We usually think of popular songs as being upbeat/happy, danceable, melancholy, or emotionally evocative. What about songs that are thematically or sonically creepy? Although the meanings of these 4 songs may be clear, some are also more esoteric and open to interpretation. In these cases, listeners continue to debate what the songwriter meant.
1. “Sunny Came Home” by Shawn Colvin:
This song, which won Song of the Year and Record of the Year at the 1998 Grammys, is about arson. Sunny is a woman who decides to set fire to her house, possibly with her husband still in it. To her credit, though, she does take her children out of the house before it burns to the ground.
Selected lyrics: “Sunny came home with a mission…Sunny came home with a vengeance…Strike a match, Go on and do it.”
2. “Jenny Was A Friend of Mine” by The Killers:
This song is the first track of The Killers’ debut album, nominated for a Grammy for Best Rock Album in 2005. The narrator murders Jenny (this song is the third part of a trilogy of murder songs), and it relates the experience of the cops interrogating the narrator for his crime. He denies any wrongdoing, and the song ends before we find out what happens to him.
Selected lyrics: “She couldn’t scream while I held her close…There ain’t no motive for this crime, Jenny was a friend of mine.”
3. “Every Breath You Take” by The Police/Sting:
This song was #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 singles chart for 8 weeks in 1983. Although a perfunctory listen makes the song sound like a love song, the narrator is actually a stalker. Sting himself explained the song as one about obsession, jealousy, and surveillance.
Selected lyrics: “Every breath you take, every move you make…every step you take, I’ll be watching you.”
4. “Yearbook” by Hanson:
This track from Middle of Nowhere, the band’s debut album that sold 10 million copies worldwide, is a bit mysterious. The song details the reactions of Johnny’s classmates a year after his disappearance. Johnny, perhaps the victim of a kidnapping, is missing from the school’s yearbook. To the anger of the narrator, adults aren’t telling anyone what happened to Johnny.
Selected lyrics: “There’s a name without a picture, but I can’t forget his face…It makes me mad to know somebody knows, There’s a lying in your silence, Tell me, where did Johnny go?…None of us will ever be the same…the rumors of Johnny’s mystery.”