteen's "Born in the USA" is seen by many as a Reagan-era patriotic anthem — that is, by people who only ever listen to the chorus. As the verses make abundantly clear it is about Vietnam veterans who were perceived as unemployable, and the anthemic chorus is meant to be bitter and satirical. The Reagan administration even approached Springsteen to endorse Ronnie in the 1984 elections — Springsteen, a staunch liberal, refused.
    • During The River Tour, Springsteen was frequently annoyed by audience members who set off fireworks during "Independence Day." Not only was this dangerous, but the song has nothing to do with celebrating July Fourth; it's really about a troubled father-son relationship and the son's decision to leave home.
    • John Mellencamp's "Pink Houses" is likewise seen as a Reagan-era patriotic anthem by those who only listen to the chorus ("Ain't that America?").
      • See also "Our Country", though that one's admittedly less caustic and more optimistic to begin with.
    • Let's just say that most of just about anything ever labeled "heartland rock" presents at least a mixed view of Reagan's America, and that many people don't get that and just see the good side.
      • Chalk it up to a triumph of surface over substance: No matter what the actual political beliefs of the "heartland rockers" (a category that included Springsteen in spite of his being from New Jersey) were, the fact that they weren't black-clad heavy metal types, spiky-headed punks, or androgynous New Wavers led to them appealing to the same type of "normal", conventionally patriotic Middle American voters who Reagan and the Republicans were courting in The Eighties.
  • Along the same lines as the above, Neil Young's "Rockin' in the Free World" is often thought of as a patriotic celebration of life in the free world. However, the lyrics pointedly critique the socioeconomic state of America circa George H. W. Bush's presidency, addressing topics such as homelessness and drug addiction.
  • Pearl Jam's "Betterman" is a song about a woman rationalizing her place in an abusive relationship. And yet, at any given concert performance, you can see couples lovingly singing it to one another; on at least one occasion, a man proposed to his girlfriend during the song with the lyrics "She lies and says she's in love with him". The song has even been heard sung to a bride by members of a wedding party in a karaoke bar! That is both horrible and hysterical.
    • Similarly, "Alive" is often interpreted as a defiant proclamation of vitality; in fact, it's a song about a teenage son molested by his mother because he resembles the dead father he never knew. Eddie Vedder used to introduce this song, in concert, as part of a trilogy... with the third song being "Once" - a song about a serial killer who murders hitch-hikers. Vedder's implication was that the main character's sexual abuse inspired him to kill. Irony, much?
  • The de facto Aussie patriotic song, "Down Under" by Men At Work. Apparently, the band sang the song as an attack on the exploitation of the continent. However, people tend to imagine that it's about the world travels of an Australian who is proud of his nationality and attracting the attention of people interested in it.
    • The music video clears a few things up, with the last scene being a funeral for the country's natural beauty.
  • While we're on misaimed Aussie patriotism, Cold Chisel's "Khe Sanh", about a Vietnam veteran who can't handle returning to civilian life, became a patriotic anthem. The Australian cricket team's adoption of the song may factor into this.
    • The Aussie cricket team are indeed known for choosing songs with fairly inappropriate or unrelated lyrics.
  • Similarly, even though "Born to Run" is about how badly the main character wants to get out of the New Jersey town he grew up in, lots of rabid Springsteen fans want to make it the official state song... Which could be why it's the perfect choice!
  • Madonna's "Material Girl" was a sarcastic jab at consumerism; but it was interpreted by many as a fun, happy-go-lucky celebration of material luxuries: few noted the Lyrical Dissonance. When Britney Spears covered the song in concert, she was criticized for not understanding that the song was intended to be ironic.
    • The video for "Material Girl" is largely to blame for the song's Misaimed Fandom; while the video itself makes a point to stick to the meaning of the song (in terms of showing Madonna's character being charmed by her love interest's deliberately simple and "cheap" ways of courting her), the only part most people remember is the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" homage that makes up the bulk of the video.
    • One place that uses it right: Elite Beat Agents, where it plays over a pair of Rich Bitch sisters flirting their way around and off a deserted island. If the Hawaiian shirt is any indication, Commander Khan doesn't seem to be that concerned about them.
  • Tim Robbins only averted this with the soundtrack to Bob Roberts by declining to release it.
  • "The Freshmen", from The Verve Pipe, was a popular (and overplayed) song. Take a listen to the lyrics and be baffled. Bonus: In the introduction of this performance, the lead singer says he wanted to write the most deeply upsetting song possible. Ironically, people loved it because of how twisted it was.
    • It's a very good song, and even if you listen to exactly what its saying (it's hard to miss the point on this one) it always brings a lump to my throat. It's upsetting, but it's upsetting because it has a powerful sense of human frailty and the fragility of love.
  • Some cricket fans have adopted 10cc's "Dreadlock Holiday" as an anthem because it includes the lyrics "I don't like cricket, oh no / I love it!" — this when, in context, the song's narrator is clearly only saying this in a vain attempt to ingratiate himself with a gang of thugs who are intending to beat him up and mug him on his holidays in Jamaica. It's used on cricket shows regularly now. During a 2013 match between England and Australia, commentator David Lloyd noticed a t-shirt in the crowd with 'I don't like cricket' written on it. He reacted in a 'well why are you here then?' way before the camera revealed that the back said 'I love it' and he made the connection.
  • Third Eye Blind's hit single "Semi-Charmed Life" caught on as an anthem for sex-crazed, drug-addicted college-folk due to the quick tempo and catchy lyrics even though the song dealt entirely with the negative repercussions of the behavior the main fans of the song were engaging in. This may have been because all the references to sex and drugs (including bleeping or scrambling the words "crystal meth") were edited when broadcast on the radio, for "clean" album releases, and when shown as a music video on MTV. One time the Moral Guardians messed up majorly...
    • The song was used in a trailer for the animated Winnie-the-Pooh film The Tigger Movie for the sole reason that the song's chorus sounds upbeat and "bouncy". Disney later pulled the ad when they found out the meaning of the song.
  • Austrian singer Falco's song "Jeanny" is usually mistaken as a love song. Its lyrics depict the insanity of a serial rapist and killer stalking his soon-to-be next victim. It's exactly helped by how the song's lyrics are in German save for the chorus in English; said chorus' lyrics are easy to mistake as the "narrator" asking his "target" to pay attention to him.
  • Tracy Chapman's "Fast Car" often gets played a lot due to its chorus, which tells of a couple driving in their car at night as a form of entertainment to distract them from their poor lot in life. Sadly, most people ignore the rest of the lyrics, which tells of a collapsing relationship, which ends with the woman ultimately ending the relationship before it destroys her love for her boyfriend.
  • The Tom Waits song "Poor Edward" (a song about a guy with a woman's face on the back of his head that he refers to as his "devil twin"), is usually taken to be an allegory about a marriage falling apart. In reality, it's a song about a guy with a woman's face on the back of his head that he refers to as his "devil twin".
  • Lou Reed, best known as the frontman of the Velvet Underground, has expressed that he was horrified when people told him that they were shooting up to the song "Heroin". Of course, it's mostly ambiguous, but...
  • Alan Jackson's 1994 hit song "Gone Country" provided a satirical commentary on the state of country music, describing three pop/folk musicians who, after finding their careers to be waning, decide to feign being country in order to try their hand in the then-booming country music industry. ...Or the song is a fun country pride song, that has become a popular choice for radio stations to play as their first song after changing to a country format. Even Jackson seems to support this interpretation now, as he takes the "fun country pride song" interpretation in the liner notes to his Greatest Hits Album.
  • Death Cab for Cutie's song "I Will Possess Your Heart" also has the Lyrical Dissonance thing going on; it's got an upbeat, pleasant sound, but it's another Stalker with a Crush song.
  • Vanessa Carlton's song "Twilight" is not about Edward or Bella or anything that has to do with Stephanie Meyer's books, especially since she wrote the song before those books came out. Don't even bother looking at all the comments. Likewise, neither is anything by Muse.
