Say what? Report looks at misheard lyrics

We’ve all misheard lyrics before. Even searching lyrics online for favorite songs can bring up inaccurate transcriptions. 

But when you listen to Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit,” have you ever heard Kurt Cobain sing “With the lights out/It’s Las Vegas/Hear me all now/Entertainers”? 

Or, with 50 Cent’s “In Da Club,” do you hear “Go Charlie, it’s your birthday” instead of “Go shorty”? 

How about “We fell in love and I bought this place,” in Rihanna’s “We Found Love”? That’s not quite so…um…hopeless? 

According to WordFinder by YourDictionary, it’s incredibly common for people to mishear lyrics, a phenomenon known as a “mondegreen.” The concept first came around in 1954, as defined by writer Sylvia Wright as “a word or phrase that results from a mishearing especially of something recited or sung.” Some of the most common examples include “Hold me closer, Tony Danza” and “Excuse me while I kiss this guy.” 

The WordFinder team surveyed 1,000 Americans to find commonly misheard lyrics in a variety of musical genres, determining that Metallica’s “Enter Sandman”, Drake’s “The Motto” and “7 Rings” from Ariana Grande are among the most misheard, while EDM fans are more likely to enjoy and keep their misheard lyrics instead of using the actual words to songs they love. And to keep the wrong word momentum going, some 61% of Americans found the wrong lyrics posted on Spotify (which, c’mon, Spotify is the devil. Why even bother. You’re better off asking Google or the band on social media.). 

What are people hearing incorrectly in those three songs? 

Allegedly, according to WordFinder’s research, people mishear “Exit light, enter night” in arguably one of Metallica’s most popular songs ever as — seriously, this is what they report — “Eggs and light, end all nights.” Have you ever heard that? 

Those surveyed reported hearing “That’s the motto” as “That’s the model,” which isn’t too far of a stretch. And as for Ariana Grande, we’re looking at “Been through some bad shit, I should be a bad bitch” reportedly heard as  “Been through some bat shit, I should be a savage.” 

There’s one song on the list that it makes sense to mishear, because the real lyrics include singing backwards. That song, of course, is Missy Elliot’s “Work It,” in which people hear “I put my thing down flip it and reverse it, iss yurr fweminippi fwep yet,” instead of “I put my thing down flip it and reverse it, ti esrever dna ti pilf nwod night ym tup i.”

The WordFinder team also found that the listener’s age might have an impact on how lyrics are heard or misinterpreted. “From Gen X to Gen Z, each generation had its own unique tendencies when it came to mishearing hit song lyrics. For example, with the advent of the vocal mixing software known as auto-tune in 1996 and its popularization in modern hip-hop and pop music, older listeners may not be used to interpreting the heavily-modified vocals of songs like Far East Movement’s ‘Like a G6.’ The song ranked among the top five songs misheard by Gen X, the oldest generation we surveyed. The same applies to Gen Z for their misinterpretation of ‘Little Talks’ by Of Monsters and Men (ranked fourth) and ‘Fancy’ by Iggy Azalea (ranked second).” 

If you were wondering, the misheard lyrics in those songs are “Cause the truth makes happiness, shit will carry out, bodies safe to shore” and “I’m so fancy, can’t you taste this girl.” Sure. 

Want to learn more and have a nice little chuckle? See the full report here

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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