Someone speaks with the speech audio reversed. This can be done to invoke a feeling of unreality or disorientation. It may happen in a dream or it may give an impression of a dreamlike state. In a filmed or animated work, it may manifest itself in a character reading literal speech written backward, or it may happen when a character attempts to pronouce the phonemes in a word or sentence in reverse order, or it may be done by taking regular audio and playing it backwards. In a written work the dialogue will be spelled backwards, and on rare occasions even the shapes of the letters may be flipped. Another version of this trope is the phenomenon known as "backmasking", when messages are hidden in rock music recordings by being recorded backwards, usually as an Easter Egg. (In Ye Olden Days when people played music on phonograph records it was easy enough to hear these hidden messages by making your turntable spin in reverse.) In the past, some of these messages have stoked controversy about their supposed subconscious effects on listeners; see Subliminal Seduction for more details. This trope is limited to speech, or the sound of someone's voice. For written works, this means that character monologue or dialogue is included in the trope (e.g. Zatanna's backwards-spoken spells), while in-universe writing is not (e.g. the inscription on the Mirror of Erised, since nobody reads it out loud in the book). May be used as part of a Rewind Gag. Compare Sdrawkcab Name, which might be written or spoken.
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- Suske en Wiske: In the story "De brullende berg", the heroes meet a giant who talks in his own language. At first they use a translation device to communicate with him, but it breaks down after a while, leaving them unable to speak with the giant untill Wiske realizes the giant is actually just speaking backwards.
- Zatanna from The DCU uses this method of speaking in order to cast spells. It's arguably the best-known aspect of her character.
- When doing the summation in Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls, Ace rattles off his conclusion towards the accused. He then says "Let me run that back for you", reverses his actions, and speaks like he's rewinding.
- In A Night at the Opera, starring The Marx Brothers, Chico, Harpo, and their buddy Ricardo are impersonating three foreign dignitaries, with Groucho pretending to be their interpreter. A police captain calls them out as impostors, whereupon Groucho turns to the three and they start talking in what seems to be As Long as It Sounds Foreign gibberish. What it actually is, is normal English dialogue—Groucho says "Did you hear what he said? He said you were frauds and impostors!", then Chico and Ricardo say stuff like "How can he say a thing like that?", "This is ridiculous," etc—with all the dialogue played backwards.
- In Spy Kids, the nonsense songs sung by the characters of the Show Within a Show Floop's Fooglies are actually cries of "Floop is a madman, help us, save us!" spoken backwards by the mutated and imprisoned Fooglies.
- Combined with Rewind Gag in Top Secret!, when a scene in which characters speak "Swedish" is actually playing in reverse so that the dialogue sounds foreign. This becomes more apparent as the scene plays out, as things like dust flying onto a book when a character blows on it or a dog running backwards give away the effect.
- In The Flash (2014), the episode "The New Rogues" has Barry being trapped in a mirror by Mirror Master. While in there, sounds appears backwards to people on the other side, much like a reflection. In order to understand what Barry is saying, a device that reverses audio had to be put on the mirror to translate what Barry is saying.
- In the Star Trek episode "And the Children Shall Lead," an alien power causes the Enterprise crew to hallucinate their fears. This includes Kirk talking in reversed audio to represent his fear of being unable to communicate.
- In Twin Peaks one character The Man From Another Place has a strange singsongy way of speaking. What they did was have the actor read his lines forward into a recorder, play it backwards to learn how to recreate those sounds, film the scenes with him saying the backwards lines, then re-backwards-izing it forwards.
- John Lennon's lead vocal is played backwards towards the end of The Beatles' song "Rain"
- Bloodrock was one of the first to poke fun at the concept; in "Gotta Find A Way" a backwards message has one of the band members saying "Anyone who is stupid enough to play this record backwards deserves what he is about to hear", followed by a quote from Jabberwocky.
- A number of artists have made songs with intentional backmasking, to poke fun at the phenomenon and/or cheese off Moral Guardians and Media Watchdogs:
- The Mindless Self Indulgence song Backmask is a blatant poke at subliminal messages. When played forwards, the lyrics tell the listener to "go kill yourself", "don't forget the guns - you're gonna need 'em to destroy", et cetera; played backwards, a large section consists of a pleasant female voice telling the listener to be a good person, e.g. "Don't stay out too late", "Get dressed for church".
- The intro to Electric Light Orchestra's "Fire On High" contains the ominous-sounding backwards message "The music is reversible, but time is not. Turn back! Turn back! Turn back!" They later released an entire album, Secret Messages, parodying the practice and the associated hype. It's said that when the band first heard allegations that their music contained "satanic" backmasking, "skcolloB" was one of the politer responses.
