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Lyric Swap

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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. If a chorus evolves over the song, that's a Changing Chorus.


  • 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."
  • "Can You Feel It" by The Apples In Stereo: "drown out the static on the FM radio" later becomes "drown out the bullshit on the FM radio". The music video edit naturally omits this part.
  • Isaac Asimov's "The Foundation of S.F. Success": A recurring rhyme in this poem is "And all the fans will say, as you walk your [changes] way". The second-to-last word is either spatial, thoughtful, or narrow. The rhyme that follows is also clearly related, but changes even more dramatically each time it's used.
    • "If that young man indulges in flights through all the Galaxy, Why, what a most imaginative type of man that type of man must be."
    • "If that young man involves himself in authentic history, Why, what a very learned kind of high IQ, his high IQ must be."
    • "If all his yarns restrict themselves to masculinity, Why, what a most particularly pure young man that pure young man must be.

  • Sara Bareilles' "Love Song":
    • The chorus starts off as:
      I'm not gonna write you a love song,
      'Cause you asked for it,
      'Cause you need one, you see.
      I'm not gonna write you a love song,
      'Cause you tell me it's make or break in this.
      If you're on your way,
      I'm not gonna write you to stay.
      If all you have is leaving,
      I'mma need a better reason,
      To write you a love song today.
    • In the final chorus, she's more emphatic about both her opinion of the ultimatum and that she'd write one if he gave her more of a reason to:
      Is that why you wanted a love song?
      'Cause you asked for it,
      'Cause you need one, you see.
      I'm not gonna write you a love song,
      'Cause you tell me it's make or break in this.
      If you're on your way,
      I'm not gonna write you to stay.
      If your heart is nowhere in it,
      I don't want it for a minute.
      Babe, I'll walk the seven seas when,
      I believe that there's a reason,
      To write you a love song today, today.

  • Gary Barlow and Sheridan Smith's "How Christmas is Supposed to Be":
    • It's about a couple having a blazing row over Christmas, and the chorus goes:
      It's a war, it's a fight,
      On the worst of all nights,
      No, it's not the red that we wanna see.
      There will be no release,
      Till we're down on our knees,
      Can we both agree,
      It's not how Christmas is supposed to be.
    • The final verse inevitably has them making up, following which the chorus is:
      Just look into my eyes,
      Let me apologise,
      Here's the only place that I wanna be.
      The only gift that I need,
      Is you loving me,
      And we both agree,
      This is how Christmas is supposed to be.

  • As part of the run-up to Battle For Azeroth's release, Jaina Proudmoore's Warbringers short consists almost entirely of a musical cautionary tale, presumably titled Daughter Of The Sea. With the subject matter revolves around the death of Jaina's father, Daelin Proudmoore, the swap becomes a callback to the first line Jaina sings - "Beware, beware... the Daughter of the Sea" - when, after raising a shipwreck from the ocean and sailing it towards Kul Tiras, the final verse ends by showing the steadily rising anger nearly three expansions in the making.
    I heard, I heard... across the wounded sea,
    The old voice warning me:
    Beware, beware... the Daughter of the Sea.
    Beware, beware... of me.
  • In The Beatles' "Girl" (from the album Rubber Soul, the first line of verse three is "Was she told when she was young that pain would lead to pleasure?", which was a comment John Lennon made on how Christianity assumed that torture was a means to attain going to Heaven. In printed media of Beatles' song lyrics (including the singalong segment of the band's Saturday morning cartoon), the word "pain" was replaced with the word "fame."
  • 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 the characters in the song seeming to suddenly swap roles - Molly working at the market place with the children and Desmond staying at home and putting makeup on his face 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'.
  • "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).
  • In "Twentieth Century Boy," Marc Bolan transposes the words "boy" and "toy" in the last two refrains.
  • The chorus of Brian and Michael's "Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs", about the painter L.S. Lowry, has the lines "Now he takes his brush and he waits/Outside the factory gates". The final verse is about Lowry's death, following which this becomes "Now he takes his brush and he waits/Outside them Pearly Gates".
  • Chico Buarque's "Construção" does this with the entire song after the second verse, switching the ends of every line around or changing them slightly.