  • People enjoy the catchy opening riff of the Jethro Tull song "Aqualung", and maybe even sing "Sitting on a park bench!...", without actually listening to rest of the song's lyrics about a homeless pedophile dying of hypothermia.
    • Another of the band's songs, "Bungle in the Jungle" is often taken at face value as being about the everyday struggles of jungle creatures, when it is actually an allegory of the seedy world of business.
    • After Aqualung was praised as a "concept album" (which Ian Anderson never intended it to be), Anderson decided to write the 45-minute "epic poem" Thick as a Brick as a parody of concept albums. Many took it seriously (it outsold Aqualung, and was the band's first #1 album in the States), so they decided to do an actual concept album, A Passion Play, which while successful in the States (another #1 seller), didn't sell as well in the UK (peaking at #12).
  • The classic O'Jays funk song "For the Love of Money" ("Money money money! Moneeeey!") is meant to be a warning about what humans will sink to in order to get their hands on money. That hasn't stopped it from being used in commercials, movies and television shows to encourage people to get rich by any means necessary. Heck, it's even the theme song to Donald Trump's reality show The Apprentice.
    • Given the depraved behavior of some of the show's contestants, that actually makes it the perfect theme song.
  • Bob Geldof apparently encounters many, many people who only ever listen to the chorus of "I Don't Like Mondays", which is actually loosely based on a real school shooting and not a song about generically disliking Mondays. He does not appreciate this one bit.
  • Crash Into Me by Dave Matthews Band seems to be considered a sweet and romantic song by the people who don't listen to the lyrics. It's actually about a voyeur wanking and fantasising about the girl he's watching.
  • In 2010, Macy's controversially used the song "Seasons of Love" — a tribute to love of all kinds — to sell jewelry. The use of only straight couples didn't help matters, either.
  • A local radio station in Britain promoted a charity balloon-release with trailers playing or reading out the lyrics of Nena's "99 Red Balloons" ("99 Luftballoons") - the lyrics where releasing balloons leads to a nuclear war.
  • "Rock the Casbah" by The Clash was reportedly a popular song for bomber pilots flying missions over Iraq, along with "Killing an Arab" by The Cure. Not the context either bands would have envisioned when writing those songs.
    • When told that one of the bombs dropped on Baghdad during the gulf war had "Rock the Casbah" written on it, Joe Strummer reportedly broke down and wept. If it's true, he can hardly be blamed.
  • The Toadies may also have an accidental fandom among Goths & Vamps since several of their songs could be taken to be refer to vampirism. How accidental this is is still a subject of debate but the band itself doesn't present itself as a gothic band.
    • "Tyler" is definitely about a man breaking into a woman's house so he can "be with her tonight", though whether or not he is a blood-drinker or a murderer/rapist may depend upon how you feel about vampires being able to enjoy a beer.
    • "POSSUM Kingdom", with its mention of a "dark secret", is either about a serial killer attacking a woman at a North Texas lake of that name, or a vampire violently revealing himself to a woman before offering to make her a vampire as well.
    • "Away" can be taken as being about a vampire's invitation of hospitality to a mortal friend. ("If I'm out hunting - Come right on in, yeah. - And even when I'm gone, -My doors are always open.")
    • People who think The Toadies are a goth or vampire band might want to listen more closely to tracks like "Backslider," which seem to have, if anything, Pentecostal Christian overtones.
  • Green Day's "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)" is very commonly known as the song to play or listen to when you're about to hit a milestone in your life that calls for you to leave your old life behind and start anew (namely, graduating from school). It was even used when Seinfeld was going off the air and they had a clip show thanking viewers for watching the show. However, the song was written when Billie Joe Armstrong (the lead singer) was breaking up with his girlfriend. So the song is a break-up song, but is used to denote love. This confusion is likely due to the lyrics (which by themselves do not express the intended meaning very well) and the predictable habit of radio stations of calling the song "Time of Your Life," since the "actual" title does not appear in the lyrics. Word of God is that the song was meant to be bittersweet, not sarcastic.
  • "Frankie says 'Relax'". To elaborate, the song is about male masturbation, however many t-shirt brands worn almost exclusively by women promote this song, while missing the point.
  • U2's "One" is often played at weddings. The Edge apparently gets rather pissed off about this.
    • It's quite hard to tell if the fact that it was the first song played at Cyclops and Jean Grey's meant Marvel writers were part of the Misaimed Fandom, or were aware enough for a subtle Take That against the relationship.
    • Also from U2, "Sunday Bloody Sunday" is very frequently taken to be a rebel anthem in support of the cause of the IRA. In reality, it's a 'plague on both your houses' song. Perhaps the most famous live performance of it was a 1987 American concert that took place mere hours after a bomb had gone off in Enniskillen and slain 11 civilians. Bono stopped midway through to deliver a moving speech declaring "fuck the revolution". He would later go on to enthusiastically campaign for the Good Friday agreement, including hosting the only public meeting of the main Catholic and Protestant leaders, at a concert rally.
    Alan Partridge: 'Sunday Bloody Sunday'. What a great song. It really encapsulates the frustration of a Sunday, doesn't it? You wake up in the morning, you've got to read all the Sunday papers, the kids are running round, you've got to mow the lawn, wash the car, and you think "Sunday, bloody Sunday!"
    Aidan Walsh: I really hate to do this to you, Alan, but it's actually a song about...
    Paul Tool: Yeah, bloody Sunday is actually about a massacre in Derry in 1972.
    Alan Partridge: A massacre? Ugh. I'm not playing that again.
    • Perhaps that's why Bono introduced the song by saying "This is not a rebel song..." in the Under a Blood Red Sky version.
    • In the Rattle and Hum version, Bono excoriates Irish-Americans for raving about the "glorious revolution" while actual Irish just wanted people to stop getting killed.
  • Repeat it with me, "I'm On a Boat" is a parody. Observe: over-the-top cursing, simple repetition of lyrics, catchy hook, pointless inclusion of T-Pain, and the fact that it was created by the comedy troupe The Lonely Island and shown on Saturday Night Live (a shown known for mocking almost everything and everyone in popular culture), and the words. "Gonna fly this boat to the moon somehow..." This hasn't stopped people from not realizing that it's not actually another rap song about how glamorous life is when you're a rapper. The fact that it was made by the same writers of "Dick in a Box" and "Jizz in My Pants" should be the first clue.
  • Like "I Will Always Love You" and "Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)", "Every Breath You Take" by The Police is often played as a ballad of love, when in fact it's anything but. Sting wrote it while his first marriage was disintegrating, and its lyrics about a protagonist stalking his wife are meant to show the fine line between love and obsession.
    • That observation can be made about the whole album. Despite its endless airplay in the early 1980s, Synchronicity is a remarkably dark album. The heavy-rotation "Synchronicity II" deals with the humiliating and probably murderous meltdown of a harried English father. "Tea in the Sahara" follows deceived and lovelorn sisters to their deaths. "Wrapped Around Your Finger" is a first-person narrative about a man, who is seduced by an older woman he ultimately jilts in order to punish her for becoming too possessive of him, with it implied that she'll kill herself without him. Do we even need to mention "King of Pain" and "Mother"? Yet fans and DJs could not stop playing the goddamn record. Weird...
  • Merle Haggard's 1969 song "Okie from Muskogee" became something of an anthem for Middle Americans, people, who were opposed to student protest, hippie lifestyle and such. It was intended as a satire of those views. Some people who take the song seriously even praise Haggard for his "courage" in speaking out against countercultural views. Listen, "countercultural" views are called that because most people don't subscribe to them, making "speaking out against them" hardly courageous at all. And even if the hippie lifestyle had been truly mainstream, Haggard was aiming that song at his fanbase: country-music aficionados who would never, ever disagree with him on that point.
    • In fairness, Haggard seems to have decided long ago to stop singing it satirically as it always seems to get a warm response from the audience.
  • Freud, Marx, Engels and Jung song Buuri Johannesburgista (Boer from Johannesburg) is a gross and nasty satire, not anthem, of apartheid.
  • Joe Walsh's "Life's Been Good" is actually a satire.
  • "Where the Wild Roses Grow" is apparently a popular choice for slow dancing. You mean the song where Nick Cave carefully and very clearly sings about seducing and murdering a young woman?
