10 Songs About the Universe – Space, Sky, and the Stars
It’s hard not to be fascinated by the ever-expanding cosmos that surrounds us, so it isn’t a surprise that it makes frequent appearances in popular media. In this article, I’m going to provide you with my absolute favorite songs about the universe. Hopefully, you’ll leave this article wanting to add a couple of these songs to your Spotify playlist.
Songs About the Universe That You’ll Love
Let’s begin with a song by The Beatles.
Across the Universe by the Beatles
It may be an obvious choice, but “Across the Universe” is pure poetry that embodies light and serenity. But while the song may sound peaceful, it was inspired by a piece of John Lennon’s often turbulent personal life. He wrote the song after an argument with his first wife, Cynthia. He recalled that to him, her bickering words were simply “flowing out,” sparking the opening line “words are flowing out like endless rain into a paper cup.”
The harsh words spoken during the argument must have quickly washed away, as the song is more of a transcendental meditation than a scathing confession. Inspired by the Beatles’ interest in Eastern spirituality, the chorus incorporates the Sanskrit mantra “Jai Guru Deva, Om,” which roughly translates to “hail to the divine guru.” Despite the tense story behind the song, the both the lyrics and melody reflect gratitude and ease.
Although the song does not feature any electronic sci-fi sounds, there is something otherworldly about it, caused by a combination of Phil Spector’s “wall of sound” producing style and an alteration of the tempo. Different versions of the song appearing on remastered albums/compilations have different tempos and range in their level of melancholy.
“Across the Universe” was recorded in the key of D, but the track was slowed down for Let it Be, resulting in the album version being in C#. This tempo change adds a pleasing dissonance and a touch of tension that is noticeable on several Beatles songs, including “Here Comes the Sun.” The dissonance is reinforced by the double-tracking on Lennon’s voice and the use of the iconic Leslie-speaker on the electric guitar.
The song stands out from the other tracks on Let it Be, with the production creating a sound similar to Lennon’s early solo music. While “Across the Universe” neared the end of the Beatles, it was a glimpse of the music still to come.
Dream Weaver by Gary Wright
While you might have “partied on” to the song while watching Wayne’s World, “Dream Weaver” is a cosmic hit inspired by spirituality. Released in 1975, the synthesized progressive-rock track was initially a moderate hit but skyrocketed to fame when it was featured in the 1992 comedy Wayne’s World. While the song’s message was overshadowed by the success of the movie, Wright says that the lyrics are about the “consciousness of the Universe.”
As discussed in his 2014 autobiography Dream Weaver: Music, Meditation, and My Friendship with George Harrison, Wright’s interest in spirituality was fostered by the introspective Beatle. Harrison gave Wright a copy of Autobiography of a Yogi, which inspired the lyrics to “Dream Weaver.”
The phrase came from the line “When my mind weaves dreams / with threads of memories” in Yogananda’s poem “God! God! God!,” despite the popular belief that it was pulled from a lyric in John Lennon’s song “God.” If you look past the connection to Wayne’s World and the campy sci-fi intro, you will find that “Dream Weaver” is a journey into the lightness of the universe.
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Supermassive Black Hole by Muse
This punchy dance-rock track skyrocketed Muse’s popularity – but at what cost for the band?
Released in 2006, “Supermassive Black Hole” features all of the elements of a classic Muse song: a captivating distorted bassline, abstract lyrics, and Matt Bellamy’s signature rock falsetto. The intense lyrics compare the helplessness of falling in love with being pulled into an all-consuming black hole. Cosmic themes make frequent appearances in Muse’s discography, including “Starlight,” one of their most notable hits.
Like “Dream Weaver,” much of the song’s standalone recognition was overshadowed by silver-screen stardom. While the song has been featured in a variety of media, from the video game Guitar Hero to the TV show Supernatural, it is most widely remembered for soundtracking the famous baseball scene in the movie Twilight.
But despite the boost in Muse’s popularity following Twilight, the franchise does not evoke “hysteria” for bassist Chris Wolstenholme. He explained that Muse’s contribution to the soundtrack served as a way to gain exposure in the United States, but that it felt like “sell[ing] your soul.” For both Muse and those who have watched Twilight, the vampire romance film wound up to be more soul-sucking than blood-sucking.
Black Hole Sun by Soundgarden
Remembered as Soundgarden’s biggest hit, “Black Hole Sun” is a moody, psychedelic fever dream. While driving home from the studio, lead singer Chris Cornell had the radio on in the background. He heard the news anchor say something that sounded like “black hole sun,” which Cornell thought would make a good song title.
The song quickly stemmed out of this idea, creating the lyrically haunting, sullen track. The lyrics paint a dark picture, using imagery of snakes and storms to portray despair and hopelessness. The chorus is counterintuitive, asking the sun to “wash away the rain,” adding yet another disorienting layer to the track. The ambiguous lyrics and surreal sound create an atmosphere that you can, quite literally, space out to.
Complementing the song’s eerie instrumentation, it has simple but enchanting melody that made the song a lasting hit. Once you examine the abstract lyrics, you will find a plea to the universe to bring warmth and light to the darkness.
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Ladies and gentlemen we are floating in space by Spiritualized
Beginning with a flight attendant-esque announcement, “ladies and gentlemen, we are floating in space,” the track is a breakup song paired with reflections of our insignificance in the universe. The song is performed as a music round, with one verse pleading for “love to take the pain away,” one verse incorporating the music and lyrics of Elvis Presley’s “Can’t Help Falling In Love,” and another verse that longs to “float in space and drift in time.”
While the rounds are effective in creating a repetitive, soothing harmony, the layers bury some of the song’s complexity. Multiple listens are required to grasp the full picture of this song of heartbreak and awe.