  • 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."
  • Tracy Chapman: The final chorus of "Fast Car" swaps "we" for "you" and changes the meaning. The song has been about escaping a life you hate only find the new one isn't much better, and the chorus is about escaping the unhappy life together. In the final chorus, the singer is asking her now husband to be an equal partner/father or else get out—changing "we" to "you" and ending with "you've got to make a decision/leave tonight or live and die this way."
  • Coco: Héctor does this with "Everyone Knows Juanita" when he remembers a particular lyric is a bit dirty for Miguel. The fact he's able to do this in a second and play it off so that only somebody who knows the song catches it is foreshadowing of his musical talents, and the fact that he was a father.
  • "Even Though I'm Leaving" by Luke Combs. The first chorus, with a father putting his son to bed, and the second, when he sees him off for military duty, have the line "It's okay, I know you're scared". The last chorus, in which the father is dying, changes the line to "It's okay, boy, I ain't scared."

  • 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 verses of "Always the Last to Know" by Del Amitri all end "I'll be the last to know", as the singer laments that his ex is seeing someone else and he's given up the right to be kept in the loop. In the last verse he hopes her new partner doesn't cheat on her like he did, and the last line is "You were the last to know".
  • 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."
  • 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".
  • Bob Dylan's Break-Up 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.

  • "This Love Is Not Wrong" by nineties indie band The Field Mice appears to be a standard Starcrossed Lovers song ("This love is as good as any other/As good as any other/This love is not wrong") until the last chorus.
    This love is as good as any other
    Says one woman to another
  • 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!"
  • In the last chorus of "Race for the Prize" by The Flaming Lips, the lyric "theirs is to win, if it kills them" becomes "theirs is to win, it will kill them".
  • 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.

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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."
  • 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.

  • 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'.

  • 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".
  • In the chorus of "Hosanna" in Jesus Christ Superstar, "Hey JC, JC, won't you smile at me?" changes to "'re all right by me," then to "...won't you fight for me?", and finally, "...won't you die for me?"

  • In "Poker Face", Lady Gaga slips in "fuck her face" during the chorus instead of the Title Drop.

