It’s a frustrating situation that we’ve all experienced at one point or another. You want to see a music video of that song you love—the one with that girl and guy lyric—but you can’t remember the name of the song! If you had a recording of a song, even if you don’t know its name, you could use an app like Shazam, a popular tool that lets you identify a song by playing it, or a similar app.
But if you’re trying to find a music video and you don’t have the song to play and I can’t remember his name, looks like you’re out of luck.
Fear not because help is on the way. All you need is Google and this article. You’ll see how you can use unique search engine operators to find this music video and fine-tune your search queries for every occasion.
How do you find a song you don’t know the name of
1. Determine what you know and search using keywords
The first step in narrowing your search is to determine what you know. Do you know the name of the artist? Do you know the genre of music? Do you know when the song was first released? Most critical, do you know any of the lyrics? If you know any of these things—even if you can only remember a few words to the song—you’re in a much better position to find it online.
You have two options for conducting your search: one is to search YouTube directly, and the other is to specify which song you’re looking for on Google, and then go to YouTube once you figure it out. Since YouTube’s search engine runs entirely on Google, they amount to the same thing.
However, Google search is recommended because it’s easier to find information about the song than just the lyrics; For complex searches, partial information is a good basis. YouTube may or may not find song information as there are many videos with similar words, but it’s a valid option.
2. Try some basic searches to find the artist and song name of a video
Go to your search engine, YouTube or Google and try basic searches. Let’s say the song we’re looking for is “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi, but we don’t remember the title or the artist — even though, in fact, almost everyone does. We only remember one line from the song: it has the words ‘angel smile’. Let’s go to Google and type “an angel smile” into the search box and see what we get.
Look this; There are three songs with that title at the top, along with 203 million other hits. Okay, it’ll be easy to check—click on these links and see if it’s our song!
Alas, we’ve checked all three, and none of these songs – although they contain our lyrics – are the songs we want. We could read a few more pages of Google results, but “angel’s smile” clearly matches too many song titles. We’ll have to dig deeper.
3. Combine your terms to find the artist and title of a video
By combining terms, you can tell Google that you have multiple related concepts that you want to consider when searching. The concatenation operator is the comma, the “,” character. For example, a search for “Mississippi Green Tomato Recipe Cookbook” will return approximately 921,000 results, each with some or all of these keywords. If you enclose the entire search string in quotes, Google will only give you those results with that exact string (zero, if you’re wondering). However, if you use “,” (comma) to combine your concepts, you can get a list of results with links to all three possibilities. Searching for “green tomato recipes mississippi cookbook” tells Google more precisely what you’re looking for and gives you better results.
In our search for smile angel song, let’s add some combination keywords that might help Google pull it up. You know the song you’re looking for is rock and roll. And you think it probably came out in the 1980s because you remember your dad singing it in the car back then. Let’s add those keywords and do a search for “angel smile, rock and roll, 1980s”.
And bam, there it is! It is the first search result. Telling Google about the general period and genre allows it to focus on what we’re looking for (you can leave out the comma and Google will do a pretty good job of guessing which words match which other words, but it is better to use the comma).
4. Other operators, keywords and techniques to find artist and video/song title
The combination operator isn’t the only powerful tool you can use. Here are a few more search options you can try.
Advanced YouTube search
As Google owns YouTube, there are some advanced search operators you can use to find what you want. Here are just a few.
BAND or ARTIST, associate – Type the name of the band or artist, then a partner to narrow the search to official videos and filter out fan videos.
ACTOR, film – Type in the actor’s name and movie to see clips, teasers, and even full movies on YouTube.
News, live – Type in news, games, or anything else you’re interested in, then go live to show live streams related to the topic.
SUBJECT, today – Type a topic, movie, actor or whatever, then a time filter. For example, “Politics This Week” might offer a slightly wider variety of footage than you’ll find on TV, especially if someone in your household is prone to relying on just one network.
SUBJECT, HD or 4K – Type a theme and then format it to filter out non-HD or non-4K content. This step works for 3D and VR or 360° content.
Artist, playlist – Type artist and then playlist to create or find an existing playlist for that artist. You can save or copy them if you plan to use them often.
Advanced Google Search
Search operators allow you to refine your search and narrow your results, and they’re surprisingly powerful when used correctly. Here are some you can try:
- Search for a hashtag: #videosfromthe90s.
- Excluding words: Add a ‘-, ‘so ‘-female vocalists’ to filter music videos with female vocalists.
- Exact match only: Use speech marks, “You give love a bad name”, to specify these words in search only.
- Missing words/wildcards: Add ‘*’ to search for wildcards, For example, “Best * ever”.
- OR: Use “OR” to apply multiple filters.
- AND: Use “AND” to tell Google to include things that match your entire list. “Bon Jovi AND angel smile AND the 1980s.”
- Group: use parentheses to group operators. “(1980s AND Bon Jovi) the angel smile.”
- Using relationships: Use the word “about” to find additional information, “about: Bon Jovi”.
- Search by Year/Genre: If you don’t remember details about the song or music video, search by music videos that can distinguish that year and genre.
5. Use Reddit or another online forum
It won’t matter where you are in the world or how popular the song is if you can ask every music lover alive today. Say hello to the “r/tipofmytongue” subreddit. Millions of people are willing and happy to help you find the missing song.
You can post anything from “I need help with a song that has these lyrics…” to “There was a music video from the mid-2000s where two guys were in a bar.” If someone is familiar with it, they will comment with the artist name, song title, or a link to the music video. Use this subreddit to find the lyrical information you’re looking for.
Alternative methods for finding an artist and song—if all else fails
Much of the music we have been introduced to comes from friends or family members. If the song you forgot is something someone else introduced you to, check their social media accounts and even their Spotify profile for clues. This suggestion assumes you’re still friends, but even if you’re not, they may have listed their favorite bands on their Facebook profile which is usually Public.
Then, if none of the search options above yielded valuable results, try searching for something like “Best Music Videos of the 90s” or “Lesser Known Artists from the 2000s.” A plethora of blogs will appear, so it’s time to start reading. This step can take a while, but it’s the only other option when you have no information beyond the scenery in the music video.
You should be able to find a music video without knowing the name with any of the tips above!
Do you have other ways to identify a music video without knowing the name? Are there apps or services that can do this? Tell us about them below!