- On Pink Floyd's album The Wall, the song "Empty Spaces" contains the amusingly self-referential if kind of hard to make out since it's so buried in the mix backwards message
Roger Waters: "Congratulations, hunters, you've just discovered the secret message! Please send your answer to Old Pink, care of the Funny Farm, Chalfont..."James Guthrienote : *interrupts* "Roger, Carolyne note is on the phone."Roger Waters: "Okay".
- On his solo album Amused To Death, Waters includes a backwards message as a Take That! to Stanley Kubrick who wouldn't let him use a sample from 2001.
- "Weird Al" Yankovic's song "Nature Trail to Hell" contains the backwards message "Satan eats Cheez-Whiz!" His song "I Remember Larry" has the backwards message "Wow, you must have an awful lot of free time on your hands." "Bite Me", Which is probably the weirdest example ever. If you slow it down 800% (300% in Sound Recorder), it has a segment of a different song in it.
- "Detour Through Your Mind" by the B-52s contains the backwards message "I buried my parakeet in the backyard. Oh no, you're playing the record backwards! Watch out, you might ruin your needle."
- Iron Maiden's album Piece of Mind contains, between the songs "The Trooper" and "Still Life", a backwards recording of Nicko McBrain doing his impression of Idi Amin Dada: "What ho, said the thing with the three bonce, don't meddle with things you don't understand." The band put this in the album on purpose to Troll the Moral Guardians who accused them of being Satanists because of "The Number of the Beast".
- The Aquabats!' song "Why Rock", a parody of the metal style associated with this trope (and claimed to be a cover of a band called Leather Pyrate) contains the backwards message "It's worth it to graduate; your parents have the right idea. Brush your teeth."
- The song "Echo Side" by Dark Lotus (a Psychopathic Records supergroup featuring members of Insane Clown Posse (who were already the target of Moral Guardians and proud of it) and Twiztid) features a backmasked message which when reversed is actually an anti-Satanic message: Fuck the devil, fuck that shit, we believe in life legit. If you hearin' what we say, why you throw your soul away?.
- Subverted in the Oingo Boingo song "Cry of the Vatos" which features drums, screaming, and full-volume backmasked lyrics... which when played in reverse, say things like "Accept Jesus into your heart and you will be saved. You will receive everlasting life."
- The song "Heavy Metal Poisoning" from Styx's message-heavy 1983 album Kilroy Was Here includes a heavily-distorted voice reciting the Latin slogans from the dollar bill. And if that weren't enough, the second side of the album begins with a short clip of reversed speech all by itself.
- They Might Be Giants do this all the time, most noticeably in the song simply called "Subliminal". If you play "On Earth, My Nina" backwards, you'll actually hear "Thunderbird", another song of theirs. They Might Be Giants being They Might Be Giants, they released the "reversed" song half a decade before the forwards one. The demo version of "Which Describes How You're Feeling" has a bridge that, when played backwards, gives the message "They Might Be Giants wanted to include a verse about the suffering people in the world, but we couldn't figure out where to put it into the song". And "Hide Away Folk Family" ends with fake back-masking: It's actually just John Flansburgh singing a string of backwards-sounding nonsense. They do a double reverse in the song "Dinner Bell". They take a string of spoken parts of the body (ex. shoulder, bicep, elbow, arm), reverse the line, sing what they heard of the reversed line, and then reverse the reversed lines that they sung, and put those lines into the song. It's a cool effect.
- The ending of Soul Coughing's "The Bug" features a just barely audible loop of Mike Doughty repeating "George Clooney is Satan!" Not only is it a parody of the supposed message "I buried Paul" hidden in "Strawberry Fields" by the Beatles, it's also something of a Take That! to the very film it was written for... Batman & Robin, starring George Clooney.
- "P5hng Me A*wy", a song from Linkin Park's remix album Reanimation, contains a backmasked section which is simply one of the song's verses.
- Inverted with Linkin Park's "Announcement Service Public." YOU SHOULD BRUSH YOUR TEETH! AND! YOU SHOULD WASH YOUR FACE!
- "The Poet And The Pendulum," the first track on Nightwish's Dark Passion Play, opens with backmasked verses from the end of the song.
- Soundgarden attempted to cash in on this satanic messages thing on the song 665, but a bout of dyslexia lead them to leave a message to Santa.
- "Please Don't Release This Song", Mitch Benn's parody of "new" Beatles songs "Free as a Bird" and "Real Love" on the album Too Late To Cancel, ends with a backmasked section that turns out to actually be the chorus of "We Haven't Got A Clue", the first song on the album.
