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It's unintelligible

I just can't get it through my skull

It's hard to bargle nawdle zouss (???)

With all these marbles in my mouth
"Weird Al" Yankovic, Smells Like Nirvana

Some songs feature lyrics that appear to be complete gibberish. The listener might sometimes be able to hazard a guess at what's being sung, but such a guess is overwhelmingly unlikely to be anywhere near the mark.

Distinguished from a Mondegreen by the fact that a Mondegreen tends to be sung relatively clearly, but with the listener perceiving word breaks in the wrong place. And distinguished from Word Salad Lyrics because that one features actual words, only not in a way it makes much sense. Often caused by the Perishing Alt Rock Voice.

The difference between this and Lyrical Shoehorn is that this would be where nonsense isn't intended... it just sort of happened. Maybe the recording sucks. Maybe the singer is singing too fast to be heard clearly. Maybe he was drunk off his ass and thus couldn't pronounce his own name clearly, much less sing coherently. But there is a difference.

The Trope Namer is a round from Panel Game Never Mind the Buzzcocks, in which contestants are asked to make sense of such lyrics--typically they first come up with a comedic nonsensical version and sing it along, and only then attempt to come up with the actual lyrics.

Compare The Unintelligible and Singing Simlish. If the lyrics are unintelligible except for one line or two, then that's Something Something Leonard Bernstein.

Examples of Indecipherable Lyrics include:

Generic examples

  • No More Heroes: Bad Girl's theme. "I love you something something yes no something yadda something like this, so let's go."
  • Japanese bands who use Gratuitous English in their lyrics have a tendency to heavily slur the words into an indecipherable mess.
    • This is usually a consequence of the differences between the two languages. In Japanese the only consonant that can be followed by another consonant is N, so a lot of extra vowel sounds get added to English words when written in Japanese or pronounced by a Japanese person not fluent in English.
    • There are also certain consonants (like TH and V) that don't exist natively in Japanese, as well as irregular patterns of syllables (consider, e.g., the sequence TA, CHI, TSU, TE, TO, all of which have the same consonant phoneme), forcing many approximations in writing. Singers who know English well enough can bypass these problems if the lyrics weren't written to Japanese phonology.
  • Most black metal is notorius for this. Emperor's early albums is one of the worst. Even with the lyrics you cannot make out more than four words in a whole song.
    • It's perhaps fair to say that most extreme metal bands - and particularly those who have vocalists who primarily scream, bellow or growl their vocals - fall into the category of indecipherable. A good example would be the technical death metal band Meshuggah, whose lyrics usually deal with complex metaphysical and spiritual themes yet are rendered almost completely unintelligible by frontman Jens Kidman's brutal, Dalek-like screech.
    • Applies to death metal as a whole, too.
  • Opera metal listeners need a good ear to understand the lyrics. For that matter, the same could be said for opera itself.
  • The opening theme to the TV series The Adventures of Pete & Pete is notorious for its "unknown line," the third line of the title song "Hey, Sandy," which for years remained a mystery to fans. Recent sources have begun speculating anew as to the exact wording of the line, however no confirmation has been forthcoming from the artist as of yet.
  • Dancehall reggae is notorious for this.

 SHABBA himmitihommmtishimmitihommitisee SHABBA!

  • Ominous Latin Chanting can often fall to this, especially if this is present in trailer music.
  • The opening music to the first Rune Factory game is nearly indecipherable. Even if you try to figure out what the lyrics are, they still don't make any sense.
  • The lyrics to the theme from The State seem to consist of "na na na na" and unintelligible screaming. However, once you learn that the song is officially named "Boys And Girls Action", it becomes apparent that what's actually being screamed is "Boys and girls! Action! Action!". It's also more intelligible in an alternate version heard on some of the menus on the DVD of the series, since the lyrics are being yelled by children instead.
  • Most of Ferre Grignard's lyrics are so hard to make out even his records sleeves have given up. On My Dying Bed is a great example of this as is his international hit Ring, Ring. Infact it's probably the fact he's Belgian singling English and stoned at the same time that adds no ends to this. At least he hasn't got Bob Dylan's horrible voice.
  • Most Terror-EBM / Aggrotech / Hellektro songs, due to using harsh guttural vocals.


