Chuck Berry's song "Memphis, Tennessee", which became a big hit for Johnny Rivers under the title "Memphis" ("Long distance information, give me Memphis, Tennessee"), sounds like the singer is trying to call his girlfriend Marie, who was separated from him by a disapproving mother ("But we were pulled apart because her mom did not agree"). That is, until the final verse, where the singer tells the operator that "Marie is only six years old", revealing that she's his daughter, and the family was split up by the wife/girlfriend.
Similarly, when Gilbert O' Sullivan sings to "Clair" about their love and their age difference, you know he's singing to a younger girl. But then he says "Get back into bed. Can't you see that it's late. No you can't have a drink...." and discloses that he's her babysitter.
Kate Miller-Heidke's ''Caught in the Crowd" "I turned my back...and just walked away."
Given away somewhat by the title of the song, "Fucker" by Eels seems like such a sweet song until: "Something about you / Something about spending the afternoon asleep in your arms / I hate you / Fucker."
The Long Winters' "The Commander Thinks Aloud" is a relaxing if slightly trippy-sounding track with happy, mildly space-themed lyrics. The last line changes the tone of the song from serene and hopeful to shocked and helpless as it's repeated over and over, with absolutely no change in key.
The crew compartment's breaking up...
The Protomen include a Reveal towards the end of their first album on the track "The Stand (Man or Machine)"
You came to avenge your brother's death. But here he stands, in the shadow of the man you've come to destroy.
I'm your truth, telling lies I'm your reasoned alibis I'm inside open your eyes I'm you!
Randy Travis's country song, Three Wooden Crosses, is a song about four strangers (a farmer, a teacher, a preacher and a prostitute) whose paths cross when they all ride a bus together, bound for Mexico. When the bus is hit by a semi, all but one of the four die that day, and we're given this set-up:
That farmer left a harvest, a home and eighty acres,
The faith an' love for growin' things in his young son's heart.
An' that teacher left her wisdom in the minds of lots of children:
Did her best to give 'em all a better start.
An' that preacher whispered: "Can't you see the Promised Land?"
As he laid his blood-stained bible in that hooker's hand.
Most of the remainder of the song is used to compound the lives that were tragically cut short, and to argue that the value of one's life is in the things one leaves behind. Then, at the very end, we get the realWham Line
That's the story that our preacher told last Sunday.
As he held that blood-stained bible up,
For all of us to see.
He said: "Bless the farmer, and the teacher, an' the preacher;
"Who gave this Bible to my mamma,
"Who read it to me."
Atmosphere's "Yesterday" tells the story of a man who thinks he catches a glimpse of someone who he hasn't seen in a while, presumably an ex. He spends the song reminiscing about everything he misses from the relationship. Then, toward the end of the song we get this line:
I thought I saw you yesterday But I knew it wasn't you Cause you passed away, dad.
Similarly, In "The Waitress", he tells the story of a bum who constantly visits a cafe to see a woman. She treats him badly when he comes in, but she also notices his absence on the days he doesn't visit. She is the one woman who acknowledges his existence. It seems like he could be in love with the woman since his life seems to revolve around seeing her, then at the very end of the song he says
So there it is, and I have to live with it I had the chance to make a difference but I didn't. In a cafe bathroom drinking free tap water Thinking damn I should have been a better father to my daughter.
The very last lines of Ayreon's album The Human Equation:
So now what's next? It ain't nothin' left to sell So she sees sex as a way of leavin' hell It's payin' the rent, so she really can't complain "Prostitute Found Slain" And Brenda's her name She's got a baby.
An indie band, Kirby Krackle, played a song called "Up, Up, Down, Down" which is basically about a random guy falling in love with a girl who plays video games. Turns out she's a cannibalistic murderer that's been stalking the guy for a while now. She kills him right after their first date and he sings about how he's dead.
Wilco's "She's a Jar". Sounds like a bittersweet love song, then the last line changes everything:
She's a jar, with a heavy lid
My pop quiz kid
A sleepy kisser, a pretty war
My feelings hid
She begs me not to hit her
"Eva", by Boudewijn de Groot, is told from the perspective of a God who creates Paradise. The last verse starts with:
Here I stand like a fool in my chamber gown I thought I could do anything.
Also by Boudewijn de Groot, the ending of his fairy tale song "De Kinderballade" ("The Children's Ballad"), about a fairy-like preteen girl and a prince-like preteen boy who elope together:
When, by the barking of dogs, he was found days later The pallid prince lied tainted in the corn, without his fairy With his big dead eyes, he motionlessly stared upwards and Slowly, the blood still seeped from a horrid cut.
