Play The Record Backwards: Upbeat Sounding Songs That Disguise Far Darker Messages

A good producer (pretend it was Atticus Ross) once told me to never let the tempo fool me. As a musician myself, I didn’t quite get what he was saying at the time. He was telling me that, although some songs sound incredibly upbeat and happy, that doesn’t mean they are. Some artists will write VERY pop-influenced SOUNDING songs about very dark subjects KNOWING the message of the song will be lost under the rhythm and tempo and for that reason, can end up on the radio or various other outlets, uncensored. The idea being you write the darkest, most fucked-up song you can and you hide it behind a safe, three chord melody and a high enough BPM (beats per minute) and the people will miss the message and become hypnotized by the sound. But once the fog clears, the message of the song drives itself home like a stake to the heart (or a steak to the heart if you’re fat).

They are troll songs. Songs that trick you into singing the chorus until you actually listen to yourself and say: 

Holy shit, THAT is what I was singing along to?

Here are some upbeat songs that have TRULY downbeat messages.

Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People

This one is both recent and hilarious. Hilarious only because radio DJ’s and TV show producers were hearing the pleasant composition and upbeat melody and not realizing this song is being sung from the perspective of a poor kid who is fantasizing about shooting up his richer schoolmates who brag about their better shoes than him.

“All the other kids with the pumped up kicks (nod to Reebok pumps of the 80’s) you better run, run quick, faster than my bullet...:”

And yet, people were singing along to the song in their cars and on their way to work, unaware they were singing from the perspective of a kid desperately wanting to be a school shooter.

So yeah, that happy sounding song you thought was an anthem to cool 80’s sneakers is actually more a Columbine anthem.

Welcome to life, 2.0. It’s a pretty ugly place.

Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind

Third eye Blind were the poster child for songs that straddled the line. Ten Days Late was another huge single for them and it is about mistakenly cumming inside his lady love and her being ten days late for her period and how we wanted to runaway.

But Semi-Charmed Life took the cake.

All over the radio and TV just like above mentioned song, but it is a song about BEING A METH ADDICT, and he openly says it without being censored:

“I took the hit that I was given then I bumped again, I bumped again.”

A bump for the uneducated is a small amount of something you snort that works just enough to get your high back so you don’t crash or “come down” too hard.

Another great line from the song:

“Doing Crystal Meth will lift you up until you break.”

But no one censored or even seems to notice. Not that I encourage censorship.

Just weird how all these white bands can sing about fucked up shit and rappers get the word BLUNT bleeped and censored out of songs. Pretty sure meth is WAY more serious than a blunt, but hey, we live in a racist world, what do you expect? 
Hashtag real fucking talk.

Hey Ya by Outkast

Don’t let the utter catchiness of Hey Ya fool you (as it did me). I recently wrote a piece about happy songs for this site with that song on the list and got hit up by a contact who went on to tell me what the song was really about, proving even I don’t listen sometimes if the melody is catchy enough. 

The entire song is about a love completely dissipating before a couple’s eyes and neither of them being strong enough to admit it to each other or to stop it from happening.

Peep this shit:

If what they say is "Nothing is forever"
Then what makes, then what makes, then what makes
Then what makes, what makes, what makes love the exception
So why you, why you
Why you, why you, why you are we so in denial
When we know we're not happy here...
Y'all don't wanna hear me, you just wanna dance

He even admits in the final line that no one listening wants to hear the actual message of the song as all they wanna do is dance, which he also drives home in the music video by perpetuating that himself and dancing his ass off. 

Granted, it may not be as heavy as some of the other songs listed here but still, when people are clapping and dancing to an anthem about love dying, you know people are not actually ‘listening’.

And these next two songs proves we haven’t been listening for a long, long time now.

99 Luftballons

I know that everyone and their Mama knows what this song catchy 80’s song is about, but still, catchiest song about nuclear fallout ever written. Yes, and for the one of you who may not know, the luftballons (red balloons) she is talking about in the song are nukes and missiles, and the idea of the song is the complete and final moment of all life on the planet as everyone sees the 99 nukes flying in every direction.

Ninety nine decisions treat
Ninety nine ministers meet
To worry, worry, super scurry
Call the troops out in a hurry
This is what we've waited for
This is it boys, this is war
The President is on the line
As ninety nine red balloons go by

But man, the song has such a catchy keyboard hook and sounds so upbeat you would never know it is a literal theme song for the end of mankind as a whole (and manages to make it sound kinda fun, which is extra fucked up).

Speaking of messed up shit, let’s take it back to a classic that has NO PLACE being a classic…..

Escape (The Pina Colada Song) by Some Freaky 70’s Creeper Named Rupert

Ok, so let me just give this one to you straight. It’s the 70’s and everyone is swinging (meaning having sex with everyone else without consequences except AIDS and babies) and so this guy writes this SUPER CHEESY song about how his wife is being distant so he is gonna place an ad in a newspaper seeing if some chick wanted to meet up and go to bonetown. 

He gets a response and hits it off with the lady. Seems they BOTH like Pina coladas and making love on the Dunes in the cape (I lived out there, trust me, that is bullshit, you get sand in your ass).

They finally set the date to meet and when they meet..
Wait for it,
Wait for it,
Wait for it,



Are you kidding me!? You both were about to bang a stranger on a dune while drinking pina coladas and now all is well?

Sorry to end this on such a low note, but you KNOW that relationship eventually ended with a murder-suicide. Just look at the guy.