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Lyrical Tic

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Heeeaay! That's a James Brown lyric. He wrote that shit! He's writing a song and, "I need a word in here... Heeeaay! That's good!"
Eddie Murphy, from his 1983 stage show Delirious

A Lyrical Tic is an odd, toss-in sound found in a song that a particular singer or a band seems to make in a whole lot of their songs. Sometimes when they're used, it seems the singer is just being enthusiastic and so makes some sort of "Whoo Hoo" or "Yeah!". Other times, Lyrical Tic is used in "Oh crap, I've forgotten the next line" moments. Whether the use of a nonsenical, random sound rather than an actual lyric makes a song better, or breaks the rhythm and the mood, is a matter of opinion.


A musical variant of Verbal Tic. See also Scatting.


  • James Brown may very well be the Most Triumphant Example of this trope. He was famous for going "ow!". He was also famous for variations of "Hunh!", "Heh!", "Whoa", "Ooh", and (as noted in the page quote), "Hey!"
    • A short-lived Twitmeme, "Radio 4 Minus One Letter", defined "From Our Ow Correspondent" as "a series of reports from across the world delivered by our reporters, interspersed with their impressions of James Brown".
    • The original version of the prank known as "blasting" involves driving up behind an unsuspecting pedestrian, cranking the stereo to full volume and playing the "ow" from the beginning of "I Feel Good".
  • Bob Marley had many, mostly involving Scatting, repeating words, saying "oooh yeah", "well" and "whoa". A good example is "So Much Things To Say" from Exodus, which starts off laid back and quickly gets out of time because he's trying to fit so many words and noises into each line.
  • Joan Jett is a serious abuser of this trope- nearly every one of her songs includes her "OW!". Earlier songs from her time in the Runaways include a lot of moaning and sex noises.
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  • Shania Twain is famous for her gratuitous "woo!" and "uh uh" noises.
  • Keith Urban has one that sounds like a mix between "ooo" and "mmm". He also likes to ad-lib variants on "yes, you did" a lot.
  • Michael Jackson's "Whooo!", often accompanied by him grabbing his crotch. Also his "Eeee-hee" and "Chamone/Ja-mawn-eh!", and "Chk-uhh, chk-uhh". "Hoooooooo!" is another one; he started using with the music video for "Bad", but it didn't become a prominent non-lyric of his until The '90s.
  • John McCrea from Cake says "all right" somewhere in nearly every song. Often extended to "Aw! Yeah! All right!". There's also the occasional "Yah!", shouted as though he were cracking a whip.
  • Tom Waits' screaming.
  • The Used's Bert McCracken often makes "mm"s "pow"s and "chk-chkow"s, some of which are reminiscent of Michael Jackson.
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  • Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam makes quite a variety of sounds, the most common are probably "Mmmm", "Unh-huh" and "Oooooo".
  • Eve has "uh" and "shit".
  • The Cure's Robert Smith seems particulary fond of making meowing noises in a number of their songs, mostly the upbeat tracks such as 'Lovecats' and 'Mint Car'.
  • Dave Chappelle immortalized Lil Jon's "YAA-EE-AAH!" "OKAY!" and "WHAT!"
  • DMX made frequent use of growls, barking, "uh!", and "come on!" in his songs.
  • Eminem also makes a habit of this trope, albeit it's usually the "Bow Wow Wow" thing.
  • Beyoncé trills her notes. A lot. You can sometimes pick her songs out of a crowd just on the basis of this Lyrical Tic.
  • Win Butler of Arcade Fire is fond of spontaneous, often very high-pitched, 'WOOO!'s. While they at first sound like a marker for more up-tempo songs, toned-down whoops appear even in slower songs like 'Neighbourhood #4 (7 Kettles)'.
  • Little Richard loved his "Whooooooh!"s and "Ah Hoooooooo!"s.
  • The early The Beatles were fond of "Whoo!", in imitation of Little Richard.
    • Yeah yeah yeah!
  • Aimee Mann is fond of tossing the word "baby" into her songs at random.
  • Led Zeppelin's Robert Plant had his easily recognizable array of wails and high-pitched screams, along with his randomly inserted "Oh baby"'s.
  • James Hetfield is well known for ending phrases with "-AH!" "All Nightmare Long" has this hilarious line at the end of the chorus: "But your luck! runs! out-AH!" He's also well known for "Yeaah-aaah!" and the occasional "Go!" as a new riff or portion of a song kicks in.
