Four Songs About the Person You’d Least Expect
Considering that celebrities tend to date each other and 98 percent of songs are love songs (the rest are instructions for dancing at weddings), it’s not surprising there are lots of famous songs about them. But it’s usually pretty clear who they are. TMZ keeps meticulous records of everyone every celebrity has ever kissed, and sometimes, they straight-up name names. Other times, though, songs can reveal connections between famous people you’d never have imagined, like…
‘All These Things That I’ve Done’ Is About Matt Pinfield
Where our 45-year-old dads at? Do you remember Matt Pinfield? They sure do. As MTV’s most recognizable VJ of the mid-1990s, just before that stopped being a job you could have, Pinfield rivaled everybody’s big brothers as a global music authority. So much so, in fact, that after he left MTV, he became the Vice President of Artist Development for Columbia Records, a role through which he discovered a little band called the Killers.
One night in the early 2000s, as Pinfield tells the story, he ventured out to the band’s hometown of Las Vegas to watch them rehearse in one of their parents’ garage, fed them, and then asked if one of them could give him a ride back to his hotel, presumably to balance the power differential even a little. Singer Brandon Flowers accepted, and they ended up drinking and talking all night, including about Pinfield’s work mentoring Iraq war veterans. The same night, Flowers wrote “All These Things That I’ve Done” for Pinfield, who later used it as the title of his memoir, where it makes way more sense. Let’s hope he didn’t actually say the “I got soul, but I’m not a soldier” line.
‘Killing Me Softly” Is About Don McLean
Before Roberta Flack and way before Lauryn Hill were so soulfully moved by a mystery music man, there was just a 20-year-old girl named Lori Lieberman. (There’s actually two versions of how “Killing Me Softly With His Song” was written, but one of them was argued by a man who began dating Lieberman when she was 19 and he was 44 and married, so we’ll ignore him.)
According to Lieberman, just like the song, she’d gone out one night to see a singer all her friends were raving about and “felt like he was up there reading my diary and singing about me and my life. I remember feeling embarrassed and exposed, as though people would somehow notice.” Of course, all 20-year-olds feel like this when they hear a good song, but Lieberman was capable of writing one, too.
So just who was the man who strummed her pain with his fingers and sang her life with his words? Don McLean. Yes, the “American Pie” guy. The song that inspired Lieberman, however, was called “Empty Chairs,” which is… fine. It’s a perfectly sufficient breakup song. It’s not especially powerful, and there’s nothing in it that seems to speak to the experience of a freshly minted adult embroiled in an affair with her married songwriting partner, but that’s the 20-year-old heart and mind for you. “Killing Me Softly” is objectively way better, and that’s the important part, but still. Him?
‘I Kissed a Girl’ Is About Scarlett Johansson
On the surface, it doesn’t seem that strange to get musically horny for Scarlett Johansson. Black Widow no doubt inspires lusty songwriting by young adults of all genders. But “I Kissed a Girl” is a specific claim, and Johansson isn’t known for going Girls Gone Wild, especially in 2008. These were the Nanny Diaries years, long before she’d become a sex symbol. Also, seeing as the song was Katy Perry’s first hit, she would have been just some rando, and if Scarlett Johansson was going around making out with random women and nobody told us, that would be rude.
It turns out that, indeed, Perry wrote the song about a woman she had never kissed. “I was with my boyfriend at the time, and I said to him, ‘I’m not going to lie: If Scarlett Johansson walked into the room and wanted to make out with me, I would make out with her. I hope you’re okay with that?'” she explained. The rest was pure fantasy. Johansson commented that she was flattered, but by the time word got to her, she hadn’t actually heard the song yet. In November 2008. That’s the power of celebrity. (Bizarre footnote: Miley Cyrus has claimed she heard in a radio interview with Perry that the song was inspired by her instead, but nobody else seems to have heard this interview, and Cyrus would have been 15 at the time. So.)
‘Toxic’ Is About ‘The Supervet’
If the name The Supervet doesn’t ring any bells, that just means you’re not a U.K. reality TV viewer. (To the four of them reading this article, welcome!) It’s both the nickname of Noel Fitzpatrick, an Irish veterinarian, and the name of his British TV show, which has aired 18 seasons in nine years in the grand tradition of stupid British TV schedules. It’s an unimpeachably wholesome show, featuring Fitzpatrick saving the least savable doggos and meowsers with cutting-edge technology. He’s unquestionably a hero. He’s also, it turns out, a bit of a fuckboi.
No, he wasn’t another ill-advised chapter in the Britney Spears saga. In the early 2000s, he dated songwriter Cathy Dennis, and by all accounts, the relationship didn’t end well. Fitzpatrick himself has said he’s “sad that I couldn’t give her, or anyone else, what is needed in a healthy relationship,” so he knows. He knows he’s a poison paradise. Specifically, the relationship didn’t end well in 2003, the same year Dennis wrote “Toxic.” Neither has explicitly confirmed the inspiration, but whenever he’s asked about it, Fitzpatrick always answers, “You may have to ask Kylie Minogue whether ‘I Can’t Get You Out Of My Head’ is written about me.” That sounds like a brush-off, but Dennis also wrote that song.
Are all the best early 2000s karaoke jams about a corny Irish veterinarian?