Cicad the singer is having a downtime in his career.

Over the millennia, Cicad sang anywhere from royal courts to farmers' cottages and have been rewarded with many, many hand-claps. But to keep going, indeed to preserve his immortality, he must sing - in battle.

When leading a charge to meet the enemy, Cicad would raise his mighty voice and sword in song, inspire his troops - and his superpower. Yes, the secret behind his long life is twofold:

The first: Singing in battle makes him as strong as three men, and impervious to attack. Even a ballista bolt couldn't scratch him, so long as he's singing with at least two of his men within earshot, fighting against at least two of his enemies.

The second: Singing in battle at least once every couple of years keeps him from aging, thereby letting him live for millennia.

  • At least four men must be fighting, not including himself.
  • The intent to kill the other guys is what constitutes a fight, so they can use long range weapons, even cannons or missiles. However, the field must be such that his guys will have at least caught a glimpse of some of the enemy, at a point in time that's close to the time of the attack (firing a missile at people so far away that you can't ever see them doesn't answer the requirement of "a fight").
  • For the same reason, the fight can't be a mock fight (e.g. practice or a fun bar fight). An intent to kill is required.
  • Earshot means that at least two of his troops must be able to hear his song.
  • Cicad doesn't particularly like to fight, but he's good at it and the troops love him for both the songs and, well, the fact that his side tends to win. So every two years, at least one fight.

This was all well and good in the old days, when a good charge with melee weapons constituted a good fight.

Nowadays, however... There are plenty of fights to be had but not the kind where singing is appreciated. Indeed, as recently as the 19th century Cicad has faced frowns when singing while the battle rages.

In this day and age, where concentration and stealth is a prime concern in battle, he was threatened with removal from duty for singing at the wrong times. This almost made him come forth and tell of his abilities, but he absolutely does not want to be probed and bisected by scientists who'll want to check what makes his superpower tick.

So the question is: What kind of situations in modern day combat warrant loud singing by at least one particular combatant? The bigger the advantage one side gets by the singing, the better the answer.

  • For the sake of the question, lets assume that other noises (e.g gun/cannon fire, screams of the dying) are not getting in the way of Cicad's singing.

Edit 1: I really should have clarified this - I want Cicad to be running in the field and getting smacked with fire and brimstone (bullets and heavy ordinance) from time to time. So, infantry. He can be in a tank for a bit of the fight but the point of his imperiousness to harm is to get an unhinged singer into the thick of it. I'll worry about people not noticing his invincibility later...

Edit 2: For those still complaining about other noises, as I wrote - hand (ear?) wave it. Part of the superpower is that the singing subdues noises that are undesired by the audience (which can be a cool advantage by itself, just not so relevant to this question).

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    $\begingroup$ Presumably he's an infantryman? (Because if he's Artillery, Armor, the Corps of Engineers or Service and Support Branches he won't be seeing much.) $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 17:47
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    $\begingroup$ It all depends on who's the leader of the club that's made for you and me. $\endgroup$
    – Mazura
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 20:51
  • $\begingroup$ He should turn himself into an Amazee Dayzee. Those things‘ music is super annoying. $\endgroup$
    – DonielF
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 23:59
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    $\begingroup$ This is a wonderful, wacky question and I love it. "I've been working on the..." BANG! "railroad! All the live long day!" WHACK! "I've been working..." GRUNT! GURGLE! RATATATAT! "working on the raaaailroadddd!" It's like the Joker joined the Marines. $\endgroup$
    – JBH
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 19:22
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    $\begingroup$ Would marching cadences count? I don't know but I've been told, etc. and ribald etc. $\endgroup$
    – puppetsock
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 13:42

10 Answers 10


This answer is based on my own time in the military which included 2 tours:

What kind of situations in modern day combat warrant loud singing by at least one particular combatant?

There is no direct combat situation in a realistic battle which would allow for this.

The reason? Because your statement lets assume that other noises are not getting in the way is impossible in a normal situation. Meaning even if he could be heard, assuming a super power, it would still not be allowed by his squad. The reasons:

Combat is Loud

Imagine explosions, gun fire, screaming, and your own heart pounding in your ears - modern combat is incredibly loud. A quick overview of decibel values (source):

  • 100db is like a jackhammer
  • 120db is 4 times as loud and considered painful (e.g. a chain saw)
  • 150db is 8 times as loud as that and is enough to rupture your ear drums

Now, imagine every vehicle running with 100 or more db, each weapon (from several directions!) firing with 145-190db, and a Marine's own weapon blasting away 160db right in front of their face (see pages 79-81).

