Songwriters write about greed in its many forms. In a society motivated by money and material gain, it’s easy to feel frustrated by the limitations that this puts on our lives.
Often, songwriters will write songs to criticize this aspect of our society, but there are also cases where songs will be written to glorify greed and power.
Regardless of the song’s intent or hidden meaning, I’ve collected some of my absolute favorite songs about greed and power hungry attitudes, just in case you’re interested in tapping into your inner Gordon Gekko.
“Money” by Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson is one of, if not the biggest, entertainer the world has ever seen. But what’s funny is that, for as many great songs that Michael produced, you rarely if ever heard him sound angry (or at least very annoyed) on a record.
Well, that’s exactly what happens on the song “Money,” a track featuring Michael pushing back against anyone that’s ever tried to exploit or even potentially sue him for financial gain.
Michael isn’t calling anyone out by name here, but it isn’t a leap to think that he’s talking about anyone from crooked friends to media publications to executives running record labels and perhaps even the accusers that sued him in a court of law.
“Get Your Roll On” by Big Tymers
Sure, the obvious pick here might be something like 1999’s B.G.’s “Bling Bling,” but I’m going to go with a track that came out one year later—“Get Your Roll On.” Dropping in 2000 by Big Tymers (which consisted of Baby, also known as Birdman and Mannie Fresh), this absolutely infectious, fun track helped ring in a new millennium dripping money and excess.
It’s not a shock when a hip hop record features an artist boasting about money or jewelry or cars. But this song takes that concept to the next level, as we’re not just talking about material goods, but crafting lyrics that go out of their way to shove that excess into your blue collar working face.
Leavin’ stickers on the Bentley
To show the price
Arm out the windows
Just to floss my ice
“The Fear” by Lily Allen
Lily Allen’s “The Fear” Starts off slow and simple with a few notes and some chords. It kind of leads you into a false sense of comfort before getting into the meaning behind the lyrics, which are mostly satirical.
In the very first verse, Allen sarcastically states “I wanna be rich and I want lots of money / I don’t care about clever, I don’t care about funny.” She’s taking on the persona of someone who would do anything for fame and money.
The chorus contrasts with the rest of the song, as it seems a little more genuine: “I don’t know what’s right and what’s real anymore”. In other words, she’s lost the idea of what is real and what is a persona – a common phenomenon in the world of fame and social media.
This is a great song about greed because it makes fun of the things that people will do for a little bit of fame and fortune.
“I Like It” by Cardi B, Bad Bunny, and J Balvin
Besides being a super catchy tune with elements Latin music and rap, “I Like It” is also a song about enjoying a lavish life and being greedy for more. The chorus is simple and easy to sing along to, with its repetitive “I said I like it like that,” which is part of what it made it such a popular song.
With the lyrics “Now I like dollars, I like diamonds” in the first verse, we can already tell what this song will be about: money and potentially the excess of money. Throughout the song, the lyrics focus on things that the singers enjoy, but the average Joe wouldn’t be able to experience:
“I like those Balenciagas / The ones that look like socks” and “I like going to the jeweler / I put rocks all in my watch.”
Definitely a catchy song that glamorizes the the money, materialism, and the finer things in life.
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“I Want It All” by Queen
This song is just iconic, a true anthem about wanting it all in life – fame, money, success. Throughout the song, we are treated to Freddie Mercury’s powerful voice and the chorus’ eponymous “I want it all”.
This song is popular for a reason; it’s catchy, creative, and unashamedly talks about wanting everything good in life.
“Starring Role” by MARINA
“Starring Role” sounds sort of sweet at the beginning, almost like a lullaby or a song for kids. But lyrics definitely do not have that vibe, and we get hit with the shocking “’cause the only time you open up is when we get undressed”. It’s deceptively sweet.
Unlike the other songs on this list, this one is more about being greedy for someone’s heart than it is about being greedy for money or power. It’s more about a desire to have power over an individual. The singer wants to have full control of their partner: “I’ll never set you free”. It’s really a great, threatening song that has a different take on the meaning of being power hungry.
“Applause” by Lady Gaga
I absolutely love the track for this song–-it’s so loud and in-your-face. The beat sounds like someone clapping their hands, which is great given what the song is about. The build-up to the chorus is also really good, leading to the iconic “I live for the applause” that gets repeated throughout the song.
The word “applause” gets spelled out in the song, just like a cheer for a sports team. In the final repeat of the chorus, we can even hear a crowd cheering in the background. It really contributes to the whole mood of the piece – Lady Gaga is really living for all the attention and power she gets from being famous.
“Money, Power, Glory” by Lana Del Rey
This song is slow and sensual, almost like a serenade. Lana Del Rey’s sultry vocals truly shine through here – she’s a siren, especially in the chorus when she harmonizes and truly shows off both her lower and higher range.
Something to be noted in this song is how Lana Del Rey plays with her voice. Like in many of her other songs, she occasionally sings in a more childish voice to display a false innocence. The childish “But I can do it if you really, really like that / I know what you really want, b-baby” contrasts with the darker “You should run, boy, run”. Basically, she’s manipulating someone in order to get what she wants, which is – you guessed it – money, power and glory.
