What does it spell?

The mystery of ‘Dolphins,’ the fake Avril Lavigne song on every internet lyrics site

Stephanie Hallett/FUSION

According to the almost every website on the internet that offers lyrics to popular music, Avril Lavigne once recorded a song called “Dolphins.”

Here’s how the Avril Lavigne song “Dolphins” goes, as listed on LyricsFreak:

Dolphins Are u
Dolphins Are Me
Dolphins Are eveyone that includes you and me
They love swimmming with people like you and me

Dolphins live in the ocean
Dolphins live in the sea
Dolphins live in nice clear blue sea
They are acompneed by a lot of sea animals

We love them
You love them
I love them
Who dosen’t like them

Give me a D
Give me a O
Give me a L
Give me a P
Give me a H
Give me a I
Give me a N
Then put it all together & what dose it spell

A litany of sites (MetroLyrics, SongLyrics, and WikiLyrics, to name a few) offer nearly identical lyrics for the song, with only variations in spelling—”u” changed to “you,” for example.

The only problem? “Dolphins” is not a real song. Not one recorded by Avril Lavigne, at least.

So where did it come from? How did it reach a point where the song is such a ubiquitous fake but without a hint of where it came from? Why does lyrics site after lyrics site list “Dolphins” as a real song, with recognizable, childish lyrics?

The lyrics, and their false attribution to Lavigne, account for most of the information that exists on the song. There’s no sheet music or any other sort of guidance on how to play “Dolphins,” for example. There are no recordings, video or audio, to suggest that Lavigne, or anyone else, ever played a song called “Dolphins.”

That hasn’t been enough to stop at least a few people from trying, though, and so now there are two extant and easily accessible “cover” performances of “Dolphins.”

The most recent version was uploaded to YouTube in October 2015 to an account called The Time Slug.

The account belongs to Callie Berndt, an illustrator living in Indiana. Callie and her friends Clint and Jocelyn, along with her boyfriend Brandon, made the video after “Jocelyn came home asking if any of us knew anything about the mysterious lyrics for a non-existent Avril Lavigne song that kept popping up everywhere.” Everywhere, in this case, meant Tumblr.

The older video is also a product of Tumblr. It was made in January 2014 by a 22-year old artist from California named Acey Nikkel.

Nikkel, like Jocelyn, saw the lyrics circulating on Tumblr. She enjoyed playing the song, and thinks “it actually has kind of a fun sound to it,” but hasn’t heard much about it since. In the video she prefaces her version with “I’m singing this song that’s totally by Avril Lavigne, and totally not just some fake lyrics someone posted on the internet that I came up with a tune for.”

So, the lyrics have definitely made their way around Tumblr a few times, as the song’s two performers can attest. But the site’s painful search function makes it difficult to track how or when they first popped up. Though the fake Avril song seems to have experienced a resurgence as a meme on Tumblr last October, there is little else there to suggest an origin.

Going back further, there’s an image of the lyrics to “Dolphins” attributed to Lavigne that were posted “over 3 years ago,” to Memerial, an ill-organized and overflowing warehouse for images. Memerial users were not pleased:

The last shot at some sort of answer to the mystery of these lyrics, I thought, might lie in the lyrics site themselves. The words have lived on one lyrics site for a lot longer than they’ve been a Tumblr meme, or even been hosted on the many other sites that now lend them the false sheen of legitimacy. LyricsMode has had the lyrics on file since at least July 2007. From there they seem to have migrated onto the many other lyrics sites—probably because most of those sites allow users to add or submit lyrics with fairly little oversight—over the past several years.

Summer 2007 seems telling: it’s right after Lavigne released The Best Damn Thing, the album that included the single “Girlfriend.” LyricsMode ultimately offers no information about the source, just that 3,467 visits to “Dolphins” particular lyric page have been made. LyricsMode’s webmaster, Oleg Kashtalyan, told me via email that the Dolphins page “was added by unregistered user on our website, so we have no information about author and data.”

The trail of “Dolphins” seems to go cold here. I’ve reached out to Avril Lavigne’s representatives for comment on “Dolphins” and whether or not they or Lavigne have ever heard of the song. As of now, they haven’t gotten back to me.

“Dolphins” is not an Avril Lavigne song, though the lyrics sites, a handful of Tumblr posts, and a couple “covers” all offer a thin patina of plausibility that it is, if just for a moment. In the meantime, its creator appears lost to time. Maybe an Avril Lavigne fan (or detractor) who wrote up the lyrics in a couple minutes and forgot them, but I can’t say.

But, it’s not necessarily a reason to despair. There’s something very appealing to the idea that harmless bits of internet flotsam, planted in the far-flung past (read: 2007) can grow into these little mysteries. “Dolphins” being listed as an Avril Lavigne song does no harm to Avril Lavigne: It’s a) obviously fake and b) a nice bauble from a time when people would make up shitty song lyrics and attribute them to Avril Lavigne.

So “Dolphins” carries on. Just like you, just like me, just like everyone that includes you and me.