Many bands and artists like to play around with sound while they’re writing a song, but it’s usually the meaning behind the song or its lyrics that really strike a chord.
Whether it’s who wrote the song, who the song was originally written for, or what actually inspired these bands to produce the song in the first place, we’re sure that these behind-the-scenes secrets of popular songs will have you going “say what?!” before you know it!
A true test to see how well you know your favorite artists, how many of these song secrets did you already know?
“Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson stole our hearts from the moment she made her first appearance on American Idol, and her songs quickly reached the top of the charts just weeks after winning the competition.
One of the most popular songs released by the energetic, bubbly star was 2004’s “Since U Been Gone”, but did you know this song wasn’t originally meant for her?
The song was in fact written for P!nk to perform, but she actually rejected the opportunity! It was then passed onto Disney’s pop-singing star, Hilary Duff, but unfortunately, she couldn’t nail the necessary high notes.
Third time was the charm with this one, as Clarkson hit it out of the park with this empowering song!
Screenshot form “Kelly Clarkson – Since U Been Gone (VIDEO)” / Youtube
“Song 2” by Blur
Back in 1996, Blur’s “Song 2” a.k.a. “Whoo-Hoo”, ended up having the exact opposite feedback from fans than the band ever expected.
Not only did Blur almost not include the song in their album, but they didn’t even take the song that seriously while they were writing it. In fact, the whole song is supposed to be a parody of Grunge music, which was hugely popular during that time. Little did they know that the song would end up being their most popular song ever!
Not just that, but the song is actually the second track on that album, is 2:02 long, and has two sets of drumming on the recording—played by Dave Rowntree, the drummer of the band, and Graham Coxon the guitarist.
Image by Alan Davidson/Shutterstock (7528772bp)
“Sorry” by Beyoncé
Remember when we were all obsessing over who’s the real Becky with the good hair when Queen Bey’s fierce album Lemonade dropped?
Well, there are several rumors regarding the identity of the mystery woman but we might never know for sure as writer and producer of the song “Sorry”, Diana Gordon, revealed to Harper’s Bazaar that Becky is in fact, no one in particular.
“When you work with Beyoncé, she’s really, really hands on. She has her own reasons for doing things. If Becky was somebody to her, I had no idea who it was. I just thought it was funny that everybody was like, ‘Who is it?’ like it was this personal person that we all knew about,” she revealed.
So, while it still hasn’t been confirmed by Queen Bey herself, it seems Becky isn’t actually anyone specific, it just represents the concept of a side-chick.
Screenshot via “Beyoncé – Sorry (Video)” / Youtube
“Falling” by Harry Styles
You know how some artists spend years on their artwork, while others can somehow magically whip it up in mere minutes? Well, it turns out that Harry Styles wrote the emotionally-driven hit-single “Falling” in just 20 minutes! But that’s not the only interesting thing about it.
“I was going out for dinner … and I was getting picked up from Tom [Hull]’s house …. As I came out of the shower, he was playing. I went and stood next to him at the piano, just in a towel, and we just kind of wrote the whole thing … [in] probably 20 minutes,” Styles shared during an interview with Zane Lowe in 2019.
We wonder if the music video of Styles sitting at the piano, surrounded by water, has anything to do with this funny tale.
Screenshot via “Harry Styles – Falling (Official Video)” / Youtube
“9 to 5” by Dolly Parton
Music is basically just a collective of different sounds and audio clips combined together to make a song. And sometimes you must branch out and use objects other than music instruments to create certain sounds.
And one time when the one and only Queen of Country Dolly Parton was in song-writing mode, she got inspiration for one of her catchy, country tunes from her iconic acrylic nails!
Brushing her nails against each other sounded like a type-writer, which dueled up as the perfect intro beat for the hit song, “9 to 5”.
Image by Berliner Studio/BEI/Shutterstock (580468a)
“Rock Your Body” by Justin Timberlake
Even though back in the early 2000s our hearts were broken when NSYNC spilt up, that void was quickly filled with Justin Timberlake’s incredible solo career.