  • "Walking on the Sun" by Smash Mouth is often used in commercials for items like cars. Marketers apparently assume that the band really intended to urge people not to delay, and to act now. Hilarious how it's seen as an upbeat anthem to capitalism, no?
    • Unless said marketers simply assume it's Word Salad Lyrics with an intelligible sentence or two.
  • Lordi, after partaking in the Eurovision Song Contest. ESC-viewers love their freakshow (relative to the usual ESC-fare) contestants.
  • The song "Next Best Superstar" was actually used in the German edition of Pop Idol.
  • The famous 90s anthem "I'm Too Sexy" was meant to be a parody of the vanity found amongst bodybuilders and models. The song subsequently went on to become a very popular song amongst bodybuilders and models, and to this day, is regularly played at gyms and fashion-shows. Whether it's done tongue-in-cheek or seriously is for you to decide.
  • The song, "Independence Day" by Martina McBride is a song about domestic violence. The protagonist/battered woman is abused by her husband; to protect the life of her child, she kills the husband along with herself by burning the house down. Yet, for some odd reason (e.g. not listening at all to the lyrics), the song is played during Fourth of July/Independence Day festivals/activities. Odd!
    • Similarly, people seem to believe "Concrete Angel" is about "strong and kickass women", so the song is often used in AMV's about "Girl Power". The Tear Jerker of a music video, however, clears it up: the protagonist is a little girl who falls victim to fatal Domestic Abuse... and ironically, her killer is her mother. And the titular "concrete angel" is the girl's grave marker.
  • The song "Beautiful Day" by English folk-punk band The Levellers is sometimes used in commercials to convey a cheerful tone, the producers apparently having looked no further than the first line of the chorus to realise that the song discusses political revolution, is peppered with references to historical revolutionaries or that the "beautiful day" in question being the one on which "Wealth redistribution/Became the new solution".
  • In what is either an utterly absurd example of this trope or the most brilliant of subversions, the Marilyn Manson song "Beautiful People" was once played over commercials for America's Next Top Model on British television.
    • The song even got a misaimed fandom from another artist when Christina Aguleira sampled it for her song "The Beautiful People" for the movie Burlesque, going so far as to replace Manson's lyrics with lines like "All of the beautiful people, shining like diamonds/They got no problems/They always stop for the cameras, stealing the spotlight"
    • In the same way, the trailers for Dragon Age: Origins made heavy use of "This is the New Shit", which is a very obvious mocking of the rise of Darker and Edgier in media. Then again, the world of Dragon Age is such a relentlessly Grimdark universe that even its version of God has turned his back in disgust (or possibly worse).
  • Black Sabbath's "Iron Man" is about man who travels to the future, sees the world in ruins, and is transformed into a metal monster. When he tries to go back and warn humans, he can't communicate with people. They treat him as a freak and it drives him insane—he goes on Roaring Rampage of Revenge, causing the apocalypse he tried to prevent. It's not about Tony Stark!
    • "N.I.B." is another one. Bassist Geezer Butler has claimed that the song is about Lucifer doing a Heel-Face Turn. However, the religious devout and random Satanists believe it's about the devil seducing the listener to the Dark Side.
  • The hardline movement is an offshoot of Straight Edge that combines elements of extreme left- and right- wing politics and Judeo-Christianity. Minor Threat, the pioneers of the Straight Edge movement, originally decried drunkenness and the use of recreational drugs for the sake of unadulterated individual thinking, not as a rite of passage into some cult..
  • "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" was originally intended as a parody of country Tear Jerker songs that feature "two verses that get you to fall in love with the character, and then 'kill 'em!" The writer (Randy Brooks) decided to write a song where an adorable character dies at the very beginning in an extremely absurd fashion. Neither Brooks nor Elmo & Patsy anticipated that the public would embrace it as an Anti-Christmas Song, or that it would appeal to the Playground Song demographic.
  • West Coast punk band X would eventually refuse to play their song "Johnny Hit and Run Pauline" (a rather serious song about rape) at live concerts when their crowds would constantly embrace it like any other punk song with wild moshing and boisterous fist pumping during the chorus.
  • Rod Stewart took a lot of flack for "Do Ya Think I'm Sexy?" because people thought Rod was boasting about himself. Needless to say, he wasn't.
  • "House of Fun" by Madness is about a boy trying to buy condoms on his 16th birthday (the legal age of consent for sex in the UK) but he is misunderstood by the shop assistant and directed to a party supplies shop called the "House of Fun." There's a bit of Lyrical Dissonance here because it's such a bouncy song, but the lyrics go right over the heads of many people who play the song at children's parties and even on kids' TV!
  • David Bowie's "Space Oddity" (and Peter Schilling's German-language remake "Major Tom") were each used in a Lincoln car commercial, to evoke a sense that driving a cool, powerful Lincoln is like blasting off into space. Odd, since both songs are about an equipment failure in a vehicle that kills the occupant. The fact that the astronaut protagonist of the song burns up on reentry and dies seems to have been overlooked by the creators of the advertisements.
    • Plus, his wife is cheating on him in the Schilling video, subverting any hints at a Fancy Cars Make You Sexy trope.
      • The Venture Bros. subverts this; when the song is invoked, it's heavily implied that the character named Major Tom is being cuckolded by The Action Man, and commits suicide by allowing his spacecraft to crash.
      • Plus the "astronaut lost in space" is almost certainly a metaphor for drug addiction, as suggested by Ashes to Ashes "We know Major Tom's a junkie"
  • X-Ray Spex's 1970s-wave punk song "Oh Bondage Up Yours" was both embraced and denounced as a pro-BDSM Obligatory Bondage Song, despite the fact that it's a fairly obvious feminist attack on BDSM as ultimate form of the oppression of women and the "Up yours!" is aimed at bondage fans. To be fair, the vocals aren't that easily intelligible.
  • Ever since Bowling for Soup did a PG cover of Modern English's "I Melt with You" it has become a sweet song between two close people culminating in Hershey using it for a commercial with a mother and son. The song is actually about making love during a nuclear holocaust.
    • See also, Don Henley's "All She Wants to Do is Dance," a hash on superficial people who dance while their world crumbles... which remains a popular '80s dance hit.
  • Bedouin Soundclash suffers this quite a bit. Santa Monica is actually about Jay Malinowski's friend, a British marine, being stabbed and killed while in Santa Monica. Yet it's been used in slideshows with pictures of Santa Monica - this was made even worse when Malinowski's solo version of the song was released.
    • Another song of theirs, May You Be The Road has been interpreted as a love song, when it's actually about escaped criminals asking each other if they would sacrifice themselves for them (this is made clear in the video).
    • Mountain Top, from the same album as May You Be The Road, is a jab at the general international Rasta/Reggae scene. Guess what types of bands have been covering it.
    • Jay's solo song "Remembrance Day" is used in High School Remembrance Day celebrations. Yeah, songs about hookups are suitable for school celebrations, no?
  • Many people think "Prison Sex" by Tool is about just that: rape while in prison. The actual message is much more disturbing. It's about a child who is molested and grows up to himself become a child molester. The prison in the title is the cycle suffering that is created and which the character can't break free from. This confusion could be more due to some of the lyrics being hard to hear.
    • This becomes much less ambiguous in the video, which is downright terrifying.
  • Jill Sobule's song "Soldiers of Christ" is a savage deconstruction of the modern Christian intolerance, and anyone who knows more than one of her songs (she's an open bisexual atheist) would realize this. However, the song has been played in churches without a hint of irony.
  • Radiohead's song "Nude" is often taken to be some sort of love song or ballad, by people who a) don't actually listen to the lyrics of songs and b) have never heard of Lyrical Dissonance. In reality, it's almost definitely about masturbation (or at the very least, adultery). It's still a very elegant song about how the physical pleasure derived from such acts does not equate to emotional pleasure, but it's definitely not a love song. Their song "Creep" is often quoted on pro-anorexia websites, for its lines "I don't care if it hurts/I wanna have control/I want a perfect body/I want a perfect soul".