  • The majority of New Kingdom's lyrics are this.
  • The obvious example is "Louie Louie", performed by the Kingsmen in 1963. The song was a radio hit with a totally indecipherable slur of syllables, and some of the song's popularity came from public discussion of what the song was about. As rumors flew wildly, the song even caught the attention of the FBI, which investigated the song, believing that a song slurred so seriously must contain obscenity or pro-drug propaganda. The FBI agents were never able to decipher the song's mushy audio, and charges were dropped. The singer admitted he was so drunk that he couldn't remember exactly what he did sing at the time. (Other sources say that he had vocal strain that day, and was a little far from the mic due to its being so high.)
    • Famously, Bloom County spoofed this during the 1988 election with an ad by the Meadowcrats (the political party formed by the main characters) which tried to use the candidates' respective interpretations of the lyrics to show their character.
      • Dukakis: "Ring in my nose; falafel hair"
      • Bush: "Messy Paul Anka moons a dove" (most of the transcriptions were less intelligible)
    • Actually, there WAS one obscenity in it. At one point the drummer makes a mistake and shouts "oh, fuck!". Careful enough listening and loudness should do the trick.
  • Can during the Damo Suzuki years. Very much intentional - Damo pretty much sang whichever syllables he felt like singing at any given moment, regardless of whether they formed words or were clearly articulated. ("Did anybody see the snowman? Stannah wit deleeeeaux.")
  • Snow - Informer, particularly the chorus. At one point, MTV actually ran the video for Snow's "Informer" with subtitles.
    • According to Never Mind the Buzzcocks (see above), it's about him opening a bed shop using cheap "leaky boom-boom down" to stuff the pillows with.
  • Much of Nightwish's music before "Dark Passion Play".
    • Special mention should go to the last part of the song "Fantasmic". Then again, even with the lyrics next to you, you don't have a clue what it all actually means.
  • Anything by the Cocteau Twins.
    • Except on Four-Calendar Cafe, on which Elizabeth Fraser was uncharacteristically comprehensible for long stretches. Fandom was split on the merits of this.
  • "Forgot You Now" By Mary and the Black Lambhas a few parts sung in a static sounding way with a crazy guitar solo playing on top of it. Some of it can be understood but the last line is very hard to pick out.
  • Anal Cunt's lead, Seth Putnam, sings in a screechy voice. You can make out the words, but only under the right conditions or if you have a really good ear.
  • "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana, as with most of their songs. "Tourette's" doesn't even have lyrics, just gibberish screaming.
    • Parodied in "Smells Like Nirvana" by Weird Al Yankovic. See the quote.
      • Reportedly, when Al asked Kurt Cobain for permission to do the parody, Cobain asked "It's not going to be about food, is it?" and Al responded "No, it'll be about how no one can understand your lyrics." That was what really sold Kurt on it.
  • As Family Guy pointed out, several Sting songs are incomprehensible except for a few words.
  • There is the scene in the movie Jumping Jack Flash when Whoopi Goldberg's character, Terry, is trying to decipher the lyrics by listening to the song over and over again. Does this fit the trope?
  • Interpol are notorious for this. The fact that the band have never issued official lyrics either on their website or their album sleeves only makes it worse.
  • Michael Stipe of REM had a reputation for this as well, as his somewhat quieter vocals were wedded to often fragmentary and elliptical lyrics. And then the loud, fast, overlapped vocals of "Star 69" on the Monster album was an entirely new way of being unintelligible.
  • The opening riff of System of a Down's "F the System" is a rapid-fire string of syllables that may or may not mean something.
    • Any SOAD song, actually.
  • The choir in "Blue".
  • "Bennie and the Jets", particularly the part Elton John goes falsetto.
    • Parodied in a Beastie Boys cover, where Mike D intentionally sings the song in Elton-ish gibberish.
    • Parodied in the film 27 Dresses where the drunk protagonist sings the chorus wrongly, in front of an audience.
  • "Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida": Its intended title was "In the Garden of Eden."

 Reverend Lovejoy: Wait a minute... this sounds like rock and/or roll.

