11 '90s Lyrics That Have Surprising Meanings

The '90s. They were the best of times... OK, they were the best of times. At least, for music. Sure any kid who grew up in the '70s, '80s, or whenever else will tell you that their decade of youth was full of the most shining musical moments in recent history, but you, as a '90s kid, know that's not true. You have a wealth of '90s songs knowledge — and a very worn out disc player — to prove that fact. Just one listen to the beats, and maybe even more importantly, one look at the lyrics of your favorite jams from the decade, will instantly prove the musical superiority of the '90s. Except for one small caveat: Now that we are out of the '90s and can look back on all our old favorite songs, the real meaning behind some '90s lyrics might come as a surprise.

Like the decade itself, many songs from the '90s are remembered for their catchiness and yes even their simplicity. However, a lot of the song lyrics you so fondly recall have more depth and nuance than your tiny little ears could have ever imagined. From a boy band jam that meditates on the passage of time, to giving birth, to crystal meth — the real meaning behind these '90s lyrics might surprise you.

1. "MMMbop"

HansonVEVO on YouTube


Though the lyric "MMMbop" seemed like a catchy, yet arbitrary combination of two unrelated sounds ("MMM" and "bop", repsectively), these lyrical boy geniuses say that wasn't the case at all. In an interview in 2004, Zac Hanson explained, "MMMBop represents a frame of time or the futility of life. Things are going to be gone, whether it's your age and your youth, or maybe the money you have, or whatever it is, and all that's going to be left are the people you've nurtured and have really built to be your backbone and your support system." Woah. Deep.

2. "... Baby One More Time"

BritneySpearsVEVO on YouTube

"Hit me baby one more time."

While I remember being weirded out by this title, I always knew that the lyric wasn't literal. The actual meaning behind the song, of course, just means "call" (you know, like "hit me up"), but given how many things it could have meant, this comes as a bit of a surprise.

3. "Slide"

Goo Goo Dolls on YouTube

"Do you wanna get married, or run away?"

"Slide" sounds mostly like a romantic song in which a young man implores a woman to spend the rest of her life with him. But, it turns out, the whole song is actually about an abortion.

4. "Closing time"

SemisonicVEVO on YouTube

"Time for you to go out to the places you will be from."

Until recently, most listeners assumed closing time was — like its title suggests — about the closing time of a bar. Nope. It's not about having to leave a bar. It's about having to leave the womb. Lead singer Dan Wilson penned the track while his wife was pregnant.

5. "Waterfalls"

TLCVEVO on YouTube

"Three letters took him to his final resting place."

A song that seems to be instructing us all to stick to the rivers and lakes that we are used to has so much else going on. For instance, drug dealing, and the aforementioned three letters: H.I.V.

6. "No Rain"

BlindMelonVEVO on YouTube

"I like watchin' the puddles gather rain."

"No Rain" — with its happy beat and anti-rain title — seems like it's an upbeat song, but lyrics like "I like watchin' puddles gather rain" point to a subject matter concerning depression.

7. "Semi-Charmed Life"

uesertest on YouTube

"I want something else to get me through this semi-charmed kind of life."

And that "something else" just happens to be drugs. Crystal meth is even referenced point blank in the song ("Doing crystal myth / Will lift you up until you break").

8. "Crash Into Me"

davematthewsbandVEVO on YouTube

"Oh, I watch you there through the window and I stare."

The Dave Matthews Band song, sweet as it might have sounded at first, has a real creepy underlayer. Take for instance, the lyric that paints the singer as a peeping tom — staring through the window at a girl. Uninvited. Eek.

9. "Zombie"

TheCranberriesVEVO on YouTube

"It's the same old theme since 1916."

While you probably thought "Zombie" was about being tired, or, I don't know, actual Zombies (it was hard to make out the lyrics entirely, to be honest), the song has a political meaning. It was about the IRA bombing in Warrington, Cheshire in 1993, and a plea to remove British troops from Northern Ireland.

10. "One Week"

Warner Bros. Records on YouTube

"Chickity China the Chinese chicken/ You have a drumstick and your brain stops tickin'/ Watchin X-Files with no lights on."

The surprising meaning behind this one is that it actually has no meaning. According to a 1998 interview with the LA Times, the band's guitar player (Ed Robertson) was suffering from some writer's block so he wrote a bunch of random freestyle and called it a day.

11. "Macarena"

ufraji margano on YouTube

"Macarena tiene un novio que se llama/ Que se llama de apellido Vitorino/ Y en la jura de bandera el muchacho/ Se la dio con dos amigos"

"Macarena" — despite its super dance beat and cult-like following — is about a girl named Macarena who cheats on her boyfriend with two different guys. The lyric above roughly translates to: "Macarena has a boyfriend who is called Vitorino and was swearing for the flag as a soldier while she had two pals for dinner." I'll give you a moment to let this all sink in.

Alright, so maybe your untrained ears didn't pick up all these hidden meanings, but I think we can all agree that the confusion is also part of the fun.

Images: BritneySpearsVEVO/YouTube