Music is often left open to interpretation, which can lead to certain lyrics being misheard. Sometimes they can be misinterpreted unbeknownst to the listener, while other times, they can be skewed on purpose. That is, if we, the listeners, think we’re funny and fancy being creative.
Let’s face it – some of the greatest musicians of all time are pretty hard to understand. Bob Dylan, Kurt Cobain, and Bruce Springsteen, to name a few.
One of the most iconic comedy sketches of all time is Peter Kay’s misheard song lyrics. His sketch has viewers in stitches and helps us all realise that we’re not alone in misunderstanding lyrics.
Aside from the songs in Kay’s stand up, there are many other masterpieces that have been misinterpreted over the years.
Without further delay, here are the 49 most misheard song lyrics of all time.
1. NSYNC – It’s Gonna Be Me
Despite the clear title of NSYNC’s 2000 hit, people often get confused by this song’s content. Due to Justin Timberlake’s pronunciation of ‘me’, people often think he’s singing ‘It’s gonna be May’. In fact, every year, the internet regurgitates memes on May 1st, and it never gets old. But it’s OK – Timberlake enjoys them, too.
2. ABBA – Dancing Queen
The world’s obsession with ABBA has lasted through the generations, but the Swedish group’s hit song Dancing Queen always seems to be a source of confusion. As of February 2021, the official music video has more than 469 million views and is arguably the band’s most recognisable song. But instead of singing ‘Feel the beat on the tambourine’, people swap the final word for ‘tangerine’. Surprisingly, this is ABBA’s only number-one hit in the United States. Originally, the song was named ‘Boogaloo’ but was changed as ABBA’s members found inspiration elsewhere – but not from fruit.
3. The Monkees – I’m A Believer
Again, it seems song titles mean nothing. Many listeners think it’s hilarious to sing incorrectly ‘I saw her face, now I’m gonna leave her’. Seems a little harsh. Although it was performed by The Monkees, this song was written by singer Neil Diamond, who racked up an incredible ten number-one singles in the United States. More recently, in 2001, the song was covered by the band Smash Mouth and famously featured in the final scene of Shrek, proving the song has many layers.
4. Toto – Africa
At the time of its release, Africa was a huge worldwide hit, reaching number one in the United States and number three in the UK. And despite being almost 40 years old at the time of writing, this song has had a resurgence in popularity. As ’80s songs go, the lyrics are pretty hard to understand. The correct words are ‘There’s nothing that a hundred men or more could ever do’, but people often sing ‘There’s nothing that a hundred men on Mars could ever do’. Easy mistake to make – right?
5. Eiffel 65 – Blue
This song contains many words that aren’t exactly – how shall we put it –plucked from the Oxford English-Dictionary. In case you’re unfamiliar with Blue, its chorus’ lyrics are (word-for-word) ‘I’m blue / Da ba dee da ba di / Da ba dee da ba di / Da ba dee da ba di / Da ba dee da ba di / Da ba dee da ba di / Da ba dee da ba di / Da ba dee da ba di / I’m blue’… and repeat. You get the gist, right? Due to the obscure lyrics, people are keen to put their own spin on the song, which leads to some interesting interpretations. A common – and ingenious – take on the above lyrics is ‘I’m blue / Da ba dee da ba di / In Aberdeen, I will die’. Apologies if this paragraph made your head spin a little.
6. Eiffel 65 – Blue (again)
No, this isn’t a typo, and yes, you are seeing this entry again, but with good reason. It turns out there’s a lot to unpack in this song. When people listen to the chorus, they often hear ‘I’m blue / If I was green, I would die’. This interpretation seems quite clever and makes a degree of sense – but sadly, it’s completely incorrect.
7. Jimi Hendrix – Purple Haze
Purple Haze is the ultimate psychedelic rock song and was both written and performed by Hendrix. It came out in 1967 and was the second single released by his group, the Jimi Hendrix Experience. Although this song charted in several countries (most notably reaching number three in the UK), people tend to get one of its lines wrong. Instead of singing ‘Excuse me while I kiss the sky’, people hear ‘Excuse me while I kiss this guy.’ This song was one of the first that exposed the world to Jimi Hendrix and went down in history when performed at the legendary 1969 Woodstock festival.