The Vocaloid song "Love Disease" is a perky little number about a girl who's just happy to be spending time with the guy she likes. Then, after they've spent the day together and she starts heading home, we're treated to these lines, which mark the point where things start to go downhill:
Look this way and call my name But I guess that's just my wish That's right, because you still Don't even knowmy face.
15 Years of Pursuing a Cute Boy starts off sounding like a goofy Stalker with a Crush song, but then:
In the 15th year my memories returned I remembered everything, and burst into tears Because I remembered... That you died 15 years ago.
We held each other's hands And got close But just then! The boy I had a crush on... was eaten by his monster!
This is also immediately followed by the realization that by being eaten by the monster, the boy has become the monster. Hence the title of the song.
From 'Coward of the County'': "But you could've heard a pin drop, when Tommy stopped and blocked the door." Made more effective because it was spoken, not sung, by Kenny Rogers. Tommy was about to beat up the three men who had raped his girlfriend. They laughed at him earlier, because he was thought to be "the coward of the county."
"Behind Blue Eyes" by The Who sounds like it's mostly about self-pity. That is, until the second verse...
No one knows what it's like to feel these feelings/Like I do/And I blame you!
"Rosetta Stoned" by Tool has an amusing example where the narrator describes his abduction by aliens and being told vast secrets of the universe:
Overwhelmed as one would be placed in my position...
Such a heavy burden now to be the one
Born to bear and bring to all the details of our ending.
to write it down for all the world to see.
But I forgot my pen...
"What's Your Mama's Name", by Tanya Tucker, is about a man (named in the song as Buford Wilson) who is imprisoned after asking a little green-eyed girl what her mother's name was, offering her a piece of candy if she would tell. The people overhearing the conversation misconstrued his interest, and he was sent to prison for a month, suffering emotional ruin and dissolving into alcoholism. After the man died thirty years later, a letter was removed from his ragged jacket, revealing, in the song's final verse that the girl was his daughter, Buford having identified her by her eye colour (which was the same as his) and he was trying to confirm it by asking for her mother's name.
"Inside the old man's ragged coat, they found a faded letter. It said "You have a daughter, and her eyes are Wilson green"."
One song appears to be about a mother offering her child advice and encouragement on his or her first day of kindergarten, including admonishing him or her not to cry. The final verses, repeated for effect, turn everything on its head.
No, Mommy doesn't always act this way, but it's my first day of kindergarten.
"All Your Life", by The Band Perry: It's a sweet love song to a boyfriend, right up until "You could be the centerpiece of my obsession/If you would notice me at all".
An old but nice one from Styx's "Come Sail Away", "I thought that they were Angels but to my surprise, we climbed aboard their starship, we headed for the skies!"
Sound Horizon's "Yield" at first sounds like a simple song about a lonely girl during the harvest season, albeit one with an odd passage about subtracting from an unstable number to bring back stability ([3-1+1-2]). Then comes the line revealing that the "sweet fruits" the girl is harvesting aren't actually fruit:
Then I got Mary pregnant, and man, that was all she wrote.
Prince's B-Side "Another Lonely Christmas" - at first it just seems like the narrator spending Christmas Day alone reminiscing about an ex-girlfriend who he still loves, but the situation changes when:
Baby, you promised me you'd never leave
Then you died on the 25th day of December
The Living Tombstone's "September." The entire song is about an amnesiac who wakes up to find everyone in his town dead. And just when you're least expecting it, the final stanza comes:
The Magnetic Fields have two songs with these on their album 69 Love Songs. 'Abigail, Belle of Kilronan' sounds like your average song about a couple breaking up or being torn apart. The lyrics are sad enough and talk about a time "when I come home, if I come home". Then we find out:
I'm off to the war but you can be sure,
I will know you're what I'm fighting for.
Then there's The One You Really Love which sounds like a regular love song about a love triangle, with one party thinking about someone else... until the end of the song where we find out that 'the one you really love' is 'the corpse you really love'
The Arcade Fire song "(Antichrist Television Blues)" is about an amoral Stage Dad who forces his daughter to become a glorified stripper and uses his religion to justify his acts. The first verse of the song seems unconnected to the rest of the song, as it describes post-9/11 fear of working in buildings downtown that may be attacked by terrorists. The final lines bring it back full circle:
Do you know where I was at your age? Any idea where I was at your age?
