4 Non Blondes' "What's Up?" Lyrics Meaning (2023)

It should be noted from the onset that Christa Hillhouse,bassist for 4 Non Blondes,has statedin regards to this track that“the lyrics, they don’t mean anything. It’s the way the song makescertain people feel.”And in that regard, there is definitely a strongsentiment relayed, one of being appreciative of and inquisitive aboutlife.However, the story leading up to that moment, as Hillhouse hassuggested, is a bit incoherent.

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It begins with the singer revealing she is 25-years old butexpressing feelings of discontent and confusion.This results in her“lying in bed”, crying as a form of relief.However, by the time themorning arrives, she is feeling a whole lot better.And this sensationmakes her “scream from the top of (her) lungs” the question “what’s going on?”

Later she expresses that her internal issues may actually bebased on an “institution”, which reads like a personification of the culture atlarge.In fact herbeef with the systemis so intense that sheactually ‘prays for a revolution’.

Lyrics are against homophobia and sexism in America?

Some have attributed these sayings to be in reference to the homophobic and sexist aspects of American society, since the 4 Non Blondes are openly-gay.However, that theory is yet to be definitively proven.

4 Non Blondes' "What's Up?" Lyrics Meaning (1)

Facts about “What’s Up?”

  • This track has an unofficial title. And that title is “What’s Going On?”
  • The track was entitled “What’s Up?” despite that phrasenever being mentionedin the lyrics.Rather the question asked in the song is “what’s going on?”.Being named so was done intentionally to avoid it being confused with Marvin Gaye’s 1971 classic of the same name.
  • As aforementioned due to the sexual-preference of 4 Non Blondes as well as certain symbols used in the song’s lyrics, “What’s Up?” has been associated with homosexuality. As a matter of fact, even decades after its release, it is still used as“a queer anthem”.
  • This song was written by 4 Non Blondes frontwoman Linda Perry.When she was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2015,Lady Gaga sangthe song live in her honor.
  • “What’s Up?” was produced by David Tickle and released as a single by Interscope Records on 23 June 1993. But it initially came out as part of Bigger, Better, Faster, More! on 13 October 1992.
  • Throughout the years “What’s Up?” has been featured or coveredon a numberof television shows and at least one movie

Success of “What’sUp?”

This classic met with a great deal of success. It was sosuccessful that it landed at number 94 on VH1’s list of“100 Greatest One Hit Wonders”. Furthermore,it topped the charts in a number of countries, including Denmark, Germany andSweden. Also, it peaked at number 2 on the UK Singles Chart and number 14 onthe Billboard Hot 100.By placing so on the Hot 100, it becamethe first songto break by Top 40 by a groupcomprised of lesbians.


“What’s Up?” has been certified Double-Platinum in Germany, Platinum in Australia, Austria, Italy and the Netherlands. It was also certified Gold in the United States and Silver in the United Kingdom. Moreoverthe success of this song(in part due to its music video) enabled the album it is featured on, 4 Non Blondes’ Bigger, Better, Faster, More! (1992)to sellin the region of 6-million copies.

Did “What’s Up” win a Grammy?

No. As a matter of fact till date, the band is yet to win a Grammy. The only major award won by this song was at the 1994 Danish Music Awards. It won in the category of Best International Hit at the show.

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  1. russell newman says:

    September 13, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    Haven’t heard if for years until recently in Sence8 and it brought back memories from the 80s and 90s. Fantastic song I can’t stop playing it.


    • Beth Merryfield says:

      January 12, 2020 at 6:52 pm

      Sence8 was such a super series. I loved it.


    • Anonymous says:

      January 30, 2021 at 11:28 am

      Same here, that’s where I heard it and I keep playing this song on replay!
      LOVEE Sense8, it’s a shame that they cancelled the show ??


  2. Ralph Hosier says:

    This song hits so deep, on a visceral level, that it stirs emotions to a very high level, without even knowing why . just an amazing song.


  3. Anonymous says:

    March 11, 2021 at 12:31 am

    im not getting the gay thing ? its just a good song I guess it can mean different things to people


    • Anonymous says:

      August 10, 2021 at 1:50 am

      Totally agree. It didn’t strike me as gay song. It struck me as a 25 year-old who’s confused about all that’s going on in the world. which most us are at that age.


  4. Anonymous says:

    March 30, 2021 at 9:13 am

    I had no idea this song was about homosexuality and sung by lesbians. What?


    • LetthemB@peace.com says:

      October 11, 2021 at 5:24 pm

      It’s not. But people obsessed with something will start to see it everywhere. Also, idiots think that if you are anything other than the status quo/perceived norm/fabricated fantasy, then that divergence however minor is said to be the artist’s motivation… sometimes it comprises their entire identity, belief systems and way of seeing, being and communicating in the world.

      My friends and I sometimes get together and watch 80’s TV, especially music videos. After a time, we began to ask each other and ourselves, “How did we not see then, what we see now?”

      Were we blind? Were we not paying adequate attention? How could something so obvious be overlooked by so many?

      The answer was simple. We didn’t SEE it because we weren’t LOOKING for it. We had no idea it even existed… why the fuck would we notice something of which we were not even AWARE was not only possible, but everywhere around us… even, perhaps INSIDE of us?


      Please: we need to stop filling our children’s heads with ideas, images and notions of sexuality and preferences, gender identity, racism and prejudices… please, PLEASE, do NOT offer what was not requested, PLEASE stop answering more than was asked.