    • The original OK Computer era version of Nude, known as "Big Ideas (Don't Get Any)" contains the extra lyrics "She stands stark naked and she beckons you to bed/Don't go, you'll only want to come back again". This supports the idea that the song is about adultery. Alternatively, in keeping with the theme of physical vs emotional fulfillment, it could be about someone in a relationship that he knows will never be about anything more than casual sex and wants to break it off because he is emotionally unfulfilled, but keeps coming back for the sex.
  • Like I Hate Myself below, Don Martin 3 released a similar record initially record as an inside joke among the band. No song titles, angsty and pseudo-poetic lyrics and extreme over the top vocals. They did not get the opportunity to re-record however, and the record was released in its joke form. It instantly became regarded as a classic among fans of the style and today is frequently referenced as the epitome as emotional hardcore of the mid-90s.
  • As Kurt Cobain wrote in the liner notes for Nirvana's Incesticide: "Last year, a girl was raped by two wastes of sperm and eggs while they sang the lyrics to our song 'Polly.' I have a hard time carrying on knowing there are plankton like that in our audience."
    • Cobain would later write the song "Rape Me", which was meant to be an "anti-rape song" that was in part a response to the controversy over "Polly." Ironically, "Rape Me" has itself sadly become an example of the same Misaimed Fandom as was seen in a high school rape case in 2012.
    • Cobain was aware enough about his band's misaimed fandom that he satirized it on Nirvana's second album. "In Bloom" is a complete hash on rednecky fans, while the best-selling "Smells Like Teen Spirit" rips the whole audience. Some folks just never get the joke...
      • "Smells Like Teen Spirit" is also the poster child for Indecipherable Lyrics. Can't expect people to get it if they can't figure out what he's saying in the first place.
  • According to frontman Devin Townsend, the majority of Strapping Young Lad fans don't like the band's music for the reason they're supposed to. To quote Devin: "When we did Ozzfest I remember thinking that Strapping Young Lad started as the giant middle finger, and then suddenly there were people saying "Yeah! Tell us we're assholes!"
  • During the 2005 German federal election, future chancellor Angela Merkel's party attempted (and failed) to obtain the rights to use The Rolling Stones song "Angie" as the official song for her campaign. Considering that the song features lines like "But Angie, Angie, ain't it time we said good-bye?", the Stones probably did them a favour by denying them the rights. It doesn't even sound a bit like a triumphant song, like the kind politicians want to use.
  • The Village People's "In The Navy" was for a time under consideration by the U.S. Navy to become its theme song. When you compare it to their "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy about homosexuality...
    • And the fact that their song YMCA is used so unironically (To the point where it's even used on the YMCA homepage) almost could make one forget that it's about soliciting anonymous gay sex at the YMCA!
  • TISM's "Old Man River" has fans amongst the drug addled set for its chorus of "I'm on the drug that killed River Phoenix". Despite the song being about society's additive dependence on heroes and celebrities.
  • Some Brazilian adaptations of certain songs take their melodies and adapt them with completely different lyrics, like Kelly Key's version of "Barbie Girl", which glorifies the lifestyle the original mocked, and Latino's infamous version of "Gangnam Style", which turns an ironic look at upper-class Korean lifestyle into a generic party and sex song about a bachelor party.
  • The song "Song 2" by blur was created as a mocking parody of the flash-in-the-pan "post-grunge" music (like Candlebox and Seven Mary Three) popular in the United States at the time. Unfortunately, the song became wildly popular with the fans of the same genre they were mocking and hence, it became their biggest hit in the country. The fact that alternative rock radio - then beginning its split between more "indie rock" leaning stations and the post-grunge/ Nu Metal stations - picked up the song and played it to death didn't help things much.
    • It didn't help that all of the band's other big hits in America sound nothing like the sound they're known for in the rest of the world and instead are either their hardest ("Crazy Beat") or danciest ("There's No Other Way" and "Girls & Boys") songs. The only two songs that sound like the band's actual sound that got any major American rock radio airplay were "Chemical World" and "Coffee & TV" and neither at the level of the other four songs mentioned.
    • "Girls & Boys" itself was intended as a criticism of trendy pansexuality and the Club 18-30 lifestyle. Guess where it got a lot of airplay?
  • "American Woman" is a classic, although the lyrics can be interpreted differently. At best, however, it's not a very flattering portrayal of the kind of women the band encountered in the cities. Then again, it may be most popular with American men, so...
    • "I don't want your war machines/I don't want your ghetto scenes" takes the song in an explicitly political direction that is often overlooked - the "Woman" here is America herself. The Guess Who were Canadian, after all.
      • But then again, this song is from The Sixties, a time when many Americans (especially those protesting the war) agreed with those viewpoints. The 60s was the era for protest songs.
      • Either way, it still didn't make sense for American Lenny Kravitz to dust it off in the mid-nineties for a thudding cover version that seems to be directed at nobody in particular.
      • Kravitz's version seems to be directed at an actual woman.
  • Def Leppard's "From the Inside" is about Heroin addiction, "All I Want Is Everything" is about a man dying of AIDS.
    • "Make Love Like A Man" is a parody of chauvinism and sexism, not an anthem to them.
  • Pet Shop Boys' "Opportunities (Let's Make Lots of Money)" was a satire of Thatcherism and the crass consumerism, conspicuous consumption, and general lifestyle of the 1980s. The protagonist of the song and his companion are obviously two losers whose schemes will amount to naught. However the song gets taken unironically in many contexts as a celebration of the very lifestyle it criticizes.
    • The same group's "Shopping" is about the exact same thing, yet its catchy "S-H-O-P-P-I-N-G, we're shopping" chorus has found itself to be the soundtrack of many shopping montages on TV celebrating the consumerist culture.
  • "Tubthumping", by Chumbawumba. It's a satirical song about people whose lives are so limited that all they can do is drink to oblivion and repeat. The song is specifically about the British working classes and Far Left (i.e. "Old Labour") under New Labour ("Tubthumping" means "campaigning for election"). It has of course become a highly popular drinking song or is mistaken for a Self Empowerment Anthem by people who only listen to the "I get knocked down, but I get up again, you're never gonna keep me down" chorus. Also used to promote the Australian National Rugby League a couple of years back.
  • A lot of people have (mis)interpreted the song "I Kissed a Girl" by Katy Perry as a gay rights/lesbian love anthem. That's missing the point, because anyone who's actually paid any attention to the lyrics will plainly recognize that it's just a humorous song about a straight girl taking advantage of another girl just for amusement. If anything, it's more of a Take That at the stereotype of promiscuous lesbians, and the men who love to watch them. MA Dtv once did a parody of this song that addressed the Girl on Girl Is Hot trope (at least in the first verse).
    • It can also be seen as a theme song for the bicurious.
  • "Live To Win" has a really kickass melody and title, and was even used in the South Park episode "Make Love, Not Warcraft" for a training montage. However, if you actually read the lyrics, it's almost a completely depressing song about Obsession to the point of exhaustion or even death. However, it's possible that South Park did this intentionally for the irony. As they went through the Rocky-like World of Warcraft training montage, physically the boys became LESS fit and agile.
    • On the other hand, it's Paul Stanley. Paul Stanley makes everything more awesome.
  • "Three Lions" by Baddiel, Skinner & The Lightning Seeds, the official anthem of the English team during the 1996 European football championships, became a popular football anthem in a number of other European countries, most notably Germany, even though the title and the lyrics (yes, even the simple chorus of "Football's coming home") only reference the history of British football. The accompanying music video saw extended airplay on German television, where viewers luckily didn't get the joke behind all the members of the German team being named "Kuntz".
    • Oh, many did. It's just that we were ready to take the jab - because actually it's a fine anthemic song after all.
      • Maybe the Germans just like to sing about all those years of hurt.
  • The House of the Rising Sun, most famous as the version performed by The Animals, has the protagonist look back at his own wasted life and warn others. The titular house is most likely a brothel in New Orleans (the city is named in the song). The New Orleans Board of Tourism has used the song to promote the city.