  • There are parts of Barenaked Ladies' "One Week" that dosey-do into this trope. Also parts of REM's "It's The End Of The World As We Know It."
    • There's a reason the latter is the Trope Namer for Something Something Leonard Bernstein.
    • Note, though, that "It's The End Of The World As We Know It" is also hard to understand because it's so random. Your mind can't make educated guesses.
    • "One Week" is at least as nonsensical. The parts that actually have some logic aren't so bad, once you get used to how fast it goes.
      • This Troper has never had any trouble understanding either of those songs. Well, no trouble understanding what the words were, anyway.
  • Reach Out To The Truth Not only is it a bit hard to make out without the lyrics, but the song seems like it is gibberish. "Yeah, naked truth lies only if you realize/ Appearing in nobody's eyes till they sterilize" is pretty random but makes sense in the context of Souji Seta throwing away his glasses (that allow him to see in the fog) when he uses Myriad Truths.
  • Marilyn Manson's "The Beautiful People".
  • "Song 2" by Blur. Some of the blame for this can be pinned on creative use of AcCENT Upon the Wrong SylLABle ("well I feel hea-VY me-TALL"), but not all of it.
    • Likewise several 2D-heavy Gorillaz songs - El Manana for instance.
  • Pretty much everything by Joe Cocker, especially "Feelin' Alright".
  • "Mmm Bop", by Hanson
    • The same could be said for almost any Hanson song, at least the ones with Taylor on lead vocals. One of the infamous leaked demos features Taylor singing gibberish in place of the unfinished lyrics; it sounds nearly the same as any other Hanson song.
  • Wooly Bully.
  • Kate Bush's "Leave It Open", in which the vocals are distorted to the point of incomprehensibility because Kate played the original recording backwards, did her best to imitate the sounds she heard, and then played the resulting recording backwards for the final song.
  • Some of the songs on Pearl Jam's album Ten.
    • Although not from Ten, their song "Yellow Ledbetter" makes an amusing Misheard Lyrics video
  • There's various overlapping chants towards the end of "I Am the Walrus" by The Beatles. A popular interpretation of one of the more audible ones is "everybody smoke pot!", which is close enough since it's actually "Everybody's got one" (the other one is "Oompah oompah stick it up your jumper").
  • "Güero Canelo" by Calexico.
  • "Carousel of Progress" by Joy Electric.
  • El Mudo.
  • murmur twins from beatmania IIDX.
    • "Little Little Princess" fits this trope pretty well too-- it's not clear, other than a few words here and there, that it was even in English.
    • And who could forget... GOLD RUSH! Try making out any words other than "Make it! Make money!" and the names of the Beatmania games. I dare you.
  • The closing music to "WKRP in Cincinnati"
  • "Fish Picker Pig Licker Ice Snickers Kiss Kicker '99" by The Fontanelles, as preformed by the band itself in Hobgoblins
  • The entire Coraline soundtrack is made of these. Bruno Coulais may be a frickin' wizard, but hey, True Art Is Incomprehensible.
  • Micro Cuts by Muse. This song is sung so insanely high (even by Matt Bellamys standards!), that it's near impossible to tell what he's saying the first time through.
    • Also, the ending part in Plug In Baby is so high and poorly pronounced that Matt doesn't even bother to sing it when playing this song live, making strange noises or even just ignoring it at all (and maybe throwing himself on Dom's drums or whatever)
    • Both of these, however, pale in comparison to Execution Commentary from the Plug in Baby EP. Just... listen to it. Hell, check any official page for lyrics. Chances are it'll read (Indecipherable screaming), which, frankly, is rather to the point.
  • "One Day" by Havalina Rail Co. is so bad that even the band doesn't know the lyrics--the album liner notes read: "We only know the chorus... Special Havalina prize if you can figure out the rest of the lyrics and hand deliver them to Mark Cole." Reportedly, the prize was never claimed.
  • Anything by Sean Paul.
    • Not exactly intentional - unless you're used to it, understanding a strong Jamaican accent is challenging enough when the speaker is simply talking.
  • For a more obscure example, check out "Zombie" by Methusalem. Good luck trying to decipher the other lyrics besides the song title.
  • Subverted by Sigur Ros, since some of their lyrics are in a made-up language called "Vonlenska" (an Icelandic word, rough translation is "Hopelandic") , although they also sing some songs in Icelandic.
    • Similarly, Karl Jenkins' Adiemus projects use the human voice more as an instrument — none of the lyrics mean anything in any real language.
    • Lisa Gerrard of Dead Can Dance (and solo) fame also sings in a made-up language that has no "real" meaning.
    • Enya also announced an album with a similar concept.
  • Lamb of God falls victim to this due to the style of their singer Randy Blythe. If you sit down with the lyrics and read them as you listen to the song, you can get 99% of it(and remember it), with the notable exception of their first record Burn The Priest, where it is all but impossible to understand a single thing that comes out of Randy's mouth.
    • Don't forget some of the songs from "New American Gospel", a radio station even had a competition where the fans had to try and decipher the lyrics to the song "Black Label"
  • "Vic Reeves, who should be seated... here" "Hello!" "Will sing a song in the style of a club singer"
  • If you can understand the lyrics to this song (starting at 1:10) from the Einhander OST, you have a better ear than many.
  • Fair To Midland is sometimes impossible to understand. A few good examples would be this and this. Compounded by their habit of writing Word Salad Lyrics.
  • Tool occasionally falls under this, though a good ear eventually picks the words out.
  • The cover version of Hot Limit by John Desire, which can be found in Dance Dance Revolution 5th Mix. It was a Japanese song by T.M.Revolution, translated into English and sung by an Italian band trying to sound like they're American. 'Nuff said.
  • "1979" by The Smashing Pumpkins has a few intelligible sentences where it counts, but most of the song is a dreamy slur.
  • The first Meat Puppets album, from when they were more of a noisy hardcore band, was consistently unintelligible even for Hardcore Punk: Curt Kirkwood seemed to be imitating the frequently slurred vocals of The Germs' Darby Crash, only taking it even further. Interestingly, if you find the official lyrics for the album, it was full of very silly and tongue-in-cheek songs about mundane things like cats and spending all of one's money on marijuana, as opposed to the Word Salad Lyrics they started using once you could understand them.
  • Two words: Chacarron Macarron. Although apparently it is actually gibberish.
  • Part of the chorus of Smile Empty Soul's Bottom of a Bottle. The specific part is "I do it for the drugs. I do it just to feel like ahh ahh ahhhhahhh (it's supposedly "I do it just to feel a-liii-ive", but it's hard to tell)." Note to any bands here: when singing a song about drugs it ISN'T required to be under the influence of those drugs.
  • Fall Out Boy's vocalist Patrick Stump is well known for his...lack of enunciation. The first line of the chorus of "Sugar, We're Going Down" has been translated to "We're going down tuuu in a luleelurah", "Dance Dance" has become "Ted's Pants", and "This Ain't a Scene (It's a Arms Race)" apparently has the line "I'm a little man, and I'm also evil and also into cats".
    • Before I knew the actual lyrics, I used to think "Sugar We're Going Down" featured the line, "A lewded gah complex caught in the pudding." Yes, it does sound like he is singing about pudding.
    • Not to mention Patrick's new solo stuff; apparently his salad days are over, and he is no longer kneading nostalgia. ("Oh nostalgia, I don't need you anymore; 'Cause the silent days are over")
      • According to the lyrics page on Truant Wave, the line IS "salad days are over." (made somewhat more clear by the fact that he follows this line with "the meat is at my door").
      • To be fair, "knead" and "need" are homophones. It's not exactly his fault if you can't figure out which he's saying.
  • My Bloody Valentine on their second album, Loveless. Their vocals were sunken into the rest of the music and not only is it hard to hear the words, it's damn near impossible to hear the vocals themselves in some places.
  • Italo-spacedisco group Laserdance's "Digital Dream", their only full-on vocal/lyrical song. The vocoder renders about half of the words unintelligible. Worse, there aren't even any liner notes.
  • An excerpt from a recent Bill Simmons article (a running diary of Wrestlemania XXVI) demonstrates this well:

