We’ve listened to our favourite tunes time and again, but have we paid closer attention to the lyrics? Sure, some of the words can range from cryptic to downright confusing. But what if we dug a little deeper? Tuber embarked on a little excavation mission to uncover the hidden (and unexpected) life lessons from famous hits. Read on to find out!


1. “Let it Be” by The Beatles

Back story: On what inspired this iconic tune, Paul McCartney explained in an interview that his late mother had appeared in a dream, reassuring him that “it’s going to be okay. Just let it be.” These words came at a time when the singer was facing an uncertain time with the band. “Let it Be” ended up becoming the title track of the final Beatles album, heralding the end of The Beatles era.

Possible lesson: Trust the universe and let go of the need to be in control. It’s okay to not have all the answers.


2. “Sign of the Times” by Harry Styles

Back story: Following the band’s split, the former One Direction star captured fans’ hearts with this moody piano ballad as his debut single. But beneath the gentle melody lies a darker story: in an interview with Rolling Stone, Styles shared that the song was about a dying woman who, after having just given birth, had only five minutes to tell her child, “Go forth and conquer.” As the lyrics advise: “We should open up/ Before it’s all too much”.

Possible life lesson: Life is short. Cherish our loved ones while we still can.


3. “True Colours” by Cyndi Lauper

Back story: Whether you first heard this classic on the radio or through the movie, Trolls, “True Colours” has been a go-to comfort tune over the years. In an interview, Lauper spoke of the need to quiet down during moments of self-doubt and heed an inner voice, which whispers: “It’s gonna be okay” in order to embrace who we are.

Possible life lesson: Be proud of ourselves and all the traits that make us unique.


4. “dear me,” by Gentle Bones

Back story: Performed by Singaporean singer-songwriter, Joel Tan, better known as Gentle Bones, “dear me,” is an introspective song about self-love and validation. “Was it you/ was it?”, sings Tan, in a dialogue with himself. In an interview, the singer described “dear me” as his way of thanking himself for getting through hard times.

Possible life lesson: Acknowledge your efforts and give yourself credit. Be your own cheerleader.


5. “Waterfalls” by TLC

Back story: Many remember the catchy chorus of this 90s hit: “Don’t go chasing waterfalls/ Please stick to the rivers and the lakes that you’re used to”. At first listen, the song seems to discourage one from dreaming “too big”, but its lyrics also convey the importance of being mindful of consequences, and prioritising one’s health and well-being.

Possible life lesson: We all have big, splashy ambitions, but let’s also keep our feet planted firmly on the ground.


6. “You’re On Your Own, Kid” by Taylor Swift

Back story: Fans of Taylor Swift (or “Swifties”) would be familiar with the ups and downs accompanying the musician’s life and professional journey. The start of this light, boppy number chronicles Swift’s struggles in love, friendship and her career over the years. However, there’s always a turning point, she stresses: “Everything you lose is a step you take/ So make the friendship bracelets, take the moment and taste it/ You’ve got no reason to be afraid.”

Possible life lesson: We can bounce back from our setbacks and emerge stronger. Take challenges in our stride and face the future confidently.


7. “Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel

Back story: “Hello darkness, my old friend.” The opening line to this famous number has become a facetious, almost meme-worthy way to express anguish. But the real story is much more inspirational. Garfunkel had a college friend who suddenly lost his sight and sunk into depression. “Sound of Silence” was inspired by Garfunkel’s experience of being there for his friend.

Possible life lesson: We all need people we can lean on during difficult moments. Be that light to a friend in need.


8. “Believer” by Imagine Dragons

Back story: This empowering anthem springs from a story of struggle. Imagine Dragon’s frontman Dan Reynolds channelled the anguish he endured as a sufferer of Ankylosing spondylitis, an inflammatory arthritis, into the song’s lyrics. “Pain!/ You made me a, you made me a believer, believer”. “Believer”conveys the power of transcending physical suffering and turning pain into art.

Possible life lesson: Don’t shy away from pain. There is meaning in the struggle.


9. “Hello” by Adele

Back story: In this soul-crushing ballad, Adele belts, “Hello from the other side/ I must’ve called a thousand times/ To tell you I’m sorry for everything that I’ve done”. “Hello” can be interpreted as a lover trying to reach out to a past flame. But Adele clarified that the song was really about reconnecting with her younger self. She shared in an interview that she felt like a stranger to herself after becoming a new mother, and the experience spurred her to pen “Hello”.

Possible life lesson: It’s normal to be wistful as we move through our different seasons of life. We will change and grow constantly.


10. “What Would You Do?” By Honne and Pink Sweat$

Back story: Early in 2020, music duo Honne posed this existential question: “Let’s just say the world ended a week from now/ What would you do?” Little did they know the world would be plunged into uncertainty when the COVID-19 pandemic hit. The song’s message is clear: to treasure our loved ones. “And why not?” asked Honne in an interview, “The world is ending.”

Possible life lesson: Doomsday may not be seven days away, but who really knows? Seize everyday like it’s our last.


11. “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” by Elton John

Back story: Longtime collaborator of Elton John, Bernie Taupin, wrote this song when pining for a simpler life amid John’s booming music career. “I was just hoping that maybe there was a happy medium way to exist successfully in a more tranquil setting,” claimed Taupin. This well-known number is named after the Yellow Brick Road from The Wizard of Oz, symbolising the path towards success. However, its lyrics speak of taking another route – one that “lies beyond the Yellow Brick Road”.

Possible life lesson: We can make our own way by redefining what success means to us.


12. “Lose You To Love Me” by Selena Gomez

Back story: While fans have speculated that this break-up ballad is about her tumultuous romance with Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez clarified in her documentary that the song is not just about “lost love”, but also about self-discovery. “This dancing was killing me softly/ I needed to hate you to love me” go the lyrics, which speak of letting go of relationships that no longer serve us.

Possible life lesson: Move on from people who drag us down. We are enough.


13. “Don’t Dream It’s Over” by Crowded House

Back story: Without listening to this song, the title, “Don’t Dream It’s Over” seems ambiguous. Does it hold a grim message or a hopeful one? Its uplifting melody hints that it’s the latter. Thankfully Crowded House lead singer Neil Finn confirmed in a podcast that the lyrics (“When the world comes in/ They come, they come/ To build a wall between us/ You know they won’t win”) are about staying the course in the face of challenges.

Possible life lesson: Don’t give up just yet. As long as we’re alive, there’s hope in any situation.


14. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” by Green Day

Back story: Lead singer of Green Day, Billie Armstrong, wrote this soulful number after losing his father to cancer. As a 10-year-old, he had locked himself in his room after the funeral, telling his mother, “Wake me up when September ends”. Later, the song also came to hold significance for people who experienced tragic events like the 9/11 terrorist attacks and Hurricane Katrina.

Possible life lesson: Grieve, but also honour the lives of those who’ve gone before us.


15. “Sincerity is Scary” by The 1975

Back story: In this feel-good track, rock band The 1975 critiques the façade people put up to hide their true selves, especially on social media. Ingenuity is the undesirable result, the lyrics imply, when people refuse to be sincere: “And why would you believe you could control how you’re perceived”.

Possible life lesson: Everybody sees through a false persona. Stop hiding behind a mask and be genuine.

Text by: Erin Liam and Rachel Tey | Illustration by: Liew Xinyi