Timberlake’s very first solo album rose to the top charts in 2002 with his song “Rock Your Body”, but did you know the song wasn’t actually meant for him?
The Neptunes wrote the song for Michael Jackson’s final album, 2001’s Invincible, but MJ decided to drop the song, and it eventually made its way over to JT’s Justified.
Screenshot via “Justin Timberlake – Rock Your Body (Video)” / Youtube
“Till the World Ends” by Britney Spears
One of the hidden secrets in the music industry is that a lot of musicians share the same producers, and end up trading songs between them. But sometimes, our favorite artists are the secret songwriters behind some of our favorite hits.
For example, remember when the Princess of Pop Britney Spears made a comeback in 2011 with her fantastic Femme Fatale album?
Did you ever notice that the title track sounds a lot like some of Ke$ha’s pop songs, released around that time? Well, that’s because Ke$ha actually wrote this incredibly addictive hit!
Not just that, but Britney, Ke$ha, and Nikki Minaj later released a dubstep version of this song together, too. Looks like femme fatale is right!
Screenshot via “Britney Spears – Till The World Ends (Official Video)” / Youtube
“Girl Crush” by Little Big Town
Inspiration and creativity don’t wear watches, and can strike at any time. For this reason, Little Big Town make sure to block time together for song-writing, and their way to write a song is basically like an all-nighter hack-a-thon.
“We had a pajama party. I live in Boston so I come and we spend three days together here in this house. Nobody gets in and nobody gets out … I didn’t have the melody. All I had was ‘Girl Crush’,” Lori McKenna confessed during an interview with The Tennessean.
Before she knew it, without anything to go off of aside from the song’s title, Hilary had sung the first four lines of the song, and nailed exactly what Lori had imagined. How cool!
Screenshot via “Little Big Town – Girl Crush (Official Music Video)” / Youtube
“I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing” by Aerosmith
It’s always exciting when one of our favorite bands are featured in a film, and Aerosmith’s featured song in 1998’s Armageddon proved that right. Yet, even though they absolutely rocked the performance to its core, did you know that the band didn’t actually write this song?
The song was actually written by songwriter Diane Warren, who had intended for it to be sung by the one and only Celine Dion, fresh off of the success of Titanic‘s “My Heart Will Go On”. There’s no doubt that Celine could pull this song off, which is what makes this song all the more powerful!
Screenshot via “Aerosmith – I Don’t Want to Miss a Thing (Official HD Video)” / Youtube
“Every Breath You Take” by The Police
Sometimes the sweet sound of the instruments in a song can sway you away from the true meaning of the lyrics, which is exactly what The Police’s hit song “Every Breath You Take” does.
Many people believe this hit to be a romantic love song, but it’s actually quite a “sinister” song according to Sting. The song repeats the phrase, “I’ll be watching you”, which is a good indication of what the meaning is—a voyeur’s surveillance of a former lover.
The song was inspired by Sting’s heart-broken breakdown towards the end of his first marriage. What can we say? At least some good art came out of this traumatic time in his life.
Screenshot via “The Police – Every Breath You Take (Official Video)” / Youtube
“Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles
We know that both the music and the lyrics in the world-famous “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” by The Beatles definitely takes you on a magical trip! And while many people believe that the song is about just that—coupled with the fact that the acronym of the song technically reads LSD—it was actually inspired by something much more innocent and endearing.
John Lennon was inspired by a painting his 3-year-old son Julian drew for his schoolmate, Lucy O’Donnell. And apparently Julian actually described the painting as “Lucy in the sky with diamonds” to John when he showed it to him. How adorable!
Image by David Magnus/Shutterstock (20092h)
“Girls Just Wanna Have Fun” by Cyndi Lauper
We’re sure that just by reading the song title, “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”, you automatically start bopping your head and singing yourself the world-famous song.