  • The original lyrics of "Big Rock Candy Mountain" contained not only references to cigarette trees and booze, but a final verse in which the young man rejects the hobo's invitation to travel cross-country with him. As its phrasing implies that the hobo really only invited the kid to come along for sex, this verse was never recorded, and further Bowdlerization has converted it into a child's ditty that literally Tastes Like Diabetes.
  • "Part of the Union" by the Strawbs was a sarcastic anti-union anthem, released in 1973 when UK trade unions were in the midst of an ultimately successful tussle with the UK's government. It is written as a first-person narrative by a puffed-up union member, and explains how smart and powerful he thinks he is, and how suspicious and opposed he is to anything his employers or government might do. However, many Brits, on all sides of the political spectrum, missed the sarcastic tone and interpreted it as a pro-union song, including some Tory MPs who called for it to be banned. Missing the sarcasm, many trade unionists found the song mirrored their own feelings, and, wilfully ignoring the sarcasm, the UK's Trade Union Council played it at their annual conferences for years afterward.
  • For some reason Evanescense's 'My Immortal' shows up on lots of Wedding Albums, especially on Youtube. Given how incredibly depressing that song is, one has to wonder why.
  • Timbuk 3's The Future's So Bright, I Gotta Wear Shades is often misinterpreted as a peppy upbeat anthem, and is commonly used in film and TV as a theme for someone who is doing rather well in life. How ironic for a completely tongue-in-cheek song that is actually about what they figure to be the coming nuclear holocaust.
    • If you look at the lyrics, there's really nothing in there about a nuclear holocaust. Only some freezer logic (One step past fridge) gets there, and even then it's barely implied. The four verses are 'I'm in school and like my teacher', 'I've got a high paying job' and 'I'm a high-tech pervert with x-ray goggles that actually work', then a repeat of the first. The Other Wiki says they had to add another verse on a different version to make people realize it was supposed to be grim.
  • KT Tunstall wrote "Suddenly I See" about Patti Smith. It was subsequently used in The Devil Wears Prada. Quoth Tunstal, "I didn't realize. . . it could sound like I was singing about wanting to be a fucking model!" Granted, the lyrics don't say why the narrator finds the unnamed woman so interesting.
  • Alice Cooper is maybe made of this trope. Alice (the stage persona) is supposed to be an evil character (hence the "executions" in live shows), and several of his songs like e.g. Wicked Young Man or Gimme have the potential to be read in ways other than intended by Alice (the artist) himself.
  • Black Sheep Hit can cause this for entire albums.
  • On YouTube you'll hear people say they want to sing certain songs to their crushes. A lot of the times they're missing the point of the songs. For example, "King of Anything" by Sara Bareilles is not the type of song you'd want to sing to someone you like; it's about hating a passive-aggressive person who wants to rule you.
  • Thanks to some inconsistent enunciation, Hook by Blues Traveller sounds like an articulate love song with a catchy chorus. It's actually a snarky song about how all you need to have a hit song is throw in some random historical and literary references, mention love and rage, and toss in a good hook, and rock fans will eat it up. It became a hit, of course.
  • Avril Lavigne's "Girlfriend" is a Take That towards the Alpha Bitch type of person but many Alpha Bitches in real life mistook it for an anthem for themselves. There are also lots of people who don't like the song because of the same misconception. To be fair, the fact that it's a Take That is unobvious enough (in both the lyrics and the video) that Poe's Law applies.
  • Similar to the Radiohead example above, Manic Street Preachers' 4 st 7 lbs is often quoted in pro-anorexia contexts, despite being clear on the horrors of anorexia. The band got inundated with terrible pro-anorexia poetry, even Richey got fed up- 'Oh no, not another f—-ing poem about eating an apple in the morning!'.
    • The far right British National Party used the Manics "If You Tolerate This, Your Children Will Be Next" on their website, apparently missing that fact that the song is about the Spanish Civil War, and even contains the line "If you can shoot rabbits, then you can shoot fascists". A very odd choice all round, especially given the Manics are pretty famous for their own far left political leanings.
  • The song "Captain Jack" by Billy Joel is about a rich kid who, despite having everything he needs to make a good life for himself, wastes away his life on drugs and idle nights. It's very clear, especially in the last verse, that he's living a dead end and has no joy in his life. Joel himself has referred to the protagonist as a "loser". Guess how many people boast about getting high to the song.
  • On a similar note, The Offspring song "Mota" is clearly ridiculing potheads. The song's subject is clearly a loser who's wasting his life away on pot, simply to escape the harsh realities of life. Yet, guess what kind of crowd the song is most popular with...
  • Alice in Chains was/is very popular with the stoner crowd, even though their music explicitly describes how horrible drug addiction is. Layne Staley himself was often perplexed by the large number of fans who'd come up to him and boast about being high while listening to the band's music.
  • There are people who consider "November Rain" by Guns N' Roses to be a romantic song, and some of them have even had the song played at their weddings. It is not a love song; if you pay attention to the lyrics the song is actually about two people gradually falling out of love with each other.
  • Donald Fagen and Walter Becker meant the line "They call Alabama the Crimson Tide / Call me Deacon Blues" in "Deacon Blues" to be a sly stab at people who cluster around that sort of nickname. And yet, to their great amusement (and, no doubt, royalty checks), the Alabama band performs the song as part of their repertoire, and Tide fans actually consider it an anthem. As Fagen told Rolling Stone:
    Walter (Becker) and I had been working on that song at a house in Malibu. I played him that line, and he said, "You mean it's like, they call these cracker assholes this grandiose name like the Crimson Tide, and I'm this loser, so they call me this other grandiose name, Deacon Blues?" And I said, 'Yeah!' He said, 'Cool! Let's finish it!
  • Much of Bob Marley's casual fanbase consists of stoners and people who put partying and having fun ahead of responsibility. In real life, Marley was actually rather straight edge (outside of the smoking weed part, which was part of his religion) and definitely wouldn't have condoned much of what his fans do.
    • Rastas are not supposed to smoke ganja outside of sessions because elders are aware that it fries the brain, but many just abandoned this rule and smoke it all the time because having rules reminds them too much of slavery. Even Marley's consumption of the stuff was tame in comparison to his friends Peter Tosh and Lee Perry, but he's still the poster boy for ganja.
  • Linkin Park wrote "Crawling" about Chester's genuine struggles with abuse as a child, and "Papercut" about someone struggling with meth addiction, but they were widely adopted by teenagers as songs to express their frustration at their parents for petty reasons. "One Step Closer" was not serious either, the lyrics were just taking out their frustrations at the producer for making them do endless retakes of "Runaway" because they couldn't make the arrangement work. The band were so conscious of the audience they were attracting that they moved away from the nu-metal genre and started writing lyrics about other things.
    • Linkin Park wrote "Valentine's Day". Guess what it's not about? Though stumpingly seen as an emo teen break-up song for some reason, it's actually about a funeral.
    And the ground below grew colder
    As they put you down inside
  • "Weird Al" Yankovic talks about his song "Trigger Happy" in the booklet that comes with the "Permanent Record" boxed set:
    "I just thought it would be fun to juxtapose a Beach Boys/Jan & Dean type surf riff with a song about a gun nut. I think the song's pro-gun control sentiment is fairly obvious, but one day I was doing an interview in Canada on a call-in talk show, and somebody called in and said 'Oh, I think it's great that you wrote this song, because I love guns, I got a lot of guns and I think it's great that you'd write a song like that.' Not wanting to explain the irony to someone who's heavily armed I simply said 'Thank you very much!'"
  • "Dust in the Wind" by Kansas was often used as a make-out song by teenagers in the 1970s and 1980s because of its soft, acoustic sound. It is not a romantic song; paying attention to the lyrics will reveal that it's a very dark song about the inevitability of death and how insignificant individual lives are in the grand scheme of things.
  • The Supernaturals' "Smile" has a catchy, upbeat melody and a chorus that goes "Smile! Smile! Smile! Smile!", and is often taken at that level. They even used it in a bank ad once. It's a happy song whose first verse starts "Every silver lining has a cloud / And each piece of good fortune must be paid for by the pound [..] See the lines around my eyes, See the sarcasm in my smile". That upbeat-in-the-face-of-adversity chorus in full? "You'd better Smile (Smile!) [..] smile- 'cause that's all that you've got left, Your life's a mess, you've been cut adrift".