 0:01: For our first match, tag-team championship belts are on the line: R-Truth (a rapper/wrestler) and John Morrison (an entertaining Jim Morrison ripoff) challenging the champs, The Big Show and The Miz (carrying two belts apiece, for some reason). R-Truth came out prancing and singing his hit song, "What's Up?" The lyrics go like this: "Shshshn cnbcnsbdb fhdehsh fhdhs dhdhan dbdjdndjd dbdbdbdbdb shshsnhs ffrhdhhjs xbcxbbffgfhhj WHAT'S UP? WHAT'S UP? WHAT'S UP? WHAT'S UP?" I don't think he wrote that one with Burt Bacharach and Carly Simon.

  • "Ball of Ballos", from the Cave Story Remix Project. The remixer, Tackle, explained that the track is a medley of the Cave Story tune "Running Hell", and Opeth's "Closure". After recording it, he wasn't happy with how his vocals turned out, so he manipulated them electronically and mixed them real low in the final version, so they wouldn't sound as bad.
  • Any song by Queens of the Stone Age that former bassist Nick Oilivieri "sang".
  • Emptiness and from The World Ends With You. Really, the only thing you can understand in the entire song are the words "emptiness and". And even then, you can't tell if she's saying that or "happiness and".
  • Mark E Smith of The Fall has made a career out of notoriously indecipherable wordplay (accompanied by equally inscrutable music).
  • I have yet to meet a person who understands what the hell Sean Paul is singing in Temperature aside from 'love' and 'temperature'

 (something)way time cold I wanna be keeping you warm

I got the right temperature for shelter you from the storm

Oh lord, girl I got the (something) to turn you on

and girl I, wanna be the papa you can be the mom, oh oh!

