So you're listening to a song by a band you like. They get to the chorus, and maybe you're singing along because you've picked it up over the first few times. But wait—what did they just sing? That was different, wasn't it? And it changed the meaning quite a bit. That was a Lyric Swap.
A Lyric Swap is essentially a repeated song lyric that gets changed in one of its iterations. It's not quite Lyrical Dissonance
, because the lyrics generally
match the tone, but maybe in one verse they sing a line slightly different, and it's a significantly different meaning.
Not to be confused with a Mondegreen
, which is unintentional.
- In "Poker Face", Lady Gaga slips in "fuck her face" during the chorus instead of the Title Drop.
- In "July, July!" by The Decemberists, the line "the water rolls down the drain" changes to "the blood rolls down the drain" for one refrain.
- The final verse of Nickelback's Figured You Out: Chad Kroeger repeats the first verse, but replace "love" with "hate".
- During live versions of "Michael" from Franz Ferdinand's debut album, Alex Kapranos often replaces "Come and dance with me" with "Come all over me" live. He also replaces "Stubble on my sticky lips" with "Stubble on my sticky hips". Slightly more sexy.
- In The Sharpest Lives, from My Chemical Romance's The Black Parade, the standard line in the chorus is "Burn all the empires" (rhyming with "vampires" in the next line), but the final one uses "Burn all the embers" (rhyming with the previous lines of "shot to remember" and "I will surrender"). The song is about drug use, the line change perhaps implying that the singer is "burned out"?
- The final verse of Queen's "One Vision" ends with "Just gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, fried chicken". Bit of a different meaning.
- In "Twentieth Century Boy," Marc Bolan transposes the words "boy" and "toy" in the last two refrains.
- The last repetition of the chorus in The Offspring's "You're Gonna Go Far Kid" replaces "With a thousand lies and a good disguise" with "Clever alibis, lord of the flies."
- The narrator of Nick Cave's "The Mercy Seat" (about a man on death row) insists that he is innocent ("And anyway I told the truth"). The chorus always ends with the lines "And I am not afraid to die," until the last time it is sung, when the line is changed to "But I'm afraid I told a lie."
- Eric Idle's famous song from Monty Python's Life of Brian, "Always Look On The Bright Side Of Life", notably does, replacing the eponymous lyrics of the chorus by "Always look on the bright side of death/Just before you draw your terminal breath".
- "Spirit Never Die" by Masterplan has an 8-line chorus and is repeated three times. 5 lines are subtly changed on the second iteration. Then, 2 lines are changed, and 3 lines are reverted on the third iteration. Oh, did you want to sing along?
- In Devo's classic song "Jocko Homo" the line "Are we not men?" changes to "Are we not pins?" as a reference to the earlier lyric, "We're pinheads all."
- The Beatles' "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da" has its last verse repeated twice, and the second time there's a slight change, famously resulting in Molly working at the market place with the children and Desmond staying at home and putting on makeup instead of the other way around. Paul McCartney had flubbed the lyrics and they decided to Throw It In.
- Famously, about half the time in the studio version of "She Loves You", they're actually singing 'she'd love to', as in 'have sex'.
- For most of it's running time, NOFX's "Please Play This Song On The Radio" is a Self-Demonstrating Song about how radio-friendly the song itself is. Then after a Fake-Out Fade-Out, there's one last verse, which throws in some obscenities and mentions that if someone is playing the song on the radio at this moment, they'd better have switched to the next song by now... So of course the final chorus changes from "please play this song on the radio" to "You can't play this song on the radio".
- In the last chorus of They Might Be Giants' "Man It's So Loud In Here", "When they stop the drum machine and I can think again" becomes "When they start the love machine and I can love again".
- The first two choruses of "Last to Know" by Three Days Grace are, like the verses, about mourning the loss of a woman who abruptly left the singer for another man. In the last chorus, the singer decides he's better off without her, the relationship wasn't all that great, and warns his ex's current lover that she'll end up treating him the same way.
- R.E.M.'s "The One I Love" alters the third verse so that "another prop has occupied my time", rather than "a simple prop to occupy my time".
- "Heart of Glass" by Blondie, the line "Soon turned out had a heart of glass" the third time around is changed to "Soon turned out to be a pain in the ass" (but not in the radio version).
- On the 'Garage Flower' album version of The Stone Roses' song "Here It Comes," Ian Brown changes the lyrics from 'I'm just useless for her' to 'I'm a useless fucker'.
- Steven Tyler of Aerosmith likes to swap lyrics quite often during live performances. Well-known live lyric swaps include "Dream until your balls turn blue" in the place of "Dream until your dreams come true" in "Dream On," "That makes a dead man rise" instead of "That makes a grown man cry" in "Back in the Saddle," and "Just give me some head" as opposed to "Just give me a kiss" in "Walk This Way."
- Stromkern do this a lot. The choruses of "Feed the Machine" and "Stand Up" are altered each time they are sung. They also performed a cover of Nick Cave's "The Mercy Seat", elsewhere noted for invoking this trope.