And even though it’s performed by Cyndi Lauper, did you know that the song was actually written by a male?
That’s right! American singer-songwriter Robert Hazard didn’t just write the song, but he even recorded it years before miss Lauper came along to take it to the top! Who would’ve thought?
Screenshot via “Cyndi Lauper – Girls Just Want To Have Fun (Official Video)” / Youtube
“Ms. Jackson” by OutKast
Back in 2000, OutKast dropped one of their most popular hits, “Ms. Jackson”, and left the whole world wondering—who exactly is the song about?
Turns out it truly is an apology formed into song by Andre 3000 to his ex and mother of his child, Erykah Badu.
And while Badu admitted that the subject definitely struck a chord and hit a sore spot for her, she respected and appreciated Andre for expressing his true feelings. But what did Badu’s mother a.k.a. “Ms. Jackson” actually think about the song?
“Baby, she bought herself a ‘Ms. Jackson’ license plate, she had the mug, she had the ink pen, she had the headband—everything. That’s who loved it,” Badu humorously admitted during an interview with Rap Radar.
Screenshot via “Outkast – Ms. Jackson (Official HD Video)” / Youtube
“Hit Me Baby One More Time” by Britney Spears
It was her controversially saucy school-girl music video and upbeat hit “Baby One More Time” that got Britney Spears her huge stardom and is still iconic to this day.
Funny thing about this famous single, though, is that the song was actually supposed to be titled “Call Me Baby One More Time”. Turns out the music producers who wrote the song, Max Martin and Rami Yacoub, weren’t native English speakers, and ended up translating the song lyrics incorrectly.
All we can say is, oops! We hope they didn’t do it again.
All in all, it was clearly a happy accident, seeing as “Hit me baby” has a much catchier ring to it than “call me baby” anyway.
Screenshot via “Britney Spears – Hit Me Baby One More Time (Official Video)” / Youtube
“Train Wreck 1979” by Death from Above 1979
The songs of rock band Death from Above 1979 are filled with savvy lyrics and a grungy, industrial instrumental side. And their song “Train Wreck 1979” is a wild ride, filled with a back-up grungy guitar that sounds sort of like a train engine coming down the trail—and there’s a reason for that.
Some songs are based off of fables, but “Train Wreck 1979” is based off of a real train wreck that happened back in 1979. And the lyrics in the song’s bridge, “A poison cloud, a flaming sky, two hundred thousand people, and no one died” is absolutely true to its core, since all of the victims of said train wreck survived. Talk about wild!
Image by Shutterstock (4471888a)
“Dude Looks Like a Lady” by Aerosmith
Most of us know the song “Dude Looks Like a Lady” from the wondrous 1993 comedy Mrs. Doubtfire starring Robin Williams. But the song came out back in 1987, over five years before the movie was released. So, who exactly is this “dude” that seems to look like a lady?
Aerosmith actually based this hit single off of a real-life experience—accidentally thinking that some dude in a bar was a lovely lady.
It turns out that the sensational Steven Tyler spotted some luscious blonde locks of hair at a bar, only to find out that it was Vince Neil, the lead vocalist for heavy metal rock band, Mötley Crüe.
Image by gregorylee / Depositphotos (47998457)
“Taxi Driver” by Gym Class Heroes
Have you noticed that the lyrics of Gym Class Heroes’ “Taxi Driver” sound a little more familiar than you expected? That’s because the lyrics of the song are actual band names!
Travie McCoy of the indie rock hip hop group is known to base a lot of the band’s songs off of his childhood and high school days. But the lyrics to one of their more unique songs is actually inspired by a myriad of band names—there’s over 20 different band names hidden in the lyrics.
Death Cab for Cutie, Fallout Boy, Jimmy Eat World, My Chemical Romance, The Early November, and The Postal Service are just a few that they threw in there! How many can you find?