Me and My Bitch: "I saw my bitch dead with the gunshot to the heart"
Suicidal Thoughts: "I'm sick of niggas lyin', I'm sick of bitches hawkin', matter of fact, I'm sick of talkin'." (BANG)
Everything Else: In "Religion Song (Put Away The Gun)", the middle section sounds like a bigoted rant, claiming "There's no such thing as a Black Man/Asian/Woman/Christian/etc., but it is all turned around by the line "Because we're all the same."
"Norwegian Wood" by The Beatles tells about one poor guy who goes home with a woman, drinks her wine, and is ultimately brushed off when she goes to sleep alone. The final line:
And when I awoke, I was alone. This bird had flown.
So I lit a fire. Isn't it good? Norwegian wood.
Scroobius Pip's "The Struggle" has an excellent example. 'My name is Johnny Depp, and I kill people.'
"Sk8r Boi" by Avril Lavigne seems to be a 3rd person story and you expect the girl to see the error of her ways and get together with the titular character until the bridge
Sorry girl you missed out
Well tough luck that boy's mine now
"Save Your Kisses for Me" by Brotherhood of Man:
Kisses for me
save all your kisses for me.
Bye bye baby bye bye.
Don't cry honey don't cry.
Won't you save them for me
even though you're only three.
The Offspring has a song from Rise and Fall, Rage and Grace called 'Hammerhead'. Most of the song sounds like it's from the point of view of a soldier or maybe a cop, but in the last few lines...
You can all hide behind your desks now
And you can cry, "teacher, come help me!'
Harry Chapin's The Mayor of Candor Lied. A farm boy falls in love with the Mayor's daughter, who seems to be hell-bent on preventing them from getting together. The boy then stumbles upon the Mayor in the middle of an affair with the boy's own mother. He then attempts to use this as extortion against the Mayor, threatening his re-election campaign. The Mayor then proceeds to out maneuver the boy by sending his daughter to an out-of-country university, saying it's her own choice. The boy flies into a rage at this, but the Mayor simply points out that blackmail doesn't give him a moral high ground to proceed from and dares him to make good on his threat.
And as he stands there saying we're just two of a kind, it hits me like a thunderbolt exploding in my mind.
As I look into his aged, wrinkled, leering mirror of my own face
In "A Day in the Life" by The Beatles: "He blew his mind out in a car ..." The moment you know the song is far darker than most previous Beatles works and the moment you realize this will be quite ... different.
The Simon & Garfunkel song "Richard Corey," based on the poem by E. A. Robinson, about a man who seems to have it all, and who the narrator desperately wants to be:
He freely gave to charity, he had the common touch
And they were grateful for his patronage, and they thanked him very much
So my mind was filled with wonder when the evening headlines read
"Richard Cory went home last night and put a bullet through his head.
Another Simon & Garfunkel song, "The Sun is Burning". They start out rhapsodizing about a beautiful day in suburbia in peaceful, mellow tones. Although the peaceful melody remains to the end, the lyrics take a sudden dark turn with the fourth verse:
Now the sun has come to Earth
Shrouded in a mushroom cloud of death.
In Miranda Lambert's song "Over You," the chorus—"You went away/How dare you/I miss you/They say I'll be okay/But I'm not going to/Ever get over you"—implies a typical break-up song, and most of the lyrics fit with that. Then comes the the last stanza: "It really sinks in, you know/When I see it written in stone." It's followed by the chorus one last time, but now we know that it's about mourning a boyfriend who died.
LeAnn Rimes's "Probably Wouldn't Be This Way" sounds like the narrator's moving on from a failed relationship. But not unlike the Miranda Lambert line above, its Wham Line reveals that the previous boyfriend has died: "You oughta see the way these people look at me / When they see me out here talking to this stone".
"One Last Time" by Dusty Drake also sounds at first like an ordinary breakup song, until the final verse:
He said, "Honey, I've gotta go"
She said, "Don't you dare hang up
There's so many things I need to say
I love you so much"
It was almost like she felt him leave
She cried out, "Can you still hear me?"
She fell down on the kitchen floor
When the signal died
As the pilot tried to pull out of the dive
"If Heaven" by Andy Griggs initially sounds like a sweet pontification on what Heaven may be like, comparing it to the narrator's town on a summer day in 1985 and so on. Then comes the last line of verse 2: "If Heaven was a tear, it'd be my last one / And you'd be in my arms again."