8. Elton John – Tiny Dancer
It would be a crime not to include an Elton John tune in a list of misheard song lyrics. In fact, quite a few songs in his repertoire contain reinterpreted words. But our favourite misrepresentation is from Tiny Dancer. Instead of belting out ‘Hold me closer, tiny dancer’ people often sing ‘Hold me closer, Tony Danza’. If you’re unfamiliar with this name, Tony Danza is an American actor best known for starring in the television series Taxi from 1978 to 1983 and Who’s the Boss? from 1984 to 1992. We love to see it.
9. Fleetwood Mac – Say You Love Me
Fleetwood Mac is a timeless band, but that doesn’t excuse it from this list. The band’s iconic and upbeat hit Say You Love Me was written by band member Christine McVie and is listed on three compilation albums celebrating their best work. One of the lines from the song is ‘I’m begging you for a little sympathy’, but thirsty tea lovers sing ‘I’m begging you for a little sip of tea.’ This misheard lyric almost seems like an insult to the song’s legacy and critical acclaim. Almost. Now, somebody put the kettle on.
10. Far East Movement ft. The Cataracs and DEV – Like a G6
The Far East Movement enjoyed a surge in popularity with the release of their 2010 single Like a G6, featuring The Cataracs and Dev. The main lyrics are ‘I’m feeling so fly like a G6’, but people often hear ‘cheese stick’ instead. For those of you who are rightly wondering ‘What is a G6?’, it’s an abbreviation for Gulfstream G650, a luxury private jet. Feeling fly like a G6 is describing someone cool, confident, and very rich. Who knew?
11. Elvis Presley – Suspicious Minds
If you didn’t know the lyrics to this song and were hearing it for the first time, you could probably make any number of guesses at what Presley is singing in its first line. The King of Rock and Roll could be singing ‘Recording a track’, ‘They call it a tramp’, or ‘We caught him a trout’, depending on people’s imaginative minds. The website amiright.com includes 32 suggested sentences for this lyric, all of which are, of course, incorrect. Presley is, in fact, singing ‘We’re caught in a trap’, which makes much more sense.
12. Chic – Le Freak
If you don’t speak French, you might struggle to understand this one. Released in 1978 by American R&B band Chic, this song was co-written by Chic’s bass player Bernard Edwards and guitarist Nile Rodgers after the pair were refused entry to New York nightclub. Le Freak’s most famous lyrics are ‘Ah, freak out! / Le freak, c’est chic’, but these lyrics are often skewed in hilarious fashion. One take on them is ‘Freak cow / Le freak, c’est sheep’. We’re not sure of the deeper meaning here – but, as with most of examples in this article, there clearly doesn’t need to be one.
13. Eminem ft. Rihanna – Monster
People seem to have glorified mustard in this misheard song lyric. The Eminem and Rihanna song begins with the lyric ‘I’m friends with the monster that’s under my bed’. However, as you might have seen on various TikTok videos, people tend to swap ‘monster’ for ‘mustard’ when miming or singing this lyric. Nice. Take this nugget of information as a friendly reminder to clean or hoover underneath your bed. You might be surprised by what you find.
14. Ariana Grande – Thank U, Next
Pop and R&B singer Grande is known for missing out her P’s and Q’s and failing to annunciate her lyrics. Her hit 2019 song Thank U, Next, is no exception. If you’re not especially fond of swear words in songs, maybe don’t bother listening to this song. One of its lyrics is ‘I’m so f***ing grateful for my ex’, but listeners around the world have decided to hear ‘I’m so f***ing grateful for my eggs’. Because, why not? It’s unclear whether they’re referring to boiled, fried, poached, or scrambled, though. The above video is of fried eggs, but other variations are available.
15. Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)
Written and produced by Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart of new wave duo Eurythmics, Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This) became their international breakthrough hit in 1983. Even today, the song remains popular, but listeners often insist on adding a fromage tinge to the song. Instead of the line ‘Sweet dreams are made of this’, people swap ‘this’ for cheese instead. Even though the song in its original form was featured in Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, you might prefer the modified version if you’re a lover of cheese.
16. TLC – Waterfalls
Does anybody know who Jason Waterfalls is? Because people around the globe are calling out for his name when this classic hit comes on. It was released in 1995 and gained critical acclaim, earning two Grammy nominations at the 38th Annual Grammy Awards in 1996. The lyrics ‘don’t go chasing waterfalls’ refer to people chasing a dream without realising the consequences. However, some people are reframing it as ‘Don’t go, Jason Waterfalls’. If you know somebody by this name, please pass the message on to them.
17. Kings of Leon – Sex On Fire
Sex On Fire was released in 2008 and won a Grammy Award for Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals. A fun fact about this song is that lead singer Caleb Followill told The Sun that he was surprised the record label picked this as the lead single from Kings of Leon’s album Only by the Night. Said the lead vocalist: “I can’t believe the label picked it because the lyrics are pretty in-your-face sexual.” Although the lyrics are intended to be sexual, many people have reinvented the words as ‘dyslexics on fire’.
18. Madonna – Papa Don’t Preach
Madonna isn’t escaping this list either. Upon its release in 1986, Papa Don’t Preach gained huge commercial success. The song shot to number one across the world and was Madonna’s fourth single to gain the number-one spot on the Billboard Hot 100. However, the best version of this song has arguably come along many years after its initial release. Instead of ‘Papa don’t’, listeners have suggested that it sounds like Madonna is singing ‘poppadom preach’ in an ode to the Indian appetiser. We, for one, are all for this suggestion.
19. Chaka Khan – I’m Every Woman
Chaka Khan might have been incredibly famous in the UK, but we’re not sure she knew who Terry Wogan was. Either way, some people have suggested she was singing about him in I’m Every Woman. This song was Khan’s debut single and kickstarted her solo career away from the funk band Rufus, for which she was a lead vocalist for 11 years. Fans in the UK seem to think Chaka Khan is calling herself Terry Wogan in this song instead of the actual lyric, which is, of course, ‘I’m every woman.’
20. Sister Sledge – We Are Family
As discussed in the introduction to this piece, Peter Kay famously pointed out his own interpretation of We Are Family. It’s fair to say that Kay has changed the lyrics to this tune for the purpose of comedy. Instead of ‘Just let me state for the record’, Brits love to sing ‘Just let me staple the vicar’. We don’t condone such an act, especially in light of the social distancing guidelines.
21. Will Smith – Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It
Is there anything Will Smith can’t do? In case you didn’t know – at an earlier point in his career, Smith also released music. His song Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It was released in 1998 and won a Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance. However, to every ’90’s kids dismay, it was ranked number 19 on AOL Radio’s list of the 100 Worst Songs Ever in 2010, so some could argue it hasn’t aged well. Some people even think the lyrics say ‘Kick a chicken with it’ or ‘Kick the chicken with it’, which sounds rather cruel.
22. Sir Mix-A-Lot – Baby Got Back
Staying in the ’90s, Sir Mix-A-Lot released this track in 1992. At the time, it caused controversy over its raunchy content and derogatory comments towards women. Sir Mix-A-Lot may love big butts, but some of the song’s listeners seem to think that he’s rapping about his love of limes. Just to clarify, he is rapping ‘I like big butts and I cannot lie’ – not ‘I like big butts and a can of limes’.
23. Bon Jovi – Livin’ On A Prayer
Well, we’re (almost) halfway there, and no article of this nature would be complete without a mention of Bon Jovi. This song has truly stood the test of time, but its lyrics have been a source of confusion, it seems. People often mistake the line ‘It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not’ for ‘It doesn’t make a difference if we’re naked or not’. Easy mistake. Despite this, this song remains hugely popular and in 2013 was certified triple platinum after receiving more than 3 million digital downloads.