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Terraform by Mutual Benefit
Appearing on the 2014 compilation album The Space Project, “Terraform” is a serene song with a unique backdrop. All of the tracks on The Space Project feature Voyager I and II’s recordings of “electromagnetic radiation fluctuations in the magnetosphere of the planets, moons, and large asteroids.”
Songs about the universe don’t get any more literal or realistic than ones that utilize actual sounds from the space!
Pieces of these recordings can be heard in the background of “Terraform,” at times creating an effect that is more reminiscent of the ocean than space. The background sounds are complimented by gently sung vocals and delicate guitars. While the lyrics are space-themed, it is the atmosphere that turns the song into a tribute to the universe.
Reach For The Stars by will.i.am
A bold departure from the spiritual and psychedelic tracks previously discussed, “Reach For The Stars” is an upbeat pop track that was lucky enough to make space history. The song was written in 2011 after NASA approached will.i.am about writing a song for the Curiosity Mars rover’s landing. will.i.am accepted the offer and penned a song that he hoped would inspire young people to go into STEM fields.
Two versions of the song were released: the original track which appeared on will.i.am’s album #willpower, and a more grandiose Mars Edition. The original version of the song is highly danceable and catchy, although the lyrics are predictable and a bit underwhelming.
The Mars Edition featured less electronics, instead opening with a 40-piece orchestra playing a grand intro. This instrumental change does elevate the song, turning a mediocre pop song into an epic theme for a moment in both space and music history.
On August 28th, 2012, “Reach For The Stars” became the first song to be beamed back to Earth from another planet. A crowd gathered at NASA to listen to the Curiosity rover transmit the song from the surface of Mars. In a video documenting this moment (below), you can watch NASA employees listen with delight as they celebrate years of hard work with a song that will hopefully inspire a future generation of colleagues.
Space Oddity by David Bowie
In July of 1969, the whole world was captivated by the men who were about set to step foot on the moon. 600 million people watched the moon landing live, all sharing the same hope: please let these men come back home safe.
But for those watching in England, the background music was not reassuring. Soundtracking the broadcast was David Bowie’s “Space Oddity,” a haunting story about an astronaut forever stranded in space.
It was rumored that Bowie timed the release of the song to capitalize on the Apollo 11 mission, but that was actually more of an afterthought. As made evident by the song’s title, Bowie was primarily inspired by the film 2001: A Space Odyssey. But while Space Odyssey told an epic sci-fi story in 142 minutes, Bowie managed to tell an equally thrilling tale in only 5.
The story begins right before liftoff with a countdown in the background, instilling a sense of impending doom. The suspenseful buildup to the second verse creates unease before the euphoric celebration that Major Tom, the astronaut protagonist, is successfully in orbit.
Tom describes his view from the spacewalk, gazing down at a remarkably blue Earth. While he drifts further from home, the story quickly drifts away from celebration. With his parting words to the Earth, “tell my wife I love her very much,” he loses contact with Ground Control and is lost in space.
Bowie is careful to keep you from knowing what is really going on in Major Tom’s head. Major Tom’s reaction to his fate seems numb, but also ambiguous, leaving the listener to project their own anxieties onto him.
The genius of the song isn’t just in the lyrics, but in the brilliant orchestrations and technical execution. The acoustic guitar serves as a steady heartbeat in the background of the song and seems to be the only grounded auditory element. The steady voice counting in the background does nothing to calm the listener; it only escalates the panic and dread. With every listen, you can uncover something new to be fascinated by.
While it may be cliché to say, the song contains a universe of complexity and detail. “Space Oddity” is distressing but not bleak, intentionally chaotic, and delightfully lost.
Galaxy by War
Let’s be honest, we all wish we could party in outer space. War’s 8-minute funk track “Galaxy” is about as close as you will get. Released in 1977 as the opening track on an album of the same name, the song describes a fun night out exploring the universe.
Opening with the obligatory electronic sounds that seem to be a requirement in space songs, the alien hum is quickly disrupted with a groovy bassline. The repetitive hook “it’s out of sight,” is bound to end up stuck in your head, or at the very least, get you up on your feet and dancing.
While the lyrics may not be filled with substance, they are certainly entertaining. After all, it’t not often that you hear a song tell of a “laser show” with Batman and Superman in outer space.
Galaxy Song from Monty Python’s Meaning of Life
No one takes Monty Python seriously – that’s the whole point. And yet, “Galaxy Song” has ended up as the most scientifically sound and respected song on this list. First appearing in the 1983 film Meaning of Life, the song is used to point out a character’s insignificance compared to the rest of the universe.
Eric Idle, the Python that wrote and sang the song, spends the lyrics listing fun facts and statistics about the ever-expanding universe. While they aren’t perfect, the scientific facts are all at least somewhat accurate. At the very least, the lyrics were accurate enough to gain attention in the science community.
After a performance of the song that was featured in a BBC special, the host, physicist Brian Cox, began a skit jokingly berating the song. He called it “pathetic,” and continued on a rant pointing out all of the scientific inaccuracies, before being cut off by none other than Professor Steven Hawking. “I think you are being pedantic,” Hawking remarked, before launching into a cover of “Galaxy Song.” His cover was released as a Record Store Day single in 2015.
Does all of this newfound knowledge make you question your place in the universe? Well, according to Monty Python, the meaning of life is: “Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations.” But also, don’t forget to listen to great music.
If you’re looking for memorable songs about the galaxy, look no further than this surprising piece of music.
From explorations of the unknown to fun facts about the galaxy, these aforementioned songs about the universe offer a welcome break from life on Earth. Make sure you add them to your playlist!
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