Songs with Cryptic Meanings

Listen Closely

We've all heard a song at some point in our lives, that we try to have a hard time at succeeding at what it's saying. I'm not talking about the words, I'm talking about the theme or the idea behind the song if you will.

Many of these songs are huge hits and many are cult classics, simply because the artists behind them have mastered how to make the song so catchy.

So in this hub I'll discuss songs with cryptic meanings that we are still scratching our heads about after all this time.

In the Air Tonight

Phil Collins was the man in the 1980s. He managed to lead his group Genesis into superstardom and successfully launch a solo career that many artists only dream of. While he didn't get to superstar status until 1985's No Jacket Required, which won Album of the Year, he produced many gems including, "In the Air Tonight."

"In the Air Tonight" is now used at many sporting events to rev teams up before gametime, but it also does a great job of creeping people out. I don't remember the first time I heard this song, but I do know that when I did it was probably broad daylight.

The sounds Collins manages to make in that song are some of the most introspectively creepy sounds ever. The slow burn of the synthesizer, the keyboard which goes back and forth between a few chords, and the chilling vocals Phil Collins supply all make you turn around more than once. But when those drums kick in about halfway through the song, it's almost startling.

If this song were used in a movie, it could probably fit quite well into a murder scene with the drumbeat mimicking the sounds of a shotgun or even repeated stabs. To me, it's like if Hitchcock ever recorded a pop song to best describe the tone of his films. But still, after all of this mystery, you're still thinking, "What does this song mean?"

There was a rumor that has been circulating for nearly 30 years now that Phil Collins wrote this song after actually witnessing a drowning. Now while that could be true, don't you think there would have been more evidence to support that claim? Beyond the lyrics of the song, there's not much to affirm that theory.

In several interviews, Phil Collins revealed that this song is about the dissolution of his first marriage. Unlike many other breakup songs, it doesn't clearly reference the relationship. But in that respect, it's much more clever because you can interpret the song in any kind of way.

Either way you look at it, it's a good song.

"In the Air Tonight" Lyrics:

I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord
I've been waiting for this moment, all my life, Oh Lord
Can you feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord, Oh Lord

Well, if you told me you were drowning
I would not lend a hand
I've seen your face before my friend
But I don't know if you know who I am
Well, I was there and I saw what you did
I saw it with my own two eyes
So you can wipe off the grin, I know where you've been
It's all been a pack of lies

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord
I've been waiting for this moment for all my life, Oh Lord
I can feel it in the air tonight, Oh Lord, Oh Lord
And I've been waiting for this moment all my life, Oh Lord, Oh Lord

Well I remember, I remember don't worry
How could I ever forget, it's the first time, the last time we ever met
But I know the reason why you keep your silence up, no you don't fool me
The hurt doesn't show; but the pain still grows
It's no stranger to you or me

And I can feel it coming in the air tonight, Oh Lord...

Clocks

Is it any wonder that Coldplay made a song we can't understand? People are still trying to figure what Coldplay actually means after all this time. And one of their signature songs, "Clocks" only adds to the Coldplay mystique.

That piano riff is one of the most distinctive introductions in recent history. But beyond that once you get into the lyrics, you somewhat lose that train of thought. I personally get caught up in the ooohs and ohs in the background.

However, I don't think Chris Martin really cares if we get it all that much as if we dig it and I don't think there's a way I can stop digging it. I do enjoy the aspect of how time is something that we consciously chase and hope to capture but it becomes pointless after a while since we can never fully control it.

This is probably one of the many songs that sold me on Coldplay for good, but they really had me at "Yellow." :)

"Clocks" Lyrics:

Lights go out and I can’t be saved
Tides that I tried to swim against
Brought me down upon my knees
Oh I beg, I beg and plead

Singin’, come out if things aren’t said
Shoot an apple off my head
And a, trouble that can’t be named
Tigers waitin’ to be tamed

Singing, yooooooooooooo ohhhhhh
Yoooooooooooo ohhhhhh

Confusion never stops
Closing walls and ticking clocks
Gonna, come back and take you home
I could not stop that you now know

Singin’, come out upon my seas
Curse missed opportunities
Am I, a part of the cure
Or am I part of the disease

