Lyrics: Learning the Real Meaning Behind the Lingo

Lately I’ve found myself really jammin’ out to some songs on the radio. As I scream out the lyrics, I stop myself midway through and realize what exactly is coming out of my mouth. A lot of these songs have become so popular because they are so catchy, but I don’t think people really pay attention to the meaning behind their lyrics. A song may seem harmless, but it has a lot of influence on people, especially younger generations who listen to this type of music.

Example #1: Maroon 5’s “Feelings”

The entire song hints at basically making someone (I’m going to go ahead and make the assumption that it’s a girl, for the purpose of this post) cheat on her boyfriend. The lyrics try to convince this mystery girl why she should cheat on her boyfriend. Besides that, the line that really made me hit pause goes as follows:

If you want me take me home and let me use you

Umm, excuse me? Songs like this are basically promoting the objectification of women. Let you use me? The female body, or any body for that matter, is not an object to be used and then thrown to the side. It’s one thing to encourage cheating, but it’s another to talk about using women just for sex.

Example #2: Justin Bieber’s “What Do You Mean”

It’s not hard to point out the problem with this song. Almost all of the lyrics are pressuring someone (again, assuming it’s about a girl) into having sex. These lyrics are promoting rape culture at its finest.

When you don’t want me to move/ But you tell me to go/ What do you mean?

Hey Justin, just wondering: how do you know she doesn’t want you to move? If she’s telling you to go, I think she means go. And that involves moving.

Better make up your mind/ What do you mean?


Now you’re pressuring her? What happens if she doesn’t make up her mind? What are you going to do? It seems to me like she’s given you multiple signs to back off, you just haven’t caught onto them yet. There is even a sound of a ticking clock at the beginning of the song that gives off a sense of urgency. This song can bring an all-too relatable situation to mind, especially for women. Pressure to consent to sex unfortunately is something that happens too often and Bieber’s song is only making it seem more okay to do this.

It’s always been common for popular songs to feature language that is more than inappropriate. However, I feel like I’ve been hearing it more than usual lately. Although I’m definitely guilty of singing along to these songs from time to time, I always feel wrong doing so. If we keep promoting music that is degrading or harmful to others, specifically women, then we can’t expect anything to change.

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