Behind-The-Scenes Facts About Songs That Got Us Like A Good Beat Drop

Ashley Hunte
A pair of headphones resting next to a shelf full of old records.
Unsplash | blocks

A hit song becomes a hit in the first place because it strikes all the right chords (pun intended). It makes you feel nostalgic, or angry, or sad, or incredibly happy. Or maybe it's something you can dance to.

And I don't know about you, but knowing behind-the-scenes facts about some of my favorite songs always makes me appreciate them more. So here are some cool facts about hit songs hat might make you think of them in a new light.

Frank Ocean - "Novacane."

"I was just trying to connect or articulate the feeling of being numb, like the feeling of somebody trying to love you but you can't feel it," Ocean said in a 2012 interview about the song. "The feeling of wanting to feel something you can't feel."

The Temptations - "I Wish It Would Rain."

The writer of the song, Roger Penzaben, unfortunately took his life just two weeks after the track released in 1967. He wrote the song about the heartbreak he felt after learning of his wife's infidelity, and wished for rain to hide his tears.

The Beatles - "Hey Jude."

According to Paul McCartney, who gave an interview in 2018, "Hey Jude" was written for John Lennon's son Julian after Lennon and his wife began their divorce proceedings. It was mean to be a sort of comfort for the boy.

Aerosmith - "Dude (Looks Like a Lady)."

As it turns out, the song is, in fact, about a dude who looked a little bit like a Lady. It came about when Steven Tyler and the rest of Aerosmith were at a bar one day, and Tyler mistakenly thought Vince Neil from Motley Crew was a woman.

Dolly Parton - "9 to 5."

Parton recorded the sound of her nails hitting each other for the record, because they made a sound similar to that of a typewriter. Apparently, it says "Nails by Dolly" on the album.

Michael Jackson - "Billie Jean."

In the '80s, Jackson was no stranger to love letters from fans. But one fan took the letters too far, constantly pestering Jackson about being the father of her child, and how they would be so happy together. And that's how "Billie Jean" was born.

The Kinks - "Lola."

The song is about a man who falls in love with a woman who is actually a man. The story came from Ray Davies's manager, who had been dancing with someone he'd mistaken for a woman at a club.

Lil Nas X - "Old Town Road."

When he was in his first year of college, Lil Nas X failed a math class. But instead of retaking it, he began making music for his Twitter followers, and realized that he wanted to do that for a living. I don't think anyone was expecting "Old Town Road" to blow up the way it did.

John Legend - "All of Me."

"All of Me" is arguably Legend's biggest hit. The inspiration for the song came from a pretty obvious place: his relationship with wife Chrissy Teigen. Apparently, Teigen knew right away the song was about her, and cried when she first heard it.

Billie Eilish - "Bellyache."

While a lot of songs are written using the writer's personal experiences, Eilish wrote "Bellyache" from the eyes of a character. In actuality, it's from the point of view of a serial killer (which Billie Eilish is not).

The Fray - "How to Save a Life."

Frontman Isaac Slade wrote the song using his experiences as a camp mentor for trouble teens: "One of the kids I was paired up with was a musician. Here I was, a protected suburbanite, and he was just 17 and had all these problems. And no one could write a manual on how to save him."

Jimi Hendrix - "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)."

In an interview, Hendrix explained how the song came to be while he was recording. They were being filmed, and came up with the song on the spot when essentially asked to look like they were making music.

Taylor Swift - "Death by a Thousand Cuts."

In a radio interview, Swift explained that the song was inspired by the Netflix movie, Something Great. "For a week, I start waking up from dreams that I'm living out that scenario, that that's happening to me," she said. "I have these lyrics in my head based on the dynamics of these characters."

Led Zeppelin - "All My Love."

The story behind the song is actually incredibly tragic. It's about the death of Karac, Robert Plant's son who was only five years old. "I think it was just paying tribute to the joy that (Karac) gave us as a family and, in a crazy way, still does occasionally," Plant said.

Childish Gambino - "This is America."

The "This is America" music video defies explanation -- mainly because Donald Glover himself refuses to explain it. "I think it's just something that should just be out there ... it's for the people," he said.

Alicia Keys - "If I Ain't Got You."

Alicia Keys wrote the song after learning about Aaliyah's death in a plane crash. She was in a plane herself, and felt an enormous amount of perspective. She explained, "there was just this sentiment of being present in the moment and really nothing else mattering but those you love."

Fleetwood Mac - "Landslide."

Stevie Nicks wrote the song, and it's about the breakup she and Lindsey Buckingham had before the two joined the band. The two were struggling to make ends meet as songwriters, and faced a lot of financial uncertainty.

Bonnie Raitt - "I Can't Make You Love Me."

Songwriter Allen Shamblin explained that the song was inspired by a homeless man's story: "The way I remember what was said in the story, there was a guy living under a bridge, somewhere close to downtown Nashville, and in the story, he said his wife came to pick him up, under the bridge, and took him down to the courthouse to get a divorce... And he said, 'You know, you just can’t make a woman love you.'"

Beyoncé - "Partition."

Beyoncé came up with the lyrics for partition on the spot: "I'm in the studio and I hear this bass line and this beat. It has snaps, and it has two tracks — it's very simple. It takes me back to when me and my husband first met and he's trying to scoop me and he thinks I'm the hottest thing in the world."

Harry Styles - "Falling."

Styles wrote the song in around 20 minutes, saying in an interview, "I was going out for dinner and I was getting picked up from Tom's house. As I came out of the shower, he was playing. I went and stood next to him at the piano, just in a towel, and we just wrote the whole thing."