As the birthplace of Jesus, Bethlehem shows up in a lot of songs, often as a metaphor. That's the case here, as Cole sings about her own Bethlehem, which is her hometown of Rockport, Massachusetts. She grew weary of the routines and yearned to get away, but she also got straight As and became class president.
"I really did love my community and I really did care about them in a spiritual way, so I think we all kind of agreed that I'd lead the class, for better or for worse," she told Songfacts
That initiative paid off: Cole went to the Berklee College of Music in Boston and got a record deal in 1993. "Bethlehem" was included on her first album, Harbinger
, in 1994. Her second album, This Fire
, earned her seven Grammy nominations and main-stage status on the Lilith Fair.