    • He is also fond of "Yeah!" or "Yeah-eah!". Someone actually took the time to compile all of them.
  • Japan's ridiculous debut album Adolescent Sex has David Sylvian saying "whoa babe" and "dancing" a lot.
  • Regina Spektor goes "tsk-tsk" to the beat of the music a lot. It's often accompanied by snapping.
  • It seems sometimes that Will Smith can't begin a song without a "Whooooo!", "Uhn!", or "Ha ha!". For that matter, he doesn't seem able to end a song without one, either.
  • Buddy Holly had the glottal stop, as in "We-eh-ell, the little things you say and do, make me want to be with you-uh-oo."
  • Mike Doughty of Soul Coughing almost always pronounces an additional vowel at the ends of words which end stanzas. It's rather unusual at first, but eventually, you can't imagine Soul Coughing music without it.
    When you were languishing in rooms I build to file you in-uhh
    And when the wind set down in funnel-form and pulled you in-uhh
    • And he still does this in all of his solo material. It is definitely unique, that's for sure.
  • Wynonna Judd uses a lot of "Uhn" in her songs, and sometimes actually ''hisses" in her songs. No, really, she hisses. Like a snake.
  • The Misfits have been fond of various "Whoa's" and "Oh's" in all incarnations.
  • Roy Orbison's signature cat growl. "Rrawrr!" In the liner notes for a song in which it was sampled, it was referred to as "the Mercy growl". Guess his other (less frequently used) tic.
  • Travie McCoy of Gym Class Heroes threw a lot of "So sexy"'s in random places on the As Cruel As School Children album.
  • Boyz II Men had a sound shared with many black male R&B groups of the time, "Nayhooooo!"
  • Immature had "Yeyeh".
  • Glenn Gould was a classical pianist who involuntarily hummed along to the music. On many of his recordings, his humming is audible; many critics complained that it ruined many otherwise fine performances.
    • Maurizio Pollini has done the same thing.
    • Keith Jarrett fits too, with added grunting.
  • Legendary actor/singer Benjamin "Scatman" Crothers got his nickname ("Scatman") because of this trope. He'd toss in nonsense sounds and "Hey, man"s into every song he sang. A lot of the sounds he made duplicated the music being played behind his vocals, a technique known in jazz as "Scatting".
  • Jazz musician Phil Harris had a habit of tossing in the occasional "Oh", "Hey", "Tell me" and "Yeah, man" on every song he sang. Like the aforementioned Scatman Crothers, he would also make sounds that mimicked the music that was backing him (like going "ba-pa-pa-pa-ba-dah" to accompany a trumpet flourish). When he and Scatman Crothers duetted on "Everybody Wants to Be a Cat" (from the Disney film The Aristocats), its a veritable garden of throw-it-in sounds and Scatting.
  • Mark E. Smith of The Fall is known for adding an "-ah" at the end of lines in a way similar to the Mike Doughty example above. It's not quite after every line, and generally seems to be his way of emphasizing certain lyrics. It's particularly rampant in "Repetition" - "Ah-we dig-ah, Ah-we dig-ah repetition-ah!".
    • British comedians Vic Reeves and Bob Mortimer labelled this The Club Singer Style after inept singers in Northern working mens' clubs, and took it to a particularly incoherent extreme on their Shooting Stars spoof game show.
  • Redman always starts his songs (or at least his own verse when rapping on someone else's track) with one or more "Yo's".
  • The Kaiser Chiefs seem to like going, "Wooooaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhh!"
  • Bono likes his "ohhhhhhh"s.
  • Ronnie James Dio was fond of "Lookout!"
  • Till Lindemann of German band Rammstein usually rolls his R's. Also, when he sings "ach", it sounds like a growl.
  • Matisyahu never fails to drop a "Yaiyo!" or "Yiggi yiggi yo!" or two into his songs.
  • Steven Tyler of Aerosmith seems to favor the "Weeeaooows".
  • Less so in later years, but on System of a Down's first album, Serj Tankian was notorious for this. The song D Devil is a good example.
  • Michael Stipe would often go 'ho''ooh' or 'whoa' in the early R.E.M. songs, for instance in "Harborcoat" and "Just A Touch". He would often stretch these noises over the melody for harmony purposes. Another one, which he still does, is shout some of the words in a particular line rather than sing them (for instance in "Just A Touch" and "Discoverer").