Image by Mediapunch/Shutterstock (1527488l)
“Brianstorm” by Arctic Monkeys
The opening track to Arctic Monkey’s 2007 album, Favourite Worst Nightmare is quite a fitting one for the album. The song might feel like a jumbled-up power-play of your mind going through a mental thunderstorm, but mistake not. The title is spelled as the name “Brian” and not “brain”. So, who exactly is this song about?
Apparently, some random guy named Brian walked into the green room after a show in Japan, and started talking up the band like he was all that.
“He just appeared with like a business card and like a round neck T-shirt and a tie loosely around it, I’d never seen that before. It felt like he was trying to get inside your mind. We were checking out his attire–it freaked us out,” guitarist Jamie Cook shared with Radio X.
This “nightmare” of a character left a lasting, yet inspirational impression on the bandmates ‘til today!
Image by Picture Perfect/Shutterstock (4419623ao)
“Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X
Did you know that Lil Nas X started out as a social media influencer on Twitter just tweeting funny memes? In fact, he kind of, sort of, accidentally became a musician when he was blowing off studying for a math class in college.
“I was supposed to start this math class and retake it, but I don’t do that. What I do is I make a song for Twitter … so I start making a lot of songs … and then I was like, wait a minute, I wanna make music now,” Lil Nas X shared with Billboard.
He further explained that his lyrics “I want to take my horse to the old town road and I’m gonna ride ‘til I can’t no more” describe how he felt during that time in his life. He wanted to just live in the moment and do what he loves—music and goofing around with memes. Talk about an unexpected inspiration!
Screenshot via “Lil Nas X – Old Town Road (Official Video) ft. Billy Ray Cyrus” / Youtube
“Death of a Bachelor” by Panic! at the Disco
Despite the fact that many people are quick to judge the emo music genre, Panic! At the Disco’s frontman, Brendon Urie, took the genre to a whole new level with his passionate emotions and detail-oriented song composition. The multi-talented one-man-band has gained admiration around the world, and proven that his rise to the top was anything but a happy accident.
But it turns out that the band’s title track “Death of a Bachelor” released back in 2016, sort of was!
“I wrote the song actually trying to make a Sinatra song … and then I hit this wall, just writing-wise, where I was getting so frustrated … I took a break from it and went back to this beat I had worked on like months before, and it kind of had this ‘Drunk in Love,’ Beyoncé-kind of feel … It was just like a happy accident,” Brendan Urie confessed to the Associated Press.
Image by Rmv/Shutterstock (7734257g)
“Hey Jude” by The Beatles
Whether you’re a big fan or not, everyone knows who The Beatles are, and their song “Hey Jude” is one of the most popular hits they ever produced!
And while this sweet, soft ballad might seem like it’s about someone named Jude, don’t be fooled. Jude is actually meant to be Jules which is a nickname Paul McCartney gave to Lennon’s son, Julian.
McCartney’s true inspiration for this song came to him during one of his drives up to visit little Julian, when his parents, John Lennon and Cynthia had split up. McCartney wanted to be there for him and cheer him up, which is how he came up with the lyrics, “Hey Jude, don’t make it bad, take a sad song, and make it better”. How sweet!
Image by David Magnus/Shutterstock (7684a)
“Voodoo Child (Slight Return)” by The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Many of our favorite artists have the ability to freestyle and improvise on the spot, but it’s a-whole-nother thing when they flat out write a whole song right then and there. Especially if it turns out to be one of their greatest hits. Right?
That’s literally what happened with Jimi Hendrix when it came to writing “Voodoo Child (Slight Return)”. Apparently, the band was just messing around the studio shooting b-roll for a documentary, when they actually just came up with this magnificent song on the spot.
Image by Bruce Fleming/Shutterstock (21031l)
“Waves” by Young the Giant
In 2014, indie rock band Young the Giant released their second album and blew their fans out of the water with their hit singles “It’s About Time” and “Crystallized”. But the reason they’ve been so successful as a band over the years, is because they take their sound to a-whole-nother level, creating an intense listening experience for their fans—especially in their song “Waves”.