Indeed, it is so loud that the number 1 & 2 combat related injuries involve hearing loss. Military members can't even wear the current hearing protection we have because it makes it too hard to hear orders from you commanders and other fire team members.

Someone singing would just be more noise and never welcome during actual combat.

Many times you're already wearing communication (comm) equipment

Currently there are a lot of different ideas on improving ones ability to hear in combat but most of these are still in the development stages.

Ever played a video game online and someone just keeps stepping on everyone trying to talk over a single comm channel? Now imagine your in combat and Cicad is singing over comm (so people can hear him) and you don't want to know what the squad will do to stop this person who is keeping them from hearing orders, calling med-evacs, and coordinating actions.

How could he sing in modern combat?

Well, he couldn't, not out loud with the typical situations you encounter in a real modern, urban, battlefield. However: the military is always researching new methods which could be modified for the sake of a story, strange things happen in combat (at least once), and there is one situation which is rare but I've heard at least a few eye-witness accounts of.

  1. Singing used as a form of biofeedback

Currently the military is researching a whole lot of audio feedback methods for treating PTSD & also TBI, doing better at physical exercise and mental tasks, and to train military members for combat.

Cicad could participate in studies like these, which require him to record his voice for military members to hear in combat (if an effect is seen). This could actually eventually allow him to remove himself from combat if the recording of his voice works as well as him actually singing or he is sent to combat and required to sing due to improvements seen in these studies (which only happen with a "live performance").

  1. "Happy Birthday"

Yeah, believe it or not even in the bloodiest battle in Iraq Marines stopped to sing their hymn on November 10th. If you only need once a year, this event could work as Cicad would only need to start singing the Marine Hymn and his squad would likely join in.

  1. "Paint a Target on my Back"

I have never actually seen this and don't believe most of the stories I've heard but: there is the myth of people who start making noise on purpose, who just get up and distract the enemy or otherwise make themselves stick out so they are targeted or so their squad can see where the enemy positions are. Suppressing fire is usually used but Cicad could start singing to distract the enemy or get them to expose their position so the rest of the squad could move in.

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    $\begingroup$ That last point is especially salient, given that Cicad is impervious to attack while singing in battle. Who better to draw enemy fire? $\endgroup$
    – Bobson
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 12:42
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    $\begingroup$ "each weapon is adding 145-190 decibels" - That part sounds like 10 weapons would create a sound of 1450-1900 decibel, which is impossible on earth. Otherwise, this is a realistic answer. $\endgroup$
    – R. Schmitz
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 13:24
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    $\begingroup$ @RSchmitz It might sound that way, to people who don't know what a decibel is. It's a base-10 logarithmic scale. If your weapon is 150dB, then 10 weapons equals 160dB, 100 weapons equals 170dB, and so on. $\endgroup$
    – Graham
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 23:49
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    $\begingroup$ “Paint a target on my back” Ever seen Firefly, episode The Message? $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 5:41
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    $\begingroup$ Cheers @JGreenwell , I very much like the "Paint a Target on my Back" and "Happy Birthday" bits. Remember that Cicad is a bit loose in the head after several thousands of years, fighting (many "Happy" birthdays...). Perhaps he looses care for his life sometimes, and doesn't mind testing the limits of his powers. Or maybe he just likes taking the pain away from his soldiers. Your answer is the best one so mark, but as for "There is no direct combat situation in a realistic battle which would allow for this." - that's what WBuilding is all about :-) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 30, 2018 at 7:06

Singing still has a place in modern battle.


According to the Associated Press, U.S. marines in Fallujah, Iraq have been broadcasting messages by loudspeaker to agitate Iraqi insurgents, announcing, "You are cowards for hiding behind women and children. Come out and fight," and blaring heavy-metal music, including AC/DC's "Shoot To Thrill".

I read an account of tank warfare in the first Iraq war where the guys in the tank were all singing along to "Thunder" (also AC/DC) as they went looking for opponents. Stealth is not a consideration when you are in a tank.

The place for singing in modern war is during city battles where stealth is not an issue, but especially during motorized or airborne expeditions where your vehicle is obvious. Singing is still good for morale.

