6 Pop Songs You Didn't Know Have A Social Message And You've Danced To Passionately
January 8, 2018|María Isabel Carrasco Cara Chards
Ever realized that the lyrics to a song you've danced have a different meaning than what you first thought of?
You probably know this by now, but in case you didn’t, prepare to have your mind blown away. You sure remember that lovely (and this is with all the sarcasm in the world) song of “Gangnam Style.” Well, for a long time I just thought it was one of those viral videos you laugh at, so it actually became viral due to its comedic tone. Well, it turns out this isn’t precisely the case. After a thorough research through the internet and making use of the not so reliable Google Translate, it seems the song was actually a social commentary. Those who are fluent in Korean, correct me if I’m wrong, but according to many articles and the little I could make with the mess the translator did, the song is a criticism to all those people who try to pretend to have a luxurious life, even if they have to eat the cheapest food in order to afford an expensive coffee to upload a picture to their social media. So, this discovery inspired me to make a list of songs we all have danced to fervently and that actually have a deep social message within.
“Born This Way” by Lady Gaga
Who hasn’t actually danced to Gaga’s hit? I mean the message in here might not be as hidden or mysterious, but still the rhythm of the song kind might distract you from really paying attention to the lyrics, especially if you’re dancing your ass off on a dance floor. Well, the song is all about self-acceptance of the gender or sexual orientation we identify with, no matter how society sees us. It’s also become a pro-LGBT anthem, since it goes against the conservative idea that sexual orientation or gender identity is something learned or that can be "cured" magically, as if it were a disease. So, as the chorus says, “I’m on the right track baby, I was born this way.”
“99 Red Balloons” by Nena
People used to think this awesome eighties' song was a random story about how the singer gets a set of balloons with some money she’s got. However, the story goes way beyond that. The German song talks about the fears and paranoia that reigned the world during the Cold War, especially in Germany on both sides of the wall. The song wonders what would happen if suddenly a balloon went into the East Germany, where information was controlled and people didn’t really know much of what was going on in the world (you can read more on the song’s story here).
“Together Again” by Janet Jackson
If you’re quite young, you might not know the song at all, but just play it right now while you read this and you’ll see that the beat and the atmosphere don’t quite match the theme. This cheerful tune is actually a tribute to the singer’s friend, who passed away from AIDS. According to Jim Jam, one of the producers, besides the story of her friend, she was inspired by a fan letter she received from a little boy who had lost his father to this terrible disease.
“Two Tribes” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood
Frankie Goes to Hollywood might be a name that doesn’t mean anything for many, and that is because their career wasn’t that successful as they expected. In fact, you might be more familiar with their biggest, and perhaps only remembered hit, “Relax,” which talked openly about homosexuality at a time when it was still a huge taboo. Now, bearing in mind that these guys didn’t mind making controversial songs, the one I chose for today has a more political tone. Here, they deal with people's fear of an upcoming nuclear war and didn't care about exposing many of the main politicians involved in the conflict.
“Paper Planes” by M.I.A.
I must admit I danced to this song so passionately when it was released. I rocked my gun and cash machine dance movements like none other (well, perhaps not), but it was not until quite recently when it was randomly played in my Spotify that I decided to pay more attention to the lyrics. The song is some sort of parody of the stereotypical yet quite common perception of immigrants through the world. Clearly when the chorus says, “all I want to do is (bang sounds) and take all your money” is making fun of people who don’t think on the cultural and social contributions of immigrants and only believe they're coming to their country to rob them.
“Chained to the Rhythm” by Katy Perry
You might be thinking, "what the hell is Katy Perry doing in this list?" and I must say that although I kind of like her, her songs don’t really shout social concern or anything like that. Now, don’t get too excited; the song isn’t precisely a dissertation on the social issues that afflict the world, but it actually goes beyond what she normally does. The song could be interpreted as a calling to become more aware of what’s going on in the world, instead of focusing only on the mundane and the comforts of the modern life.
Somehow there’s the common belief that pop is a void and vain genre that doesn’t have any meaningful content in its songs. Indeed, there are too many songs with these characteristics, but there’s no doubt that there have been singers and composers who have used this popular genre to talk about more serious subjects.
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