  • Doo-wop star Dion's hit, "The Wanderer" was written as a parody of a ex-sailor he knew of who only wanted to drive around town and pick up women. Dion saw the person as a "loser" who was getting nowhere in his life. The song was written to ridicule his chauvinism and narcissism, but the song was celebrated (or even worse, criticized) as a macho rock anthem, and the character as the epitome of "cool".
  • Many Christians like Simon and Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson", what with lyrics like "Jesus loves you more than you will know, oh oh oh...". But the song is from the movie The Graduate, and it's all really just satire of hypocritical suburban values.
  • Lana Del Rey's "Brooklyn Baby" bitterly mocks hipsters. Of course, guess what kind of subculture seems to be taking it in as their "anthem".

Music interpreted as a "hate song" while it's actually a "love song" or an ironic parody.

  • How about another Barenaked Ladies song? "The Old Apartment" has sometimes been interpreted to be about a guy breaking into his old apartment to terrorize his ex-girlfriend—witness not just the bit about breaking in, but references to "the hole I punched in the wall" and "broken hearts and broken bones", as well as the lyric "Why did I have to break in? I only came here to talk." But the bridge of the song clarifies the meaning by explaining that the guy and his girl bought a house somewhere ("I know we don't live here anymore") and are still together. The guy broke into the old apartment out of nostalgia. (The video makes this even clearer by showing the guy and his girl breaking into the old apartment together.)
  • Randy Newman suffers from a clinical case of this trope. His works are often heavily ironic, and so mean the opposite of what they say, a fact lost on a distressingly large percentage of the population. Famous examples include "Short People", a condemnation of bigotry that drew a torrent of abuse from the nicey-niceys, and a musical retort called "Tall People" from another musician; "Political Science," a song urging Americans to "drop the big one" on a deserving world, by way of lampshading the common American misconception that they're martyrs on this planet, and "Rednecks," pointing out that the urban, sophisticated American North was as chin-deep in racism as the rural South. The song was written from the perspective (and in the language) of Southern white-trash, and included the refrain, "We're rednecks, we're rednecks, and we're keeping the niggers down." People went ballistic. And not the right people.
  • Similarly to Newman, and as more of a Misaimed Hatedom than a Misaimed Fandom, Dire Straits' "Money For Nothing" got Mark Knopfler a whole lot of flak when it was released in 1985, particularly from the nascent gay activist movement, who took issue with the lines, "The little faggot with the earring and the makeup/Yeah buddy, that's his own hair" and subsequently read Knopfler as a homophobe. Knopfler has gone on record as saying that those weren't even his words—he was eavesdropping on a "blockhead" (his words) in an electronics store (which also explains the "we got to install microwave ovens" line, that being an employee order) who struck him as the epitome of everything wrong and reactionary about music fans at the time, and he decided to set the man's words to music. This whole scenario should have been made abundantly clear by the video, but still caused considerable alarm. The song was even banned from Canadian radio for a short time in 2011 due to this very misinterpretation.
  • The Slovenian band Laibach and German band Rammstein (who took a lot of influence from the former) are both quite vocal about their low opinion of all things fascist or Nazi. Doesn't stop people from thinking they are neo-Nazi bands. Including (and especially) the neo-fascists themselves.
  • I Hate Myself was a Florida emocore band of the mid-90s, playing a style of music that, while having no similarity to today bastardized use of the term Emo or Emo Teens, still relied on angsty and vague lyrics, pretentious build-up and over the top vocals, including rabid screaming and often even crying. The band played deliberately all these cliches to the max, writing super-angsty lyrics about mundane situations, almost parody-level vocals, refusing to give names to their records besides the number of songs on them to sound "deep", and well, just look at their name. Despite all this, no one got the joke until about five years after they broke up, and they were praised frequently by fans of the music they were parodying for their emotional and deep music. It is worth noting however that there were serious bands at the time with similar styles, and a type of Poe's Law might be at work.
  • The Talking Heads song "Life During Wartime" was considered an anti-disco song for the lyric "This ain't no disco", despite the fact that the song is quite danceable, and the members of the band were fans of disco music. The song is actually about hypothetical guerrilla warfare in the United States.
  • The so-called devil's horns hand gesture, popularized by the late singer Ronnie James Dio of Rainbow and Black Sabbath was taken from his extremely religious Italian grandmother's Mediterranean symbol for warding off the "evil eye", or the devil, as something to gather metal audiences together. It was later adopted by the heavy metal subculture.
    • Similarly, many of the early heavy metal/hard rock bands, along with The Rolling Stones, unique in that they brought up the subjects of, Satan, Hell, evil and black magic, were incorrectly accused by Moral Guardians (or plain old heavy metal haters) of promoting such activities, when for the most part they were simply warning people against satanic acts, or using the Devil as symbolism, or often simply expressing their love of a good horror movie. Refuge in Audacity and the counter-cultural notoriety it inspired (and maybe some rebellion against those Moral Guardians) misinterpreted by many misguided followers lead to many genuinely devil-worshipping fans and metal acts coming through the ranks in later years.
      • Even further, the upside cross the death-metal heads love? It was originally the symbol of St. Peter. When Peter was martyred by crucifixion he was said to have requested to be crucified upside down because he didn't feel worthy of dying the same way as Jesus
      • Alternatively, it's an inversion of an enemy's symbol. Consider the fact that it is an inversion of the FAR better known of the two, particularly when it appears an an inverted crucifix (with body on it) rather than cross symbol.
  • Christian artist Chris Rice intended the "Cartoon Song" as a satire of "the modern Christian tendency to 'Christianize' everything." However, pretty much everyone missed the satire and his fans were divided between those who embraced the song as a sincere, if humorous, praise song, and those who criticized the song's "theology" and condemned him for not taking his faith seriously enough. Rice eventually became so fed up with people missing the point of the song that he quit performing it entirely.
  • Dido's songs "White Flag" and "This Land Is Mine" were used as anthems by a group of white supremacists based purely on the titles - apparently they paid no attention to the fact that they're both love songs. Ironically, at the time she had a black boyfriend, footballer Sol Campbell.
    • Actually, using "White Flag" as an anthem based purely on the title is pretty stupid idea in itself, as the white flag is a well-known sign of surrender.
      • Then again, the song itself is about not raising the white flag or surrendering. It was still being used in the context of a relationship, however.
  • A massive smear campaign by news programs and tv-shows painted a picture of the punk scene (and especially the hardcore punk scene) in the late '70s-early '80s as being filled with violent delinquents who fight at the shows. This campaign ended up inspiring violent delinquents to attend punk concerts and then fight at the shows.
    • One specific band, the Dead Kennedys, suffered badly at first, as they were thought to be a neo-Nazi band for their songs "Kill The Poor" and "California ▄ber Alles" (both highly satirical), which drew crowds of Nazi punks to their gigs. Then they made the rather blunt song "Nazi Punks Fuck Off".
    • Poor Jello Biafra, the Kennedys' vocalist and bandleader, was later beaten badly by skinheads, supposedly for being "a sell-out" and "not punk enough" for them. Go figure...
  • Allerseelen has tons of neo-nazi fans on music sites like and Songmeanings for their songs about WWII and album artwork of "nazi art". This is all despite the fact that several of their songs are based on essays by concentration camp survivors and said artwork was actually objects that the Nazis nearly destroyed because they found it un-German like.
  • A good reason for why you should bother to listen to the lyrics: when the Swedish army had their first real casualties in Afghanistan, a radio speaker wanted to honor them by playing Hero of War by Rise Against. Which isn't as bad as it might sound, considering that the song was more about how War Is Hell and that it turns everybody into a bastard. Still, most assuredly not the best song choice.
  • Steriogram's "Walkie-Talkie Man" is a favourite among the employees of at least one security firm; probably, however, this is while simultaneously recognising the satire.