It occurs to me that a drone pilot silo might be a fine place for singing also. Drone pilots are viewing the enemy (albeit remotely) so that meets OP criterion. The enemy can't hear you so no harm in singing. And it is freaking boring for long stretches of time and the songs will break up the monotony.

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    $\begingroup$ Being in a tank or drone controller hut break the firing a missile at people so far away that you can't ever see them doesn't answer the requirement of "a fight" requirement*. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 18:25
  • $\begingroup$ @RonJohn how do you think a tank crew picks their target? $\endgroup$
    – Willk
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 20:10
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    $\begingroup$ Usually not directly with their eyes, and even if a tank commander sticks his head out to look around, he sees the enemy tank not the people inside the tank. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 20:18
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    $\begingroup$ Also, I get the impression that Cicad the singer needs to be up close and personal. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 20:19
  • $\begingroup$ Also, being in artillery would tend to be far enough away from the action, as well as loud enough on it's own, to allow singing. Being on a battleship and sending off rockets, while singing "Anchor's Away" might get you some backup singers. Besides, once you're in a firefight with dozens or hundreds of people firing around you, you're likely to have ear protection anyway, and then you can sing. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 15:26

He's going about it all wrong if he's in a western military. Even most infantrymen rarely, if ever, see who they're shooting at. He should join a 3rd-world military as a mercenary. They have much looser discipline, meaning he won't be reprimanded for singing. Further, their equipment and training are much poorer, so they often need to get much closer to their targets to actually fight; meaning he WILL get to see his target.

Alternatively, he could be a vigilante. Fighting to the death is not strictly a military task. He could go hunt down narcoterrorists in Central or South America. Law enforcement wouldn't even try to stop him for the most part.

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    $\begingroup$ I upvoted this, but am having second thoughts. "most infantrymen rarely, if ever, see who they're shooting at" sounds horribly wrong. How do you have fire discipline if you're just spraying and praying? How do you make sure you don't accidentally hit a non-combatant? "Know what you're shooting at" is Rule #1. $\endgroup$
    – RonJohn
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 20:21
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    $\begingroup$ Most firing is in the general vicinity of a target, for suppressing fire. There's a reason US soldiers fire 250,000 rounds per enemy combatant killed in Afghanistan. belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/… That reason is that in most gunfights, you just spray lead at cover the enemy is likely to be behind until you can call in something heavy enough to destroy that cover. It is quite likely that only one man in squad saw the enemy, and the rest just followed his lead. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Aug 26, 2018 at 20:30
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    $\begingroup$ Building clearing is up-close and personal (true, having someone singing would be horrible in this situation so that could be an answer in itself). However, the idea that infantrymen rarely see their enemy (rarely face to face) is just wrong. Study the Battle of Fallujah and other modern battles - and you will see just how up close and personal modern urban warfare is. The idea of moving to specific law enforcement is a good point. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 1:27
  • $\begingroup$ Not all units end up doing building clearing. Further, even in a unit that does, if you are not in an entry team, again you will just be providing suppressing fire at likely enemy positions. $\endgroup$
    – Ryan_L
    Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 3:23
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    $\begingroup$ entry team, extraction team, MPs who got called up because you just don't have enough grunts, dang it we were just transporting goods and got caught in the cross-fire in the streets supply team, etc. Building clearing is just one part of the experience of IOF/OEF - IEDs were another and those either went off and you saw nobody or you were taking direct fire quick (and yeah, really close). If suppressing fire you are already close enough to see the enemy and calling in a strike can depend on a whole lot of conditions (like is it on an oil field, is there a sandstorm, are they already running) $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 27, 2018 at 11:11


This guy used a sword and a bow and arrow along with a pair of bagpipes in world war 2. I think the idea was to demoralise the enemy. It's probably a case of if you can get the job done while singing then go right ahead and sing. He might get a bad reputation at first but after he has pulled of a few heroic actions people will start to respect him despite his oddity.

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    $\begingroup$ Glad somebody finally mentioned Mad Jack! $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 10:37
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    $\begingroup$ +1, but several answers explain how modern warfare is quite different from Word War II. $\endgroup$
    – Pere
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 15:19

I give my orders through limerick
it may sound weird, but there's a trick
with the rhymes so clear
all the men will hear
through the radio static thin and thick!