“Money Ain’t a Thang” by Jermaine Dupri and Jay-Z
I mean…just look at the title of this song.
This is another catchy track that’s is so much about greed and excess, you can practically smell the stacks of hundred dollar bills coming off the song.
This record name checks Benz, Rolls-Royce, Ferrari, and Jaguar all in one song. In fact, this song dabbles so much in excess, the lyrics actually make fun of the fact that other rappers flaunt Rolex’s.
Pfft. Amateurs. Step your game up.
So what you went gold and rock a Rollie with the ice bezel?
It’s gon’ take a lot more to see my level
In the end, this is yet another rap record that equates success with money and materialism—and a lot of it. It’s a fun track, and definitely a memorable classic from the late 1990s.
But, like, save some jewelry for the rest of us, fellas.
Bubble hard in the double R, flashin’ the rings
With the window cracked, holla back, money ain’t a thang
Jigga, I don’t like it if it don’t gleam-gleam
And to hell with the price ’cause the money ain’t a thang
“7 rings” by Ariana Grande
What stands out about this song is that it’s heavily influenced by “My Favorite Things” from The Sound of Music. But instead of Ariana Grande’s favorite things being “raindrops on roses,
and whiskers on kittens”, they are the more materialistic “breakfast at Tiffany’s and bottles of bubbles”. Throughout the song she flexes the things she already has and expresses her greed to have even more: “I want it, I got it”.
In terms of how it sounds, I really appreciate the nod to The Sound of Music, and I also like the harmonizing that you can hear throughout the song. The track ends similarly to how it begins – nothing has changed – which gives us the idea that she isn’t planning on changing her habits any time soon!
“MONEY” by LISA
This song has been popular on the internet ever since it was released. And for good reason – it’s super catchy with its iconic brass loop and lyrics (“I came here to drop some money, droppin’ all my money”).
In the background, we can hear the ka-ching sound effect of money, which really helps construct the atmosphere of the song. The lyrics are pretty repetitive, but it’s still a good song in spite of that.
“Affluenza” by Conan Gray
The title “Affluenza” is a pun that combines the words ‘affluent’ and ‘influenza’, basically comparing being rich with having a disease. It’s a really cool play on words that sets the vibe for whole the song.
The track is really simple, mostly characterized the slow beat. It almost sounds lazy – which isn’t a criticism in this case. It kind of feels like Conan Gray is calling out young rich people for their ‘lazy’ lifestyle, which we can also see through the lyrics themselves: “Money, money, ain’t it funny, honey / When you get what you need / Baby life is a breeze”.
I also really appreciate how he criticizes the idea of money not being able to buy happiness (“They say, ‘Money can’t buy you no love’ / But a diamond cheers you right up”). Even if money cannot buy happiness directly, it can definitely give you little pleasures or contribute to a sense of security.
Overall, a great song about money and greed!
“Working Class Hero” by John Lennon
This song is a criticism of society in general, but a lot of it is specifically about greed and money, which is why it still made its way onto this list. It essentially tells the story of a ‘working class hero’ – the everyday man and the monotonous life that he has to live because society has already determined his path for him.
The instrumentals really fit with the idea of monotony too, as the guitar pretty much repeats throughout the whole song. Something else that fits with this is the refrain (“A working class hero is something to be”) that gets repeated after each verse.
A lyric that really stands out is, “There’s room at the top they are telling you still / But first you must learn how to smile as you kill / If you want to be like the folks on the hill”. This is a blatant criticism of how people are encouraged to hurt others in order to achieve success.
“Wires” by The Neighbourhood
From the very start, we know that this is going to be an eerie, haunting song just from the instrumentals. The song tells the story of someone who fell for a corrupt record deal, even if it’s not directly stated in the lyrics themselves. It remains quiet and creepy throughout the song; there is no louder part or release of energy, leading us to understand the hopelessness of the situation. Nothing can be done – it’s an ongoing story with no solution.
We understand from the lyrics how money and power can corrupt people – both the record company and the friend in question who signed the deal.
“Producer Man” by Lyn Lapid
Lyn Lapid tells a hypothetical story based on her own experience – she imagines what would have happened if she had signed a record deal with a corrupt ‘producer man’. He tries to manipulate her into signing with him, but she knows that he only wants her for the money: “Sweetie, this was part of the deal / What you thought was fake, hun, the money is real”.
It’s really a great song with a catchy beat, and Lyn Lapid’s vocals really shine through.
There are so many songs about greed out there – be it greed for money, for power, for love. Unfortunately, the desire to have it all is often what motivates us as a society. It’s all about power. Many of the songs on this list criticize this, but a few of them do not.
For example, Ariana Grande’s “7 rings” and LISA’s “MONEY” pretty much glorify having money. Overall, greed is a popular topic for songs, and – lucky for us – greed has definitely generated some great hits for us to enjoy.
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