There’s a story behind every song, and usually that story involves a person. Sometimes they’re named explicitly, sometimes it’s a little less obvious… and sometimes that person is another celeb. We follow actors, musicians, and other celebrities’ lives so closely that the public is almost a third party in all celebrity relationships. And then when we find out one of their top hit songs is about a former flame or a rival talking sh*t?
We can’t help but be intrigued. Here are a few of the songs by your favorite stars you’ve been singing for years, that turned out to actually be about another celebrity.
1. Cry Me a River for Britney Spears
Justin Timberlake’s 2002 break-out solo hit is a song about a man getting over the heartbreak of his past and moving on from a cheating ex. But did you know this ex was actually Britney Spears?
The two split in 2002 when Spears supposedly cheated on Timberlake with his choreographer Wade Robson. Says the song’s producer Timbaland, “I was like, ‘Man, don’t worry about it’ and he’s like, ‘I can’t believe she did that to me’ and he was like, ‘You were my sun, you were my earth.’” The music video even features a look-alike of Britney. Spears herself allegedly responded to the song with her own track “Everytime,” saying “My weakness caused you pain / And this song is my sorry.”
2. Hollaback Girl for Courtney Love
Everyone likes to chant and clap/stomp to Gwen Stefani’s infectious 2004 hit “Hollaback Girl,” which is actually a dig at Courtney Love of Hole/Kurt Cobain fame. In a 2004, Seventeen magazine interview, Love was quoted as saying “Being famous is just like being in high school. I’m not interested in being a cheerleader. I’m not interested in being Gwen Stefani…she’s the cheerleader, and I’m out in the smoker shed.”
Instead, of “hollering” back, Stefani embraced the comparison and came up with one of the hottest songs of the year, chanting “I heard that you were talking sh*t/ And you didn’t think that I would hear it,” and brushing off Love’s drama as b-a-n-a-n-a-s. Unfortunately, these were fighting words to Love who fought back with claws out (publically announcing you slept with her husband? Low blow!)
3. Sweet Caroline for Caroline Kennedy
We sing this song at every Sox Game, but Neil Diamond’s hit is actually an ode to Caroline Kennedy, JFK’s daughter.
The idea for the song dawned on Diamond when he saw a photo of eleven year old Caroline in a magazine. “It was a picture of a little girl dressed to the nines in her riding gear, next to her pony,” he stated, “it was such an innocent, wonderful picture, I immediately felt there was a song in there.”
Diamond was worried that Kennedy would be embarrassed when he revealed her as the muse of this hit at her 50th birthday party. On the contrary, however, the First Daughter was “struck by it and really, really happy.”
4. We Found Love for Chris Brown (?)
While this one is not confirmed, you have to admit you’ve considered the possibly that Rihanna’s 2011 song is about ex-boyfriend Chris Brown. The evidence is pretty convincing, especially upon watching the music video.
Her co-star is a dead-ringer for Brown, first off. And in the voiceover, “Someone could be that important / That without them, you feel like nothing / No one will ever understand how much it hurts” could be a possible response to the criticism Rihanna received upon taking Brown back in real life. Plus there’s the shot at 3:57 when they’re both in his car where he reaches up and grabs her face… sound familiar?
5. Blurred Lines for Paula Patton
Arguably the biggest, probably the most controversial, song of last year was Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines.” The song has been called offensive, misogynist, even “rapey” by critics, but the artist himself insists the song is a tribute to his wife, actress Paula Patton. He told BBC Newsbeat that people “didn’t get it” and that “I wrote it about my wife…She’s my good girl. And I know she wants it because we’ve been together for 20 years.”
In a turn of events that surprised literally no one, Patton announced her separation from Thicke in February of this year.
There’s a lot of songs out there with obvious celebs as the target; East Coast-West Coast rap rivalries, every other Taylor Swift Song, etc., but sometimes it’s a little bit more unclear. Next time you see a big breakup or shots fired in the tabloids, keep your eyes on the charts for the next hit!