I got the idea from reading @Wolfgang's answer. As a radio operator myself I know how hard it can be to hear things through static and I think rhymes would really help with that.

I went with a 9-9-5-5-9 form limerick. Feel free to edit my answer to add more limericks that fit the topic. :)

  • $\begingroup$ Sounds like Battle Language from Herbert's Dune books. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 5:43
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    $\begingroup$ This was used by the mongols so orders would not be repeated incorrectly. $\endgroup$
    – PStag
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 10:12
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    $\begingroup$ @PStag I don't know about the Mongols specifically, but rhyme and other linguistic tricks have been used by storytellers in cultures with oral traditions to ensure that they remember and pass down legends correctly. $\endgroup$
    – Kapten-N
    Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 12:17
  • $\begingroup$ I guess that's a partial solution. He won't always be able to issue commands as songs. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 6:07

What about non-military? He could join a local gang if he can find one to fit whatever his moral code is. Or start his own gang. I don't have any personal experience, but it seems that at that level, you're (at least sometimes) back down to the traditional knife, club, and fist.

  • $\begingroup$ That can be part of the story but for the most part, he's an honorable (if somewhat unhinged) infantry charger. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 29, 2018 at 5:57
  • $\begingroup$ The point isn't to attack civilians but other gangs. So it's not less honorable than any other war (countries are jut very big gangs). $\endgroup$
    – Jemox
    Commented Jun 5, 2019 at 9:20

Same old, same old...to boost morale, increase hormone levels and pulse to sharpen senses and raise euphoria / aggression, tighten team bonding and focus (stronger together)

I'd love to list some points of the following but it is just too much tl;dr info.

  • An interesting study about singing along to (in this case western pop) music: http://www.doc.gold.ac.uk/~mas03dm/papers/PawleyMullensiefen_Singalong_2012.pdf

  • music / sound as a weapon:
    The New Yorker - July 4, 2016, issue, with the headline “The Sound of Hate.”

  • see also the role singing played in the World War I Christmas Truce of 1914

  • Stanford University psychologists Scott S. Wiltermuth and Chip Heath conducted a series of experiments to see how synchronous movement affects group interactions.[...]These findings suggest that cultural practices which involve synchrony (such as dancing, singing or marching) may enable groups to produce members who are cooperative and willing to make personal sacrifices, for the benefit of the group.(Journal Reference: Synchrony and Cooperation. Psychological Science, January 2009)

  • there are quite a few videos on youtube showing russian soldiers marching while chanting the theme song to spongebob squarepants (;

Timing. Cicad is a somewhat eccentric infantry officer that uses song to coordinate assaults. His men think its strange, but it gets the mission accomplished. This could be used over short range radio as well. Assaults in an urban setting would exemplify this well, with different parts of the song coordinating different actions of the platoon members.


Right that moment I was feeling unusually expendable, almost expended, because I was hearing the sweetest sound in the universe, the beacon the retrieval boat would land on, sounding our recall. The beacon is a fast insertion ship, fired ahead of the retrieval boat, containing a single crew member that starts singing that welcome, welcome music. The retrieval boat homes in on it automatically three minutes later and you had better be on hand, because the bus can’t wait and there won’t be another one along.

But you don’t walk away on another cap trooper, not while there’s a chance he’s still alive — not in Rasczak’s Roughnecks. Not in any outfit of the Mobile Infantry. You try to make pickup.

I heard Jelly order: "Fleads up, lads! Close to retrieval circle and interdict! On the bounce!"

And I heard the Battle-singer Cicad’s sweet voice: "— to the everlasting glory of the infantry, shines the name, shines the name of Rodger Young!" and I wanted to head for it so bad I could taste it.

Robert A. Heinlein, Starship Troopers, modified.

In this modern day and age, Cicad plays a central role in in his platoon, due to his unique skills. Every mission ends with his Retrieval Team serving as a beacon for the landing troops to gather and prepare for extraction, his legendary presence and powerful voice serving as a boost to the Infantry troops.


The "Dynamo" character in Schwarzenegger's "Running Man" was singing before he started zapping people. That's a bit in the future, but opportunities for a murderous singing assassin appearing on TV might arise.

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    $\begingroup$ Seems to me rather far from the premise of the question. That was an arena being shown for entertainment, and the Runners were meant to be unarmed. $\endgroup$ Commented Aug 28, 2018 at 5:45

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