It happens to the best of us: You can’t get that awesome song out of your head and would love to look it up and enjoy the music video all over again–but you can’t remember the name! As frustrating as this is, it isn’t hopeless. There are a number of different ways that you can narrow down your search and finally track down that music video simply by describing it.
The next time you’re struggling to look up a music video, try one of these approaches to help you find it!
1. Jot down everything you can remember.
Sometimes just the simple act of writing down your thoughts and sorting out what you can remember will serve as a sort of bread crumb trail that can lead you back to that elusive music video. What stood out to you about it the most? How would you describe the tune that you can’t get out of your head? What kind of a story did the music video tell?
Jotting down these details and more can help you clear some space in your head and increase your chances of remembering the song on your own–or help your buddy figure out what you’re talking about if you ask them for help. But if that doesn’t quite cut it, then you’ll have the perfect set of info ready to work with while you hunt for the video online!
2. Try to remember the artist’s name–or search snippets of the lyrics.
If you can manage to recall the artist’s name, then you’re already way ahead of the game: You can pull up their entire discography and scroll through until you find a song title that you recognize, or that at least sounds like it could be the right one. It may take a while to sift through the discography if nothing’s ringing any bells, but you might walk away with some new favorite songs that you wouldn’t have discovered otherwise!
If you don’t know the name of the artist but remember a couple of lines from the song lyrics, then you’re still at an advantage. The chorus is usually the easiest to remember, thanks to its usually-repetitive nature, and often the easiest to search since it’s most likely to be shared and referenced.
3. Search keywords or phrases related to the song and music video.
You can refer to your collection of details that you remember in order to articulate the defining traits of the music video. Skim everything you previously jotted down and look for the most important details, and look for ways to reduce those features into as few keywords as possible. The fewer and more accurate your keywords, the better of a chance you’ll stand at finding what you’re looking for.
Some good things to mull over in search of good keywords include:
- Genre: Was it a rap song, an obscure alternative subgenre, or maybe a pop hit?
- Mood: What was the mood of the song like–upbeat and catchy? Sad and mournful? Aggressive with a harsh beat?
- Age/Time Period: Was this music video from the 80s or 90s, or was it a new release?
- Artist: What can you remember about the artist? Gender, appearance, and vocal style could help you narrow your search.
- Video style: What happened in the music video? Descriptive keyword phrases such as “men dancing” or “singing in forest” can be helpful.
- Video source: Where did you first see this music video or hear the song? If it’s gone viral on a particular platform, then including the name of that platform in your search can make a big difference.
Once you’ve answered as many of these questions as you can, try combining bits and pieces together to paint the search engine a better picture of what you’re looking for. Examples of search phrases you might come up with include “woman singing sad folk song in a field,” “80s rock song with men in suits,” or even something like “dramatic dubstep song from TikTok meme.”
You may have to play around with your wording if the desired results don’t turn up right away. Switch different keywords out, and experiment with longer or shorter strings of keywords to see what gets you closer to what you’re looking for.
4. Try looking on YouTube instead of using a generalized search engine.
Not only are music videos extremely prevalent on YouTube, but there are other types of videos that may reference what you’re looking for as well. Reaction videos, compilations, mashups, and covers all have good chances of including at least some of the keywords you’re searching.
YouTube’s algorithm is also usually pretty good at finding and offering similar content, especially if you’ve had your account for a long time. So, if your search yields something that has a lot in common with what you’re looking for but isn’t quite right, be sure to check out the sidebar–it just might be there!
5. Use an app or program that identifies songs by sound.
You may need to be at least somewhat able to carry a tune for this one to work–or know someone who does! Song identifier apps can listen to the tune of a song, even just part of it, and do a pretty good job of matching it up with existing pieces that have been uploaded online.
If you don’t feel like installing a whole new app, then Google Assistant can help you out here as well: Just say “Hey Google, what’s this song?” and then clearly hum as much as you can remember. Even if that doesn’t pull up the right song, it might find some similar tracks that you can compare with in your search. Searches like “New song that sounds like Pinball Wizard” can be surprisingly effective–if you or an AI can recognize the similarity, chances are that other people have, too, and their search terms will have worked their way into the search engine’s predictions.
6. Enlist help on forums.
Forums where music enthusiasts converge can be a great place to turn if search engines have failed you. After all, talking with a person will enable you to describe the music video or song with much more detail, going into depths that would confuse search engines instead of helping them.
Chatting on a forum also gives you the opportunity to exchange questions that will help you hone in on what you’re looking for. Or, at the very least, someone might recognize defining features of an artist or album that they happen to love, enabling them to give you a name and point you in the right direction.
You’ll find it eventually!
It can be maddening when you can’t locate that specific music video that’s on your mind. But if you can work out some defining keywords to enter into either your search engine of choice or a music-specific platform like YouTube, it might come up more easily than you’d think.
If keywords don’t work, try searching for any lyrics you can remember. Or, you can use a song identifier program to help you find the tune by humming it. If all else fails, don’t hesitate to reach out for a little help on your favorite music forum–chances are someone else has fallen in love with the same music video!
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.