Television and rock stars have a controversial past. While many singers became famous thanks to television, many rock stars warn of the dangers of watching too much television.
By the 1980s, songs about television were everywhere. MTV sparked a whole generation of musicians that were permanently tied to this new medium.
Today, we’ll cover some of the best songs about tv.
1. “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Bugles
Song Year: 1979
Starting off the list for songs with television in the title is “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Bugles. This track was the first song to air on MTV and sparked a new generation of musicians and artists in the 1980s.
The song focuses on how many musicians’ careers won’t translate well to television. During the 80s, the music industry saw a shift, and many artists had to rework their images to fit better with the younger television generation.
The song still rings true today as many musicians focus more on their appearance and TV image than the substance of their music.
2. “57 Channels (And Nothin On)” by Bruce Springstein
Song Year: 1992
Bruce always has a point in his songs, and this song is no exception. 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On) is Bruce Springstein’s critique of American materialism.
The story of the song is about a rich man and his wife. No matter how nice their house or possession is, the couple is never satisfied. They install cable television and satellite TV but are never satisfied.
While the moral is simple, it’s important to remember that money and luxury won’t always buy happiness.
3. “Satellite Of Love” by Lou Reed
Song Year: 1972
Released on Reed’s album, “Transformer,” “Satellite Of Love” was a minor hit for Lou Reed in 1972. It’s since gone been heralded as one of his best songs.
The song focuses on a man who watches a satellite launch on TV. The satellite launch was a major news event, but the man finds jealousy in the launch. An unfaithful girlfriend is the cause of jealousy.
Produced by David Bowin and Mick Ronson, “Satellite Of Love” is a rare romantic song from Lou Reed.
4. “Television, The Drug Of The Nation” by The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy
Song Year: 1992
As you’ll see from this list, many musicians view television negatively. “Television, The Drug Of the Nation” is extremely blatant in its critique of the media.
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy view television as a drug that’s just as bad as any other addictive drug. The song is a statement against the ills of watching too much TV and encourages its listeners to stop.
The track is critical of politicians, systemic racism, the education system, and many other ills of society.
5. “Kicking Television” by Wilco
Song Year: 2005
Wilco wants you to turn off the TV and go out and enjoy life. “Kicking Television” encourages listeners to go to a rock concert instead.
To Wilco, a rock concert is the antithesis of television. Instead of sitting alone in your home and glued to the tube, you’re out with friends and strangers experiencing life. Live music is the best cure for television addiction.
The song also became the title of Wilco’s live album, “Kicking Television: Live in Chicago” in 2005.
6. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron
Song Year: 1971
Perhaps the original anti-television anthem, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” premiered in 1971. The song is a call to action for Americans and African Americans in particular.
During the 60s, the United States was a place of turmoil and political revolution. The song explains how your television won’t show you what’s happening in the real world.
From African American rights to Anti-Vietnam War protests you won’t see it on TV. Gil Scott-Heron demands listeners to be the change they want in the world in this revolutionary anthem.
7. “Found a Job” by Talking Heads
Song Year: 1978
The Talking Heads use “Found a Job” to encourage and inspire listeners. The story of the song begins with a couple bored with the quality of TV shows.
Inspired, the couple decide to begin their show. Surprisingly, the song becomes a hit, and the couple’s relationship flourishes thanks to the show.
The moral of the song encourages listeners to seek out a life that will enjoy. Doing what you love in life is the best way to enjoy life. If you’re not doing what you love, then you’re doing something wrong, and it’s time for a change.
8. “I’m the Slime” by Frank Zappa
Song Year: 1973
While the lyrics might be cryptic, “I’m the Slime” is a song about the ills of television.
Frank Zappa delivers intro lyrics as a riddle. He describes himself as a tool for the government and capitalism. He also describes himself as vile yet you can’t look away.
The second verse of the song gives you the answer to the riddle, and that answer is television.
“I’m the Slime” was recorded at Ike & Tina Turner’s Bolic Sound Studio, and if you listen closely, you can hear the legendary Tina Turner on backup vocals for this track.
9. “My Country” by Randy Newman
Song Year: 1999
Randy Newman often has a unique satirical take on many of his songs. “My Country” is no exception.
Newman takes us on a journey back to a simpler time when everyone in the family would join together and sit around the television. He provides detailed imagery of his childhood as he and his family sat and watched the tv and how they couldn’t look away.
Unfortunately, time doesn’t stand still, and the kids eventually grow up and leave. Now the kids have TVs and families of their own, and the parents are along with their television
10. “She Watch Channel Zero?” By Public Enemy
Song Year: 1988
Collaborating with Slayer, Public Enemy released “She Watch Channel Zero” in 1988. Inspired by Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Public Enemy delivers their signature mix of hard-hitting beats and poignant lyrics on this track.
