Strange Lyrics That Don't Mean What You Think

When we actually listen to a song's lyrics and find they make absolutely no sense, we either dismiss them as mere word salad, or form our own theories and stick with them forever. Sadly, because we aren't the lyricists, our interpretations are usually way off. Here are some head-scratching words with meanings that aren't even close to what you decided they were while half-listening in a crowded bar.

The Killers: Human

The line "Are we human, or are we dancer" ranks as one of the mind-numbingly dumb lyrics of all time. Literally so, as a survey conducted by a streaming company called Blinkbox placed that line as the number one weirdest lyric in history. It just sounds like a terrible, half-baked idea coated in awful grammar. But according to singer Brandon Flowers, the Killers baked that idea exactly as long as the instructions said to. He based the line off of a Hunter S. Thompson quote that said, "We're raising a generation of dancers." Basically, Thompson was calling the kids of his day softies, because every generation does that, and Flowers used it for his song that questions what humanity has become. Art begetting art. As far as the awful grammar of "are we dancer," Flowers chalked that up to not giving a damn. "I think I'm allowed to do whatever I want," he said, and if he wants to make every English teacher's head explode, that's what he's going to do.

The Beatles: Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds

On the surface, this song's meaning is crystal clear. They're the Beatles, a band famous for doing more than a few drugs, singing a thinly veiled tribute to LSD. It's not just the song's initials (Lucy Sky Diamonds), but trippy imagery like "cellophane flowers," "newspaper taxis," "rocking horse people," and "kaleidoscope eyes" that convinced everybody this was a drug song. In truth, the song's meaning is pure innocence: John Lennon's son Julian drew a picture of a girl named Lucy, and she was in the sky, and she had diamonds. Now, don't you feel terrible? What you assumed were lyrics about a dangerous, mind-altering chemical was nothing but a father singing about something sweet his kid made. Now, whether Lennon wrote the strange imagery afterwards to make it seem like they were talking about drugs is anyone's guess. Considering how he loved to troll people ("I Am The Walrus" is nonsense designed to make people think it was deep), there's a good chance he did just that.

The Vapors: Turning Japanese

The Vapors' "Turning Japanese" is one of those songs with no way to deduce the meaning aside from the singer outright telling you. How does one "turn Japanese"? Is there a machine for this? Is it, like, a racist thing? Or is it about that stuff you do alone in your bedroom (which, as some amateur lyrics detectives have pointed out, could cause you to make a particular face)? The answer to every theory is "no." According to singer David Felton, it's about "all the cliches about angst and youth and turning into something you didn't expect to." So, the song's character is angry, depressed, confused, and becoming something unexpected—in this case, he's Hulk-raged into a Japanese person. So it's a literal meaning, which probably nobody thought of except for the writer. But why Japanese? Because it was the first thing the band thought of, apparently. As Felton noted, "It could have been Portuguese, Lebanese, anything that fitted with that phrase." Nothing completes a poetic metaphor like words picked because they sound good with other words.

REM: Losing My Religion

REM's "Losing My Religion" sounds about as straightforward as an REM song could possibly get. The singer's losing faith for some reason, or more like he's been excommunicated for another some reason. That would explain the entire chorus: "That's me in the corner, that's me in the spotlight, losing my religion." The entire church is looking at him and judging him as he shamefully exits its walls for the last time. What else could it mean to "lose your religion," after all? It's not exactly a physical thing you can lose, like car keys. Turns out, according to singer Michael Stipe, "losing your religion" is an old Southern saying that refers to getting angry and acting uncivil and desperate enough to forsake your own religion. In the song's case, it's because the singer is in love with someone who doesn't love him back, and he's so hurt about it, he's about to tell God to shove off. So, it's like "Turning Japanese," only based around an actual (obscure) saying, versus something the band invented for the sake of a rhyme and gave meaning to later.

Iron Butterfly: In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida

Here's a song that, much like "Lucy," people assumed was deep and meaningful because it came from the psychedelic '60s. What does "in-a-gadda-da-vida" mean, people wondered. Is it a tribal chant? An inside joke? An ultra-obscure piece of literature that only the guys in Iron Butterfly know about? Nope to all of the above. In fact, it simply means "In the Garden of Eden." That's what they were trying to sing: a love song from Adam to Eve. Problem was, singer Doug Ingle was not in the frame of mind when recording. Depending on who you talk to, he was either drunk, stoned, or a fun combination of the two. Whatever it was, it left him slurring all his words, turning "In the Garden of Eden" into "innagaddadavida." For whatever reason, Butterfly liked the new version, recorded it that way while sober (which explains why every other word sounds crystal clear), and produced a huge hit. Still though, it's probably best to get drunk and stoned at work. You're far more likely to get fired than create timeless art.

Psy: Gangnam Style

Unless you speak Korean, good luck figuring out exactly what Psy's uber-smash "Gangnam Style" actually means. But based on the upbeat music and ridiculous horsey dance he popularized (and you butchered), it has to be light and happy, right? Maybe a love song, or simply one of those "here's a dance, let's do the dance" songs, like the Locomotion. But according to both Psy and anyone who understands his language, it's not. In fact, "Gangnam Style" is biting satire about the shallowness and greed of humanity. Gangnam is a district in Seoul known for its hipness and classism. To say you're "Gangnam style" is to brag that you're hip and cool and own all the nicest clothes and hottest new technology, which Psy finds ridiculous and disgusting. Even the video, where he mockingly pretends to be one of these shallow style people, drained him due to how much he hated them. "Human society is so hollow," he admitted about making the video, "and even while filming I felt pathetic. Each frame by frame was hollow." But hey, mindlessly horsey trot away, world.