Mallary Hope's "Love Lives On" has one. It starts out sounding like a break-up song (seeing a pattern here?), with lines such as "I'm thankful for the time God gave me / Even though we couldn't make it last…" Then come the last line, it turns out the male in the story hasn't departed, but is dead and has left behind a daughter:
She comes with me on your birthday
Little flowers in her hands
She's always known there's something missing
But too young to understand
And someday she's going to ask me
What kind of man you were
I'll tell her all the ways I loved you
And all of you I see in her
"Me and Emily" by Rachel Proctor. It's clear that the mother and her daughter Emily are on the road, with the father figure absent ("Where's my daddy, do I have one? Does he not love me like you do?"). But instead of yet another breakup, it turns out that they're leaving because the male in the story is abusive:
Nothing I did was ever good enough to make him happy
So I guess he gave me what he thought I deserved
But it would kill me if he ever raised his hand to her
In one song about "50 ways to fool your mother," the boy manages to convince his mother that he is, in fact, sick and will have to stay home from school.
Maybe by tomorrow, you'll feel okay
I'm really very sorry that you're sick on Saturday.
"Weird Al" Yankovic sometimes plays it straight for a few lines before twisting the song in a comedic direction. "You Don't Love Me Anymore":
We've been together for so very long
But now things are changing, oh I wonder what's wrong?
Seems you don't want me around
The passion is gone and the flames died down
I guess I lost a little bit of self-esteem
That time that you made it with the whole hockey team
You used to think I was nice
Now you tell all your friends that I'm the Antichrist
"Good Old Days" starts every verse this way. This is the first:
Sometimes I think back to when I was younger, life was so much simpler then
Dad would be up at dawn, he'd be watering the lawn, or maybe going fishing again
And mom would be cooking up something in the kitchen, fresh biscuits or hot apple pie
And I'd spend all day long in the basement, torturing rats with a hacksaw and pulling the wings off of flies
He saves the Wham for the very final line of "Since You've Been Gone".
Ever since that day you left me
I've been so miserable, my dear
I feel almost as bad as I did
When you were still here
In Paint's song, After Ever After, the song soon focuses on what happened to Pocahontas after the ever after. It's pretty much what you'd expect would happen when reality ensues in a film dealing with the colonization of America. But this line pretty much reveals to us what happened to the heroine herself...
So now I'm far more liberal with a weapon...
When I separate their bodies from their heads! (Wait! What?)
Boothby Graffoe's comedy song "Hartlepool" describes a ridiculous situation during the Napoleonic Wars, based on an actual local legend, when the people of Hartlepool caught a monkey on the beach and hanged it in the belief it was a Frenchman. After briefly speculating that the monkey may have been an alien, the song gets around to describing the sociopolitical situation, and the way French ships were organised:
They had kids on the ships, they called 'em powder-monkeys
"Alibi": "Your boyfriend's outta town until Tuesday/And nobody saw me come in, nobody saw me come in!" Until then, it wasn't quite clear why he needed an alibi...
"Store": "I saw you touch down/You were no longer dead." It happens somewhat early in the song, but it's still jarring to realize the narrator is actually hallucinating the return of a dead person.
"Pale Green Things": The last song on "The Sunset Tree", an album aboutJohn's relationship with his abusive step-father, "Pale Green Things" arguably has two Wham Lines, and the song as a whole might be considered a Wham Song in the context of the album. The first Wham Line is "Sometimes I'll meet you out there/Lonely and frightened"; up until this point, we had only known his step-dad to be an abusive drunk, and this is the first time in the album where he's painted as a vulnerable human being. Then the second Wham Line: "My sister called at 3 AM/Just last December/She told me how you'd died at last, at last/And that morning at the race track was one thing that I remembered".
Sufjan Stevens' twenty-five minute song "Impossible Soul" is an upbeat and optomistic song from the point of view of a girl in a relationship using lines like "Boy, we can do much more together" and "It's not so impossible!" to explain the great potential of their relationship. That is, until the last three minutes, when it shifts to the guy's point of view, which starts with "I never meant to cause you pain..." After this he goes on to lament how much he has led the girl on. Ouch.