The song explains the dangers of watching too much TV. Chuck D. explains that no matter how long you change the channel, you’ll just end up brainwashed. No matter what channel you watch, the shows are blinding you to reality.
11. “TV Party” by Black Flag
Song Year: 1981
If you’ve ever sat around with your friends and got drunk – this song is about you. Black Flag recorded “TV Party” to poke fun at the people they knew that would just-drinks and watch TV all night.
Black Flag wants you to go out and party instead. Go see a band or do anything instead of sitting around wasting your life in front of the TV.
While the song is a parody of this type of people, many fans took the song seriously and started doing the exact thing the song was making fun of. The song became a popular drinking song in the hardcore and punk scene in the 1980s.
12. “Cable TV” by Weird Al Yankovic, A Song About TV
Song Year: 1985
While Weird Al has an entire album about TV shows, Cable TV is the most relevant to this article. “Cable TV.”
The song pokes fun at the sheer absurdness of cable television programs. In cable’s infancy, the shows were much different than the cable TV of today. Al goes on and on about his love for all these shows throughout the track.
He makes direct reference to many popular shows and films,` including “Bugs Bunny” and “Mr. Wizard” but also references oddball channels like the “Racketball Channel” and “Siamese Faith Healer’s Network.”
13. “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits
Song Year: 1985
Sting’s intro lyrics “I want my MTV’ might be one of the most iconic lines from a song in the 1980s. “Money For Nothing” was a smash hit for Dire Straits and won Video of the Year at the 1986 MTV Musci Video Awards.
Mark Knopfler got inspiration and wrote the song while listening to two appliance store employees watching MTV.
The song follows the perspective of these two men and how the bands on TV had everything figured out. Those guys on TV just played guitar and sang some lyrics to get all the money and women they desired.
“Money For Nothing” was an international success and peaked at number one on the US Billboard Hot 100 charts.
14. “Throw Away Your Television” by Red Hot Chili Peppers
Song Year: 2002
Television is often presented as an addiction in songs, and this track from the Red Hot Chili Peppers is no exception.
Lead singer Anthony Kiedis had battled drug addiction for years and wants to encourage anyone else with an addiction to throw it away.
Kiedis originally wanted to record the song with the term drug addiction instead of television but changed it. The band feared using drug addiction would cause the song to sound darker, and they were not looking for that type of style on their album “By the Way.”
15. “I Hate The TV” by Violent Femmes
Song Year: 1993
It’s pretty apparent what “I Hate the TV’ is about. The Violent Femmes didn’t pull any punches and went with a direct approach on this track instead of hiding its meaning.
If you’ve ever been obsessed with television and media, this song can help you break that habit. The Violent Femmes understand how the consumption of media can ruin your life.
16. “Televison Man” by Talkng Heads
Song Year: 1985
While “Found a Job” is an inspiring song about TV, the Talking Heads go on a different route for this tune. “Television Man” is about a man whose entire life revolves around the television.
David Byrne uses his lyrics to explain the dangers of TV and its controlling nature. The narrator in the song uses TV to immerse himself and forget about real life. While a passive lifestyle of enjoyment, the narrator never gets to explore and enjoy reality.
17. Moron TV by Primus
Song Year: 2011
“Moron TV” is another critique of watching too much television.
The first part song focus on a lady watching TV. She sits and stares at the glowing screen while stuffing her face full of cheddar cheese balls. While fattening herself, the TV is steadily lowering the women’s IQ and filler her brain with nonsense.
The second part of the song revolves around how people get on TV and become famous. Whether it’s a “leaked” sex tape or getting famous for marrying a rock star, many people become famous cause the public will watch almost anything.
18. “The Sun Always Shines on TV” by a-ha
Song Year: 1985
While they’re considered a one-hit-wonder for “Take On Me,” “The Sun Always Shines” was a top 20 hit in the United States for a-ha.
The song focuses on how something is missing in the narrator’s life. He explains how life is always better on TV, and he escapes by watching television.
While not a healthy way to deal with breakup and heartache, TV provides fantasy and a way to avoid the heartache, at least for now.
19. “Television Rules the Nation” by Daft Punk
Song Year: 2005
While only using four words, Daft Punk sums up the opinion of many musicians. “Television Rules the Nation”
The robotic duo repeats the vocal “Television rules the nation” throughout the song’s 4-minute run time. While simple, the lyrics work great with the distorted bass and synth sounds throughout the son.
Top Songs About Television, Final Thoughts
As you can see, few musicians have a fondness for television. Over the years, many musicians have been critical of television and how it affects society.
From the 60s to today, rock stars want you to stop watching TV and get out and live a life. They also want you to understand that what’s on TV isn’t reality. Wake up and tune out seems to be the message from most musicians.
Did we miss your favorite song about television? We’d love to hear about other TV-related songs.