24. Cutting Crew – (I Just) Died In Your Arms Tonight
This power ballad is Cutting Crew’s biggest hit, having peaked at number one in the United States, Canada, Norway, and Finland. However, not everyone seems to have established the exact location of the protagonist’s death. Despite the lyrics being obvious, people have been known to sing ‘I just died in your barn tonight’. Whilst that would make for an interesting concept, we’re not sure it would work for an international number-one hit.
25. The Police – Message In A Bottle
Message In A Bottle was the first of The Police’s five UK number-one singles. The Rolling Stone ranked it number 65 on its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time. The song – written by frontman Sting – is apparently about a man on an island who sends a message in a bottle (in case you hadn’t realised) to seek love. A year later, he is yet to receive a letter and gives up, assuming he is destined to be alone. Days after, he sees ‘a hundred billion bottles’ on the shore and realises there are people out there who are exactly like him. The misheard lyric is ’A year has passed since I wrote my note’ – listeners seem to think that the line is ‘A year has passed since I broke my nose.’ This backstory would make sense if the protagonist became stranded on an island due to a boating accident, to be fair.
26. Take That – Back For Good
The hit 1995 song was written and produced by Take That lead singer Gary Barlow. The song topped the UK singles chart for a record-breaking 45 weeks whilst also reaching number one in 31 countries worldwide. It even won a Grammy Award. The confusion in this song lies with the background vocals. Other band members sing ‘I want you back’ during the chorus; however, it also sounds like ‘wash your back’, which is far less romantic.
27. Duffy – Mercy
Duffy’s 2008 single Mercy was one of the tracks from her debut album Rockferry. This ’60s-sounding retro-soul tune peaked at number one on the UK Singles Chart in February 2008, remaining atop the charts for five weeks, and became the third-best-selling single of 2008 in the UK. Welsh singer Duffy has a wonderfully distinctive voice, but fans seem to think that in the line ‘I’m begging you for mercy’, she’s singing ‘I’m begging you for birdseed.’ Hey, there’ll always be a demand for it from someone.
28. The Cars – Drive
The Cars’ Drive is the band’s highest-charting US single and second highest-charting single in the UK. The song was re-released a year later after Live Aid and gained a higher position in the UK singles chart. The royalties from its second release (worth around £160,000) were donated to the Band Aid Trust. One of the main lines from the song is ‘You can’t go on thinking nothing’s wrong, oh no.’ However, somehow, the ‘oh no’ sounds like ‘pork pie’. Once you hear it, you won’t be able to hear anything else.
29. Michael Jackson – You Are Not Alone
This is one of the tracks from Jackson’s ninth studio album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book I. At the time of its release, the song won a Guinness World Record for being the first song to debut at number one in the then 37-year history of the Billboard Hot 100. The actual lyrics are ‘I can hear your prayers, your burdens I will bear,’ but it does sound a lot like ‘your burgers are the best.’ Maybe the next time you get a McDonald’s drive-thru, you could put this track on in your car and sing this line to a member of staff?
30. Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On
Recorded by Celine Dion, this song serves as the theme song to the heart-wrenching film Titanic. The song received global acclaim due to the film’s popularity and became one of the best-selling songs of all time. Despite this, people are inclined to sing a more humorous version of the song. The line ‘I believe that the heart does go on’ is often replaced with ‘I believe that the hot dogs go on.’ We don’t know about you, but all these food references are making us salivate.
31. Johnny Nash – I Can See Clearly Now
I Can See Clearly Now was recorded in London after Johnny Nash had met with Bob Marley. When listening to the song now, it’s easy to hear Marley’s inspiration in the melody. This song took just two weeks to go from number 20 to number one in the United States upon its release in 1972. The line that everyone who knows this song most closely associates it with is ‘I can see clearly now the rain has gone.’ However, listeners around the world have misheard this line as ‘I can see clearly now, Lorraine has gone’. Anybody with a Lorraine in the family, take note of this one.