      Let them know they are free to follow their dreams and that anything is possible. Remind them there is nothing to fear but fear itself. Most of all, let them know they are loved and that will never change, no matter what.


      • lorem ipsum says:

        March 10, 2022 at 11:01 pm

        But the world is full of those things, whether you like them or not. If you don’t teach kids about sexuality when they’re at the age to explore it, giving them enough knowledge is how you keep them safe from uninformed and dangerous decisions. Even without any knowledge about sexuality, everyone grew up with the whole “boy + girl = love” situation so it’s no wonder why so many are unaware that there are in fact other possibilities.

        If you have a child that is visibly part of a minority, letting them discover the hatred that some of the world harbors towards them on their own would probably just traumatise them. Some kids were born with bigger problems than fear and being a good parent means giving your child the tools they need to avoid crumbling.

        I’m not saying that dreams never come true or whatever, but if everyone brought up their kids on the notion that the world will just make a path for them, let’s just say that a lot of bubbles would be burst. Raising children to be ignorant does not protect them from the world.

        …That being said the song isn’t NOT about being gay. Some people here claim that it isn’t because *insert personal interpretation*, but all that proves is that it can be about literally anything based on the listeners personal experience. You can’t just say that the song ISN’T about a certain thing because it doesn’t line up with YOUR personal interpretation. That’s… impressively self-absorbed.


      • First Name says:

        March 2, 2023 at 8:15 pm

        Yaaaa sure a song critiquing the ‘brotherhood of man’, asking what’s going on and calling for a revolution written and performed by a band made up of gay alternative women, named to highlight that they are not part of the status quo of mainstream culture’s persception of womanhood as they are ‘4 non blondes’ has nothing to do with feminisim or heteronormative silencing…. stay shallow if you want, but please don’t try and stop other people learning and growing.


    • Galens not gay says:

      January 3, 2023 at 6:26 am

      Homo Lesbians……Sounds like a good name for a band.


  5. Anonymous says:

    May 14, 2021 at 9:21 am

    I feel like the song mean life get hard sometimes but it is hope just love yourself in every way possible.
    Sence8 and cruel summer tv shows!


  6. Lyle Walker says:

    July 7, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    I never associated this song with homosexuality. I knew the band was game, but that doesn’t mean all their music is gay oriented. I didn’t like the song originally because I couldn’t understand the lyrics over the radio. I heard the song recently on the internet and the lyrics fit right in with the melody. I listened to a Linda Perry interview and her story really tugged at my heart. Hugs to you Linda. Keep on making music.


  7. Anonymous says:

    July 18, 2021 at 3:28 pm

    I also didn’t know about the orientation stuff….just feel the song deeply and couldn’t wait to learn to play it


  8. Anonymous says:

    August 31, 2021 at 10:43 pm

    I always thought it was about inequality and questioning why it still exists … “I realized quickly when I knew I should that the world was made up of this brotherhood of man…”, and the “institution” referring to the “boys club” within the workforce.


    • Anonymous says:

      September 24, 2021 at 2:36 pm

      Yup, that is what I thought

      That’s how I understood it.


  9. John mason says:

    December 30, 2021 at 1:07 am

    To me this song is about disillusion with what’s going on in society as a whole. Like “ for what it’s worth “ in the 60s. Many 25 year olds are confused by the way society works because it is confusing.


  10. Anonymous says:

    February 25, 2022 at 11:14 pm

    don’t care what the meaning of the song is, it’s just great to listen to. I was looking at Linda Perry in the video and something came to mind. take the hat off and put on a bandana. she would have been a great addition on the Black Pearl.


  11. Son of Tarantino says:

    December 2, 2022 at 9:06 pm

    Lazy bum with no clue how life works, worried that time’s passing (25 years old) and so she resorts to use drugs (get real high) to cope with the harsh reality, until she’s commited into an institution from whe she finally resorts to pray every single day, not for enligthment, but for mayhem (for a revolution), a la One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest. Maybe trying to escape the loony house, or maybe because she just wants to be assured beyond a doubt that she’s not the only one unfit for life. No faith there, because the evidence of a chaotic revolution will only make do. Either way, instant gratification is not arriving soon enough for being clueless …at leat not quickly enough before the next craving for another real high kicks in.

    At least is a nice classic song that everybody can sing along in a karaoke.


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What happened to the lead singer of 4 Non Blondes? ›

Perry went solo in 1995. She has released solo work, and produced and written songs on albums by Christina Aguilera, Alicia Keys, Pink, Gwen Stefani, Courtney Love and Kelly Osbourne.

Did 4 Non Blondes write whats up? ›

Lead singer and main songwriter for 4 Non Blondes, wrote international hit “What's Up?” Linda Perry, as lead singer and main songwriter for 4 Non Blondes, wrote the group's international 1993 hit “What's Up?” prior to establishing herself as a major songwriter and producer.

When did Linda Perry leave 4 Non Blondes? ›

This frustration led Perry to form Deep Dark Robot, her first band since she quit 4 Non Blondes in 1995. The idea came to her when she began writing intensely personal songs she realized nobody else would want to record.

What's Up 4 Non Blondes key signature? ›

What's Up is written in the key of A Major.

Why did Pink and Linda Perry fall out? ›

Falling out

nk, allegedly a result of P! nk's jealousy after Perry worked with other artists, namely Christina Aguilera, who was thought to be a rival of P! nk's at the time. Perry confirmed that her work with Aguilera and her "righteous behavior" were partially to blame for their falling out.

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