A look at “Lostwave,” the most mysterious songs on the internet

[This was my weekly column for – AC]

A couple of times a week, I’ll get an email that begins, “I’m looking for a song but I don’t know the name of it,” followed by a vague description, lyrical fragments, an attempt to paint a picture of the arrangement (vocals, instrumentation) and maybe a summary of a music video. I’ve even had people send me MP3s of them singing, whistling and otherwise vocalizing what they remember the song to sound like.

When I got into radio, the request line brought forth a steady stream of listeners who wanted to hear a song but knew neither the title nor the artist. Cue the singing, whistling and tortured attempts to communicate what they were looking for.

Oh, the memories. This all takes me back to when I’d go into Sam the Record Man and act out an unknown song to a bored clerk in hopes that they could help me ID the track. That was almost always a useless exercise, but there were occasions when the clerk picked up on it right away. “Oh, yeah. You mean Second Hand News from Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours album.” And so it was. Mystery solved.

Tracking down a mysterious song is easier than ever these days thanks to listening apps like Shazam and SoundHound. Entering a few lyrics into Google might do it. Heading to a streaming music service and typing in title fragments will sometimes work. I’ve found crowdsourcing a song identification problem through certain websites (Reddit, for example) to sometimes be helpful.

But even with all this technology and the ability to tap into the minds of music fans around the planet, some songs just don’t want to the identified. 

Keep reading. This is fun stuff.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38529 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

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