For every song we love, there is a set of lyrics we or other listeners commonly mishear. This confusion is often dismissed as a simple mistake; however, the formation of sound in the English language has a lot more to do with this phenomenon than mere coincidence. Many of our speech sounds have a lot in common, allowing for easy miscommunication. Furthermore, due to the rhythmic and aesthetic nature of music, it’s not unusual for artists to warp or drop certain sounds as they sing. By comparing the phonemes implemented in both phrases, one can better understand how we confuse different sounds. Thus, through the applied study of phonetics, I dissected the misheard lyrics in Hozier’s 2013 “Take Me to Church”, where one listener thought the line “I'll worship like a dog at the shrine of your lies” was actually “I'll wash you like a doll in the Saturday light”. After phonetically transcribing both sentences I compared the voicing, manner of articulation, place of articulation, tenseness, laxness, tongue position and more in order to explain instances of assimilation, dissimilation, segment insertion, segment deletion, or metathesis on Hozier’s part, as well as our own mistakes. What I found was that many of the phonemes used were quite similar, or even simplified versions of each other. However, I also discovered that much of the mistakes were due to Hozier softening or oversimplifying sounds to allow aesthetics and smoother singing, which revealed a lot about how artists manipulate sound as they sing.
McLaughlin, Sophie, "Breaking Down the Misheard Lyrics of Hozier’s “Take Me to Church”" (2020). 2020 Undergraduate Presentations. 49.