- The Franz Ferdinand song Michael has "She worries about you, call your mother" backmasked into it.
- The intro to Bone Thugs-n-Harmony's album East 1999 Eternal has an entire rap verse done backwards, appropriately by Bizzy, the Cloud Cuckoo Lander of the group.
- "Subliminal" by Floetry includes a backmasked line at the end to add to the song's flavor. Turns out Natalie's saying, "Do you feel clever? No, forget what everyone else has to say. Do you feel clever?" the same line that opens the song.
- Brazilian rock band Engenheiros do Hawaii did this in their song "Ilusão de Ótica" ("Auditive Illusion"note ) from their 1990 album O Papa é Pop (The Pope Is Pop). At a certain point in the song, when the record is played backwards, the vocalist Humberto Gessinger says, "Por que é que cê tá ouvindo isto ao contrário? O que é que cê tá procurando? Hein?" ("Why are you hearing this backwards? What are you looking for? Huh?").
- The song also contains more backmasked messages, like "Jesus salva, salve as baleias, leia livros" ("Jesus saves, save the whales, read books") and "safe sex, relax".
- Even Christian Rock band Petra got in on this. After being falsely accused of planting real backmasked Satanic messages in their songs (this was the early '80s), they deliberately placed a conspicuous backwards message in the space between two songs on their 1981 album Never Say Die: The message? "What are you looking for the Devil for, when you oughtta be looking for the Lord?" Later they openly lambasted the critics with their song "Witch Hunt", which contained, in the bridge, backwards versions of spoken lines that also appeared forwards in the same song.
- The infamously "pornographic" song "Darling Nikki" from Purple Rain by Prince has a backward-masked sequence that, when played forwards, says "Hello, how are you? I'm fine, 'cause I know the Lord is coming soon. Coming, coming soon."
- "Sucker" by Self ends in an Affectionate Parody of this: It has a backmasked sequence that sounds identical to the one in "Darling Nikki", but changes the message to "Hello, how are you? I'm fine, 'cause I know that breakfast is coming soon" (It's from an album called Breakfast With Girls, and the next song on the album is the title track).
- You can find "backwards message" videos on YouTube for hundreds, possibly even thousands of songs, for everything from Led Zeppelin to the theme song to Spongebob Squarepants.
- Parodied here, revealing the hidden meanings behind Daft Punk 's Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger.
- The outtro of Information Society's cover of Gary Numan's "Are Friends Electric?" has the backmasked message "Obey your parents. Do your homework. Winners don't do drugs." At first I thought it was the voice of the broken-down robot, with the mechanical noise in the background.
- The end of the title track of the first Overkill album, on original pressings, has the message "There's no message here, you're going to ruin your needle, asshole!"
- Semi-similarly, the end of Vicious Rumors' album "Digital Dictator" contains a very obvious backwards message which reverses to play "Be nice to your mom and dad. Don't abuse. Don't blow your brains out on drugs. Rock your brains out. By the way, you're ruining your needle."
- Caparezza included a backmasked message in one of the tracks of his latest CD. You can read more about it here (in Italian). The message means more or less: "I know how religion makes slaves out of you... but darkness will make its light". One of the album tracks (not the one where the message is) indeed talks about conspiracies and secrets.
- Five Iron Frenzy:
- They mentioned backmasking in "So Far, So Bad". The song describes the band's fictional Magnum Opus (which we'll never hear because The Man is suppressing it), and among its other features, "If you ever tried to play it backwards, it told the kids to stay in school."
- FIF also used backmasking themselves to hide nonsensical messages. On Quantity is Job 1, the space between "Riot Gear" and "The Untimely Death of Brad" includes Reese saying "Brad is dead. Let's kill Brad." On The End is Here, "That's How the Story Ends" starts with Reese saying "Sandwiches make the best friends."
- "Sucks" by KMFDM, among other fun claims, has:
KMFDM forward the ultimate soundand a message from Satanif you turn it around.
- "The Smell" from their first album also has a backmasked voice at the beginning and end.
- The beginning of Just One Fix by Ministry contains a particularly stunning example (based on the sample from the film Sid and Nancy) which makes sense played both forwards and backwards. Forwards: "Never trust a junkie." Backwards: "Christ is so stupid!".
- The song "Defy the Ailments" by The Faint, from their album Media, contains a message that says "Think [unintelligible]'ll talk backwards... Sometimes I amaze myself."