Singin’, yoooooooooooo ohhhhhh
Yooooooooooooo ohhhhhh
Yooooooooooooo ohhhhhh
Yooooooooooooo ohhhhhh

Yooooooooooooo ohhhhhh
Yooooooooooooo ohhhhhh

Oh nothing else compares
Oh nothing else compares
And nothing else compares

Yooooooooooooo ohhhhhh
Yooooooooooooo ohhhhhh

Home, home, where I wanted to go
Home, home, where I wanted to go
Home, home, where I wanted to go
Home, home, where I wanted to go

Bennie and The Jets

While "Bennie and The Jets" helped to cement Elton John's position in pop music in the 1970s, many of us have spent a good bit of time trying to figure out what he's talking about. It's just as confusing as it is catchy. But it sure does make a great karaoke song to sing after a few too many rounds of the happy sauce like this clip from "27 Dresses" shows.

Regardless of what we think the song is about, Elton John once again makes it easy for us to pretend we are British and somewhat cooler than we really are. As much as I'd like to know what this song is about, it's almost more fun for us to insinuate meaning and come with our own interpretations and anecdotes.

Bennie and the Jets Lyrics:


Hey kids, shake it loose together
The spotlight's hitting something
That's been known to change the weather
We'll kill the fatted calf tonight
So stick around
You're gonna hear electric music
Solid walls of sound

Say, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Oh But they're so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they're weird and they're wonderful
Oh Bennie she's really keen
She's got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine oh oh
Bennie and the Jets

Hey kids, plug into the faithless
Maybe they're blinded
But Bennie makes them ageless
We shall survive, let us take ourselves along
Well we fight our parents out in the streets
To find who's right and who's wrong

Oh, Candy and Ronnie, have you seen them yet
Oh But they're so spaced out, Bennie and the Jets
Oh but they're weird and they're wonderful
Oh Bennie she's really keen
She's got electric boots a mohair suit
You know I read it in a magazine oh oh
Bennie and the Jets
REPEAT

That's All for Now

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this hub. I look forward to your feedback.

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Comments 8 comments

acc12 profile image

acc12 5 years ago

Fun hub! Cryptic songs are like abstact paintings - you see in them whatever you're going through at the time. Guess that's what makes them timeless. Voted up!


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Yeah, I think that is an appropriate analogy.


FloraBreenRobison profile image

FloraBreenRobison 5 years ago

In the air tonight I know really well. I must have heard it around the time it was released. It is one of my favourites. Benny and the Jets I never warmed to. I am not familiar with Coldplay in general. Upon hearing the Phil Collins song for the first time, I thought that he was talking about someone who did something so inhumane in the eyes of Collins who saw him do it that he wants this person to know that not only would he not help this person if he were drowning but also that he wants the world to know how horrible the person is. That was my interpretation.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Yeah, I love "In the Air Tonight" as well. I never really cared about the meaning, the song is so amazing that it just never gets old. Thanks for stopping by Flora!


bethperry profile image

bethperry 5 years ago from Tennesee

Fascinating hub, Alecia. Voted up.

I always loved the Elton John song, "Daniel" (lyrics by Bernie Taupin) but didn't know who Daniel was until I saw one of his taped performances on VH-1. Once I understood the meaning of this beautiful song it made me appreciate it all the more. Very, very touching.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Beth for stopping by. I don't think I've heard Daniel, but I'm interested to listen to it now.


Cogerson profile image

Cogerson 5 years ago from Virginia

Very nicely done...the song I am the most familiar with is Phil Collins' In the Air Tonight...I have always heard the story that the song was about a man drowning...but I never could understand that thought process when I really looked at the words....but reading your hub and reading what Collins says about his own song...makes the lyrics make much more sense.....Benny and the Jets is a classic song even if we do not know what he is really talking about..thanks for another awesome hub...voted up and interesting.


Alecia Murphy profile image

Alecia Murphy 5 years ago from Wilmington, North Carolina Author

Thanks Cogerson. Yeah, I realize that Phil Collins was trying to illuminate the shadows in his life and it gives the song a richer context. Benny and the Jets is just fun, I don't really care what it's about. I just love hearing that piano riff. Thanks again for stopping by.

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