Created By: Dogtanian on June 30, 2009
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Indecipherable Lyrics

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Some songs feature lyrics that appear to be complete gibberish. The listener might sometimes be able to hazard a guess at what's being said, but such a guess is overwhelmingly unlikely to be anywhere near the mark.

Distinguished from a Mondegreen by the fact that a Mondegreen tends to be sung relatively clearly, but with the listener perceiving word breaks in the wrong place.

Up for Grabs

Examples:
  • Snow - Informer, particularly the chorus
  • Much of Nightwish's music prior to Dark Passion Play
  • Anything by the Cocteau Twins
  • Most black/death metal
Community Feedback Replies: 42
  • June 30, 2009
    Jack Butler
    So this isn't a song that you think says "There's a bathroom on the right" when it really says "there's a bad moon on the rise", this is a song that authentically sounds like someone's singing "myah heh te popo me wizzit pe be" or something and no one has the first clue what he was actually singhing when he said "myah heh te popo me wizzit pe be", right?

    The most obvious example would be "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen. The singer admits he was so drunk that he can't remember exactly what he did sing at the time...
  • June 30, 2009
    Dogtanian
    Yep, that's exactly it.
  • June 30, 2009
    Dick Richardson
    There is some Italian band that sings completely in English, but it's so utterly incomprehensible, it sounds like another language.

    Anal Cunt's lead, Seth Putnam, sings in a screechy voice. You can make out the words, but only under the right conditions or if you have a really good ear.
  • June 30, 2009
    Lee M
    "Some Italian band"... would you be referring to Men of Lake, by any chance? (Then again, it's quite possible there could be more than one.)
  • June 30, 2009
    Dick Richardson
    I wouldn't know. I think it's Italian - they're the subject of a lot of animutations.
  • June 30, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Japanese bands who speak in Gratuitous English have a tendency to heavily slur the words into an indecipherable mess.

    The obvious example (which I'm surprised no one has mentioned) is "Louie Louie", as performed by the Kingsmen in 1963. The song was a radio hit with a totally indecipherable slur of syllables, and some of the song's popularity came from public discussion of what the song was about. As rumors flew wildly, the song even caught the attention of the FBI who investigated the song, believing a song slurred so seriously must contain obscenity or pro-drug propaganda. The FBI were never able to decipher the song's mushy audio, and charges were dropped.

  • June 30, 2009
    Micah
    You know what a really obvious example of this is? "Louie Louie" by the Kingsmen.

    Compare The Unintelligible.
  • June 30, 2009
    OriginalHandle
    As Family Guy pointed out, several Sting songs are incomprehensible except for a few words.
  • June 30, 2009
    Dcoetzee
    This has considerable overlap with the existing YKTTW NonsenseLyrics.
  • June 30, 2009
    blackcat
    • There is the scene in the movie Jumping Jack Flash when Whoopi Goldberg's character Terry is trying to decipher the lyrics by listening to the song over and over again. Does this fit the trope?
    • The opening theme song for Ouran High School Host Club is pretty incomprehensible.
    • Louie Louie.
    (rans away chortling evilly)

  • June 30, 2009
    Omar Karindu
    Michael Stipe of REM had a reputation for this as well, as his somewhat quieter vocals were wedded to often fragmentary and elliptical lyrics. And then the loud, fast, overlapped vocals of "Star 6" on the Monster album was an entirely new way of being unintelligible.
  • June 30, 2009
    dotchan
    The opening riff of System Of a Down's "F the System" is a rapid-fire string of syllables that may or may not mean something.
  • June 30, 2009
    Wulf
    Though it may be a case of no one on the lyric site I go to speaking the language it's sung in-- the choir in Blue
  • June 30, 2009
    CodeMan38
    At one point, MTV actually ran the video for Snow's "Informer" with subtitles. I'm seriously not kidding.
  • July 1, 2009
    blackcat
    • Inna-Gada-Da-Vida.

  • July 1, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    "Bennie and the Jets"?
  • July 1, 2009
    Jack Butler
    Has anyone mentioned "Louie Louie" yet?

    Seriously, there are parts of Bare Naked Lady's "One Week" that dosey-do into this trope. Also parts of REM's "Its The End Of The World As We Know It".
  • July 1, 2009
    JAF1970
    Gold Diggers of 1933 featured in the opening number "We're In the Money" Ginger Rogers singing a verse in what Pauline Kael called "pig latin". Nonsensical words were the fad in the 1930's.
  • July 1, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Reach Out To The Truth? Not only is it a bit hard to make out without the lyrics, but the song seems like it is giberish. "Yeah, naked truth lies only if you realize/ Appearing in nobody's eyes till they sterilize" is pretty random but makes sense in the context of Souji Seta throwing away his glasses (that allow him to see in the fog) when he uses Myriad Truths
  • July 1, 2009
    blackcat
    @Jack Butler: Good catch. I don't think anyone has.

    • Marilyn Manson's The Beautiful People.

  • July 1, 2009
    Jack Butler
    Why do people put spoilers on things that have no need of spoilers?

