Say you’re taking off on a road trip with some friends. You have everything you need for a movie-montage worthy drive: cool sunglasses, a convertible, and, of course, an awesome soundtrack for the road. Your friend pops in CD number one and the first song starts to blare from the car’s fuzzy speakers. Suddenly, regardless of gender, all your friends transform into “WOOH” girls, screeching their love for the tune and singing along. You don’t know a single word.
We’ve all been there. Maybe it’s a new song that catches you off guard, or a classic that everyone supposedly loves but you’ve never heard before. Or maybe you’re the woman in that VW Passat commercial who is convinced that Elton John’s “Rocketman” is really about Provolone. Regardless, it’s a sticky situation. Do you try to learn as you go and pretend to sing along? Do you play the “I’m too cool for this song” card and roll your eyes? Do you fess up?
Luckily, there are a few songs out there that let us all off the hook. Not because they’re uncool or predictable, but because no one actually knows the words. Don’t worry; it’s still ok to love them. It’s even ok to “WOOH!” You’re just free to hum nonsensicals without judgment. Finally.
1. “Yellow Ledbetter“ by Pearl Jam
Ah, the classic that practically started the “misheard lyrics” website trend. With YouTube lyric interpretations boasting 6 million views, it’s hard not to wonder if anyone actually knows the words to this song, Pearl Jam members included. I do want to believe that this classic 90’s power rock ballad is not, in fact, about wizards and Bennigans and potato waves but honestly, I don’t think we’ll ever know.
Oh, and “Ledbetter?” I’m thinking even the TITLE might be misheard. Am I the only one who hears that and thinks, “bed wetter”?
2. “Come on Eileen” by Dexy’s Midnight Runners
I first heard this song in college. I shared a dorm floor with a girl who, despite her college-level education, didn’t seem to know how to use her inside voice. Her laugh was loud, her hairdryer was loud, her phone conversations about what to text back to the guy whose pants she wanted to get into were loud. It fits, then, that she also didn’t believe in headphones. She loved this song. I didn’t really have a choice but to love it, too.
Even after all those agonizing replays, I’m not sure I know the real words. I think half the fun, though, is in creating the lyrics for yourself. I have fond memories of stomping in squishy rain boots through the gale that was Hurricane Irene singing “Come on IRENE,” which was mind-blowingly original, if I do say so myself.
3. “September” by Earth, Wind, and Fire
“Hey, you know that song, September?”
“Mmm… nope. Let’s listen to Ke$haaa!”
“You do too know it, it’s by Earth Wind and Fire.”
“Come on, it’s that song that’s in like a million movies. Here, listen…”
“WOO! Yeah, I love this song! BAHH DE YAAAA…”
…And so goes every discussion ever held ever between Generation Y members about Earth Wind and Fire’s “September.” I’m willing to bet my life, or at least exclusive rights to my lyrics to “Come on IRENE,” that the majority of people who “love” this song probably don’t even know the name of it. They simply recognize it from one movie trailer or another. Seriously, I just looked it up. It’s known for 63 soundtracks. That’s sixty-three TV shows and movies! I bet most of them don’t even take place in September.
4. “One Week” by Barenaked Ladies
If you can sing this entire song from memory, and are not an actual member of the Barenaked Ladies, I salute you. You are a very rare individual. It’s nearly impossible to keep up, even with the lyrics written in front of you.
I once spent an entire road trip listening to this song on repeat, trying to learn all the words. I finally got: “gotta-see-the-show-cause-then-you’ll-know-the-vertigo-is-gonna-grow-cuz-it’s-so-dangerous-you’ll-have-to-sign-a-waiver” by ear after about an hour and nearly side swept a mini-van in my excitement. I’ve never done karaoke before, but I’m determined that, if I ever do, this will be the song I sing. It’s going to take a lot more car trips before I have that down.
5. “The Numa Numa Song”
Wait, this song does have an actual name, doesn’t it? And an artist? Not that it really matters; “numa numa” is the only thing anyone knows from this Internet hit. That and the guy who dances to this song via webcam, pumping his fist in an entirely un-Guido fashion and raising an eyebrow to the beat. His You-Tube video has over 46 million hits. Take that, Pearl Jam and your potato waves.