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10 Cheerful Sounding Songs with UN-Cheerful Lyrics

[Another list from frequent contributor Adam Morrison. – AC]

Whether it has something to do with the power of juxtaposition or it’s done for another reason entirely, I have no idea, but here are ten pleasant tunes with some serious words.

1. Mark Foster was a jingle writer, so it’s not a huge surprise that “Pumped Up Kicks” got stuck in many a head before said heads’ owners realized that the song was written from the point of view of a potentially very dangerous young person. “All the other kids with their pumped up kicks better run, better run, faster than my bullets.”

2. When you think of Third Eye Blind’s biggest hit, “Semi-Charmed Life,” I bet that the first thing you get in your head is the “Doo doo doo, doo doo doo doo” part. Most of the actual words in the song have more to do with crystal meth than that part does. For example, there are the words, “Doing crystal meth will lift you up until you break.”

3. Ask most people to sing Smash Mouth’s “Walkin’ on the Sun,” and they’ll probably go with the line “You might as well be walkin’ on the sun.” Fair enough, but that line is just one small part of the following chorus/warning/compelling sales pitch: “So don’t delay, act now, supplies are running out/Allow, if you’re still alive, six to eight years to arrive/And if you follow, there may be a tomorrow/But if the offer’s shunned, you might as well be walkin’ on the sun.”

4. A few Sublime songs could potentially make this list, but I’m going with “Santeria” for lines like “I won’t think twice to stick that barrel straight down Sancho’s throat/Believe me when I say that I got something for his punk ass.”

5. If you heard “Love Song” by Sky complete with vocals but you couldn’t make out the actual words, I bet you’d never think it included lines like “We think he’s alive but the flies make me wonder why…” Also, who’s the Chester that’s referenced in the song? I just realized that I’ve been wondering about that for about fifteen years, and I’ve never even tried to look it up. Maybe I’m afraid of the answer.

6. I believe that the inclusion of Cee Lo’s “Fuck You” here needs no explanation.

7. I think how Amanda Palmer sings about traumatic events without sounding all that upset about them is sort of the point of “Oasis.”

8. The sound of Lily Allen’s “Smile” doesn’t imply the bitterness in the phrase, “At first when I see you cry/Yeah it makes me smile.”

9. “Detroit Rock City” tells the true story of a fan who died on the way to a KISS concert.

10. I’m not even going to go into what Tori Amos’s “Mr. Zebra” is about. No, I’m just going to quote the final line from the lyrics: “‘Too bad the burial was premature,’ she said and smiled.”

Can you think of anything to add to this list?

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