Recently, I was reminded of a conversation about songs with twist endings. Like a Twilight Zone episode, they’ll set up one situation and then in the final verse, switch things around to a completely different perspective.

One example would be Vertical Horizon’s breakthrough hit, “Everything You Want.” The chorus repeats:

He’s everything you want,
He’s everything you need.
He’s everything inside of you that you wish you could be.
He says all the right things at exactly the right times,
But he means nothing to you and you don’t know why.

Most of the song presents this sort of detached, third-party view of someone who perhaps is concerned for a friend, but that’s all. Then the bridge hits, with lines like, “It’s only what you’re asking for,” and the intensity builds, until you get to the final chorus:

I am everything you want,
I am everything you need.
I am everything inside of you that you wish you could be.
I say all the right things at exactly the right times,
But I mean nothing to you and I don’t know why.

It suddenly becomes clear that the speaker is himself right in the middle of things, and the woman’s affections are in fact extremely important to him.

Another one would be the Jim Steinman song “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad,” made famous by Meat Loaf. The speaker keeps pleading with a woman that…

I want you
I need you
But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you
Now don’t be sad
‘Cause two out of three ain’t bad

At the end of the song, he explains “There’s only one girl that I will ever love” and that, when she left him, “She kept on telling me…” at which point he launches into the refrain. Suddenly, this guy who sounded unreasonable throughout the entire song turns out to have been on the receiving end of the same dysfunction in a previous relationship—and he’s still messed up by it.

What other songs can you think of that do this?

2 thoughts on “Songs with a Twist

  1. “When I Was a Boy,” by Dar Williams, comes to mind. All three verses are about the quick reversal of societal expectations that comes with growing up from girl to woman, and then in the final chorus you get to hear the other side.

    And in a completely different vein, “Since You’ve Been Gone” by “Weird Al” Yankovic takes until the last two lines to tell you that, amazingly, there’s something worse than all the horrible feelings he’s been so graphically describing.

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