  • "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?
  • 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.
  • There was one line in the theme song to the the PBS show "Maya & 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.
  • 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.
  • "England 2, Colombia Nil" by Kirsty Mac Coll:
    • The first chorus goes:
      You lied about your status
      You lied about your life
      You never mentioned your three children
      Or the fact you have a wife
      Now it's England 2, Colombia nil
      And I know just how those Colombians feel
    • The second and third change this slightly to:
      You/He lied about your/his status
      You/He lied about your/his life
      You/He forgot you/he had three children
      You/He forgot you/he had a wife
      Now it's England 2, Colombia nil
      And I know just how those Colombians feel
    • And the final chorus, once she's washed her hands of him, is:
      You lied about your status
      You lied about your life
      And I pity your three children
      And I pity your poor wife
      Now you can go to Hell, I'm going to Brazil
      Still, it's England 2, Colombia nil
  • The second chorus of "Land Down Under" by Men at Work replaces "Where women glow and men plunder" with "Where beer does flow and men chunder". There's also variants in whether the singer is being told, being asked, or just stating that he or someone else comes from the land down under.
  • 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".
  • Morris Minor and the Majors: The chorus of their Stock Aitken Waterman parody "This is the Chorus" concludes by warning "And thirty seconds from now you're gonna hear it again". This obviously doesn't work for the final chorus, so they add one last SAW reference with "And if you're lucky, lucky, lucky, you won't hear it again".
  • 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"?
    • It's also done in another song from The Black Parade: "Dead!", which swaps the line in the second repeat of the chorus from "Wouldn't it be grand? It ain't exactly what you planned" to "Wouldn't it be grand to take a pistol by the hand?"
  • The final verse of Nickelback's Figured You Out: Chad Kroeger repeats the first verse, but replaces "love" with "hate".
  • For most of its 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".
  • 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 intro song to Panic! at the Disco's album Pray For The Wicked: "(Fuck A) Silver Lining" has the chorus of "fuck a silver lining, fuck a silver lining, 'cause only gold is hot enough," but loudly bleeps it out in the final chorus for comedic effect... before immediately saying it again, without bleeping out the swear.
  • The final verse of Lee Roy Parnell's "What Kind of Fool" is the first verse with a couple of changes: "Here you come knockin' on my door/when you said you don't need me anymore" becomes "Don't you come knockin' on my door/'cause you know I don't need you anymore." It's a downplaying of the trope: the whole song has been clear the narrator isn't going to take his ex back, but this is the most direct statement of that.
  • "If You're Anxious For to Shine" from Patience, which "The Foundation of SF Success" is a pastiche of, does the same thing, with the line "And ev'ryone will say/As you walk your mystic/flow'ry way" (the first two are the same), followed by:
    • "If this young man expresses himself in terms too deep for me, Why, what a very singularly deep young man this deep young man must be!"
    • "If that's not good enough for him which is good enough for me, Why, what a very cultivated kind of youth this kind of youth must be!"
    • "If he's content with a vegetable love which would certainly not suit me, Why, what a most particularly pure young man this pure young man must be!"
  • The final verse of Queen's "One Vision" ends with "Just gimme, gimme, gimme, gimme, fried chicken". Bit of a different meaning.
  • In the Red Dwarf song "Tongue Tied", the last line of the chorus changes after each verse: "You make me feel a clown"; "My trousers, they turn brown"; and "I drool so much I drown".
  • 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".
  • From Rise Against:
    • In "Hero of War", the first chorus is proud and gung-ho, as the man in the song is pumped when he joins the army. As the song progresses, however, he witnesses the horrors of war as his unit commits unspeakable acts against other people, and the final chorus is much more bitter in response.
      First chorus: A hero of war / Yeah, that's what I'll be / And when I come home / They'll be damn proud of me
      Final chorus: A hero of war / Is that what they see? / Just medals and scars / So damn proud of me
    • "Tragedy + Time" is about the experience of trauma in your life, and the initial chorus lets you know that it can feel hopeless. Towards the end, it encourages you to let that experience shape you, and the final chorus gives you a glimpse of what the light at the end of the tunnel might feel like.
      First chorus: And nothing matters but the pain when you're alone / The never-ending nights when you're awake / When you're praying that tomorrow, it's okay
      Final chorus: Nothing matters when the pain is all but gone / When you are finally awake / Despite the overwhelming odds, tomorrow came
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • In the final chorus of "Better With You" by Simply Red, after the subject of the song has stood the singer up and returned to the bar where they met, to hang out with her "gin-soaked friends", the line "Better with you, as we did the things we'll never forget" gets swapped for "Better with you, before the booze put you out of your head".
  • "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.
  • 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'.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • "Is It Still Over?" by Randy Travis. The second to last line in the chorus is "I'll have to mind to take the time to find somebody new". The last time the chorus is sung, the line becomes "If I repeat myself it's 'cause I've nothing else to do".
  • 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…".
  • The last reprise of the chorus of "Love of the Common People" by Paul Young swaps out "Smiles from the heart of a family man" for "Smile's really hard on a family man".
  • Taylor Swift made a personal amendment to "Karma" on The Eras Tour. "Karma is the guy on the screen, coming straight home to me" was rumored to be written about her then-boyfriend actor Joe Alwyn. With Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce in attendance at the Buenos Aires tour stop, Swift changed the line to "Karma is the guy on the Chiefs, coming straight home to me".