What Song Did You Not Understand?

To be fair, I was in fifth grade — 1999 — when “No Scrubs” came out. This means I was 11, and though I grew up the opposite of sheltered as a city kid in San Francisco, I was still just that: a kid.

Which means that contrary to my own beliefs I did not actually know everything, let alone anything, and I especially did not understand my favorite song that year.

“A scrub is a guy who thinks he’s fly
And is also known as a buster
Always talkin’ about what he wants
And just sits on his broke ass
So (no)

I don’t want your number (no)
I don’t want to give you mine and (no)
I don’t want to meet you nowhere (no)
I don’t want none of your time and (no)”

Ok. This part I got. It’s fairly self explanatory, and though I was light years away from dating, I knew that a scrub was a guy you did not want to date. But I didn’t understand why, because to me, he sounded pretty good! Let’s explore:

Always talkin’ about what he wants

He’s motivated!

And just sits on his broke ass

Well if his “butt” is broken he most likely can’t walk so he has to sit, right? Probably on one of those doughnut pillows my dad’s secretary used.

I don’t want no scrub 
A scrub is a guy that can’t get no love from me
Hanging out the passenger side / Of his best friend’s ride /Trying to holler at me

This part really threw me off. Since every boy I knew was also 11, they were lucky to sit in the passenger side of their best friend’s ride aka their mom’s Honda. Most of them had an older sibling who had shotty by nature of seniority, meaning that that majority of 11-year-olds I knew sat in the back. If Matt’s mom drove by with Matt hanging out the window as he shouted “Hi!” to me, I would have been THRILLED.

But a scrub is checkin’ me / But his game is kinda weak /And I know that he cannot approach me

Again, back to the age thing no boys in 5th grade has game. This may have been why the aforementioned “hi” would have sent my pre-pre-teen self on a puppy love tailspin.

I don’t want your number (no) / I don’t want to give you mine and (no)

Landlines, man. The ultimate bitch.

If you don’t have a car and you’re walking / Oh yes son I’m talking to you

Again. None of us had our cars. In fact, growing up in SF meant that 80% of us walked or took public transportation to school, regardless of parental car ownership.

If you live at home wit’ your momma / Oh yes son I’m talking to you (baby)

We not only ALL lived at home with our mommas but we also slept in sheets with cartoon characters on them. Can’t fault an 11-year-old for that.

Wanna get with me with no money / Oh no I don’t want no (oh)

No one had money. What 11-year-old has money? Those of us who did, for lunch, lost it before noon. My mom packed my lunch so I never had money. This wasn’t a concern.

And yet, I still sang along.

Your turn. What song did you not understand? Maybe you still don’t understand? Let’s break it down, and then let’s sing.

— Amelia Diamond

Image via Rollingout.com

  • Avery Cheatham-Banks

    “Wannabe” by the Spice Girls. Don’t get me wrong, I blared it on my boombox… I sang along. It was trill. But I never knew why my lover would have to get with my friends…that’s cause for a beatdown to both parties. The lyric that kills me now when I listen to it is “We got Em in the place who likes it in your face” …

    lovers+friends+putting it in your face= too much fun for the kindergartner I was when it was released.

  • Emma McLaughlin

    Someone please tell me where Stacy’s mom was going.

  • HAHA! It was between that song and my old favorite “Go Go Jason Wonderful” TLC had some jams. I saw the last concert before Left Eye died (RIP), it was the first concert I went to without a parent, which seems awfully irresponsible now. I think I was 12!!!!

    As for the rest of my songs: http://adeliberateimagination.wordpress.com/2014/02/06/baby-rappers/

    • Laura Mitchell

      Our friend always called it “Go go Jason’s Waterfall”

  • MSCFBeeches



    That damn song has one verse about relationships, a half-a-verse about plants and the rest of it is that series of sounds that made NOOO sense to me.


    • Amelia Diamond


  • Kate

    “Oops! …I Did it Again” I was 10 and I did not understand what she meant by “I’m not that innocent.” I remember asking my mom what the heck she meant and she just loled. Never understood why she wouldn’t accept the titanic necklace??? I would have done anything for that stupid necklace in third grade. I also didn’t understand how she got her hair to look like that in the music video, and I tried to recreate it so many times (unsuccessfully). https://www.google.com/search?q=britney+spears+oops+i+did+it+again&espv=2&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=KFDiU8ivIIfy8QHhtIC4CQ&sqi=2&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAg&biw=1920&bih=961#facrc=_&imgdii=_&imgrc=orAX9eipzkeSqM%253A%3BNDNgKwrvjDzTyM%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fdata3.whicdn.com%252Fimages%252F14610336%252Flarge.jpg%3Bhttp%253A%252F%252Fweheartit.com%252Fentry%252Fgroup%252F530644%3B400%3B600
    but I was so obsessed.

