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 The Words Are Wrong?

Ralf Southard

This article is in response to a letter from Genny Lipton of Altoona, PA. Genny writes: "Why are the lyrics sometimes totally wrong?" While we are rarely given a straight answer from any of the manufacturers, many explanations are floating around, from fact to fiction. Here are some of them.

It is widely believed that discs that include blatantly incorrect lyrics are produced by manufacturers who never bought the rights to the songs in the first place. The music business involves a lot of legal paperwork, including providing royalty fees to those artists who originally wrote the songs or created the music. I noted that the worst examples of wrong lyrics are on discs that were pressed many years ago. In many cases, if you sing the lyrics as they appear on the screen, and compare the sound of those lyrics to the original recording, you may find the bogus lyrics sound almost correct. This is often a sign that those who created the karaoke disc used phonetics to create the lyrical graphics that show up on the screen. This could involve having a person listen to the original recording and audibly write down the lyrics as best they can, and incorrectly interpreting those lyrics.

The possibilities are endless. In less severe cases, differences in lyrics can be attributed to different versions by the same artist or different recordings or different artists entirely. It is not uncommon for the lyrics printed in an artist’s actual CD booklet to be different from the lyrics sung in the recording. A last minute change during recording may have inspired the artist to sing the line differently from the lyrics he/she copyrighted before recording.

It should be noted that people at a karaoke show often sing lyrics incorrectly regardless of what the screen shows and for varying reasons. The lyrics could be hard to read, or swipe too fast, or are hard to pronounce. In the end, just remember it is karaoke, and you are supposed to have fun. If the words are wrong, feel free to sing them right. Singing incorrect lyrics, such as expletives or slurs is in bad taste.


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