    Unknown Troper 70.119.101.45's full example reads: Reach Out To The Truth? Not only is it a bit hard to make out without the lyrics, but the song seems like it is giberish. "Yeah, naked truth lies only if you realize/ Appearing in nobody's eyes till they sterilize" is pretty random but makes sense in the context of Souji Seta throwing away his glasses (that allow him to see in the fog) when he uses Myriad Truths.

    Can someone explain the thinking behind putting spoilers on that?
  • July 1, 2009
    Jack Butler
    Oh, and are we including songs where the lyrics are in clear English, but just don't make any damned sense?
  • July 1, 2009
    Dogtanian
    Nope - that's Word Salad Lyrics.
  • July 1, 2009
    RobinZimm
    Okay, that's it: Louie Louie needs to be a running joke in the page describing this trope.
  • July 1, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Thanks for reminding me, Robin: Louie Louie by the Kingsmen is a textbook example. Good catch!

    Also, Song 2 by Blur.
  • July 1, 2009
    Jake Was Here
    "Often the reason we don't know what the singer is singing is that the singer does not enunciate clearly. Elton John, for example, often sounds as though he's singing in a foreign language, possibly Welsh. James Brown routinely sings entire songs without making a single intelligible statement other than 'Hey!'

    "Sometimes the problem is that the singer himself doesn't know what he's singing. As I mentioned elsewhere in this book, I sometimes play in a literary rock band, the Rock Bottom Remainders. As I also mentioned elsewhere in this book, we suck, but our musical director is an actual talented legend, Al Kooper (. . .) Al did one solo number -- a long, slow, powerful blues song called 'Caress Me Baby' -- and although I understood all the other lyrics he sang, there was one line I could never get. Al sang it with tremendous passion, and it sounded like he was singing, 'Goan rare-ro hah-dee-nah' (. . .) It turned out that Al didn't know what the real lyrics were, either. He had listened repeatedly to the original recording of 'Caress Me Baby', and the closest thing he could come up with was 'Gonna railroad high tonight', and so when he sang the song he just slurred that part."

    -- Dave Barry's Book Of Bad Songs
  • July 1, 2009
    CastingCrowns
    Pretty much everything by Joe Cocker, especially Feelin' Alright.
  • July 1, 2009
    Amarys
    About the Ouran Host Theme:....the actual engrish of it is pretty understandable. the part that's incomprehensible is in japanese.
  • July 1, 2009
    Calluna
    "Mmm Bop", by Hanson
  • July 1, 2009
    Dcoetzee
    The description needs to be more precise here... clearly this is not songs whose lyrics are often misunderstood (that's Mondegreen), nor is it about songs whose lyrics are in English but devoid of meaning (that's Word Salad Lyrics). So my question is, is this more about songs that are really difficult to understand the lyrics of, or songs whose lyrics are not in any meaningful language? And what's the overlap here with the YKTTW NonsenseLyrics?
  • July 1, 2009
    Jack Butler
    Wooly Bully must be on the list.

    Oh, and who could forget Louie Louie by the Kingsmen!
  • July 2, 2009
    blackcat
    Never mind. Deleted post.
  • July 2, 2009
    tropette
    Choral pieces have a tendency to sound like this when the chorus sucks.

    And how have we gotten this far without mentioning Louie Louie?
  • July 2, 2009
    Unknown Troper
    Kate Bush's "Leave It Open", in which the vocals are distorted to the point of incomprehensibility because Kate played the original recording backwards, did her best to imitate the sounds she heard, and then played the resulting recording backwards for the final song.
  • July 2, 2009
    Kinitawowi
    There seems to be some overlap with the page quote for Lyrical Shoehorn.
  • July 2, 2009
    Some Guy
    Putting it on my watchlist. But someone, please, just take responsibility for this and Just Launchit Already.
  • July 2, 2009
    Jack Butler
    The difference between Lyrical Shoehorn is this would be were nonsense isn't intended... it just sort of happened. Maybe the recording sucks. Maybe the singer is singing too fast to be heard clearly. Maybe he was drunk off his ass and thus couldn't pronounce his own NAME clearly, much less sing coherently. But there is a difference.
  • July 2, 2009
    blackcat
    • The chorus of sopranos in the Red Hot Chili Peppers song Under The Bridge.
    • Some of the songs on Pearl Jam's album Ten.
  • July 2, 2009
    blackcat
    ^Weird. I wrote the reply about Pearl Jam and the Chili Peppers and when I hit reply a post from someone else appeared. Now it is gone. And I look like a nut.
  • July 3, 2009
    BrainSewage
    "You Never Give Me Your Money" by The Beatles- the last three lines are a nonsensical mix of Italian, French, Spanish, and English.
  • July 3, 2009
    MetaFour
    • "Guero Canelo" by Calexico. (There's supposed to be an umlaut over the u, but ykttw won't render it properly for some reason.)
    • "Carousel of Progress" by Joy Electric.
    • "Louis Louis" by the Kingsmen.
  • July 3, 2009
    RocketDude
    "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana.
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