  • New artist Awolnation (a.k.a Aaron Bruno) enjoys randomly screaming "Yeah!" or "Hey!" between verses, the beginning of the song 'Soul Wars' being a prime example.
  • Stray From The Path's Drew York does this a lot with "Bleagh".
  • David Draiman of Disturbed is known for a guttural, animal-like sort of growl/scream, which opened 'Down With the Sickness', Perfect Insanity and 'Stricken', among others. This is often rendered as 'O-wa-wa-a' or 'Uwawawa' or something similar in text.
  • Christina Aguilera throws Woo Hoo's, Hoo woow's, aha's and WOOOH into her tracks!
  • Billy Idol is rather fond of "ow!"
  • Lady Gaga likes stuttering syllables in whatever phrase is the hook - "puh-puh-puh-poker face", "stop telephoning me-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh-eh", "Judas, Juda-ah-ah!", "Muh-muh-muh-marry the night"... Oh, and don't forget "Rah rah ah-ah-ah! Ro mah ro-mah-mah Gaga oh-la-la".
  • brokeNCYDE go 'bree bree', a high-pitched piggie-squeal noise, which expresses adolescent rage, presumably. This was common for Crunkcore bands when they started doing it, but they continued long after others realized how awful it was, and named their pig mascot 'Bree'.
  • Brazilian singer Samuel Rosa, from the band Skank, is an expert in Scatting. His most repeated one is "Ehhhhh!".
  • In the case of Evanescence Amy Lee uses AH AH AH rather a lot on their 2011 album.
  • Imogen Heap was rather fond of "Da da ooooom" in her early years. It seems to have carried on in the Frou Frou cover of Holding Out for a Hero and in Speak For Yourself's Loose Ends, albeit with the "oom" changed to "dum" and with more "da da".
  • David Lee Roth has many, including "OH YEEEAAAH" and "woo!".
    • He's enough of a Large Ham to make long phrases like "I ain't lyin' to ya!" and "I'm gonna tell you one time!" work like this. In multiple songs. To say nothing of the infamous "GODDAMMIT BABY I AIN'T LYIN' TO YA, I'M ONLY GONNA TELL YOU ONE TIMEEEEEAAAAAAAYEEAAAAAHHH" in "Runnin' With the Devil."
  • Say Anything...'s lead singer Max Bemis tends to use "woah!" as a filler — played with in the song "Woe".
  • Shaggy: "SHAGGY!"
  • Damo Suzuki of Can loves manic yelling and high pitched shrieks. He sounds particularly deranged on "Peking O" and "Soup". He also did a James Brown-esque "uh!" at the start of "Halleluwah".
  • Bob Dylan is fond of starting out lyric lines with "Well,..."
  • Emilie Autumn likes rolling her Rs. She also has her voice break intentionally a lot (like in "Liar" and "If I Burn"), usually when transitioning from normal singing to Careful with That Axe. (the voice break is a sign that she's going to scream at some point)
  • Finding a song by The Offspring in which singer Dexter Holland doesn't shout "woah" or "yeah" is like finding a needle in a haystack. Only there is no needle and the haystack lied to you.
  • Bing Crosby's "bubuhbaboom".
  • Delta Goodrem, as of 2007, when in doubt, put an AH/EH in there; Waiting For Forever, Dancing With A Broken Heart, Angels In The Room, One Day, Sitting On Top Of the World, Touch and You Will Only Break My Heart.
  • Sting seems to have a thing for stretching out the coda of songs with "ee-oh"'s. See, for instance, "Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic", "Walking On the Moon" or "Message In a Bottle" when performed live. Probably related are the two "eh-ey-ohh"'s he sings at the beginning of "Synchronicity II".
  • Jeno Ringler, vocalist for Isle of Q, ended almost every single line with a descending grunt. "I'm not part of your little scene-ugh!"
  • Although the members of Rascal Flatts only write a small portion of their own songs, lead singer Gary LeVox is fond of ending every song on a bunch of "yeah"s and "ooh"s, often in falsetto.
  • Pitbull enjoys breaking out his "wooooOOH!" at least once per song, if not multiple times, along with chuckling at his own punch lines.
    • He also loves shouting out his nicknames ("Mr. Worldwide!", "Mr. 305!") and saying "dalé" at least once every song.