If you haven’t already, try listening to the song with good-quality headphones. They’ve orchestrated their instruments to make it feel like you’re at the ocean with the low-bass vibrations, crash cymbals, and funky beats. In fact, these California natives love utilizing the beach as a theme in many of their other songs, too!
Image via Christopher Dube / Wikipedia
“Layla” by Eric Clapton
“Something”, one of the most beautiful love songs written by The Beatles’ guitarist George Harrison, was an ode of love to his glorious wife, Patti Boyd. But that’s not the only song that was written about her! Turns out, there’s always some drama going on behind the scenes, and this time around it was between George Harrison and his good friend Eric Clapton.
While Boyd and Harrison eventually split up, it turns out that Clapton was in love with her for quite some time. So much so, that one of his top hits is actually about Patti herself.
“[Clapton] said, ‘I’ve got something for you to hear,’ and he put [“Layla”] on in a cassette machine and played it … And I said, ‘Oh, gosh, this is unbelievable!’ And he said … ‘This is for you, I’ve written it for you,” Boyd confessed to ABC News back in 2007.
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“Terrible Things” by Brick + Mortar
Brandon Asraf and John Tacon of Brick + Mortar are the type of musicians that always put their heart and soul into their music, and make sure that their fans know they’re appreciated no matter how big they’ve gotten over the years.
From filming drum tutorials of their songs to advocating their humanitarian beliefs via social media, the indie rock duo is all about speaking their mind, especially through their music.
In the chorus of their hit song “Terrible Things” taken from the album Bangs, they sing “Sometimes I think of doing terrible things / I know I shouldn’t think it but I do anyway / Maybe I’m just crazy like I got a disease / Feels like I got things that go deep in my sleep”.
But the meaning is about something so much deeper than sinful intensions. It’s actually about turning yourself into a better person, even with life struggles and having a mental illness—which the front man has struggled with his whole life.
Brick + Mortar’s “Bangs” Cover (2013)
“Hotel California” by Eagles
We know that the song is called “Hotel California”, but the meaning behind this legendary Eagles song is about so much more than just a hotel in California.
In fact, the song was meant to be titled “Mexican Reggae”. There’s no doubt that from this title alone, people would probably view the song in a completely different way.
And as it turns out, the whole meaning behind the song is about how their Midwestern middle class minds perceived the high-end lifestyle of L.A.
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“I Saw Her Again” by The Mamas and Papas
The Mamas and The Papas’ music is fun and upbeat but are also as complicated behind closed doors as their music’s genre—rock sunshine pop psychedelic folk.
The band was originally formed by husband and wife John and Michelle Phillips, but apparently their hit song “I Saw Her Again” is about the hidden love interest between Michelle Phillips and bandmate Denny Doherty. Whoops!
What makes it even more drama-filled is the fact that John Phillips took part in the song’s production.
Image via CBS Television / Wikipedia
“Legend” by Twenty One Pilots
Twenty One Pilots’ 2018 album Trenches contains songs about the people who are nearest and dearest to them.
And the final lyrics, “Then the day that it happened / I recorded this last bit / I look forward to having / A lunch with you again” actually talk about a very wholesome, yet tear-jerking family matter that occurred during the song’s recording.
“I was writing it while [my grandfather] was sick and as he was starting to turn for the worst, and by the time I got to the last verse he’d already passed. So, you can kind of feel that chronologically happen in the writing of that song, which will always be special to me,” vocalist Tyler Joseph confessed to Musicfeeds.
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“Supermassive Black Hole” by Muse
One of Muse’s most popular songs, “Supermassive Black Hole”, featured in Twilight and Doctor Who, seemed to be a little bit different than their usual gothic/gospel styled songs. So where did the influence for this upbeat and daring song come from?
Apparently, the UK rock band based the song off of their nights out on the town, across the pond, over in the Big Apple. Not just that, but the song has influences from a range of artists and genres including The Beatles, Rage Against the Machine, Prince, and even Kanye West.
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