32. Lil Nas X Ft. Billy Ray Cyrus – Old Town Road
This song took a lot of people by surprise when it was released a couple of years ago. It’s one of the few mainstream examples of country-rap fusion, and you’re likely to either find it very catchy or very bizarre. Wherever you stand on it, this song reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 for an incredible 19 consecutive weeks. However, Billboard removed it from its Country Songs Chart due to the song not appropriately fitting the genre. Genre identity isn’t the only confusing aspect of this song, as its lyrics can often be misinterpreted. The correct lyrics are ‘I’m gonna take my horse to the old town road’, but some people have said it sounds like ‘I’m gonna take my horse to the watering hole.’ It’s easily done.
33. ABBA – Chiquitita (Tell Me What’s Wrong)
ABBA features again, this time with a misheard lyric from their 1979 single Chiquitita (Tell Me What’s Wrong). Fans are eager to get this one wrong, and you’ll soon realise why. Instead of referencing the title – which was brought back into popularity with the 2008 film Mamma Mia –people hear ‘Take your teeth out, tell me what’s wrong’. If we make yet another obscure connection here, this is something you could say to your grandparents. We’re not sure how well it would go down, though.
34. R.E.M. – Losing My Religion
This legendary alternative rock song was released in 1991 and set the tone for songs of that decade. The song was an unlikely hit from the group yet gained widespread popularity after its music video was given regular airtime on MTV. Instead of the correct lyrics, which are ‘That’s me in the corner’, people hear ‘Let’s pee in the corner’. Awkward.
35. Olivia Newton-John and John Travolta – You’re The One That I Want
This popular classic is one of the best-selling singles in history, having sold more than 15 million copies worldwide since its release in 1978. Along with Hopelessly Devoted, the song was specifically written for Olivia Newton-John to sing in the Grease film. It’s understandable why people could get confused over the song lyrics, given how distractingly beautiful Newton-John looks in the catsuit and red heels. Some listeners hear ‘I got heels, they’re made of plywood’, when true Grease fans know it’s ‘I got chills, they’re multiplying.’
36. Bob Marley and The Wailers – Stir It Up
Stir It Up was Marley’s first successful song outside of Jamaica. American singer Johnny Nash produced a cover of the song in 1973. Instead of ‘stir it up’, fans think Marley is pining after food by singing ‘Cereal, little darlin’, cereal’. When you listen to this song, you can understand the misconception. We’re not sure which brand of cereal Marley would have been most partial to, though. The Wailers performed the song on The Old Grey Whistle Test, a famous television show that showcased musical talent, in 1973 during the group’s first trip to the UK.
37. Bob Dylan – Blowin’ In The Wind
Blowin’ In The Wind was released in 1963, and in 1994, the song earned itself a spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame. Some creative person somewhere in the world has suggested that one of the lines sounds like Bob Dylan is singing, ‘These ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind.’ However, this song makes a lot more sense when you realise Dylan is saying that ‘The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind.’
38. Queen – We Will Rock You
Did you know, other than the last 30 seconds, which contains a guitar solo by Brian May, the song is set in a cappella form? In fact, for the entirety of the song, mostly stomping or clapping is used. Regarding its lyrics, people often think Freddie Mercury is singing ‘kicking your cat all over the place’ when he says ‘can’ instead of ‘cat’. Thankfully, no animals were harmed in the making of this song.
39. Lorde – Royals
The song Royals was released in 2013 after Lorde wrote the lyrics in 30 minutes in a car on her way home from an event. This is one of the young singer’s signature songs and is the third track from her debut album Heroine. Some listeners think she’s included vegetables in the lyrics, as people often get confused with the lyrics ‘you can call me queen bee’ and sing ‘green bean’ instead. To be fair, green beans would go well with some Jersey Royal potatoes, so the inference makes sense (sorry).
40. Madonna – Like A Virgin
Madonna makes her second appearance on this list with her iconic track Like A Virgin; arguably the most ’80s track to ever live. Released in 1984, this song contains ambiguous lyrics laden with hidden innuendos and have been open to various interpretations over the years. One point of contention has been over whether Madonna sings ‘touched for the very first time’ or ‘touched for the 31st time’. Due to the song’s title, we’re certain it’s not the latter.
