Even though musicians are famous, have tons of fans, and perform across the world it doesn’t mean they can’t fan out from time to time. Musicians aren’t afraid to address each other in song. Sometimes it comes from a place of love or an homage to someone they admire. Other times, it can be kind of ugly, a snarky tune dedicated to someone they don’t care for. The songs can be obvious and other times the dedication is well hidden. There are too many songs about other musicians to name, so here are ten of the most notable songs about other musicians.
10. “Obsessed” – Mariah Carey
Ever since his third album, The Marshall Mathers LP, Eminem claimed that he and Mariah Carey were once an item. But aside from dropping her name in a few songs, neither one have commented further on the supposed relationship. When her name appeared again on “Bagpipes from Baghdad” with the rapper calling out her then-husband, Nick Cannon,Carey decided she had enough. She wrote this song in responsive to the rapper’s claims calling them false, saying he’s obsessed with her, and that he’s delusional. And to make things even clearer, Carey plays an unnamed rapper in the video chasing after…herself. Of course, Eminem didn’t take this lightly and released his own response titled “The Warning.” What’s even more strange than the situation is thought of Eminem and Mariah Carey dating in the first place.
9. “Michael, You’ve Got a Lot to Answer For” – Duran Duran
The Michael in question here is INXS’ Michael Hutchence. The song kinds sound of somber, especially with the singer’s death, but it didn’t start out that way. The song is actually about Simon LeBon’s friendship with Hutchence. In an interview with Q Magazine, LeBon says the song is about Hutchence being “a naughty boy” in France and London. He apparently did so many substances LeBon couldn’t keep up. The song was released a month before Hutchence died on November 22, 1997. It’s sad that an ode to friendship took on a sad meaning not shortly after it was released.
8. “Tunic (A Song for Karen)” – Sonic Youth
Karen Carpenter, singer, and drummer for The Carpenters, tragically died in 1983 due to complications from anorexia nervosa. Sonic Youth’s Kim Gordon wrote this song years later trying to put herself in the late singer’s shoes. The frenetic guitars and the memorable hook of “You are never going anywhere” don’t exactly mask the dark connotations of this song. There are references to Karen’s eating disorder and lines about losing who you are. There’s even a verse where Gordon imagines the singer up in heaven, happy, and playing drums again. When asked about the song 20 years later, Gordon said “I was trying to put myself into Karen’s body. It was like she had so little control over her life, like a teenager – they have so little control over what’s happening to them that one way they can get it is through what they eat or don’t. Also, I think she lost her identity, it got smaller and smaller. And there have been times when I feel I’ve lost mine.” It’s a tribute to the singer that catches you off guard since it’s not sappy or sad.
7. “Dude Looks Like a Lady” – Aerosmith
Probably best remembered for its use in Mrs. Doubtfire, this song talks about an androgynous guy who is mistaken for a woman. Looking at the lyrics it doesn’t seem Steven Tyler minds all that much saying “you may be wrong/but you know it’s alright” and he even does a little cross-dressing of his own in the video. The origin story for the song changes depending on the source: Tyler says the song came from hearing Motley Crue saying “Dude!” all the time. Vince Neil says the song was inspired by a New York bar where the waiters dress in women’s clothing. But Nikki Sixx says the song is actually about Tyler mistaking Vince Neil for a woman in a bar. It’s wasn’t hard to do; did you see the way he dressed in the 80’s? It doesn’t really matter how the song came about because it’s an Aerosmith classic. Though I prefer to believe it’s about Vince Neil; it’s funnier that way.
6. “Tearjerker” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Many songs were written about Kurt Cobain after his shocking death. The Chili Peppers added their contribution with this track from their sixth album One Hot Minute. It’s a ballad where Anthony Kiedis sings about his reaction to Kurt’s death and what he liked so much about the singer. With lines like “I liked your whiskers/I liked the dimple in your chin/your pale blue eyes” and “you never knew this/but I wanted badly for you to/requite my love” it’s more like a love song to Cobain. Though the two worked together on an MTV special, they weren’t all that close. But Kiedis explains Kurt was someone everyone felt close to. “I don’t know why everyone on earth felt so close to that guy; he was beloved and endearing and inoffensive in some weird way. For all of his screaming and all of his darkness, he was just lovable.” It’s a sweet song that’ll make Nirvana fans smile.
