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10 songs you didn't know were about drugs

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After we heard about that awkward product placement dispute concerning the Daily Mail, grime artists and casual racism, it made us realise just how little we might know about the inspiration for some of today’s hit songs.

It’s true that tonnes of the biggest hits have not so subtle references to substance abuse and some definite glorification of said illegal activity, but there are lots of tiny hints that we might have never have noticed without a little nudge.

Here’s some of the best known hits, that no one knows are actually a bit dodgy beneath the surface.

We Found Love – Rihanna ft. Calvin Harris

‘Yellow diamonds in the light’

You know that pretty yellow diamonds that make us think of lovely twinkly stars in the sky? Well the only place you could find those particular yellow diamonds is from someone with a much less sparkly aura. Yep - she’s talking about MDMA. There’s also a lot of visual cues in the video, with scattered pills around and a few dilated pupils.

I Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd

‘And I know she'll be the death of me, at least we'll both be numb...I can’t feel my face when I’m with you’

It’s not hard to tell that some intoxicants might be involved when you look at the title, but this song might as well be called 'An Ode to Cocaine'. There’s no explicit references, and it could be interpreted in a different way - but those paranoia vibes scream addiction to us - so just have another listen and keep that in the back of your mind.

 

Got to Get You into My Life – The Beatles

‘I was alone, I took a ride, I didn't know what I would find there Another road where maybe I, Could see another kind of mind there’

It’s almost impossible to sing With a Little Help From My Friends nowadays without someone reminding us of the hidden meaning, but here’s one you maybe didn’t know about. At first sight this tune seems like love song, but only for the love of a good high. “It's actually an ode to pot, like someone else might write an ode to chocolate or a good claret” - Paul McCartney didn’t dance around the subject.

Waterfalls – TLC

‘So, he goes out and he makes his money the best way he know how, Another body laying cold in the gutter’

We’re a little bit heartbroken about this one. Turns out that this isn’t just a great karaoke tune - under the surface, TLC are raising awareness to issues affecting teens in the nineties. The first verse is actually about a struggling mother and son, who is resorting to selling drugs to get by, and the waterfall is this case is actually a cash one. Woah.

Bad - U2

‘True colours fly in blue and black, Bruised silken sky and burning flag, Colours crash, collide in bloodshot eyes’

Lead singer Bono has been pretty clear about this one - it’s about drugs. He one introduced the song on stage as about a friend who had died of a heroin overdose on his 21st birthday. He has since continued to raise awareness for substance abuse through the song, later introducing it on stage in Chicago as "a song about a drug called heroin that's tearing our city in two, that's tearing the heart out of the city of Dublin, tearing the heart out of the city of Chicago."

Semi-Charmed Life - Third Eye Blind

‘The sky it was gold, it was rose, I was taking sips of it through my nose, And I wish I could get back there, Some place back there , Smiling in the pictures you would take, Doing crystal myth, Will lift you up until you break’

The chirpiest song of the nineties with the most cheerful video- is actually about a couple heading out to find some crystal meth. It’s not hard to tell when you go through the lyrics, and you could even find a dodgy meaning in the title - but it’s still a tune.

Gold Dust Woman – Fleetwood Mac

‘Take your silver spoon, dig your grave’

It’s no secret that the band were seriously doped up with cocaine in their Rumours era, and Stevie Nicks can’t even remember what they wrote the song about. She said that “it can’t all be about cocaine”, but with lines like "Take your silver spoon, dig your grave”, which supposedly represent the loading of the substance onto a spoon and the potential consequences of it, it’s hard to see it any other way.

Time to Pretend - MGMT

‘I’ll move to Paris, shoot some heroin and fuck with the stars / You man the island and the cocaine and the elegant cars’

This is one where you listen again and can’t believe you didn’t notice the first time. Like Third Eye Blind, this is a chirpy tune with several explicit references to substance abuse, like “we’ll choke on our vomit and that will be the end, we were fated to pretend”. Doesn’t sound quite so glamorous any more.

Needle in the Hay – Elliott Smith

‘I’m taking the cure / So I can be quiet whenever I want / So leave me alone / You ought to be proud that I’m getting good marks’

The late Elliott Smith was no stranger to substance abuse, and this one is a charming little tune about a couple on the search for some heroin. This one has slightly more poetic references than the others in the list, with a line about needle marks translating to “I’m taking the cure / So I can be quiet whenever I want / So leave me alone / You ought to be proud that I’m getting good marks”.

Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds - The Beatles

‘Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain, where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies. Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers that grow so incredibly high”

Those pesky beatles just can’t help themselves! Although they have strongly dismissed speculation surrounding the song- it’s totes about an acid trip. Just consider this line, and think about it: “Follow her down to a bridge by a fountain, where rocking horse people eat marshmallow pies. Everyone smiles as you drift past the flowers that grow so incredibly high.”




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