Song Lyrics Everyone Gets Wrong

Very Happy Woman Having Fun Listening To Music At Home And Dancing


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Justin Timberlake
Steve Eichner / Contributor / Archive Photos / Getty Images

Singing a Different Tune

Maybe the enunciation isn’t so great. The mix might be off. Don’t feel bad — there are a lot of perfectly valid excuses for totally messing up a song as you attempt to belt out the lyrics. There’s actually a name for this type of blunder: a mondegreen. For your entertainment, here are 26 songs that belong in the mondegreen hall of fame, including one that gets a lot of attention on social media at this very time every year.

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nsync it's gonna be me
Sweet Dreams by Eurythmics

'Sweet Dreams are Made of These/Cheese'

Have you been singing this popular '80s song by the Eurythmics wrong for years? In "Sweet Dreams," Annie Lennox croons that "sweet dreams are made of this" but if you heard "these," you're not alone. A "Wheel of Fortune" contestant recently lost out when he got the last word wrong. Others insist that Lennox sounds like she's singing that "sweet dreams are made of cheese," which has spawned T-shirts, mugs, and other merch. 

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Jimi Hendrix

'Excuse Me While I Kiss This Guy’

In “Purple Haze,” Jimi Hendrix sings the words, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.” As poetic as it is, it might be the most frequently misquoted line in music history. Fans say Hendrix sometimes sang the line the fake way in concert, for laughs. (This video could be an example. Judge for yourself, but, you know, it’s hard to tell.) 

CCR: Green River

‘There’s a Bathroom on the Right’

Remember that time you were backstage at a Creedence Clearwater Revival concert, and you really had to go? Thankfully, the band started playing “Bad Moon Rising.” And, everything was all right — except for the lyrics that you got totally wrong. The song isn’t about giving directions, it’s about giving a warning: “There’s a bad moon on the rise.” Singer John Fogerty has said that he understands how the lyrics could be misconstrued. Touring as a solo artist, he’s even been known to sub in the “bathroom” version for fun.   

Elton John Madman Across the Water

‘Hold Me Closer, Tony Danza’

The name of Elton John’s rock ballad is “Tiny Dancer,” so that’s a pretty big clue for the clueless that “Hold me closer, tiny dancer” are the real words here. But if the song isn’t about Alyssa Milano’s sitcom dad, what is it about? The songwriter has shared insights in interviews. (And if you’re looking to spin all the way down the “Tiny Dancer” rabbit hole, here’s the song’s official video, released in 2017.)

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johnny nash i can see clearly now

‘I Can See Clearly Now, Lorraine Has Gone’

For the record, crooner Johnny Nash never mentions a woman named Lorraine in his ‘70s reggae-pop hit, although the misunderstood lyrics from “I Can See Clearly Now” have inspired countless dad jokes and t-shirts. The real lyrics, of course, are: “I can see clearly now, the rain is gone.” And, it was certainly a bright sunshine-y day for Nash when the single topped the charts, (although it would be his only No. 1 hit). 

Madonna Like a Virgin

‘Like a Virgin, Touched for the 31st Time’

The year 1984 was the first very first time MTV hosted their Video Music Awards and the very first time viewers were utterly shocked by newcomer Madonna and her performance of “Like a Virgin.” And, of course, she was singing about being “touched for the very first time,” not the “31st time.” (If you want to be frequently reminded of this priceless mondegreen, a pint glass memorializing the phrase will cost you $15.) 

Bruce Springsteen Greetings from Asbury Park

‘Wrapped up Like a Douche’

Manfred Mann’s cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Blinded by the Light” topped the U.S. charts in February of 1977. Wonder how many of the people wore out the single trying to investigate whether the lyrics were as strange as they sounded? “Revved up like a deuce,” are the actual words, with “deuce” referring to a certain hot rod car.

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tlc crazysexycool

‘Don’t Go, Jason Waterfalls!’

While everyone is apparently happy to see Lorraine go, nobody wants to part ways with this mysterious Jason Waterfalls fellow. Go figure. Hopefully it didn’t take you too many listens to discover that, in reality, the TLC hit “Waterfalls” is about “chasing waterfalls”, or you know, not chasing them

kenny loggins footloose

‘I’m Punching My Car!’

When you feel like dancing but the workaday life is getting you down, whatever you do, don’t punch your car. It will only make things worse. Repairs are expensive. And when singing along to Kenny Loggins’ “Footloose,” the line is “I’m punching my card,” as in time card.

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Aerosmith Aerosmith

‘Sing Women’

In Aerosmith’s “Dream On,” the command “sing with me” is repeated eight times. But it’s hard for many fans to sing with Steven Tyler, as directed, because they’re too busy singing “sing women,” like they think they should be. Classic mondegreen conundrum. 

The Clash Combat Rock

‘Rock the Catbox’

Maybe get your ears checked if you made this mistake when trying to sing along to “Rock the Casbah.” Lyrics aside for a second, it’s the song’s music that, arguably, made it such a smash for The Clash. Unfortunately, the guy who composed it was kicked out of the band before it was released.  

