Never learn the lyrics: Which inspirational songs needed better words?

Interactive Fiction relies on carefully chosen prose.

But IF is an art, and very often IF authors look to other art forms for inspiration.
Sometimes that inspiration is music. Music with words.

And sometimes great music lets us down with its words.

What amazing tracks do you recommend, to which we must never learn the lyrics?

NB: I am not asking you to dig out all sorts of lyrics which you consider to be culturally unacceptable. I am looking for examples of epic music where the vocal was untroubled by really, really bad authorship. And so long as you don’t actually understand the words, the piece retains its power.

Therefore please be careful about spoilers.

Here are my initial suggestions (all from the UK, and deliberately of a certain age. Please update us with the latest):

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I must confess to finding the silly lyrics of that Slade song to be part of its charm.


I enjoy needling my friend that Dio’s “Rainbow in the Dark” is a physical impossibility due to the way light works until he finally screams “IT’S A METAPHOR!

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A lot of Puccini is like this intentionally. The words are really pretty on their own, but it’s so funny to me to listen to La Boheme and have a guy say ‘You wanna know my job and stuff? I’m a poet and I write and I just live’ but have it be one of the prettiest songs.

A lot of Adventure time songs are like this (I got into it a few years ago and then my son did too, and the remixes online are really fun). ‘Bacon Pancakes’ has really great remixes but the song lyrics are just ‘Bacon pancakes, making bacon pancakes, take some bacon and-a put it in a pancake, bacon pancakes, that’s what I’m gonna make, bacon pancakes’. All the remixes are good, like this one: Troskot - Adventure Time Bacon Pancakes (dubstep/hardstyle remix) - YouTube

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Isn’t a lot of opera like this? We hear gorgeous Italian phrases that sound epic to us but the subtitle is “Perhaps I shall walk over there. Your father is in such a temper today; he wouldn’t eat breakfast.”

I maintain that a lot of Michael Jackson songs have really pedestrian lyrics that were elevated by his artistry. If you read the lyrics to “Thriller” and put the groove and the beat completely out of your head it’s what a grade-schooler would write for a Halloween competition. Apparently the melody actually started as a completely different song that had nothing to do with horror. That’s the way the music industry works, though - a talented vocalist can sing the phone book and entertain people.

I’ve also heard rumors that one of my favorite songs by him, “Smooth Criminal,” actually is comprised of dummy lyrics he improvised to a demo track that was already laid down with the intention of them being rewritten and improved as the song got produced, but nothing ever worked as well as his weird cryptic murder-mystery detective story imagery and they went with that.


Oh, and I must mention “Cake by the Ocean” which for a period of time was always playing on my car radio when it was popular and I had absolutely no comprehension what the lyrics were or what it meant despite grooving to it. After research, it’s you’re typical “adults won’t understand” ditty about sex, potentially on a beach.

My pastor in high school told us about how he really liked the song “My Sharona” and bought a cassette so he could blast it in his car whenever he wanted…then finally read the lyrics and was like…

Any song by Yes. For example, Close to the Edge:

A seasoned witch could call you from the depths of your disgrace,
And rearrange your liver to the solid mental grace,
And achieve it all with music that came quickly from afar,
Then taste the fruit of man recorded losing all against the hour
And assessing points to nowhere, leading every single one
A dewdrop can exalt us like the music of the sun,
And take away the plain in which we move,
And choose the course you’re running

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Oh wow. Just looked up the lyrics and now I can never listen to it again.

On Italian Opera… One must know what Italian is actually: a mixed verbal-gestual language. when the recitation is in Italian from an Italian, isn’t only the voice, but also the body.

Opera is something to be seen, not only heard. Better Opera DVDs or BD than CDs, in other words.

if one always wonder why Italians always wildly gestures when speaking, now know why.

Best regards from Italy,
dott. Piergiorgio.


Radiohead are masters at creating beautiful songs with non-sensical lyrics:

Karma police, arrest this man
He talks in maths,
he buzzes like a fridge
He’s like a detuned radio
Karma police, arrest this girl
Her Hitler hairdo is making me feel ill
And we have crashed her party

(But of course they may make total sense to some people.)

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No-one has mentioned NIR-a mosquito, my libido-VANA yet.

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I’m surprised no one has mentioned either the Red Hot Chili Peppers or the Talking Heads when it comes to nonsensical lyrics.

Careful, there. That’s my favorite band of all time, and they always make perfect sense.

The B-52s, though? Word salad.

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Wasn’t so much a criticism as a statement of fact. I happen to like quite a few Talking Heads and Red Hot Chili Peppers songs regardless.

Well, that’s good, because if someone were to suggest that a song like Slippery People had largely nonsensical lyrics, I’d have to roll my eyes.

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Blondie - Rapture. :roll_eyes:


I heard that for the first time when I was a teenager getting a midnight snack and hearing the radio. I thought I had dreamt it or misremembered it for almost 20 years, and then I heard again and couldn’t believe it was real.

I’ve heard people cite it as the first rap song, which is a little iffy


I actually know all the words to Rapture. I think Heart of Glass is more problematic.

Certainly not. Debbie lived in a world where she had access to rap/ hiphop earlier than your average Joe. She just popularized it for white people first.


True! I thought about adding both but I do like the band. Mucho Mistrust.


Only tangentially related, but I’m always looking for an opportunity to recommend literal videos. They probably won’t mean much to anyone under 40, but if you were there for the MTV revolution, you’ll die laughing.

My favorites:
Total Eclipse of the Heart Literal Video

Head Over Heels Literal Video