41. Black Sabbath/Crow – Evil Woman
This song is sometimes titled Evil Woman (Don’t Play Your Games With Me) and was originally sung by the American band Crow. Black Sabbath released their cover of the song in 1970, while the song also gained another reputable cover by Tina and Ike Turner – however, the title was renamed Evil Man. Despite the song taking on many forms by different artists, people often think that its lyrics contain the phrase ‘medieval woman’, which is, of course, incorrect.
42. Guns N’ Roses – Paradise City
This song was inspired by Los Angeles, where the members of Guns N’ Roses lived. Apparently, lead singer Slash wanted the lyrics to be explicit, but the rest of the band watered them down so that the song was radio-friendly. Paradise City eventually became like marmite. Some publications loved it, and others hated it. It ranked number 459 on Rolling Stone’s 2010 list of The 500 Greatest Songs Of All Time. However, other titles said the song was one of the band’s worst, such as Ultimate Classic Rock and Spin. Rankings aside, some fans think the band are singing ‘Take me down to the very nice city’.
43. Macy Gray – I Try
I Try is Gray’s biggest hit to date. The song peaked at number six in the United Kingdom, number five in the United States, and number one in Australia, Ireland, and New Zealand. It’s been featured on many television shows, such as The Office, Mrs Brown’s Boys, and Spin City. It’s a hit for the ages, but that doesn’t excuse it from this list. The lyrics ‘My world crumbles when you are not here’ but these lyrics are reimagined as ‘I blow bubbles when you are not here’.
44. Coldplay – Paradise
A fun fact about this song is that it was originally written for The X Factor, but bandmate and drummer, Will Champion, insisted the song be released on the album Mylo Xyloto. The chorus of the song repeats the title of the song, but some listeners hear ‘pair of dice’.
45. Nirvana – Smells Like Teen Spirit
Even though MTV played the video for this song on repeat when it was released, ’90s kids still struggle to understand Kurt Cobain’s singing. The chorus’ official lyrics are ‘A mulatto, an albino, a mosquito, my libido’, but some people hear ‘I’m a lion, I’m a vinyl, I’m a skittle, I’m a beetle’. Let’s face it – both sets of lyrics are equally random.
46. 98 Degrees – I Do (Cherish You)
This song was originally sung by American country artist Mark Wallis in 1998 and was covered by R&B group 98 Degrees later that year. The 98 Degrees version featured on the British-American rom-com Notting Hill starring Julia Roberts and Hugh Grant. The band croons ‘Your hand brushes mine’, but listeners hear ‘Your hairbrush is mine’.
47. Bryan Adams – Summer Of ’69
When Adams originally wrote Summer Of ’69, he had no idea he was writing a hit. In fact, when he first finished the iconic song, he didn’t like it, and it was originally named ‘The Best Days of My Life’. In addition to this, Adams was just nine years old in 1969, which has often confused people over the years. Instead of hearing the lyrics ‘Jimmy quit, Jody got married’, this line is often sung as ‘Do we quit, or do we get married?’. This seems like an easy mistake to make if you’re hearing the song for the first time.
48. Billy Joel – We Didn’t Start The Fire
Despite this song’s worldwide success, its lyrics can often be confusing due to its repeated references to many historical events across decades. The original lyrics are ‘Bagan, Reagan, Palestine, Wheel of Fortune, Sally Ride’, which is a mouthful already. However, some people misheard them as ‘Bacon-making Palestine/ We love torture, Sally Ride’. Again, we’re not too sure of the narrative being conveyed here, but it’s an interesting take, nonetheless.
49. Dire Straits – Money for Nothing
This song is about rock star excess and the easy life it brings compared with real work. Mark Knopfler wrote it after overhearing delivery men in a New York department store complain about their jobs while watching MTV. He wrote the song in the department store at a kitchen display they had set up. Note how there is absolutely nothing to do with food. The lyrics are ‘Money for nothin’ and your chicks for free’. However, some fans have heard ‘Money for nothin’ and your chips for free’. Who else is hungry?
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