It’s a tale old as time: Perfect pop princes reap the benefit of hit songs that, upon closer examination, would make you think twice about accepting a drink from them. By contrast, when metal bands like Steel Panther, GWAR, or The Mentors write blatantly and hilariously perverse songs, some listeners who aren’t in on the joke wind up clutching their proverbial pearls.
It’s a vicious double standard. When sung by guys with the right image, songs with questionable lyrical messages don’t merit even a blip on the Creepy McCreeperton radar. In fact, many of these songs wind up being classified as sweet, cute, or downright romantic based on the image of the lead vocalist. It doesn’t matter if the lyrics point to themes of “no means yes,” S&M, or peeping in your window — so long as the face peeping in your window is a handsome one (framed by a Mom-approved, clean-cut hairstyle with judiciously-applied amounts of hair gel).
With that in mind, here are a few songs that up the pervert ante when you don’t get a good look at who’s singing them.
1. “Crash Into Me” – Dave Matthews Band
Dave Matthews’ melodic, soft-spoken vocals and acoustic guitar gave “Crash Into Me” a pass as a radio-friendly ballad that cracked the Billboard Top 10 in 1997. A closer listen to the lyrics and it becomes apparent that this song is one, big, not-so-subtly crafted metaphor for creepin’ and peepin’. Throughout, the song jauntily expounds upon being literally and figuratively tied up by a lover and entreating the unnamed female to “hike up your skirt a little more / and show your world to me.” (One can only infer that “your world” is code for “your undersmile.”)
By its end, “Crash Into Me” drops all pretense of metaphor and closes with a blatant homage to peeping through a naked lady’s window and engaging in more furious jacking than a roadside assistant tending to a flat tire. Admittedly, there’s something a little sweet and wistful about this song. Sweet and wistful in the way you felt when you tried to catch a glimpse of your 4th grade crush’s Strawberry Shortcake drawers or Superman Underoos.
2. “Escape” – Enrique Iglesias
One listen to “Escape” and it’s clear that Enrique Iglesias’s spirit animal is Pepe LePew. Repeat listenings of the song beg for a female follow-up to this one called “Restraining Order.” The woman-in-question in the song is given free-reign by Enrique to leave since he’s not gonna make her stay. However, she is cautioned that “You can run, you can hide… But you can’t escape my love.” (Sometimes, when I’m feeling spunky, I like to substitute the line “You can run / You can hide / But you can’t escape my mole” instead.)
If this song existed outside of the pop landscape, you upped the tempo, and threw in a couple of well-placed minor chords, “Escape” is precisely the type of song that would have critics and women’s groups up in arms. (Hint to metal bands: Cover this!) Ultimately, “Escape” makes a valiant swing at never giving up on love, but instead winds up sounding just a little bit desperate and a whole lot stalkery.
3. “Invisible” – Clay Aiken
If Clay Aiken had first burst upon the music scene with this song in the ’80s, had tattoos, piercings, and long hair, Tipper Gore and the PMRC would have undoubtedly called him on the carpet. Instead, this elfin ginger made his entrance by way of American Idol, winning the hearts of teenage girls and grandmas alike — and a few dudes, too. Aiken resembled a cross between Martin Short’s Ed Grimley character and Howdy Doody, giving him a non-threatening air that allowed him to get away with a song like this without anyone batting a lash.
In “Invisible,” Clay waxes poetic about how if he was unable to be seen, he “could just watch you in your room.” The lyrics vacillate between icky voyeurism and the sad, lonely cry-fapping of a person who continually goes unnoticed by his crush. (I’m not sure which is creepier.)