Greed is one of the primary negative feelings that humans can feel. Naturally, uncontrollable greed can lead to people causing terrible harm to others.
Over the years, many musicians have tackled the topic, sharing their thoughts about the emotion through song. So today, we have a list of the best songs about greed ever recorded.
1. “Money” By Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd had one of the defining songs that are about greed with its 1973 song “Money.” The song is one of the best from the band’s seminal album, The Dark Side of the Moon. Band frontman Roger Waters wrote it.
With the line “Money, it’s a gas,” people often misinterpret that the song is a tribute to money. However, it’s more about the negative things money brings. It talks about coveting what you do not have.
The singer describes their desire to own a new car, a football team, a Lear jet, and other lavish goods. He also tells others to “keep [their] hands of [his] stack,” which sounds a bit greedy.
2. “I Want It All” By Queen
“I Want It All” is another of Queen’s biggest hits and one of the final popular singles for the band before the passing of its longtime frontman Freddie Mercury. Mercury never performed “I Want It All” live, but it remains a legendary song in the band’s catalog.
“I Want It All” is a song about wanting more than one already has. In it, the singer describes his ambitions for more. This is not really a bad thing; however, he wants all of it now and doesn’t want to compromise. This line is what makes the song sound greedy.
3. “Gold Digger” By Kanye West
Rapper Kanye West has had numerous hits over the years, but few reached the popularity of “Gold Digger” from his 2005 album Late Registration. West worked with Jamie Foxx on the song, and it became a signature song for the young rapper.
“Gold Digger” samples from the Ray Charles song “I Got a Woman” and details a relationship that isn’t working out. West raps about how his significant other is taking the rapper’s money and giving back nothing.
In the song, the singer never goes as far as to call the woman out for her gold-digging actions, but he describes all the scenes he goes through, like taking his money when he was in need.
4. “Material Girl” By Madonna
Few artists can claim to be the icons that Madonna was in her heyday. “Material Girl” from her album Like a Virgin was a massive success for the Michigan pop singer, and it put her on a new plane of popularity.
The song sees the singer discuss her materialism and want of money and status. The lyrics describe how she refuses to date any man who cannot provide the finer things in life and all the exquisite gifts she imagines.
“Material Girl” is a satire of the greed of the era; the singer comes off as overly demanding of her desires.
5. “Greedy Fly” By Bush
Bush had one of its biggest hits in 1997 with the song “Greedy Fly” from the album Razorblade Suitcase. The band was already on the upswing in popularity, and this song helped expose the English rockers to new fans.
“Greedy Fly” sees the singer deal with conflicted feelings. He spends much of the song waffling on a decision, going back and forth between his human desires and the right thing to do.
In the end, the singer acknowledges he has sold out and is now making art for the money. He concludes that he has made up his mind and is a greedy fly. The song is partially autobiographical about the success of the band.
6. “Money (That’s What I Want)” By Barrett Strong
Motown had one of the earliest examples of a song about greed with “Money (That’s What I Want)” by Barrett Strong. Though Strong performed the song, Berry Gordy and Janie Bradford wrote the lyrics, a practice more common in 1959 than today.
As one might expect from the title, “Money (That’s What I Want)” describes a person obsessed with acquiring more cash. While the song discusses the dangers greed poses, it also admits that having a dream to shoot for is a worthy cause.
Many artists went on to record their versions of this song, most famously the Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Flying Lizards. No matter what version you prefer, “Money (That’s What I Want)” is a prime example of a song about greed.
7. “I Wanted Everything” By The Ramones
Punk rock band the Ramones wrote “I Wanted Everything” for the band’s 1978 album Road to Ruin. The band was in a difficult place while recording the album, as sales were down and stress was rampant. The album was not a success at the time, but Road to Ruin became a cult classic.
“I Wanted Everything” is a song about looking back at your greedy youth. The singer sings about hoping for presents as a child or hoping for a bigger payday as an adult. It concludes with the singer’s greed driving him to rob a supermarket for money.
8. “Have A Cigar” By Pink Floyd
Pink Floyd, especially frontman Roger Waters, regularly wrote about greed in his lyrics. “Have a Cigar” by the band is from its 1975 album Wish You Were Here. One of the greatest records ever, Pink Floyd was partially inspired to write the album by the former frontman of the group, Syd Barrett.
“Have a Cigar” recounts a scene at a music industry party the band attends. All the record bigwigs are so obsessed with money and couldn’t care less about the artistry of music that they don’t even know the band members.