    • Leandra Medine

      omg. wait.

    • zallyhood

      I will never understand why she wouldn’t take the necklace!

  • Julia Adult Tambor

    This is amazing. Amelia, I love you.

  • Charlotte Fassler

    Just the other week I learned that Juicy J’s classic “Bandz a make her dance” is not referring to a girl who likes groovin’ to some funky bands….rather it is the rubber bands tightly holding together wads of ca$h to be thrown at strippers. Thanx Juicy. <3

    • Emma McLaughlin

      I thought it was about silly bandz not even kidding.

    • MSCFBeeches


  • Jas

    Ha! There was this song, it’s in Spanish, El Gusanito by El General. This was my summer jam and I thought it was like the “I guess I’ll go eat worms” song. I now know it to have innuendos every which way. My dad had to explain to me that a little girl shouldn’t be singing it and TO THIS DAY I still get teased.

  • Nicolette J.

    I like reading Manrepeller, but everytime you decipher the meaning of a song, I find it highly irritating. Especially when the song is self-explanatory. It’s just not funny. Like, ever.

    It’s almost reminiscent of the writers at Time magazine when they decipher meanings of self-explanatory words and phrases:

  • Lauren

    “Wasnt Me” by Shaggy was always confusing for mini me. Why are people lying naked on the floor of the bathroom. Did they miss the tub? And he gave a stranger the key to his house? Two words: Stranger. Danger.

    • Tara Jayne

      LOL this was also my experience. I was so confused as to why he felt he was being ‘caught’ when he just fell down.

  • Katie Turner

    My old babysitter and I used to use my Hello Kitty boombox to play my favorite Brittany Spears CD in which we would blast the song “I’m A Slave 4 U”… and I don’t remember if I really understood it or not, but I just remember the two of us dancing to it in my family room haha also I’m pretty sure it was always my idea to listen to that song, I think I just liked the sound of it!

  • Snow’s “Informer.”

    Then again, I don’t think even Snow knows what it means.

    I feel old now after reading some of the other comments…so thanks for that. 😉

    • sigh

      “boom boom down!”
      and yes, feeling old.

  • rhiarhia

    Not a pop song, but my manfriend just informed me that the summer camp song “Do Your Ears Hang Low” is not really about ears.

  • Victoria

    TLC – Waterfalls…i didn’t understand what the big deal was about going to a waterfall. like, why were you supposed to spend time at rivers and lakes instead of waterfalls? I thought TLC was trippin’ (i really only paid attention to the chorus, obviously)

  • Lol for me the song I had no clue about which is also by TLC is ‘Waterfalls.’ Um, it’s about HIV and here I was a 10 year old thinking it was romantic as can be! Or what about Jenny’s Got a Gun? Papa Don’t Preach? Fancy? The list is pretty endless!

    • Cristina Feather

      Waterfalls is about HIV????!!! I’m sorry, I’m still a kid on the inside.

  • Alexandra Puffer

    Hahaha I was so so sheltered – it took me YEARS to figure out meanings. I’m still all about rapgenius.com

    Warm Regards,

  • Ashley | StyleOnHigh

    In elementary, whilst listening to Salt n’ Pepa’s “Whatta Man,” when they say “touch me in the right spots” my little sister asked my mom AND DAD what the right spots were and it was the greatest day of my 10-year-old life. Btw, my mom answered “you know, like holding hands.” 🙂

  • exploring wardrobes

    omg do you remember that song that was all in spanish and it was either called ketchup or the band was? something like that anyway haha maybe it was a European thing? i know in UK it was HUGE


    • ha! see my comment; Asereje (The ketchup song) was my jam. 😀

    • Maui

      LOL, I was just thinking about it. and the dance! OMG!

    • Fashionably Sparkly

      Yess!! It was by a Spanish group called “Las Ketchup” and the song was “Asereje”, I used to know the lyrics to that song and the dance moves as well haha. I speak Spanish and I didn’t understand that song either, but I LOVED it haha.

      Fashionably Sparkly

  • Cherie

    Pass the Dutchie. Ahem.

  • Alexandra Evanson

    Thong Song by Sisquo. Being from Down Under I genuinely thought the songs was about shoes (we call flip flops or whatever you call them Things)

  • This was literally my inner dialogue while listening to this song as a ‘tween’. I guess it was talking about an older demographic, but then..how old a demographic did TLC REALLY have?

    • Amelia Diamond

      I think TLC’s demographic was EVERYONE. Who didn’t / doesn’t like TLC?!