  • Gwar's "War Party" was taken to be supportive of the Republican war effort. Did anybody even listen to the lyrics? Perhaps thanks to Gwar's typically pro-war kill-everything-that-moves stage theatrics, the song title and chorus was taken to mean the obvious. "Born in the USA" for the new generation.
    • Also, the most intelligible lyrics after "Come join the War Party!" and "This was the price of your war." Seriously, how does anyone misinterpret that one?
  • The song "Yankee Doodle" was originally a virulent insult flung at the American rebels by British Redcoats that made implications of stupidity, faux-foppishness ("macaroni" referred to a particularly extravagant style of dress), and, according to some sources, homosexuality about its targets. The American soldiers took it up as an anthem and a great big "Fuck You" to the British, basically telling them, "We revel in your insults." Over time, the song has lost a lot of its bite, and it's now thought of as a genuinely patriotic song.
    • The song predates the Revolutionary War. It was written by a British army surgeon as a slam against the disorganized, backwater "Yankee" militias he had to serve alongside with during The French-Indian War. Despite the insults, the colonists reveled in the portrayal, accepting it as a big "FU" to who they saw as the arrogant, elitist, refined British soldiers. It became extremely popular in the colonies. During one march, one British officer asked another British officer "So how do you like the melody now?" The other replied "Dang you, they [the colonists] made us dance it til we were tired."
    • Not a musical version but the same thing happened when Rommel's men called the Aussie diggers the "Rats of Tobruk"
  • The Stone Temple Pilots song "Sex Type Thing" was interpreted as sexy or edgy by some, when it was intended to ironically represent the typical attitude of a rapist.
  • The Beatles' "White Album", and Charles Manson's ideas about it, are a very dark example.
  • Moon Zappa ruined a lot of teenage girls in the early '80s, who didn't understand that "Valley Girl" was a parody making fun of Valley Girls, and not an invitation to talk—and worse yet, act—like them.
    • In fact, the song effectively created the valley girl archetype, or at least established the typical lingo.
  • Speaking of Zappa, Frank himself is the subject of an especially weird case of misaimed fandom. In his song "Wind up working in a gas station" there is a bridge near the end where he sing in a German (or stereotypically Jewish) accent: "maybe the Camper wants to buy some whitefish." Because of this, some people are convinced that the song is actually about the Holocaust! Because apparently you cannot mention the words "Camp" and "Gas" in any other context and have it mean any other thing.
  • The Beastie Boys song "Fight For Your Right To Party" was loved by the very people the song was making fun of. The band flat-out refuses to play the song live anymore.
  • Marilyn Manson's "This is the new shit" was written as a satire of artists who make shallow Darker and Edgier work because they think it's automatically more "grown-up" or "deeper", and fans who unthinkingly embrace that perspective. Inevitably, it got many fans who didn't see the sarcasm.
  • DD Smash's "Bliss" was a pub-singalong-sounding savaging of the New Zealand drinking culture: "Sink yourself more bliss/Forget about the last one/Have yourself another". But picked up as an anthem by that very same culture. Its author, Dave Dobbyn, was horrified when the requests for it started coming in at concerts.
  • blink-182's music video for "All the Small Things" was a parody of various boy bands. However, thanks in part to the song being so radio-friendly, teenage girls who weren't in on the joke flocked to them for all the wrong reasons. To make matters worse, since the boy band era has for all intents and purposes come and gone, the joke seems to be lost on today's viewers.
    • This isn't necessarily missing the point: although clearly very different to boy bands, blink were a group of fairly attractive guys in their early twenties and if they didn't know teen girls would be attracted to them then the label marketing them definitely would have counted on it. Teen girls are always going to have celebrity crushes but it doesn't mean they don't understand satire, or that they lack scorn for the lame boyband heart throbs of their peers.
  • Many fans of modern Christian Rock, or even Not Christian Rock, bands don't tend to take the songs into a religious sense. Many are surprised to hear the bands are Christian.
  • Schools have been known to use the song "Mad World" at the end of segments about drunk driving. Inappropriate much?
  • In a very extreme example, several Neo-Nazi bands have covered the song "Tomorrow Belongs To Me," ostensibly a Nazi anthem about the beauty of their coming master-race run world. The thing is, the song was written by John Kander and Fred Ebb (both of them Jewish) for the musical Cabaret, and it's intended in the show and subsequent film as a chilling example of the rise of Nazism and its terrible pull on the German people. Basically, it's an analogue of the sort of patriotic lies that the Nazis used to drum up support, translated and reworked so that English audiences can experience the effects. Seems they did their job a little too well.
  • Something weird happened with Colombian singer Juanes' hit "La Camisa Negra", which is a break-up song from the point of view of a very resentful man; after a nasty breakup he wears black to mourn the death of his love feelings, as a symbol of his "black soul". But because the title can be translated literally as "The Black Shirt", it was adopted as an hymn of sorts by neo-fascist groups in Italy and other countries. Juanes was not happy about this appropriation.
  • Pink Floyd's "Money" sometimes gets used by the Future Business Leaders of America at club fairs. Seeing a bunch of business majors in suits sitting around while it is loudly declared that "Money/It's a crime" is amusing beyond reckoning.
    • Name a Pink Floyd song, yes there is someone that misinterpreted it.
      • What? You mean to tell me that "Have a Cigar" isn't about a band that's happy to get its big break?
      • Don't even get me started on "Another Brick in the Wall, Part 2"...
  • The The's song "This is the Day", which has an upbeat tune and a chorus that says "This is the day your life will surely change, this is the day when things fall into place" is often used as an anthem of determination to fix one's bad circumstances. This is in complete ignorance to the verses, which describe someone with a wasted existence, who tells himself every day that his life will change but never actually does anything about it. Lyrical Dissonance is a common trope of The The songs.
  • The Residents' album Duck Stab! was intended to prove to the public that even if they recorded some shorter, "poppier" sounding songs, it would still be unpopular. People loved it. In fact, it's one of the group's most popular recordings. And thus Springtime for Hitler and Misaimed Fandom are finally connected.
  • "Brick" by Ben Folds' Five is written like a melancholy love ballad, and most people tend to think of it as such. However, on listening to the lyrics you find out it's a melancholy ballad about taking your girlfriend to get an abortion.
  • While we're on the topic of abortion, The Goo Goo Dolls's song "Slide" sounds like a fun pop song. It's actually about a girl with disapproving parents who gets an abortion.
    • The day after Christmas, no less. Which means it gets played every year in a block of Christmas songs on the radio.
  • Nobody seems to realize that Woody Guthrie meant for "This Land Is Your Land" to be a socialist anthem. The verses condemning private property are almost always excluded when the song is performed these days.
  • Soundgarden's song "Big Dumb Sex" was a Stealth Parody of the glam metal scene at the time, but many hair bands and their fans took a liking to the song without realizing what it was about. Guns N' Roses even did a cover of it.
  • Billy Idol's "White Wedding" gets played at a number of weddings, despite the fact that it is intended to be a protest against his little sister having a Shotgun Wedding with her babydaddy.
  • Apparently some people think that the Screeching Weasel song "The Science of Myth" is a great Take That to Christianity. It's actually about taking elements from science and from theology and respecting that both fields of study are valuable and important to humanity. Ironically one of the few Screeching Weasel songs that isn't just a Take That of extreme sarcasm, then.
  • Listeners often exaggerate possible Christian subtext in Not Christian Rock, sometimes to the point of Everyone Is Jesus in Purgatory. "Bring Me To Life" by Evanescence and "Mysterious Ways" by U2 are examples of songs that get this treatment.
    • Many popular Christian rock bands with heavy Christian undertones (Skillet, Red, etc) typically have a fandom that ignores the religious meanings of their songs. A lot of the bands do try to make the songs have double meanings, but a lot of the songs are just meant to be religious.
  • John Cale made an album in 1979 about nuclear war. It was meant as a kind of critique, but it accrued him a number of a very uncritical fans:
    "Those kids punching the air in mock salutes declaring they are Ready for War! make me sick... I bet they are ready... like hell. I should have an induction room backstage. Let's see you come back and enlist.

