The real story behind TLC’s ‘Creep’ and some of our other favorite songs

There are few things more satisfying than finding out the details behind your favorite songs. There’s a strange solace in knowing all the facts — like there’s some new, unspoken solidarity between you and the artist. You can feel their pain, their happiness and their anger when you understand all the who’s, what’s and where’s. So, when TLC’s Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins treated us to some very important details regarding a little song called “Creep” this week, our ears perked up.

After 20 years of lip-syncing in our cars, we finally have a bit of insight on who inspired this ’90s classic. T-Boz dished all the details to Billboard, claiming that the song was actually inspired by a negligent ex. She kindly put the situation into context for us: “You’re with a guy and he’s not showing you attention, so another guy comes along and you’re like, ‘Hey, if you were where you were supposed to be, he couldn’t be showing me attention right now!’ I was in the middle of this drama, because the other guy was [my boyfriend’s] friend, and my boyfriend was just not getting it together.”

T-Boz isn’t saying any names though, and with good reason: “People get mad sometimes — my ex-boyfriend that inspired me to write ‘Unpretty’ was like, ‘Okay, so you have to be dogging me out again?’” For what it’s worth, T-Boz, you’re probably saving the dude a lot of grief. It’d probably ruin the song for him.

Anywho, all this “Creep” news has us reeling. Anyone else eager for some true story song facts? Here are the real stories behind a few of your favorite tunes!

  • The Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps
  • About: Angus Andrew
  • Simple as the lyrics may be, when you get into the details, “Maps” packs a punch. The song was written about Karen O’s relationship with Liars frontman, Angus Andrew. Aside from inspiring the song, Andrew also inspired the [very real] tears in the song’s video. Karen revealed, “My boyfriend at the time [Angus Andrew] was supposed to come to the shoot – he was three hours late and I was just about to leave for tour. I didn’t think he was even going to come and this was the song that was written for him. He eventually showed up and I got myself in a real emotional state.”

Sam Smith – “Stay With Me
About: An unrequited love
In case you missed the Grammys this year, Sam Smith snagged four awards for “Stay With Me,” and even publicly thanked the man who inspired the tune. During his acceptance speech, Smith brazenly took the stage and said, “I want to thank the man who this record is about who I fell in love with last year. Thank you so much for breaking my heart because you got me four Grammys.” As expected, headline hoopla ensued, but Sam Smith had already dished on the mystery man way back in July to The FADER. He said, “In the Lonely Hour is about a guy that I fell in love with last year, and he didn’t love me back. I think I’m over it now, but I was in a very dark place. I kept feeling lonely in the fact that I hadn’t felt love before. I’ve felt the bad things. And what’s a more powerful emotion: pain or happiness?”

Adele – “Someone Like You
About: An ex
We can attribute just about any songs on Adele’s 21 album to this particular relationship, but “Someone Like You” stands out for a couple of reasons. Aside from being an utterly heartbreaking ballad about overcoming the grief of a past love, Adele found the songwriting process to be rather therapeutic. She revealed to MTV News, “I wrote that song because I was exhausted from being such a bitch, with ‘Rolling in the Deep’ or ‘Rumour Has It’ . . . I was really emotionally drained from the way I was portraying him, because even though I’m very bitter and regret some parts of it, he’s still the most important person that’s ever been in my life, and ‘Someone Like You,’ I had to write it to feel OK with myself and OK with the two years I spent with him. And when I did it, I felt so freed.”

Bjork – “Possibly Maybe
About: Stéphane Sednaoui
If you don’t get lost in the mesmeric sounds of “Possibly Maybe,” you might catch wind of a few questionable lyrics (i.e. “I suck my tongue in remembrance of you”). The song was indeed written about Björk’s breakup with artist, Stéphane Sednaoui. She later revealed that “Possibly Maybe” was the “first unhappy song [she] wrote” and subsequently felt “ashamed writing a song that was not about giving hope.” Did I mention Stéphane directed the music video for this? I guess the breakup couldn’t have been too bitter…

  • No Doubt – “Don’t Speak
  • About: Tony Kanal
  • The song was originally a love song for Gwen Stefani’s then-boyfriend and fellow bandmate Tony Kanal. Her brother, Eric, wrote the melody and she added some sweet, loving lyrics. Then, when things went sour between Stefani and Kanal, the song totally changed. “Eric and I went into the garage, stubbornly and very irritated about the situation, and sat down and rewrote the verses and lyrics,” Gwen told the Independent. “It used to be more upbeat, more of a Seventies rock-type thing,” said Gwen. “[When] Tony and I broke up. . . it turned into a sad song.”

It certainly didn’t ease the pain to have perform the song on a never-ending tour. Tony told the Guardian back in 2012, “We were on tour for Tragic Kingdom for 28 months. We were going through the breakup, and in every interview we were talking about it so we were opening this wound on an hourly basis. It was so brutal but I don’t know how we made it through.” The two have since move far beyond their split and remain great friends. But as far as an awesome breakup song? “Don’t Speak” totally holds up.