  • Tegan

    Mine is Who gon stop me by Jay Z and Kanye from the Watch the Throne album. When Jay Z sings “Black strap you know what that’s forrrrrr!” I thought “I have no idea what that is or what it’s for”. After wondering for weeks I asked my bf who informed me that its Jay Z is referring to a gun. Haha not my finest gangsta moment!

  • This!
    We have all been here. 🙂
    Granted, I didn’t get this song because I don’t speak Spanish, but it’s called the ketchup song. Before you hit play it already doesn’t make sense. But I heard it for the first time on a flight home when I was 11 and never looked back. Las Ketchup forever.


    • Cristina Feather

      Totally danced every time I heard it. Did not understand a word! :)))

    • Amelia Diamond


  • starryhye

    WOW, judging from these comments, I’m a solid decade older than most readers! EEK. But growing up, listening to early Madonna, I thought “Material Girl” was about actual material, like cloth. And anytime someone sang about their “baby” it was an actual infant, not lover. Don’t even get me started on how confusing Culture Club’s “Karma Chameleon” was to me!

    Ok so have I sufficiently dated myself???

    • Amelia Diamond

      Hellll no love these songs

    • Amelia Diamond

      ALso always thought it was comma chameleon!

  • Heather Funk

    I seriously didn’t “get” Too Close by Next till I saw the lyrics on screen on MTV Spring Break Karaoke and was able to read the words. I was 15 at the time and was like, “ooooooh.”

    • Erin A.

      This was the song for me too. However, I was in 4th grade at the time and it never clicked until I heard it years later at a high school dance. I’m so embarrassed that I was singing along to that song wholeheartedly at the age of 10!

      • Heather Funk

        Oh, I was 10 too! It took me FIVE YEARS for it to sink in.

        • Erin A.

          hahaha. that moment when you realize the true meaning and think back to who may have heard you singing those lyrics…

  • Erin A

    I recently watched the movie Grease and was in a bit of shock over some of the songs. I thought Grease Lightning was just about a car! There are lyrics that they have to bleep out on tv..what words was I singing as a kid?

    • Amelia Diamond

      What is..it about!?!

  • Sarah Fentem

    I thought Ben Folds Five “Brick” was just a pretty song about a girl.

    • Amelia Diamond

      Oh that song is so, so sad

  • Lilly

    “El bacalao” by Julio Iglesias…it’s a song about how much he likes cod…or is it?


    • Haylie Hermon

      Oh… OHHHHHHHH!! I’ve been thinking it was about real fish all along. I was surprised he made a song to a fish. A fish… right. Err, this is embarrassing.

  • MG

    “Jumpin’ Jumpin'” I literally thought that it said “the club is full of bodies” Likely because I had no idea what a balla was in elementary school. It is weird that Destiny’s Child’s excitement to party in a mass grave never turned me off to the song…

  • mollie blackwood

    The second verse of “Waterfalls.” I remember asking my sister (8 years my senior) what it meant. I was telling this story to my boyfriend this past weekend and he had no idea until I told him. If you don’t know… it’s about HIV. Weird.

    • Amelia Diamond

      I’ve seen a few people comment this! I actually think I did know that, but it’s so sad.

  • Lauren Aitchison

    “Milkshake” by Kelis. I’m 25 and just had to google it,

  • I only recently found out that Semi Charmed Life was about meth, so there’s that.

  • Haylie Hermon

    Oh, “Lady Marmalade” was mine. I didn’t fully understand the lyrics… Heck, I believe I hadn’t even learned English back then. I remember my cousin made me a CD including that song when I was about 10 and I blasted it errrday after school. No idea until YEARS later that it was about a prostitute… And don’t even get me started on the French part!

  • Jade Williams

    Haha this is hilarious! I didn’t realise quite how mature the content of Timbaland’s ‘The Way I Are’ was at the time of being an 11 year old, and I even suggested it for our leavers assembly and was shocked when they didn’t choose it! Well with lyrics like “baby if you strip you can get a tip” I’m not surprised!

    Jade x
    jadethejourno.blogspot.co.uk <3

  • deyna

    back in the days, there was a song that went along the lines of “BOOM BOOM BOOM I WANT YOU IN MY ROOM. LET’S SPEND THE NIGHT TOGETTTTHHHERRRR….LET’S SPEND IT IN MY ROOM”

    i didn’t realize until years later that i realized what it was implying…it just sounded like a fun song at the time. lol

    • sam

      first CD i ever owned

  • Amelia

    Shoop by Salt N Peppa. The guy sounded so great and you had such a big crush on him, so why would you rather shoop, and what does that mean?

  • scsc

    She’s Got a Girlfriend Now, Reel Big Fish. I fucking loved that song in 4th grade, and just thought that the girl had found a best friend. Wondered why the singer was offering to cut his penis off for her.