    But I have received a lot of reaction from the album like that. Even some of the guys who devise war games for the Pentagon have come to the shows as a result of that record and this tour. It looks like finally I have made an American album."
  • A couple of years ago, the Danish People's Party (basically the Denmark version of the British National Party) decided to use the rap song "Gi' mig Danmark Tilbage"(which translates to "Give me Denmark Back") in one of their campaigns, apparently only having read the title, and assuming it was an anti-immigration, white supremacist song. The rapper who made said song, Natasja Saad, was a (recently deceased) biracial Muslim feminist, and the song was a quite blatant Take That towards the Danish People's Party, and racists/conservatives in general. Natasja's friends and family were definitely not happy, and the Danish People's Party were the subject of much ridicule.
  • The Three Days Grace song "Over and Over" was about singer Adam Gontier's addiction to oxycontin, NOT A RELATIONSHIP.
  • The Metallica song "The God That Failed" is sometimes misinterpreted by both Moral Guardians and atheistic groups as an atheistic/anti-religious anthem. In truth, it's actually about James Hetfield's mother, who died of cancer by relying strictly on her religious faith rather than seeking medical attention. The "God" he refers to in the song's title is actually her personal idea of God (hence the "the" in the song's title). It has nothing to do with general religious faith (of which only certain sects, such as Christian Scientism, reject conventional medicine).
  • Black Flag's "White Minority" is often interpreted as being against minorities "taking over" America - according to Greg Ginn, who wrote the lyrics, it was basically a Stealth Parody that was designed to make people who think that way "look as outrageously stupid as possible". Ginn also noted that the fact that their vocalist at the time, Ron Reyes, was a Puerto Rican should have tipped people off to the sarcasm note .

Other examples:

  • LCD Soundsystem's North American Scum is a very misunderstood song.....
  • Valentine's Day 2011, a bunch of romantic singing teddy bears were put out which played a certain love song when you touched a button on them. One of the songs? No Love. Yes, you read that right. And one of the first lines that would play when the teddy bears were turned on was "Baby don't hurt me, don't hurt me, no more." Either they intended for it to be a novel and slightly cruel way to tell someone your relationship sucks, or someone was playing a massive prank, or someone honestly didn't get it.
  • "Fever" by Family Force 5 is arguably their most popular song, and is often used in Fan Vid's. A majority of fans are clueless to the meaning of the song. It sounds like a typical pop song about sex or partying but according to the band it's about God. To specify it's "about catching a fever from the Holy Spirit and turning up the heat in your life while spreading it to others".
  • Despite the appearance of the word "bourbon" in its title, Sting's Moon over Bourbon Street has absolutely nothing to do with alcohol. The song is about Louis, the main character of Anne Rice's Interview with the Vampire, and his impossible love to his neighbour (he's a vampire, she's mortal). The title is there because Louis lives on - you guessed it - Bourbon Street, New Orleans.
  • For some reason, Bachman Turner Overdrive's "Takin' Care of Business" is often used as background music to videos about working, when it's really about a bunch of people who laze around all day. The title "Takin' Care of Business" is meant sarcastically.
    If you ever get annoyed
    Look at me, I'm self-employed
    And I love to work at nothin' all day
  • "Ma petite entreprise" by French singer/songwriter Alain Bashung is a bit cryptic, but the interpretation that makes the most sense is that it's about masturbation and/or prostitution. Yet, as the title and first lines can literally be translated as "My small business is never affected by the recession", A LOT of people think the song is a celebration of entrepreneuship and small businesses. There was even a movie named after it (My Little Business) about an entrepreneur who tries to save his small company from bankrupcy, and a TV commercial for a delivery van that used the song and featured Bashung himself claiming with a straight face, probably while trying hard not to laugh, that he wrote the song as a tribute to one of his friends who was a small business owner.
  • If it's possible for a song to subvert this trope, it would have to be a Steely Dan song. The first few times you hear "Barrytown", you absolutely hate the narrator for his blatant bigotry and narrow-mindedness ("Don't believe I'm taken in / By stories I have heard. / I just read The Daily News / And swear by every word") Many people have interpreted it to suggest that the person being addressed is gay. But if you visit the real Barrytown, or look into the band's history, you'll realize it's probably being addressed to a student at the Unification Theological Seminary—i.e. the Moonies' main educational institution, and given the very real perception of that sect as a cult your perception of the song's point of view softens a little bit.
  • Janis Joplin had her well-known anti-consumerist anthem "Mercedes Benz" used in ads to sell Mercedes-Benz cars.
  • Confusing Scandinavian pop band Aqua had its popular satire on Barbie culture "Barbie Girl" first sued, then used in ads by Barbie's manufacturer Mattel.
  • Iron Maiden's "Number of the Beast" is often misinterpreted as a Satanic anthem. The song is actually based off a dream Steve Harris had about witnessing a Satanic ritual.
    • "Phantom of the Opera" was used in an advert for Nike in the 1980s. Never mind the lines "I know that you're gonna scratch me and maim me and maul, you know I'm helpless to your mesmerizing cat call" and "You haunt me, you taunt me, you torture me back at your lair"...
  • Ministry's early dance hit "(Everyday Is) Halloween" is seen as a celebration of the titular day, but the lyrics describe anyone of alternative (goth, punk, metal, etc.) styles of dress, later confirmed in Al Jourgensen's autobiography.
  • Due to the fact no one remembers most of the song "You Are My Sunshine" is typically seen as a song between a parent and a child. Not only is the song actually about romantic love, it's also a Breakup Song in the "please don't go" subcategory (hence "Please don't take my sunshine away").
  • Similarly Plumb's In My Arms is likely a God Is Love Song but it's largely interpreted as a song about a mother and her infant.
  • Tim Minchin's song "The Fence" is all about lampshading misaimed fandoms and double standards.
  • "The Eton Rifles" by The Jam is often interpreted as a simplistically left-wing anti-public-schoolboy song. If you listen to the lyrics of the verses, it also criticises middle-class leftists who encourage working-class people to engage in hopeless "revolutionary" struggles, and then abandon them to face the consequences.
  • As pointed out by Adam Buckley in his Musical Autopsy video of Macklemore and Ryan Lewis's "Thrift Shop" the lyrics are making fun of shallow, materialistic hip-hop culture, but that because the track was so popular there must be thousands of people who like it who never buy clothes in thrift shops and spend all their money on the very things the singer is making fun of.
  • "Bills Bills Bills" by Destiny's Child is often assumed to be a gold diggers' anthem. But if you actually listen to the lyrics, it's about dating someone who is All Take and No Give.
  • Two examples about Italian rapper Caparezza's songs:
    • His song Legalize the Premier is seen by many as an anthem of sorts for the legalization of marijuana and other drugs, despite the fact that it clearly states "I don't care about weed". The meaning of the song is that politicians and other men of power tweak laws to their advantage, to legalize things that aren't legal (but not weed).
    • "La fine di Gaia", on the same album, is a mockery of insane beliefs and conspiracy theories, but seems to be enjoyed by precisely the kind of Conspiracy Theorist that it makes fun of.
  • Swedish House Mafia's "Don't You Worry Child" has a small fandom of Christians who believe the song is about religion.
  • Jon Lajoie's "Fuck Everything" is meant to parody the attitude of people who attempt to project dismissive coolness, but end up trying too hard and instead look pointlessly pissed-off. Over the course of the video, the singer angrily rages at everything from kitchen appliances to the laws of physics, shouting that he doesn't care about them even as he smashes them and shouts about them. He ultimately realizes that he's giving a fuck about not giving a fuck, stops, and concludes the song by happily proclaiming that he really does care. Now scroll down to the comments section, and check how many people proclaim "I don't give a fuck about [issue of the day]!"
  • Hedley's "Cha-Ching" is a dancey rock number that at first glance appears to be celebrating pop culture and reality television, but is actually a scathing satire of it. It also appears to be a large middle finger towards people that says the band sold out.
  • "Say Something" by A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera is a clear Breakup Song however its lyrics are largely interpretated about being someone who died, often family members.

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