This Bruce Springsteen song is not a patriotic anthem but a tale of a Vietnam vet whose American citizenship entitles him to nothing but further misery in his blighted hometown.
Columnist George Will took the song's bitter chorus as a ''grand, cheerful affirmation'' and suggested that President Reagan contact Springsteen about a re-election endorsement. The campaign's overtures were rebuffed, but Reagan nevertheless commended the hopeless song's ''message of hope'' at a campaign stop in New Jersey.
This Police song is not as romantic as many think, given that it is about a sinister, obsessive stalker.
Singer Sting has expressed bewilderment at how the song is taken for ''a gentle little love song'': ''One couple told me, 'Oh, we love that song! It was the main song played at our wedding!' I thought, 'Well, good luck.'''
This Bruce Springsteen song is not a celebration of great times, but a meditation on how good times very quickly disappear forever.
It's also worth noting that the lives of the people in the song peak in their mid-teens: one has some success as a high school pitcher, and another is, briefly, young and attractive. By graduation they're already over the hill.
Whitney Houston's cover of this Dolly Parton song about a departing lover is very popular at weddings despite lines such as ''We both know I'm not what you need.''
That couples planning their weddings might not realize that the song is about a breakup is perhaps due to Houston's performance, which, according to the Los Angeles Times, manages to ''drain all the heart-rending sadness out of the song.''
This Iggy Pop song has been used to advertise everything from Caribbean cruises to a Rugrats movie, despite W.S. Burroughs-inspired lyrics about liquor, drugs, and flesh machines.
The Onion summed up the frequent appearance of this song in commercials with the immortal headline, ''Song About Heroin Used To Advertise Bank.''
This John Cougar Mellencamp song is not an ode to the charms of the American heartland, but a portrait of economic inequality that decries upward mobility as a myth.
Both John McCain's 2008 presidential campaign and NOM's campaign against same-sex marriage have played this song at their events before being contacted by Mellencamp's people and informed that their agendas and that of the song were diametrically opposed.
This Beatles song is not a call to arms but a statement against the use of violence to bring about change.
This song was infamously used, over the protests of the surviving Beatles, by Nike to promote the ''world-changing'' qualities of its shoes.
This seemingly optimistic Timbuk3 song became popular at graduations, despite being a caustic tale of a blithe yuppie who helps bring about armageddon in exchange for beer money.
This song popped up on all sorts of movie and TV soundtracks in the '80s, perhaps most memorably in a ''Head of the Class'' episode that seemed to miss the song's point that the singer's ''good grades'' get him a job building nuclear weapons.
This R.E.M. song has been a popular radio dedication for decades, even though anyone who requests it is calling his or her sweetheart ''a simple prop to occupy my time.''
Singer Michael Stipe quickly resigned himself to the nastiness of the song going right over listeners' heads, telling Rolling Stone in 1987 that ''It's probably better that they just think it's a love song at this point.''
This frequently covered Percy Sledge song is not a celebration of devotion, but a tale of how devotion has blinded the singer to how his paramour has ''played him for a fool.''
This song was famously used to score the first kiss in ''The Wonder Years''; it's probably just as well that Daniel Stern then talked over the lyrics about the singer's misery.