5. “Cry Me a River” – Justin Timberlake
Though Timberlake has denied it since the song’s release, we all know this song is about his ex-Britney Spears. The basis of the song is a bad break up and pretty much not giving a shit about the person. It also makes several references to infidelity, which is what apparently ended the pair’s relationship. And to top things off, Timberlake’s lover in the video looks like Spears. Anyone who saw the video pretty much knew who he was talking about. The singer finally admitted in 2011 that he wrote the song after the two had an argument. So even if the song isn’t a direct attack on Britney Spears, she was still an inspiration. The break up was nasty, but maybe now he can thank her since it gave him one of his biggest songs to date.
4. “Suicide Blonde” – INXS
INXS frontman Michael Hutchence was known as a playboy in the 80s, but his most infamous relationship was with Kylie Minogue, you know the one responsible for that song. Rumor has it the Aussie singer inspired Hutchence to write the song since she dyed her hair blonde for a role in the film The Delinquents. Neither one ever confirmed the song’s origin, but with lyrics about a red hot lover who has men landing at her feet, it makes a lot of sense. Only Hutchence knows the true significance. Either way, it ended up being an INXS classic and has that sexy flair only Michael Hutchence could pull off so flawlessly.
3. “I’ll Stick Around” – Foo Fighters
Though Dave Grohl wrote a beautiful and touching song about Kurt Cobain called “Friend of a Friend” that deserves to be mentioned, his song attacking Cobain’s widow Courtney Love, gets him on the list. It’s a fan favorite and many picked up that Grohl was attacking someone. With lines like “I don’t owe you anything” there was speculation it was about Cobain. Grohl finally admitted in 2009 it was actually about Courtney Love, which you can see in lines like “how could it be/I’m the only one who sees/your rehearsed insanity.” He sings about how he regrets letting her and Cobain hook up and that he can see through her deceptiveness. It’s a hate filled song of the best kind, but it seems Grohl has forgiven Love in later years. The two made amends at the 2014 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Grohl wouldn’t be the only artist to blast Love on a track; Gwen Stefani’s “Hollaback Girl” is about the Hole singer as well.
2. “Ms. Jackson” – Outkast
“Ms. Jackson” is the best song by Outkast with sick flows and a memorable hook you’re still singing to this day. The duo sings about “Ms. Jackson” who doesn’t approve of her daughter’s relationship with a guy and when they end up having a baby, it only makes things worse. Turns out, the song is based on true events. Andre 3000 dated Erykah Badu and the two ended up having a child out of wedlock to the disapproval of her mother. 3000 said he felt he never got to explain his side of the story and didn’t like being kept out of his kid’s life on purpose. As a way of reaching out to her mother, he wrote this song to apologize and say how much he wanted to be a part of his kid’s life. Badu’s mother loved it and hopefully it patched up their relationship. Hearing so much truth put into this song makes it even more appealing and it’s still a hit 16 years after its release. Wait, really? Now I feel old.
1. “Say Hello 2 Heaven” – Temple of the Dog
In March 1990, Andrew Wood, frontman of Mulfunkshun and Mother Love Bone, died of a drug overdose. Chris Cornell, Wood’s friend, and roommate took the news hard. Soundgarden were touring Europe at the time of his death and feeling like he had no one to talk to, wrote two songs: “Reach Down” and “Say Hello 2 Heaven.” Instead of putting it on a Soundgarden album, Cornell teamed up with most of Pearl Jam and formed Temple of the Dog in his honor. “Say Hello 2 Heaven” is a tribute to Wood where Cornell deals with his grief and even makes a reference to not knowing the demons his friend was dealing with. It’s a powerful song where Cornell let’s his insane vocal range fly near the song’s end. Wood’s death didn’t only affect Cornell. It also had an effect on Alice in Chains, who wrote the song “Would?” about him along with others in the grunge scene that tragically passed. It’s sad to think Layne Staley would meet a similar fate 10 years later.
“Starfuckers Inc.” – Nine Inch Nails
Trent Reznor hates celebrities and pop culture. He makes this clear in this single from The Fragile. Being one of Reznor’s heaviest and aggressive songs, it takes the piss out the vanity and shallow commercialization of fame. It even makes a reference to Carly Simon’s famous song “You’re So Vain.” But rumor has it the song is actually about Marilyn Manson. Reznor had a falling out with Manson twice, though Manson does appear in the song’s video. Others say it’s about Courtney Love. Reznor hasn’t confirmed or denied the rumors, so the track ends up getting an honorable mention. It’s just too biting and sassy to leave off.
There are more than ten songs about musicians, so which ones did I miss? Which ones are your favorites? Let me know in the comments!