    • A thick Jamaican accent is tough enough to understand while talking, rapping/singing with one just makes it even worse.
  • "His Loyal Love" by Woven Hand.
  • Shudder To Think's "Chakka" - no one can really agree on much of anything beyond "I bet you wanted to get me / you're waiting to wreck me / I'll manage to go" and a possible title drop. It isn't helped by the fact that Craig Wedren himself no longer remembers what the lyrics are.
  • A lot of lines from Asobi Seksu's songs are hard to make out, but 'Me & Mary' is 95% incomprehensible.
  • Anaal Nathrakh are a good example. Not only does their singer scream and growl unintelligibly most of the time, but they don't even publish their lyrics! When he does sing normally, though, it's pretty easy to figure out.
  • Most of The Black Dahlia Murder's first two albums "Unhallowed" and "Miasma" are impossible to understand without reading along to the lyrics. The higher vocals are almost indecipherable, while some of the low ones can be figured out after a few listens.
  • Dethklok frontman Nathan Explosion lampshades this hilariously:

 Pickles: We got any songs with "destiny" in the title?

Nathan: Um, no, but I could stick it in. Doesn't matter. No one can understand what I'm saying, anyway.

  • Most songs by Cirque Du Soleil are sung in the indecipherable faux-language of Cirquish.
  • Dragonforce, Dragonforce, Dragonforce. It's fairly easy to guess (at least vaguely) what any given song is about, though, since most of the band's music is about fire, war, and dragons. The bridges in "Starfire" deserve special mention here.

  And we're standing on the ground, final dewy fun, looking for a manatee!

  • The Ominous [insert language here] chanting in the songs in The Prince of Egypt can make some versions nigh incomprehensible.
  • The Nightcrawler's "Push the Feeling On" (the dub mix and subesquent remixes): "Ir in their lives again ir in their li to pull us" ad nauseam.
  • While openly debatable, "Clever Sleazoid" by Dir En Grey sounds more like a three-minute stream of Engrish than actual Japanese. Popular reinterpretations of the lyrics include "I heard the sound of all the Chanseys" and "Let's get a SMOOTHAY."
    • Actually Clever Sleazoid, like Child Prey before it, is a three minute stream of Engrish, though the listener can be forgiven for not realizing either song contains actual words in any language.
  • The Dingees: "Ronnie Raygun" and "Conspiracy Against the Youth" from The Crucial Conspiracy, and "Capital Imperial" from The Rebel Soul Sound System. The singers are hard enough to understand when they're singing clearly, but on these lo-fi hardcore punk tracks, it's well-nigh impossible to make out anything.
  • E.S. Posthumus has their lyrics in a fictional Latin derivative. People still try to translate them.
  • Korn has their song Twist.
  • Starflyer 59 has a lot of these, especially in their first couple of albums.
  • Lampshaded in Flight of the Conchords in the song Leggy Blonde, which even the subtitles cannot decipher:

 Oh leggy blonde you got it goin' on

Wanna see you wearing that thong thong thong

See you get it on til the break of dawn

mumblemurblemrr panties on

  • Not a band, but Dennis Edwards' 1984 song "Don't Look Any Further" has a chorus that nobody understands and that may not even be in English.:

 Day o umba day o mambu ji ay o

Don't look any further. Don't you look no further

Day o umba day o na jam bay um bay o

Don't look any further.


  • Bleeding Heart Theory by Straight Line Stitch has the word "SUFFER!" screamed repeatedly in the chorus, but it sounds for all the world like "SHERBERT! SLOBBER!" if you don't know what it's supposed to mean.
  • Wakusei's cover of "Gigantic", owing to the fact that they're a Japanese band who apparently attempted to learn the original's lyrics phonetically. The chorus is much more intelligible than the verses, although they do consistently pronounce "gigantic" with two hard g's, making it sound like the separate words "gig" and "antic".
  • Try understanding the lyrics in "Ants" by Devin Townsend... Good luck.
  • The Decemberists, frequently. The most triumphant example is probably The Perfect Crime #1, said to be a consequence of an absinthe binge (if you can tell apart the English and the French, congratulations). It's pretty common in all of their songs, though, thanks to Colin's... distinctive... accent.
  • Good luck trying to understand more than three words in Foo Fighters' "White Limo".
    • And its spritual predecessor, "Weenie Beenie" (which is already in an album chock full of Word Salad Lyrics, but like "White Limo" has modulated vocals to top it).
  • Most of Mew's discography, intentionally so.
  • Dir En Grey. Every. Single. Song. Even if you speak Japanese, you still won't understand Kyo. And the songs in English are even worse.
  • Most English-speaking Versailles fans don't realize that 90% of the lyrics to "The Revenant Choir" are in English until it's pointed out to them. Kamijo's pronunciation is that bad. The fact that the song has Word Salad Lyrics doesn't help.