Bon Jovi Slippery When Wet

‘It Doesn’t Make a Difference If We’re Naked or Not’

Doesn’t it though? These misquoted lyrics certainly take Bon Jovi’s “Livin’ On a Prayer” in an interesting direction. “It doesn’t make a difference if we make it or not” are, you probably know by now, the real words. While we’re at it, Gina doesn’t want to die of old age. She works in a diner all day. 

Guns N’ Roses Appetite For Destruction

‘Take Me Down to a Very Nice City’

Raise your hand (and your standards) if you thought these were the words to Guns N’ Roses’ “Paradise City.” Some fans believe the “Paradise City” in the song is Lafayette, Indiana, hometown of bandmates Axl Rose and Izzy Stradlin. While that’s debatable, it does seem like a very nice city

taylor swift 1989

‘All the Lonely Starbucks Lovers’

Reportedly, even Taylor Swift’s mom was guilty of mishearing this line from “Blank Space.” The pop princess actually sings, “got a long list of ex-lovers.” If you’re feeling bad for making the same mistake, an explanation from a linguistics expert might help you understand why flubs like this are common. 

toby keith should've been a cowboy

‘Wearing My Sex Shoes’

While cowboy boots are pretty sexy, and Toby Keith has his share of female fans — notably, not the Chicks — there are no “sex shoes” in the lyrics to his enduring ‘90s jam “Should’ve been a Cowboy.” The actual words are “wearing my six-shooter,” as in a revolver. 

the monkees More of the Monkees

‘Then I Saw Her Face, Now I’m Gonna Leave Her’

Is this what you sing when your strictly-online girlfriend turns out to be not your type? The Monkees would never do such a thing, (nor did they have the opportunity when the song came out 54 years ago). The real lyrics are, of course: “Then I saw her face, now I’m a believer.” That’s better.

John Prine That’s the Way that the World Goes Round

‘It’s a Happy Enchilada’

The late, great singer-songwriter John Prine loved to tell the story of a woman who once asked him to sing his song about the happy enchilada. He was confused, until she told him the whole line: “It’s a happy enchilada, and you think you’re going to drown,” a flubbed interpretation of the line “It’s a half an inch of water, and you think you’re going to drown” from his hit “That’s the Way that the World Goes Round.” Fans laughed along every time he retold the tale and changed the lyrics for the last verse in live shows.   

Steve Perry Street Talk

‘Oh, Cinnamon Doll!’

In the music video for “Oh Sherrie,” a reflective Steve Perry belts out the song’s opening line from a stairwell: “You should’ve been gone!” But listeners often hear something spicier: cinnamon. Variations on the “oh, cinnamon doll” misinterpretation include, “cinnamon gum,” and “cinnamon bun.” 

rihanna Loud

‘I Want You to Love Me Like I’m a Pot Pie’

It’s time to eat humble pie, if you got this one wrong. In Rihanna’s “Only Girl (in the World),” she actually sings, “I want you to love me like I’m a hot ride.” 

aerosmith Permanent Vacation

‘Do the Funky Lady’

It’s unclear whether “the funky lady” here is supposed to be the name of a dance or an unconventional woman about to make a fortuitous love connection. (Variations on the misheard line include: “Do the lucky lady” and “Do it like a lady.”) In any event, the real words of the Aerosmith hit “Dude (Looks Like a Lady)” are, of course, “Dude looks like a lady.”  

the marshall tucker band Carolina Dreams

‘Purdy Little Love Song’

It is a purdy little love song, but, sorry, those aren’t the words to it. “Heard It in a Love Song” is the true title of the highest-charting single from Southern rock pioneer The Marshall Tucker Band. In defense of anybody who’s gotten these lyrics wrong, lead singer Doug Gray rocks a serious drawl in every repetition of the refrain.

alanis morissette jagged little pill

‘It’s Not Fair to Remind Me of the Cross-Eyed Bear That You Gave to Me’

You can picture the teddy bear, right? Poor Alanis Morissette holding it tight? The actual line is: “It’s not fair to deny me of the cross I bear that you gave me.” If you didn’t know this, you, you, you oughta know

jay z The Blueprint 3

‘If Jesus Paying Lebron, I’m Paying Dwayne Wade’

In his hit “Empire State of Mind,” Jay-Z has a line about paying for drugs using basketball-jersey numbers as code for prices. But, he’s not actually implicating the Christian savior in illicit behavior. The real lyrics: “If Jeezy is paying Lebron, I’m paying Dwayne Wade.” 

lil nas x 7

‘I’m Going to Take My Horse to a Hotel Room’

Woah, Nelly! Lil Nas X never sang that. Look no further than the title of his chart-topping, crossover hit “Old Town Road.” The correct lyrics: “I’m going to take my horse to the old town road.” And, “Old Town Road” took young Lil Nas X on the road to victory, along with duet partner Billy Ray Cyrus. The duo earned a Grammy for the video of the song’s remix.

Brea Frank

‘¿Esos Son Reebok? ¿O son Nike?’

This bilingual mondegreen is plucked from a hilarious, viral radio clip. You’ve got to listen to it to hear how a brilliant Dominican deejay somehow manages to cue up the song that’s been requested. (Hint: The misheard lyrics (translation: “Are Those Reebok? ¿Or Nike?”) are the song’s title and its opening line.)