Behind The Lines

The message in the music is not all that it may seem.


Damien Grise, Writer-East

Ever wonder what a song’s meaning is?

For the past forty years, Phil Collins’s In The Air Tonight (released in January 1981) has generated quite a few urban legends to go with it–some fake…but only one real.

First off, the largest rumor coming from fans of Collins is that the song is about a crime that Collins witnessed and that  the song is directed toward the person who committed that crime. Usually, the supposed story of a” witnessed crime” involves the subject of murder or a killing. But, wait! That isn’t all! Some fans have even said that Collins invited the supposed killer to one of his concerts and performed In The Air Tonight while calling out the killer, supposedly getting the person arrested. However, there have been no reports of any of that happening at any of his concerts.

So, now, the big question is this: Is any of it true? The answer is “No.” Why? Because Phil Collins himself has stated in an interview that the song was about him going through a divorce.

“That’s weird’’ states Jayden Fay, a freshman at Elkhart-East, when told about the urban legend. “It’s weird that it would be about a murder,’’ he clarifies. Fay goes on to state that the murder scenario doesn’t even fit the song. However, he thinks divorce scenario makes more sense–which it should, since it is, in fact, the truth.

Although Fay does know that song by Collins very well, he was not remotely aware that there was a story behind it whatsoever. However, he is also fully aware that songs do contain stories behind them most of the time. Take, for instance, Penelope Scott’s song Rat. It has been keeping its place on the charts for a while now, staying at No. 9 on the Top 100 on Genius charts. After sifting through the questionable language, one might see that it is said to be “a breakup letter to the tech cult that is Silicon Valley.” Scott is talking about how she looked up to scientists and Silicon Valley, and she looked down on church. The actual first name of the song was Elongated Muskrat as a reference to Elon Musk. She also explores the idea of the conflicting views on modern wealth–of hating on the rich while also idolizing them.

So, next time listening to a song, don’t assume to know what it’s really about. It could be that a “breakup song” by Nick Jonas is really about diabetes.

Want to know about more back-stories to songs? Check out this list of 20 Songs With Hidden Meanings.