  • Parodied on Homestar Runner, where Strong Bad claims that one of the keys to being a Death Metal band is putting a lot of words beginning with "de" in your lyrics, like "decay", "decrepit", and "delouse".
  • Ash are fond of the "woah"s and "ooh"s and a lot of their lyrics refer to space, stars or the galaxy. For example Sometimes ("Saturn's decline in the star sign, seasonal adjustments stars realign"), Shining Light ("A constellation once seen, over Royal David's City"), Angel Interceptor ("Angel Interceptor, Apollo 21, Uri Gagarin, flew into the sun") and "Jack Names The Planets".
  • Chance The Rapper's use of "Igh!"
  • Ella Fitzgerald was also well known for scatting.
  • You could almost always tell when Ric Ocasek was singing lead on any Cars song, especially on Heartbeat City; listen for an "uh-oh."
  • TechN9ne (chah!) punctuates all of his lines (chah!) with one of these at the end(chah!) outside of the chorus.
  • Michelle Branch does something similar to Soul Coughing in her song "Everywhere": "Just tell me how I got this far-uh"
  • Van Morrison has a whole vocabulary of expressively soulful grunts, moans and vocal expressions for when the words fail him. A classic would be the conclusion of Moondance
    In the moonlight! On a magic night.. (presses microphone into fleshy underside of chin) Brrrrr...brrr-mmmmmm,ahhh,aahhhh, (moves mic back to more conventional singing position) In the moonlight! Can - I - just - have - one - more - Moondance - with - you....... my love.....
  • A rare example of this happening with a band that mostly played instrumentals. Latin-jazz bandleader Perez Prado was known for two of these: "¡Dílo!" (Say it!), usually shouted just before the horns break in; and "¡AaaaaaaAAAHH!" The latter was left in as a sample when Lou Bega set lyrics to Prado's "Mambo No.5".
  • Whose Line Is It Anyway?'s Wayne Brady starts a lot of songs with the word "Because."
  • Corey Taylor of Slipknot is quite fond of muttering "huh..." between lyrics or at the beginning of a verse. He also tended to pant heavily into the mic from the force of screaming so harshly. This can be heard in songs such as "Eyeless" and the outro of "The Blister Exists."
  • Alexi Laiho of Children of Bodom likes to go "YA-YOW!" a lot.
  • Jerry Lee Lewis would often substitute the word "me" in lyrics with "Jerry Lee", i.e. "If you see Corrina, send her on home to Jerry Lee..."
  • Tom Waits often interjects his more percussive songs with a guttural "Hah!"
  • Texas bluesman Joe "Guitar" Hughes often interjects "Ouchie baby" into his songs.
  • Celtic Frost's Tom G. Warrior's "ugh".
  • Isaac Brock from Modest Mouse has "Well!"
  • Tendon Levey has his "HELL!" and "HEH!".
  • Bobby "Blue" Bland's phlegm-filled "YOW!", which he called an "eagle snort".
  • Stuart Adamson of Big Country would often shout "HUP!" "HA!" and "SHA!" in the middle of songs.
  • There's a tic known as the involving the "wa" and "oh" sounds in 2010s pop music which has become so ubiquitous it has come to be known as the "Millennial Whoop".
  • When Owl City puts Scatting in his songs, it's almost always repeated "da"s.
  • The Songdrops songs, by Bryant Oden, often have "Bom", "Bum", or "Ba-dum" in between the lyrics.
  • J. Cole has a tendency to punctuate some of his lines with a quiet "huh".
  • Ian Astbury of The Cult is quite fond of ending lyric lines with "Well..." Example from "Sun King": "I was thinking, what I've been missing/I'll tell you truthfully, well..."
  • Zac de la Rocha of Rage Against the Machine loves to shout "UGH!" both in the studio and onstage.
  • Metallica's James Hetfield sure loves "YEAH!" (and at times extended to the point it sound like two syllables!)
  • Pitbull has two: a loud WHOOOOOOOWEEE! that often starts verses, and "Dalé" (Spanish for "Let's go") as a punctuation to end them.
  • Pusha T: YUUGH!
  • Master P is infamous for his "Frankenstein's monster groan", which he interjects into his music at seemingly random moments. He even built one song entirely around it, "Make 'Em Say Uhhhh".
  • Vanessa Carlton combined trying to sound like a little girl with a crying wail on every other lyric. It doesn't help that her "Pretty Baby" is creepy in content to start with.
  • Spiritualized's J. Spaceman's "Come on!"