The Misunderstood Meaning Behind “Cake by the Ocean” by DNCE

The phrase “sex on the beach” might be taken literally, or it may just be the name of a drink. But what does “Cake by the Ocean” mean? It’s a song by the band DNCE. And it’s a dance song. OK, but is it just an ode to seaside dessert from one of the Jonas Brothers? Let’s get to the bottom of this.

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First some background. DNCE is the dance-rock outlet for Joe Jonas featuring members of the Jonas Brothers backing band—guitarist JinJoo Lee and drummer Jack Lawless. Bassist Cole Whittle from Semi Precious Weapons completes the lineup. 

Jonas and Lawless were living together when they hatched the idea for a dance-rock project. The band was put on hold due to their members’ busy schedules. By 2015, Jonas was writing with Justin Tranter on what would become DNCE songs. Tranter is best known for writing songs for Britney Spears, Justin Bieber, and Selena Gomez, among others. 

The innuendo of “Cake by the Ocean” is just vague enough to mean literal sex by the ocean or dessert on the beach. It’s a party anthem about two things most people enjoy.  

Check the Meaning

Jonas told MTV News the meaning behind the song and how the title originated with Swedish producers Mattman & Robin. In the studio, they confused the drink name “sex on the beach” with “cake by the ocean.” The misunderstood phrase became an inside joke. Then it became DNCE’s debut single. 

Jonas continued, “… it became this kind of lyrically wacky song, and it kind of embodies the band.” 

See you walkin’ round like it’s a funeral
Not so serious, girl, why those feet cold
We just getting started don’t you tiptoe, tiptoe
Waste time with a masterpiece
Don’t waste time with a masterpiece
You should be rollin’ with me
You should be rollin’ with me
You should be rollin’ with me
You should be rollin’ with me
You’re a real-life fantasy
You’re a real-life fantasy
But you’re movin’ so carefully
Let’s start livin’ dangerously
Talk to me, baby
I’m goin’ blind from this sweet, sweet cravin’
Let’s lose our minds and go fucking crazy
I-I-I-I-I-I keep on hoping we’ll eat cake by the ocean

“Cake by the Ocean” is a good-time summer song that isn’t the first track to use sweets as a sexual metaphor. Def Leppard once sang, I’m hot, sticky sweet / From my head to my feet.

Jonas drives home the sexy metaphor:

Hot damn, see you lickin’ frosting from your own hands
Want another taste, I’m beggin’, “Yes, ma’am”
I’m tired of all this candy on the dry land, dry land

Writers of the Song

Jonas wrote the song with Tranter and producers Mattias Larsson and Robin Fredriksson—the Swedish duo known as Mattman & Robin. 

The main riff is based on an E minor figure doubled by guitar and bass over a classic ’70s dance beat. A second guitar enters sounding like Nile Rodgers from Chic. The falsetto vocal during the chorus floats over a bed of smooth synths and more ’70s nostalgia. The recording sounds modern and cool like DNCE ran analog tape through the sheen of Pro Tools. 

Cake Fight

Black Coffee directed the music video with Jonas’s then-girlfriend Gigi Hadid. In the video, DNCE performs on the beach for an International Cake Fight. The cake fight turns into a free-for-all, then becomes a giant beach party with DNCE performing by the ocean. 

Cake on the Charts

“Cake by the Ocean” is the sound of Jonas with sex on his mind. Jonas and DNCE took this 1970s-inspired song to No. 1 on Billboard’s Adult Pop Songs chart. It went Top 10 in five countries—U.S., U.K., Australia, Canada, and Germany. 

The Jonas disco jam is from DNCE’s debut EP Swaay, released in 2015 on Republic Records. It peaked at No. 9 on the Billboard Hot 100 and is certified 5x Platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America. Swaay peaked at No. 39 on the Billboard 200. 

A self-titled debut album was released in 2016. Three songs from Swaay were included on the album: “Cake by the Ocean,” “Toothbrush,” and “Pay My Rent.”

The Jonas Brothers performed “Cake by the Ocean” at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards. 

What’s for dessert?

“Cake by the Ocean” is the DNCE’s biggest song. The summertime good times feel of “Cake” is this band’s “Good Vibrations.” 

With the Jonas Brothers announcing a comeback, DNCE went on hiatus in 2019. The band, minus Cole Whittle, returned in 2022 featured on Kygo’s single “Dancing Feet.” DNCE also appeared on the motion picture soundtrack for the coming-of-age rom-com Anything’s Possible with their song “Flamingo.”

Photo by Michael Chang/Getty Images for USAA

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