- The final chorus of "Give Me Novocaine" by Green Day does this. Instead of "Tell me that I won't feel a thing," it's "Tell me, Jimmy, I won't feel a thing."
- Alan Jackson's done this a few times:
- "Where I Come From" can't seem to make up its mind whether the chorus is referring to pickin' or sittin', and whether it's on the front or back porch.
- Similarly, the third chorus of "I Still Like Bologna" changes "the sound of a whippoorwhill down a country road" to "…a Shovelhead down a gravel road".
- The last iteration of "Country Boy"'s chorus changes "Up city streets, down country roads" to "winding roads".
- The theme to GaoGaiGar FINAL uses the same tune as the theme to the TV series, but has mostly different words, though following the same general pattern. Essentially, it's a new set of verses. And yes, Masaaki Endoh has occasionally mixed them up when singing live.
- On the album version of Keith Urban's "Once in a Lifetime", the final iteration of the chorus has different words. The original is "And don't fear it now, we're going all the way / That sun is shining on a brand new day / It's a long way down and it's a leap of faith / But I'm never givin' up / 'Cause I know we got a once in a lifetime love." The last time around, it becomes "Don't fear it now, I'll never let you go / When you're by my side, I know I've made it home…".
- Five Iron Frenzy's "Superpowers" has the lyrics in the second verse, "Everyone in the band can't stand me / just because I fell off the stage / and kinda by accident / I broke the promoter's legs." On the album Live: Proof That the Youth Are Revolting, Reese Roper instead sings "Just because I ate pork and beans / and kinda by accident / I ... farted?" The Hilarious Outtakes in the album's Hidden Track feature two more variations: "Just because I have nasty shorts..." and "Just because I'm a hip hopper!"
- The chorus of "Gamma Unchained" by The Megas ends with the line "I'll give you power, you take control," except at the end of the song, which replaces it with "What good is power if you're out of control?"
- In "The Quick and the Blue", all five lines of the last chorus are changed a bit from what they had been earlier in the song.
- Bob Dylan's Breakup Song "Idiot Wind" ends each (rather long) verse with the line "You're an idiot, babe, it's a wonder that you still know how to breathe" before switching to "We're idiots, babe, it's a wonder we can even feed ourselves" in the last verse.
- The Rocky Horror Picture Show opens with "Science Fiction - Double Feature" with lyrics about classic SF movies, and ends (in some prints) with the reprise version (with very similar lyrics) that summarizes the events in the film/play.
- Maximum The Hormone's What's up, People?! has several sections of "HEY HEY! Ningen sanka ai nige ningen fuan ka?", which is what the lyric sheet in the single says. Except the last time they say it, where it's written like what English speakers would certainly hear.
- "Ancient Eyes" by Steeleye Span is based on the opening scenes of early Discworld novels in which the star turtle would be introduced, and especially the first such scene in The Colour of Magic. One of the lines in the song is "Through a billion stars he flies", except in the final chorus it's "Through a billion stars she flies", referencing A'Tuin's Ambiguous Gender, which was a plot point in TCOM.
- In Show Boat, the reprise of "Can't Help Lovin' Dat Man" that ends the first act has Magnolia sing "Can't stop me now, there's no use to try" instead of "Fish gotta swim and birds gotta fly." This was not the case in the original production, though the 1946 revival was reinstating this lyrical variant from an early script.
- There was one line in the theme song to the the PBS show "Maya and Miguel" that went "He leads with his head and she follows her heart." After a few airings of the show, it was changed to "They make a great team as they each do their part" because executives apparently considered the other line to be sexist.
- In "Grandpa’s Advice" by Adie Grey and Dave MacKenzie, the first two iterations of the chorus express Grandpa's opinion that, when driving, it's best to assume all the other drivers on the road are "half asleep or stoned". The last iteration, in which the narrator is passing on Grandpa's advice to her own children, switches this to "drunk or on the phone": a timely update.
- Gloriana's "Trouble" has a chorus that begins "If you're running around, you better run from me / Pack up your bags and get gone, get gone". The third time around, "pack up your bags" becomes "pack up your shit" which was obviously Bowdlerised back to "bags" on the radio edit.
- In the folk song "Diamantina Drover", the drover describes how hard the road is getting, but says he "won't be back 'til the droving's done". In the final chorus, he's been going for so long that he now thinks he "won't be back when the droving's done".
- In "Wait For It" in Hamilton, the first, second, and fourth choruses are all almost the same with minor alterations (the third chorus, with Burr singing about Hamilton, is almost completely different):
- The first chorus has 'Love doesn't discriminate', but the second changes to 'Death doesn't discriminate', which the fourth chorus sticks to.
- Similarly, the first chorus has 'We laugh and we cry and we break and we make our mistakes', while that changes to 'We rise and we fall and we break and we make our mistakes' in the second and fourth.
- The first chorus has 'If there's a reason I'm by her side / when so many have tried', the second has 'If there's a reason I'm still alive / when everyone who loves me has died', and the fourth changes it again this time with 'If there's a reason I'm still alive / when so many have died'.