- The Fiery Furnaces like using reversed vocals as a studio trick, but there's really only one time they've hidden any lyrics this way. The single version of "Tropical Iceland" adds a fifth verse where the first and last lines are reversed. Playing the song backwards reveals that the full contents of that verse are:
And if you ever need some hash or weedYou won't be gettin' it hereJust take off into the bumpy seaGo to Denmark, man, oh it's so near
- The Bloodhound Gang's "Lift Your Head Up High (And Blow Your Brains Out)" references the Judas Priest controversy with the lines "Rewind and let me reverse / Backwards like Judas Priest first did" followed by a bit of slowed down, evil-sounding backwards speech. The message is "Devil child, wake up and eat Chef Boyardee Beefaroni"
- "What Can't Be Seen" by Everything Else features the first verse played backwards during the solo.
- Missy Elliot's 'Work It' did this, too, obviously only for artistic effect. In the chorus, it goes "I put my thing down, flip it, and reverse it", and then the next line is that line reversed.
- There's also another line in the song that goes, "Watch the way Missy like to take it backwards!".
- Parodied by Finnish Industrial Metal band, Turmion Kätilöt, in a couple of their songs. For example in "Piiloviestien Neitietsivä" (which even translates as "The Nancy Drew of Hidden Messages"), there is hidden the following message (in Finnish):
You dim-witted coyote, turn that music right way around, that sounds pretty shitty! Did you think that there would even be some infernal message here? Are you the Ari Vatanen of love, Nancy Drew of hidden messages? Are you still standing on your head? HALLELUJAH!
I want to play a game. Search the alternative ends for your U.S.C.H, and the prize will be yours. Let the hunt begin.
- Another one in "U.S.C.H!":
- Played straight in "Kirosana": (translated from Finnish) "Let us rape this hellish heaven on earth. There's a meaning of life for you."
- According to Blue Stahli himself, his music contains messages telling you to do inappropriate things with cowboy hats.
- At the end of the Incubus track "Azwethinkweiz" is a backwards message that can be reversed to play, "Thursday night we smoked indica, and Azwethinkweizm was BORN!"
- Frank Zappa parodied the idea of Satanic messages in rock by recording a track called "Ya Hozna" on Them or Us, which is completely performed backwards with backwards lyrics.
- The Final Boss of DoomII Level 30, the Icon of Sin, recites the phrase "To win the game, you must kill me, John Romero," reversed and distorted to sound like a demonic chant.
- In the Atari ST version of the 1989 game Enterprise, there's a sound file labelled "WARNINGD.DAT", if you play it backward, you get "Enterprise is rubbish!"
- During one of the music video segments in the Beavis and Butt-Head episode "Vidiots," Beavis reveals that he can do this. His speech actually has the audio reversed, but when Butt-Head tries it, he just reverses the order of the words.
- The Clone High episode "Raisin The Stakes" has a scene where JFK gets high on raisins and falls through a skylight, landing on a table. Between his highness and the massive pain of shattering his leg, he starts rambling in backwards speech. If one plays his words in reverse, it's a secret message exhorting viewers to keep watching Clone High and help it win an Emmy.
- Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends: In "Infernal Slumber", Bloo talks backwards as part of the friends' plan to act weird to convince an awoken Terrence that he's dreaming.
- Used at the beginning of the House of Mouse short "Hickory Dicker Mickey".
Goofy: .yfooG s'ti, yekciM, olleHMickey: Goofy, you're talking through the wrong end of the phone again!Goofy: !spoO
- It's everywhere in Gravity Falls - for example, at the end of every theme song is a whisper that, if played backwards, reveals a way to solve a secret code in the end credits. But one of the most notable examples is is during Bill Cipher's death, where he shouts gibberish that translates to what seems to be a way to eventually bring him back to life:
Bill: "A-X-O-L-O-T-L, MY TIME HAS COME TO BURN, I INVOKE THE ANCIENT POWER THAT I MAY RETURN!"
- Mr. Pickles, the titular character, is a Satanic dog who uses demonic incantations in order to hypnotize others to do his bidding. The incantation is actually a voice deepened and played backwards.
- The Simpsons: In "Who Shot Mr. Burns? Part 2" Chief Wiggum has a Dream Sequence where Lisa appears, talking backwards-forwards in an homage to Twin Peaks.
- Spongebob Squarepants: In "Opposite Day", SpongeBob and Patrick speak backwards while celebrating the titular day. The translation:
SpongeBob: Hey, Patrick.Patrick: I give up.SpongeBob: To get to the opposite side.(they both laugh)
- Amethyst speaks this way in the Steven Universe episode "An Indirect Kiss" when her gem gets cracked and starts getting wonky.
Hello, Unknown Troper. You'll need to get known to lend a hand here.