The Mandela effect is a curious phenomenon that can really mess with your mind. Check out 15 musical occasions that will make you question everything.
Maybe you don’t know the title, but you’ve definitely experienced it before. Misheard lyrics, remembering movie plot lines that actually never existed. Yep, it’s all part of the curious mind-trickery that is the Mandela effect.
It all apparently kicked off (the title anyway) when blogger Fiona Broome detailed her recollection of Nelson Mandela dying in prison in the 1980s. Say what? Of course, we know that this didn’t happen, but false memories are powerful, even if they are false.
And of course, this happens in music all the time. Misheard lyrics are one thing, but adding lyrics? And not just you, too: everyone imagining the same thing? Or maybe thinking you heard a song in a certain era, only to find out that it actually came out 10 years later? Welcome to the wonderful, weird world of the Mandela effect. Let’s check out 15 musical events that have seemingly escaped the bounds of reality.
Queen – We Are The Champions
Let’s kick it off with the whopper of all Mandela effect songs. It’s simply the most obvious and most jarring of all and no doubt you’ll be stopping mid-sentence to verify this with your own ears. This Queen track gloriously concludes with “We are the champions… of the world.” Right? Ahem, wrong.
Aqua – Barbie Girl
This one’s a classic case of the misheard lyric, even though you’ve sung it about a million times (don’t lie). The lyric that we’re familiar with is “I’m a Barbie girl, in a Barbie world”. But in actual fact, it’s “I’m a Barbie Girl in THE Barbie world”. Even though the ‘the’ and ‘a’ sound similar in this context, it’s still weird, and somehow, unbelievable.
Joan Jett & the Blackhearts – I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll
Another old school classic. And you don’t have to wait long for this one. For decades, countless people have been remember the first line in this hit song as “I saw him standin’ there by the record machine”. Listen again though: replace ‘standin” with ‘dancin” and you’ll be on the money.
Bee Gees – How Deep Is Your Love
Any excuse to listen to this song is worth taking up, but it turns out that maybe we weren’t listening that deeply after all. Zero in on the first chorus and you can almost hear the chorus refrain in your head right now: “I really need to know”. Wrong. It’s “I really mean to learn”. It’s a strange choice of words, but who are we to question The Bee Gees. Hang on, isn’t it just Bee Gees? Uh oh, I think we’ve got another Mandela effect on our hands!
The phantom ‘the’
In the case of Bee Gees, the jury is still out — a quick google image search will reveal that there is a ‘the’ on a few record sleeves, however, most don’t. But there are other examples that are equally, if not more jarring. For example, try saying ‘Ramones’ without putting the ‘The’ in front of it. The band Eagles surely takes the cake though. No, not The Eagles, just plain old Eagles. It’s a brain-breaker.
Black Eyed Peas – Boom Boom Pow
Aside from the fact that there’s a phantom “The” in the title of this video (on the band’s official YouTube account, no less), this track has some curious time-travelling abilities. There’s even a Reddit thread dedicated to the debate around when this track was released. Was it 2007, or 2009? With a lyric referencing 2008 (but really 3008), no wonder there’s some confusion around this one.
Coolio – Gangsta’s Paradise
This one is a genuine case of the disputed lyric. The early ’90s track was a monster hit for Coolio, and at the time, had every wannabe rapper brushing up on the lyrics. At one crucial spot though — precisely at the beginning of the tune’s unforgettable hook — lies a conundrum. Is it “They been spendin’…” or “We been spendin’…” or simply “‘Been spendin…”? The debate rages on.
The Mamas & The Papas – California Dreaming
You have to all the way back to the ’60s for this classic example of the Mandela effect. The Mamas & The Papas’ hippie anthem California Dreaming is nothing if not memorable… but maybe not the second verse? People have sworn to remember the lyric “I began to pray”, when in fact, it’s clearly “I pretend to pray”. Changes the meaning of the lyric quite a lot, don’t you think?
Jewel – Who Will Save Your Soul(s)
This one’s a doozy. Not only is the official title of the track misleading, the clear addition of the ‘s’ to the end of ‘soul’ obviously has vast implications for the meaning of the song. Gone is the intimate confrontation between the song’s scorned protagonist and assailant: it becomes an address to a group of people.
Eurythmics – Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)
This example from synth-pop legends Eurythmics is kind of the opposite to the Jewel mind-bender. Despite the lyric being clearly spelt out in the official title, I defy you to hear the ‘this’ not as the natural rhyme ‘these’. A classic case of our mind having to be overruled by reality. Lennox puts a bizarre inflection on ‘this’ to make it work in the context of the verse, and we’ve all been fooled as a result.
Green Day – Basket Case
In this case, it seems that the majority of people misgendered Billie Joe’s ‘whore’ in the second verse. Whether it’s from a background of problematically assuming that only women can be ‘whores’, or blithely identifying the protagonist as heterosexual, Billie Joe Armstrong clearly identifies the ‘whore’ as a ‘he’. It pays to listen carefully, huh?
Demi Lovato – La La Land
This one is contentious because it has kicked off a conspiracy theory of its own. But in fact, it’s a simple case of a ‘fake’ Mandela effect. In the Spotify version of the track, Demi can be heard saying “eat McDonald’s” while over at YouTube, “eat at Ronald’s”. Still, it hasn’t stopped many a fan blaming it on the Mandela effect. In any case, it seems like a clunky way to avoid copyright issues.
Billy Joel – Piano Man
This one’s an easy myth to bust, but for many years, people have been hearing this Billy Joel classic all wrong. In the second verse, Billy pipes up and sings “Son, can you play me a memory” which many, apparently, have been hearing as “melody”. It’s one of those classic instances where the crowd has replaced the songwriter’s lyric with something altogether more prosaic. Just leave it Billy, people. He knows what he’s doing.
The Rembrandts – I’ll Be There For You
Few theme songs gripped the popular consciousness like The Rembrandts’ I’ll Be There For You. Of course, it was the theme song to mega-hit TV show, Friends, which enjoyed the bulk of its success in the ’90s. But get to the call and response chorus and things get a little hazy. “Rain starts to pour” or “rain starts to fall”? I’m gonna let you decide this one…
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Heigh-Ho
Alright, let’s bring this home with an absolute corker of a Mandela effect. We’ve been singing this song for literally all our lives. How do you sing the chorus? “Heigh-ho, heigh-ho, it’s off to work we go”, right? Well, the reality is actually quite poignant in these days of enforced isolation. Enjoy the discovery for yourself.