Boogie Down Productions' "You Must Learn" traces thousands of years "of ignorance, stupidity and tears" as all leading to the definitive horror of the 20th Century:
"According to his idiotic spoutin' The purest whites were from the Caucus Mountains J A Blofener, and H S Chamberlain Both supported this outrageous racism This went on to what the master race should be And why they killed the Jews in Germany"
Similarly, Czech bard Jaromir Nohavica sings about how nice would it be to live a hundred years ago in a little Czech-Polish town, until this line:
And the beautiful life would await me, the entire beautiful twentieth century.
She was feeling my style, I could tell how she moved and the smile on her face Then she whispered in my ear, so soft so sweet so clear, "no habla ingles"...
"One For The Griot" has him telling a story to a disbelieving friend about a guy who wakes up in a woman's bed and encounters her and her roommate. The original ending to the story is considered too violent (the roommate is the woman's wife, she shoots and kills him) so he insists it be changed. So J changes it to something so incredibly fortunate (the guy has a threesome with both women) that it's implausible. Unsatisfied, the friend asks to change the ending again. So J changes it one last time...
"But between me and you, and my roommate too What I'm about to say, might be a little snafu In your plans, put it like this, she used to be a dude..."
"Part Of Me" by Royce Da 5'9" starts off with a man singing about missing a woman he had a one-night stand with, with the chorus saying "all I'm saying is, when you left, you took a part of me with you". The story explains how they met and the events that led up to that point, and then tells exactly what she took:
The letter reads, 'never ask for shit Cause you can get more than you asked for WE HAVE YOUR DICK!'
Louis Logic's "The Ugly Truth" consists of him being offensive and derogatory to just about every minority group under the sun. African Americans, Asians, Jews, Muslims, homosexuals, everyone gets insulted and stereotyped. The lyrics are downright mean. And then comes the Wham:
Then again, I know it seems like I'm the devil's rotten henchman But no one on this Earth loves ALL of God's inventions Not to mention, I got a date to try and talk with Satan And lots of tension, because I'm late for my inauguration. ("Right this way, Governor Bush...")
In The Handsome Family's "Lizard", some young girls in a small town are bitten by a lizard, and the town calls for the aid of Granny Green, a woman who they suspect of being a witch. She gives the girls a tonic, which causes the girls to be unable to stop dancing, then this spreads to the whole town. The wham line is "'there's just water', she said, 'in my tonic'". Interestingly, this line occurs three quarters into the song, and the villagers disbelieve the revelation and just go further into hysteria.
The song "House of Gold" by Twenty One Pilots starts off sounding upbeat enough and well spirited. In the narrative of it, a mother asks her son to take care of her in her later years, and the son promises her a good life leading into full grandeur. It doesn't last:
But since we know that dreams are dead And life turns plans up on their head I will plan to be a bum So I just might become someone.
This song was rather touchingly covered by Josh Groban, who interspersed recorded statements from soldiers stationed away from their families (they're either fighting in Afghanistan or Iraq based on when the song was released) to those family members they're going to miss at Christmastime (e.g. a mother sending off a message to her young children, saying she's going to miss seeing them unwrap their presents and seeing the joy in their eyes). You'll be excused if some undetectable onion fumes seem to waft into the room while you're listening to this version of the song.
"The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" by Vicki Lawrence (later covered by Reba McEntire) is the story about a woman's brother being falsely accused of the murder of a friend of his for sleeping with his wife (who is also missing) and then at about the end of the song the lyrics explain why her brother is innocent:
well, they hung my brother before I could say the tracks he saw while on his way to Andy's house and back that night were mine and his cheatin' wife had never left town and that's one body that'll never be found, you see little sister don't miss when she aims her gun
Pete Townshend's beautiful "North Country Girl," an adaptation of Bob Dylan's "Girl from the North Country," is a bittersweet reflection on a woman the narrator knew way back then...until the final verse:
"If I Don't Make It Back" by Tracy Lawrence. The chorus has a friend telling the narrator what to do if he doesn't make it back from combat: "Have a beer for me, don't waste no tears on me / On Friday night, sit on the visitors side and cheer for the home team / Drive my Camaro an hour down Red Rock Road with 'Born to Run' blastin' on the radio / And find someone good enough for Amy, who will love her like I would have, if I don't make it back." The Wham Line comes on the bridge, as it goes straight from "If the Good Lord calls me home / I'd like to think my friends will think about me when I'm gone" to…
Well, Miller Lite ain't my brand But I drink one every now and then, in his honor And we ain't missed a home game yet Had that Camero at 110 on Red Rock Road when the speakers blowed And I introduced Amy to a friend of mine from Monroe He's a good ol' boy, but you know, she just ain't ready