We all love a happy, bouncy, pop-song...
We all like listening to something light, simple, and happy to make ourselves feel good about our lives. Nothing wrong with that. But what if we were to tell you that a bunch of those happy, happy songs that you love were actually (for one reason or another) pretty darn sad? Ready to have some tunes ruined for you? Here we go!
The Ballad of John and Yoko - The Beatles
This bouncy, catchy single from the Beatles latter period is a delight to listen to. It was a happy, ringing endorsement for John Lennon's new wife Yoko from the rest of the band. They all collaborated on singing about how great she was. Or so it seemed. Actually, this song only features two Beatles on it. As detailed in Philip Norman's Shout!, John barreled this song through the recording process with the aid of a somewhat reluctant Paul in the space of an evening. George was on holiday and Ringo was filming a movie. Between the two of them they covered for their bandmates on drums and lead guitar, creating a song that was effectively PR for John and Yoko's marriage. It's hard to blame Lennon for wanting to do this, the public were being very cruel to him and Yoko at the time. However you look at it though, it speaks to the dysfunction that was growing in the band in 1969, and friends going behind each others backs to make a point.
Waltzing Matilda - Traditional
The unofficial national anthem of Australia. We all know the chorus, we all sing along when it's played. It's a campy, silly, Ozzy song about dancing with a girl. Probably Mara Wilson. Right? Wrong. Read the lyrics again. It's about a man who steals a sheep in order to kill and eat it. Then he gets caught stealing the sheep, and rather than facing the consequences, he jumps in a river and drowns himself. Then he haunts the area near the river. Oh you silly Australians!
Crashed the Wedding - Busted
There was a time when Busted were hot stuff in the UK. They were everywhere, and everyone loved their manufactured boyband rock. Crashed the Wedding was one of their big hits, a raucous tribute to love at all costs. As the title suggests, it's about crashing a wedding, and stealing back an ex-girlfriend now turned bride. Romantic. Except… kinda not. The lyrics state that the singer was hated by the girl's father for never getting a job. So now she's back dating a loser who refuses to work. Lets see how well that goes. Also, she got all the way to the altar with this new guy, and then her ex-boyfriend turns up and destroys her wedding, if she's leaving that situation happy (as the song implies) the girl has huge commitment issues. Again, see how that plays in the long term. And if you think this is reading too much into subtext, bare in mind that this song is partly based on The Graduate and its notoriously ambiguous finale. Watch it again, that movie is not a happy ending. Neither is this song.
Born in the USA - Bruce Springsteen
Bruce Springsteen's patriotic anthem to everything that's great about America! Is what people think Born in the USA is… but it's totally not. This is a song about getting screwed over as a soldier in the Vietnam war. And yet, a lot of people don't get that. They sing it un-ironically at sports games and on Independence Day. This one's not even hard, you just have to listen to the lyrics…
MmmBop - Hanson
The Hanson Brothers. They were carefree, fun loving, long haired, and had bizarrely high-pitched. Their biggest hit MmmBop is a truly awesome track, and everyone should listen to it and enjoy it at least once a week. But did you ever listen to the words? Apart from the ridiculously catchy chorus of course. Read these lyrics:
"You have so many relationships in this life/Only one or two will last/You go through all the pain and strife/Then you turn your back and they're gone so fast"
"And when you get old and start losing your hair/Can you tell me who will still care"
"In an mmmbop they're gone/In an mmmbop they're not there/Until you lose your hair/But you don't care, yeah"
This ear-worm sounds like it's the most cheerful piece of fluff in all pop-music, and yet it's about impermanence, growing old, going bald, and people leaving you. That's super heavy for a song with a chorus that's borderline nonsense. If this song had come out a few years later it might have been an emo classic. As it is, it's just the regular kind of classic.
Thomas Burns Scully is a PopDust contributor, and also an award-winning actor, playwright, and musician. In his spare time he writes and designs escape rooms. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram
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