Some of us go our whole lives without knowing the real lyrics to a song. Often we don't even realize that the lyrics we've been belting at the top of our lungs aren't correct — until we embarrass ourselves at karaoke. Some bands, though, seem to be asking for their lyrics to be misheard or not heard at all. Vocal styling, a blistering tempo, and using bizarre word choices all contribute to these tunes and our difficulty understanding anything they're trying to say.
"One Week" by The Barenaked Ladies
You need two speeds to sing along with this song: fast and too fast. As catchy as it is, it's hard to sing any of the words; even the chorus is a little bit tricky. Then once you get to the too-fast parts, you'll find yourself blurting out every 10th word, because that's all you can understand. The trickiest lyrics are probably, "Gonna get a set of better clubs, gonna find the kind with the tiny nubs, just so my irons aren't always flying off the back-swing. Gotta get in tune with Sailor Moon, 'cause that cartoon has got the boom anime babes that make me think the wrong thing." Even now that you know it, you'll have trouble keeping up.
"Louie, Louie" by The Kingsmen
It's amazing how many songs we'll sing to without having any idea what we're actually saying. Just make a noise that sounds similar to what the singer is shouting and no one will be the wiser. "Louie, Louie" is one of those classics that has been confusing people for years. It doesn't help that The Kingsmen don't use proper English in the chorus. It goes, "Louie, Louie, me gotta go." The slurred nature of the rest of the song has led many to substitute the real words for more scandalous ones. Here's a verse that probably sheds new light on a song you've heard a thousand times: "Me see Jamaica moon above. It won't be long me see me love. Me take her in my arms and then I tell her I never leave again."
"It's The End of The World As We Know It" by REM
The average American knows the chorus of this song and two words: Leonard Bernstein. The rest is basically a string of monotone predictions for, well, the end of the world. Maybe it's better that you can't catch but every other lyric in this song, since it's kind of depressing. Here's a dose of what you've been missing: "Uh oh, overflow, population, common group, but it'll do. Save yourself, serve yourself. World serves its own needs, listen to your heart bleed. Tell me with the rapture and the reverent in the right — right. You vitriolic, patriotic, slam, fight, bright light, feeling pretty psyched."
"Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana
This Nirvana tune is so hard to comprehend, it's become a joke that everyone's in on. Weird Al Yankovic, the Muppets, and even ukulele orchestras have made light of the hard rock song. Somewhere between Kurt Cobain's yelling and the nonsensical lyrics, most people get a little lost no matter how much they love the song. It's just hard to fathom where "A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido" fit in.
"Let's Go Crazy" by Prince
There's probably no other song in the world that refers to a purple banana in its chorus. That's part of the magic that makes "Let's Go Crazy" so hard to understand. The other component is Prince's habit of not really finishing some of his words. He likes to leave the audience hanging a little bit. His quick singing style makes us almost miss out on gold like this: "You see I called my old lady, for a friendly word. She picked up the phone, dropped it on the floor. (Sex, sex) is all I heard."
"In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" by Iron Butterfly
The late '60s song is pretty simple compared to some other unintelligible tunes, but the title (and one of the main lyrics) have stumped listeners for years. But considering there aren't that many words to the song, the one mysterious line makes up a pretty large percentage of what is said. The story goes that the song was actually called "In the Garden of Eden." Most accounts say that singer Doug Ingle was drunk and had trouble saying the real words, instead spitting out "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida," which stuck. Another version says that the drummer misheard the title when Ingle told it to him because he was wearing headphones. Either way, this title is much more interesting than if it had simply been called "In the Garden of Eden."
"Loser" by Beck
There are a lot of words in "Loser" and yet the hardest part to understand is still the first line of the chorus. That's because it's not in English. "Soy un perdedor" means "I'm a loser" in Spanish, but many people have thought it was some strange English phrase, like "So, I overfed the dog" or "Sores from head to toe." Other highlights from the incomprehensible song: "Get crazy with the cheese whiz," "Drive-by body pierce," and when they play the chorus backwards.
"Burnin' Down the House" by Talking Heads
Don't pretend like you know the words to this song. Basically no one does outside of Talking Heads superfans. Singer David Byrne has a way of making every word he sings sound basically the same, much like a teacher in a Charlie Brown special. As you might expect, the hit does have quite a few references to fire, you just probably didn't know exactly what they were before. A sample of the indistinguishable words: "Here's your ticket, pack your bags, time for jumping overboard. Transportation is here. Close enough but not too far, maybe you know where you are. Fighting fire with fire."
"Yellow Ledbetter" by Pearl Jam
This is an especially hard-to-understand song from an already hard-to-understand band. Pearl Jam is infamous for the growling Eddie Vedder vocals and lyrics that seem to be open to interpretation. "Yellow Ledbetter" might as well be in another language since you can't understand it from the get-go: "Unsealed on a porch a letter sat. Then you said, 'I wanna leave it again.' Once I saw her on a beach of weathered sand. And on the sand I wanna leave it again."
"Rock the Casbah" by The Clash
This familiar Clash jingle involves a lot of Arabic words that Americans haven't heard much, so it's hard for many of us to guess what the band is saying in this song. The chorus is "Shariah don't like it. Rock the Casbah. Rock the Casbah." Shariah refers to Islamic law and "casbah" is Arabic for the fortress that protects a city. The British group wrote the song in reference to Iran making music, such as disco, illegal. Other Islamic words are used throughout the song, like muezzin and minarets.