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The Meaning of Corey Hart’s “Sunglasses at Night”

One 80s classic that has remained relevant in the internet age is Corey Hart’s 1983 hit “Sunglasses at Night”. Upon release, it rose to number 7 on the Billboard Hot 100, and it has remained popular both as a meme and as a gem from an era that is remembered fondly for its quirks.

As the first single from Hart’s debut album, First Offense, “Sunglasses at Night” simultaneously launched his career and became his signature song. When you’re out and about in the evening and happen across a person wearing sunglasses, you might find yourself humming this song, or hearing that synth-soaked chorus repeat in your mind.

The lyrics to “Sunglasses at Night” depict a person wearing sunglasses at night as a self-protective mechanism, allowing him to conceal his true emotions and see through the lies told within his relationship.

The song has two verses that truly feel more like choruses due to the repetition of most of the lyrics, thus the composition is essentially back-to-back hooks until the end. This certainly contributes to its status as an ear worm.

“Sunglasses at Night” Origins

The iconic 80s hit almost didn’t make it onto Corey Hart’s debut album. When he wrote the song, he had already completed the recording process and received a test pressing of his album from the record label, which he was happy with.

However, as he explained to NJ 101.5 in 2013, he had one more idea that he couldn’t quite let go of:

It rained almost every day I was in the UK for those sessions. I had a pair of Ray Ban sunglasses with me but I never had the chance to use them.

Later that summer my album was delivered to Aquarius-Capitol Records. Everyone seemed very pleased with the results. I was kinda like a writing magnet in those days so the song ideas kept flowing even though we were done with the recording. I started messing around with a melodic line and phrase called ‘My Cigarette Got Wet.’ It is an ironic lyric because I have never smoked in my life. It was the nascent embryo of ‘Sunglasses’ although I didn’t realize it. I actually recorded a demo for ‘Wet’ which had many musical elements of ‘Sunglasses’ but I wasn’t really sold on the song.

One night I went back to the ‘Wet’ demo and sang out the lines ‘I Wear My Sunglasses At Night’ over the melody. Wow. Just like that the song was born. It now spirited a cooler cadence from the new lyric that was missing before, plus I changed a few chord progressions. I wanted to add it to my album on the spot. Impossible, I thought, we’d already spent the full recording budget. But I will call the label first thing in the morning anyway and plead my case.

Corey Hart on the origins of “Sunglasses at Night”, 2013.

While those words come from the songwriter himself, there is another prevailing myth about the origin of “Sunglasses at Night” that frequently resurfaces during discussions about this song.

Many believe that the studio where they had been recording had air vents that were located directly above the mixing table, which means that cold air was blowing directly into their faces during the process.

Apparently, as a way to guard their eyes from the cold air, they had been wearing their sunglasses in the studio. Thus, Hart, while working on the arrangement for what became “Sunglasses at Night”, began to improvise the lyrics, for fun.

The Wikipedia page for this song mentions that story having originated with Phil Chapman, co-producer of the track, but I have not been able to find a direct source on it anywhere else.

“Sunglasses at Night” Lyrics Meaning

Now that we’ve got all the basics covered, let’s dive into a verse-by-verse breakdown of the lyrics and see how Corey uses that image of wearing “Sunglasses at Night” to tell a story of heartbreak and deception.

Kicking things off is the memorable synth intro, followed by the first verse:

I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
Watch you weave then breathe your story lines
And I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
Keep track of the visions in my eyes

First verse to “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart.

Hart sings about wearing his sunglasses at night so that he can see the “story lines” that are being fed to him for what they truly are: fabricated lies. The image of the sunglasses suggests that he is looking at the situation without being distracted by the shining light before his eyes — which we can assume is the allure of his partner.

Additionally, he wears the sunglasses to “keep track” of his own feelings, perhaps wanting to conceal them from the other person as a protective measure.

Then, we have a pre-chorus:

While she’s deceiving me
It cuts my security
Has she got control of me?
I turn to her and say

Pre-chorus to “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart.

Here he sings about how her lies affect him, making him feel insecure and controlled. He’s fed up, and decides to stand up for himself in the chorus:

Don’t switch the blade on the guy in shades, oh no
Don’t masquerade with the guy in shades, oh no
I can’t believe it
‘Cause you got it made with the guy in shades, oh no

Chorus to “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart.

It seems like an attempt at standing up for himself, suggesting that he may also be lying to himself as a way of refusing to accept that the relationship is not serving him.

He requests that she doesn’t “switch the blade” on him, meaning attack him by surprise. He then tells her not to lie to him, or “masquerade” because he won’t believe it.

Finally, he points out that she’s “got it made”, meaning that he would like her to recognize the value that he brings to the relationship.

As we can see, there are many layers of meaning to wearing his sunglasses at night, all a form of deception for self or others.

The second verse presents even more reasons why he wears them:

And I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
Forget my name while you collect your claim
And I wear my sunglasses at night
So I can, so I can
See the light that’s right before my eyes

Second verse to “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart.

This verse reflects a struggle with identity, and perhaps the eroding of personal boundaries that has occurred within this relationship. He wears his sunglasses to “forget his name”, almost as a withdrawal or a refusal to engage.

Then, on the flip side, he also mentions that he wears his sunglasses to “see the light,” suggesting that he’s on the verge of ending things and “Sunglasses at Night” represents his going through the motions to extend a relationship that is no longer serving him.

By the second pre-chorus, it is no longer a question whether or not he’s under her spell:

While she’s deceiving me
She cuts my security
She got control of me
I turn to her and say

Second pre-chorus to “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart.

From here, we have another chorus followed by a guitar solo. Yet another chorus comes after that, and then the “I wear my sunglasses at night” line is repeated several times through the end of the song. Hart’s message becomes desperate in the final moments:

I said
I wear my sunglasses at night
I wear my sunglasses at night
I wear my sunglasses at night
I say to you now
I wear my sunglasses at night
I wear my sunglasses at night
I wear my sunglasses at night
I cry to you
I wear my sunglasses at night
I wear my sunglasses at night

Final lyrics to “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart.

While we’ve discussed Hart’s own insights and the deeper meanings that can be inferred from the lyrics, some listeners might enjoy “Sunglasses at Night” simply for its catchy melody and the sense of nostalgia it evokes.

Watch the music video for “Sunglasses at Night” by Corey Hart below.