From The Beatles to The Eagles, pop musicians have a history of sneaking subliminal messages into their music. In fact, there are countless examples of songs containing hidden meanings. But what about music videos? Well, it turns out that they’re just as full of hidden messages and bizarre symbolism. From subtle links to old lovers, to symbolic references to a higher power, these ten videos are notable for their secret messages – some of which you’d need an eagle-eye to spot if you didn’t know just where to look.
10. Skrillex & Diplo ft. Justin Bieber – “Where Are U Now”
The fluttering Justin Bieber-fronted hit “Where Are U Now” features one of the most mind-altering videos in recent memory, with sketches and drawings spilling out of every crevice. But did you spot some of the split-second references to Justin’s ex-girlfriend Selena Gomez?
Yes, the technicolor spectacle features lines like “Where R Now, Selena,” and “I miss you Selena.” Clearly about his old flame, the messages are incredibly well hidden, only being visible when the video is paused at precisely the right moment.
9. Kanye West – “Fade”
Kanye West sent the internet ablaze in 2016 with his video for “Fade.” Featuring Teyana Taylor delivering a memorable dance routine, the video is steamy in more ways than one. But what about the utterly bizarre ending where she is transformed into a lion? Well, it could be seen as an empowering message for women…
Following a passionate lovemaking scene, the video concludes with Taylor and her on-screen partner lying amidst sheep, with Taylor on top and made up with feline features. So far, so bizarre. However, the video’s choreographer, Jae Blaze, explained to The Telegraph that the visuals depict Taylor blossoming into a “fierce lioness.” While you might have subconsciously understood the baffling shot, the transformation symbolizes Taylor becoming a strong, powerful mother.
8. Rihanna – “Diamonds”
Pop superstar Rihanna certainly wears her heart on her sleeve, and in the video for “Diamonds” she maintained that tradition. While nothing is said explicitly, what might be perceived as a series of beautiful abstract images actually hold a hidden deeper meaning about her relationship with ex-boyfriend Chris Brown.
When Rihanna holds hands with her love interest in the video, you’ll note that he’s sporting some serious ink – just like Brown, when you think about it. Then, in several shots, Rihanna can be seen lying on her back in the sea – indicating that her love for Brown is as deep as the ocean. To top it off, Rihanna can be seen running away in the night as a car follows her. This could be a reference to the occasion that Brown left her unconscious in a car – and her subsequent desire to escape from that fateful night.
7. Azealia Banks – “Yung Rapunxel”
Outspoken hip-hop artist Azealia Banks has never been one for subtlety and she didn’t change tack when making the video for “Yung Rapunxel.” The abrasive track is accompanied by a plethora of bizarre symbols and Illuminati-referencing designs – more than likely intended to stoke controversy.
The video features several shots of owls, all-seeing eyes, pyramids and hidden hands, all of which draw from Masonic and Illuminati symbolism. If all of that wasn’t enough, there’s also a running narrative focused on police brutality. However, set against so much weird symbolism and lines like “I wanna be free,” it’s likely that Banks is actually poking fun at conspiracy theories connecting hip hop celebrities with secret organizations.
6. Meshuggah – “Bleed”
Extreme metal titans Meshuggah unleashed hell upon listeners with their blistering 2008 single “Bleed.” And the video that accompanied it is enough to scare even the most hardened horror fan. But what’s it all about? Well, the subliminal messages and satanic symbolism lead us to believe that it’s about the process of dying.
Several shots of clocks allude to a theme of time, as do the video’s cast of characters. A demonic man in shackles represents the grim reaper, while a woman holding a string represents the passage of time. Oh, and the bald man that keeps popping up? That’s Satan. You might not have picked up on it, but he’s making the number six with his hand – and he has three arms. That adds up to 666 a.k.a. the Number of the Beast. Scary stuff.
5. Britney Spears – “If U Seek Amy”
Pop sensation Britney Spears sent parents into a tailspin when she dropped her single “If U Seek Amy” in 2009. Indeed, unlike Miley Cyrus’s hunt for Molly, Britney wasn’t looking for Amy at all. Instead, if you say the song’s title slowly, it rather rudely spells out… Well, try it for yourself.
While it’s not terribly subtle, the single’s video visually reinforces the message, depicting Spears as a woman taking part in orgies at night while playing an innocent suburban mother during the daytime.
4. Nick Jonas – “Jealous”
When Nick Jonas decided to go solo with his music career, many of his adoring fans were curious about how it would work. Jonas realized this and addressed it subliminally in the video for his first single, “Jealous.”
In the video, Jonas can be seen speeding around on a motorbike. If you look closely, though, you can see road signs that read “Leaving childhood” and “Slow down, time passing.” Nick Jonas is quite literally signposting his emotional state and his desire to make it on his own. Smart!
3. Green Day – “21 Guns”
Punk rockers Green Day are no strangers to inserting hidden messages into their videos but none are as discreet as in the video for the 2009 track “21 Guns.” In it, two outlaws come under fire from the police in a hotel room. But what’s that written on the walls?
It’s in fact the words of the song. As bullets burst through the building, the defiant lyrics can be seen etched onto the walls. A neat little trick and easily missed if you aren’t paying close attention.
2. Jay-Z ft. Swizz Beatz – “On to the Next One”
Easily one of the rapper’s best tracks, Jay-Z’s tune “On to the Next One” features a killer beat and an irresistible flow. But you might be surprised by some of the imagery that’s featured in the video. Illuminati? The occult? Satanism? This one ticks all three boxes.
While there are shots of expensive shoes, gorgeous dancers and diamond encrusted jewelry, there’s also an alarming amount of questionable imagery. Among the most notable examples are bullets laid beside a crucifix, a horned beast and a hammer dripping blood. They’re all shown for a split-second – a common attribute of subliminal messaging. Meanwhile, for the duration of the video, Jay-Z is framed by a halo of light.
1. Bonnie Tyler – “Total Eclipse of the Heart”
“‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’ is the sweetest song ever!” Sorry, but we’re about to burst your romanticized bubble – it’s actually about vampires. Yes, that’s right. Bonnie Tyler’s classic number one hit is the story of two vampires and their dark perspectives on love. And you just have to take a look at the video to work it out.
Indeed the visuals for the song, originally titled “Vampires in Love,” sit somewhere between The Lost Boys and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. The video sees Tyler making her way around a Gothic boarding school – while the line, “Turn around, bright eyes,” takes on an entirely different meaning when it accompanies a choirboy with flaming blue eyes flying across the room. While it wasn’t explicit, the true meaning of the song was right there in front of you in the video.