Listening to Beatles’ songs on the radio feels like teleporting to the sixties even though we were born decades later. Music is, in a sense, a medium for time traveling. The twentieth century was the birth of all the music genres that we love today: jazz, blues, pop, rock n’ roll and all of its offspring. It’s always fun to take a long nostalgic look into the past just by listening to them. When we listen closely to the lyrics of these songs, a hidden voice slowly unravels itself. It’s the voice of an older time, when making music was also a ruthless practice, one where people wouldn’t care if anyone was offended by their words. Nowadays, social media has raised awareness on the hidden and horrible political suggestions in our culture, so none of these songs would get airplay if they were released now.
“Wives and Lovers” (1963) — Jack Jones
Jones’ hit, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, made it to the charters in the sixties. Singing with charm and an impeccable smile, he gives a message that no feminist would tolerate nowadays: that being married doesn’t mean a wife should stop pleasing her husband. The lyrics even imply that if the wives don’t care about their looks, their spouses will end up cheating on them: “Day after day there are girls in the office and men will always be men/ Don’t stand him up, with your hair still in curlers, you may not see him again.” A jazzy tune overflowing with patriarchal vibes.
“Illegal Alien” (1983)— Genesis
This song, surprisingly made by an English band, is one of the most racist out there. The worst part of is that it was meant to be a joke. However, we’re way past the point in which mocking other people’s cultures through stereotypes could make people laugh. Phil Collins takes it even further by singing in character with a fake Mexican accent. The worst part of it is that the song was probably meant to be a funny concept taken to a song, but believe me, there’s nothing fun in dealing with brutal Border Security. Phil sings in the chorus, “it’s not fun being an illegal alien”…That’s right Phil, its not fun at all. It’s something you shouldn’t laugh about.
“Under My Thumb” (1966) — The Rolling Stones
Even though it has one of the sweetest harmony lines in the Stones’ discography, “Under My Thumb” is a first person point of view song that portrays a relationship where the man has subjugated the woman, to the point that he’s the one who decides what she wears and what she does. He even brags about making her the “sweetest pet in the world.” A song promoting the degradation of women as much as this one does wouldn’t be so accepted nowadays.
“Run for your Life” (1965) — The Beatles
How can you make a pop song out of a murderous threat? In this song, Lennon sings about his jealousy to an unnamed girlfriend that he refers to as “little girl”. The singer makes it clear that if she’s not with him, she won’t be with anybody. The tone is so menacing that it even implies murder in the chorus: “catch you with another man, that’s the end of little girl”. Today, no one would ever doubt that these lyrics were made by a misogynistic psychopath. Lennon regretted writing the song, though, and he named it his least favorite Beatles’ song.
“More than Words” (1991) — Extreme
Everyone loves the nineties right? It was the time of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, The Simpsons, and grunge music, a very needed twist to rock music. Who would’ve thought that one of our favorite power ballads of the decade could be ruined by its mansplaining lyrics? Being a hard-rock band, the constant objectification should come as no surprise to this kind of music. They’re like the ugly cousins of Mötley Crüe, who up to this day still perform with strippers. “More Than Words” feels like a heartfelt song, but listening carefully to its lyrics shows that they’re like the line frat-bros say when they try to have sex. It’s like asking for the proof of love: “More than words is all I ever needed you to show/ That you wouldn’t have to say that you love me / Cause I’d already know” is just a smoother way of saying: “if you love me, let’s have sex.”
Can you think of any other songs that would make it to the list?
If you’re into classic rock, listen to Led Zepellin’s 10 most erotic songs and be enthralled by the enigmatic story behind John Lennon’s most spiritual song.