Waters wrote this song to critique the greed he saw from executives while a member of Pink Floyd. Interestingly, not one of Pink Floyd’s original members sang this, but rather Roy Harper, an associate of the band.
9. “Society” By Eddie Vedder
Singer-songwriter Eddie Vedder is famous as the frontman of the grunge band Pearl Jam. Vedder released his debut solo album in 2007 as a soundtrack for the film Into the Wild. Instead of the rock sound his band is famous for, Vedder went with a folk album.
“Society” is the most popular song from Vedder’s solo debut, with “greed” in the lyrics. In it, the narrator talks about his disgust with greed in society, and how people think they want more than they need and won’t be free until they have it all.
He acknowledges that avarice is all around us but does not accept that things must be this way. The singer decides he does not need to be part of society and opts to forge his path free of vice and desire.
10. “The Endless Plain Of Fortune” By John Cale
Despite being Welsh, John Cale was a founding member of the American band Velvet Underground. Cale had a notable solo career, and he wrote one of the best tunes about greed, “The Endless Plain of Fortune,” on his album Paris 1919.
“The Endless Plain of Fortune” took inspiration from the decolonization movement to look back at the impact of colonialism on the world. The singer wonders what drove colonizers to pillage untold amounts of treasure from foreign lands.
While many of the songs on this list deal with one person, “The Endless Plain of Fortune” is an indictment of a corrupt society and how gold “eats the heart away.”
11. “Greedy” By Ariana Grande
World record breaker Ariana Grande was already one of the biggest names in music when she released the song “Greedy” on her 2016 album Dangerous Woman, though she released the single before the album came out.
“Greedy” is more lighthearted than other songs on the list and is not about the pitfalls of excessive greed and desire. Instead, the track is closer to Madonna’s “Material Girl,” as it describes a girl who wants more than she currently has.
The song is about romance as much as it is about money. In the lyrics, the singer describes how she wants more lovers and more physical pleasure.
12. “Déjà Vu” By Roger Waters
Pink Floyd’s bassist and lyricist Roger Waters continued his one-man war against greed in his solo career, and “Déjà Vu,” from his most recent solo album Is This the Life We Really Want? is another example of his dislike of greedy individuals.
Originally named “Lay Down Jerusalem (If I Had Been God),” “Déjà Vu” sees the singer consider what he would do if he were a god. In the song, he laments the existence of greed in the line, “bankers get fat.”
He also discusses his dismay at the choices people make in elections: “You lean to the left, but you walk to the right.” The acoustics and Waters’s deep voice make this song’s messages even more poignant.
13. “Love Is Greed” By Passion Pit
Though we often initially think of money, you can be greedy about many concepts. Passion Pit recognized the selfishness inherent to love and set out to make a song about it. The result was the song “Love Is Greed” from the band’s album Gossamer.
In the song, the singer mentions “greed” and discusses the way that asking for monogamous love is inherently greedy. The singer believes that all love is filled with some form of avarice, whether we are aware of it or not.
While the singer does not hate love, he wants more people to acknowledge the suffering and selfishness inherent to the concept.
14. “Greed Killing” by Napalm Death
Next, we have a song with greed in the title. Grindcore band Napalm Death aimed for this selfish desire with its 1995 EP Greed Killing. The band is one of the primary influences for the death metal scene that came after its glory days, and the group continues to tour.
The titular track on the EP talks about the dangers greed poses to our society. The singer sees greed as something that will kill us and that we need to wake up to the destructive force avarice is in our society.
The lyrics appear rambly, and they embody a stream-of-consciousness methodology. But the message is powerful, and the song sees the band at one of its most reflective moments.
15. “Fools Gold” By The Stone Roses
The Stone Roses wrote one of the best songs to do with greed for its debut studio album in, “Fools Gold.” The song helped put the band on the map and was a big boost to the fledgling career of the Stones Roses.
Lyricist Ian Brown said he took inspiration for the lyrics from the 1948 John Huston film The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. The film sees three down-on-their-luck cowboys pool money together to try and strike gold in the titular mountains. The group then breaks apart and betrays each other as greed takes over.
“Fools Gold” follows a similar narrative, showcasing how greed (gold in the song) can pull one down and even leads us to betray the people we care about.
Summing Up Our List Of Greed Songs
Greed is not an uncommon topic when it comes to songs. As we’ve read, we have no shortage of songs about this negative emotion.
The singers here have expressed how they feel about greed in an individual or in society as a whole. Hopefully, with these songs, we learn that we shouldn’t, as much as possible, be greedy.