How to recover when you sing the wrong words

I have been this profound ocean of deep writing lately, so you might think this title is a metaphor for something serious and meaningful. Nope. This is literally about how to recover when you sing the wrong words in front of people. You know it’s time to go back to work when you are able to sit down and write 900 words about this topic. #summerbreak

If you sing as much as I do, or, let’s be real, even 1/4 as much as I do, you are occasionally going to mess up the words to a song. (or always if you are anything like my friend, Taylor…no not Taylor Swift…my best friend is actually named Taylor and she never knows the words to songs)

This might happen on stage, in the car, at work, at a concert, Christmas caroling or pretty much any situation you are singing. Now, if you are alone, you obviously don’t even have to acknowledge you messed the words up, because let’s be honest, your words were better anyways and you’re totally killin’ it. For me, it has happened in all of the above situations and about 570 more, but I am always singing so the odds are much higher I will have an incident.

You know the situation I am talking about. It is a total jam session in the car. Wrecking Ball is blaring and you and the girls (or guys…don’t lie) are just belting out from the bottom of your hearts.

I came in like a Wrecking balllllllllll
I just closed my eyes and swung

Oops! The actual lyrics were “I never hit so hard in love.”

The worst part was, you sang it very confidently and there is no denying everyone heard it. At this point, you have a few choices. Below, I have written some recovery suggestions when it comes to getting the wrong words to a song in front of other people. Keep in mind, different situations call for different recovery tactics. If you are singing a solo on-stage, I don’t have anything for you. Just walk off or something.

1. Act like nothing happened

This method works really well in a large group setting, like church. You may be singing with the congregation, get a little too confident and not look at the words on the pull-down screen, and sing “cobble-stone” instead of “cornerstone.” If you are a quiet singer, you have nothing to worry about. But if you are like me and treat congregational worship as a chance to harmonize loudly and add in my own unique runs (all for the glory of God), someone heard it. Fortunately, strategy 1 works really well here. This is a perfect example to just keep singing like nothing happened. Don’t look around. Don’t give a sheepish look to your sister. Just keep singing confidently and even if someone suspects it was you that messed the words up, your confidence and lack of interest will probably make them question themselves: “Maybe I was the one who sang the wrong words…?” Or “Maybe it really is, “cobblestone?” ….

2. Make a huge deal out of it

This strategy is the opposite of acting like it never happened. This one calls full attention to the fact you totally butchered the words. I like this option for the group-in-the-car singing session. If I mess the words up especially badly, I start to make fun of myself right away. Belly-laughter, screaming, WRONG WORDSSSSSSS AHHHH. Make a huge scene. This way, the attention goes away from the fact you messed the song up and points all the attention to your loud overreaction to it. By the time you have calmed down, it is probably a new song anyways. This strategy isn’t ideal if you tend to mess up a lot of the lyrics (cough Tay cough), because your friends will start worrying about the constant fits of hysteria you are throwing every 40 seconds.

3. Play it cool

This is my strategy when I am with a new group of friends, or perhaps someone who would be worried about my mental health if I used the first 2 strategies. This is a pretty safe method that both calls attention to the fact you messed the words up, but does it in a smooth way. The “Play it Cool” option is pretty simple. When you mess the words up to the song, DO NOT stop singing or make any spoken comment about saying the wrong words.

INSTEAD, sing TO THE TUNE OF THE SONG “I don’t know the wordsssss” without missing a beat. Think of the song “The Way You Make Me Feel” by MJ. Ohhhh, how I jam to this song so hard. Ok, anyways, say you get one of the verses wrong as it’s going into the chorus. Instead of stopping, sing
“I don’t know know the wordssss” when Michael sings “The way you make me feeeeeeeeeel”

Everyone in the car should have a good chuckle, the tension has resolved because you have acknowledged the error and the song isn’t interrupted in the process.

4. Deny It
You may think this is similar to acting like it never happened, but this strategy involves adamantly denying it was you. This one involves a bit of acting. The main difference between this strategy and Acting like it didn’t happen is that in this one, it definitely happened, but it definitely wasn’t you. You turn it into a classic case of “Who Dunnit?” This will not work in a very small group of singers, but in a medium-large group, it works just fine. As soon as the mistake happens, get a weird look on your face like “Umm who WAS that?” Keep singing but look totally disgusted (not a good strategy if you are on stage) with the fact that someone really messed that up. If someone calls you out on it, you have to make a moral choice at that point. I am not a liar, so if I get singled out, I would resort back to #2 and hope that resolves the situation.

Good luck singers of the world. I hope my tips are helpful to you. Please keep in mind another option is to just sing whatever words you want at any time, and just not care whatsoever what people think 😉

Blessings not chins,


*None of these are acceptable with the Nation Anthem

Not everyone can have the confidence and stage-presence of my parents. If you dance like this, no one will be listening to you sing, anyways.







2 Comments Add yours

  1. my holistic life says:

    I feel like this was strangely profound. 🙂


    1. jennawiley says:

      haha 🙂 i love strangely anything!!! love your blog by the way!


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