Wait, is that iconic song gay?
It’s always a delightful surprise when we hear the news that something we used to love in the past might have been secretly queer. And according to Pride, that may be the case for Fall Out Boy’s song “Sugar, We’re Going Down.”
The idea of this iconic song from 2005 being about a gay crush came from TikTok. A video by TikTok user @lexiii_mariee13 has started to trend with over 138K likes, nearly two thousand comments, and nearly three thousand shares. In the video, the user is seen listening to the song while text hangs above her saying, “This has been one of my favorite songs for almost 6 years and I just found out it’s about a guy being in love w a straight guy [sic].”
If we dissect the song, we can see where this opinion comes from. Some of the lyrics literally go, “Is this more than you bargained for yet?/Oh, don’t mind me, I’m watching you two from the closet/Wishing to be the friction in your jeans.”
The idea of “being in the closet” could be seen as literal or it can be seen as the term for not being openly gay. While that’s just one line in an entire song, an additional line got TikToker’s attentions. That additional line goes, “Drop a heart, break a name/We’re always sleeping in and sleeping for the wrong team.”
Now they’re bringing up being in the closet and sleeping for the wrong team? You can’t blame queer teens for reading between the lines. But is there actually any legitimacy to this reading of the song’s lyrics? On one end, not so much. Applying modern context to a song from nearly two decades ago is shotty thinking. Plus, the band’s lyricist Pete Wentz isn’t gay. In fact, he went out of his way to say that he’s straight.
But could there be gay context anyway? In a way, yes. Just as with literature, experiencing a song is a two-way street. There is the writer’s intention, and there is the receiver’s own personal background influencing their reception of that piece of art. If a queer TikToker or general listener hears things about closets and sleeping with wrong teams and decides they are hearing a queer theme, that’s their personal business and experience.
Now, you could argue that Fall Out Boy gets to have some word on whether this song is meant to have queer undertones or not, but as we’ve seen with Harry Styles’ “Lights Up” being coined a bisexual anthem, Troye Sivan’s “Bloom” becoming a bop for bottoms, and Ariana Grande’s “Positions” being coined a song for verse folk, LGBTQ people tend to claim songs as their own. And really, what’s the harm in that?