Most bands want their vocals to sound crisp and clear for maximum singalong purposes. How the hell are you going to lead a stadium of people to sing your lyrics at you if they don't know what you're saying?
But there are exceptions, and it probably shouldn't come as a surprise that for whatever reasons bands have recorded songs, intentionally or not, that continue to befuddle karaoke singers around the world. Some have even sparked controversy, because if you can't understand what they're saying, they could be saying anything! Even something dirty! Here's five of the most ridiculously hard-to-understand songs.
Pearl Jam, "Yellow Ledbetter" Given how dramatically popular this B-side eventually became, its placement on this list was an absolute must. I really don't think front man Eddie Vedder intended for his warbling to be completely and utterly incomprehensible, but come on, it was a B-side! Who puts forth their best singing efforts on a B-side?
Of course, the mixing here doesn't help him any. His voice is fuzzy and buried, because, again, who's going to waste the effort to properly mix a B-side? Whatever the hell Vedder is saying, it's still really damned enjoyable.
Deafheaven, "Dream House" I could have picked any song from Deafheaven's huge album last year, Sunbather, but let's just go with this one. Even if front man George Clarke weren't screaming, it would be absolutely impossible to understand him as his voice was apparently mixed underwater and through a telephone, one million miles from the other members of the band.
I get that that's a holdover from the band's black-metal influences, but it sounds absolutely ridiculous, and it sort of ruined the record for me. I read an interview Clarke did with Pitchfork where he was asked about the beautiful poetry he apparently wrote for Sunbather's lyrics. I wish I could actually understand any of it.
Waking the Cadaver, "Chased Through the Woods by a Rapist" With the absolute most ridiculous death-metal vocals of all time, Waking the Cadaver spawned tons of viral videos of people trying to figure out what the hell they were saying with comedic interpretations. The actual lyrics are pretty damn disgusting, though fairly typical for this kind of death metal.
List continues on the next page.
Fear Before the March of Flames, "Girl's Got a Face Like Murder" Again, I really could have picked out any song off of Fear Before's debut album, Odd How People Shake, and for one very good reason: nothing in the accompanying lyric sheet is accurate to what's being screamed or sung on the album itself.
Oh, sure, some lines match up. Others partially match. But take any song on the album and compare what you're hearing to the printed lyrics. They don't fit. At times there are more words in the booklet than could possibly even fit in their songs' short running times. Cool for poetic purposes, bad for knowing what the hell they're actually saying in the songs.
The Kingsmen, "Louie Louie" And, of course, the classic hit with perhaps the most incomprehensible lyrics up to that time. No one could figure out what the Kingsmen were saying. It was so baffling that it inspired an FBI investigation on the grounds that the lyrics could possibly be obscene.
When later bands covered the song, they even made up obscene lyrics to go along with it, partially because it was punk to do so, and partially because they couldn't understand the real lyrics anyway. Of course, it turns out the song was harmless, but it was so difficult to understand that it really freaked people out at the time.
Not to mention, it inspired the great scene in Animal House where Delta Tau Chi sing along in gibberish to it.
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism