13 Of The Best Songs About Hollywood: Tinseltown Playlist

Written by Laura Macmillan
Last updated

What is it about Hollywood that inspires so many songs? Is it the glamour, the allure of fame and fortune, or the idea of escaping to a better life?

Whatever the reason, Hollywood has been a popular topic for songwriters for generations. It is firmly locked in the minds and hearts of billions of people across the globe, which might explain why there are so many songs about it.

In this post, we’re going to take a look at 13 of the best songs about Hollywood. So sit back and enjoy this dreamy playlist with some of the greatest tunes ever written about Tinseltown.

Related: List of songs about California.

1. “Celebrity Skin” By Hole

Let’s start our list with a number from the alternative rock band Hole. “Celebrity Skin” is a ’90s rock song about Hollywood’s celebrity lifestyle. The song was written by Hole frontwoman Courtney Love, guitarist Eric Erlandson, and Smashing Pumpkins’ Billy Corgan.

It is believed to have been heavily inspired by Love’s tumultuous marriage to Nirvana’s Kurt Cobain. Because she had been complicit in his drug use, Love was blamed by many for contributing to Cobain’s death.

The following years were incredibly difficult for Love. She would engage in public fights and fell deeper into the toxic celebrity image she had longed for her whole life.

Love eventually sought help and went to rehab. She wrote “Celebrity Skin” as an homage to how painful life becomes when you “really make it.”

2. “Hollywood” By Madonna

A song with “Hollywood” in the title is up next. Madonna’s “Hollywood” is a psychedelic folk-rock song from her 2003 album American Life. The song also appears on Madonna’s documentary film I’m Going to Tell You a Secret.

Musically, “Hollywood” is a simple, upbeat, and fun song in an electronic style. Lyrically, the song is about the dream of Hollywood being just an illusion. The narrator tries to leave Tinseltown but can’t because “There’s something in the air in Hollywood.”

“Hollywood” serves as both a warm invitation to Hollywood and an eerie warning of the town’s toxic celebrity culture.

3. “Hollywood Swinging” By Kool & The Gang

From Kool & the Gang’s album Wild and Peaceful comes the R&B funk song “Hollywood Swinging.” This was the band’s first #1 R&B single, also reaching #6 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The narrator recounts the day he watched Kool & the Gang live. He was so blown away by their Hollywood swing that he wanted to become “a bad piano-playing man.”

“Hollywood Swinging” was primarily written and sung by keyboardist Rick Westfield. The lyrics were Westfield’s story of how he joined the band after seeing them perform in Hollywood. Remarkably, the song was written and recorded in just one day.

4. “Welcome To The Jungle” By Guns N’ Roses

In “Welcome to the Jungle,” Guns N’ Roses reveals the dark side of Los Angeles and Hollywood. The song was released in 1987 from their album Appetite for Destruction.

The song is believed to be partially about the “Hell House.” This was the band’s notorious home on Sunset Boulevard, known for its massive parties and excessive behavior.

Ironically, frontman Axl Rose wrote the song in Seattle. Visiting a smaller, less hyper city made Rose realize just how much of a jungle Los Angeles really is.

The song was not an immediate hit. While it peaked at #24 in the UK, it didn’t reach the US charts until a year after release.

Related: More of the best songs about Los Angeles.

5. “Say Goodbye To Hollywood” By Billy Joel

Some songs come from the artist’s personal experiences, such as “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” This is essentially Billy Joel‘s farewell letter to Los Angeles. The New Yorker had moved to Los Angeles in 1972 in the hopes of finding a better record deal. He returned to his hometown in 1975.

Joel wrote “Say Goodbye to Hollywood” shortly after returning to the Big Apple. Lyrically, it tells the story of Bobby and Johnny, two friends who both met in Hollywood and now have to say goodbye.

Ronnie Spector’s “Be My Baby” heavily inspired Joel when writing “Say Goodbye to Hollywood.” In 1977, Spector released her own version of Joel’s song.

6. “Hollywood Nights” By Bob Seger

The upbeat track “Hollywood Nights” is by singer-songwriter Bob Seger. It was released in 1978 from his album Stranger in Town.

It tells the story of a boy from the Midwest who falls head over heels for a girl in Hollywood. When all their adventures have to come to an end, the Midwestern boy is left wondering if he’ll ever see home again.

Seger was inspired to write “Hollywood Nights” after driving through the Hollywood Hills and admiring the endless lights.

7. “Hollywood” By Lana Del Rey

Up next is an unreleased song by Lana Del Ray. “Hollywood” was recorded in 2012 but was never officially released. In 2013, it got leaked and instantly took off on the Internet.

In the lyrics, the narrator dreams of becoming a star, using the metaphor of turning into a supernova. It references multiple substances and is believed to also be about getting high in Hollywood. It also mentions several artists including Morrison and Joplin.

The song is reminiscent of various other unreleased Del Rey creations, many of which were also about Hollywood. Del Rey has stated she intends to rerecord and release “Hollywood” at a later time.

8. “Glamorous” By Fergie Ft. Ludacris

Singer Fergie, in collaboration with Ludacris, released her R&B soul song “Glamorous” from her album The Dutchess. It was one of Fergie’s first solo songs following her breakout success with the band Black Eyed Peas.

Fergie’s song revolves around balancing life in Hollywood. Everything is now first-class and glamorous. But deep down, she’s still the woman she’s always been. No matter how many records she sells or how much fame she acquires, her friends and family will always be the most important thing in her life.

At one point, the lyrics and music video follow Fergie waiting in line at Taco Bell. Though this is a small moment, it summarizes the essence of the song: people in Hollywood are still people and have to wait for their Taco Bell just like everyone else.

9. “Hollywood” By Michael Bublé

Yet another song centering around the dangers of fame and the celebrity lifestyle is Michael Bublé’s “Hollywood.” Originally titled “Hollywood is Dead,” “Hollywood” is about not losing yourself when going after a life of fame.

The music video parodies Hollywood. It features Bublé traveling across town and visiting various film sets. It even features caricatures of James Dean, Justin Bieber, and Clint Eastwood.

Unlike many of Bublé’s other songs, “Hollywood” is set in a swing pop style and is incredibly upbeat. In 2009, Bublé told Billboard he considers “Hollywood” to be the best pop song he ever worked on.

10. “Paparazzi” By Lady Gaga

If there’s a song that’s nearly impossible to get out of your head, that’s “Paparazzi” by Lady Gaga. She wrote “Paparazzi” in 2007 near the start of her career, but it wasn’t released until 2009.

The lyrics are about the pursuit of fame in Hollywood. Throughout the song, there is a constant conflict between whether this chaotic fame is good or bad. The press is used to personify how demanding the celebrity lifestyle is.

The music video won multiple awards, featuring Gaga alongside actor Alexander Skarsgård. The video demonstrates just how much gruesome work it takes to be a celebrity, from increasingly scandalous behavior to losing all privacy.

11. “Lost In Hollywood” By System Of A Down

Released in 2005, “Lost in Hollywood” is a troubling rock song by the band System of a Down. The lyrics were written by guitarist Daron Malakian, who had grown up near Santa Monica Boulevard.

The song tells the story of someone who ignored the warnings that Hollywood was filled with untrustworthy people. Not listening, they go to Hollywood anyway and learn their lesson the hard way.

System of a Down had been grateful that they “made it” in Hollywood. However, the song attests to how they feel awful for the countless artists who ended up on the streets.

12. “Hollywood” By Lewis Capaldi

Up next is Lewis Capaldi‘s 2019 song “Hollywood” from his album Divinely Uninspired to a Hellish Extent. The song is about Capaldi’s first time being in Los Angeles and the mixed feelings it brought out.

The song bears “Hollywood” in the lyrics, where it is used as a symbol for alluring yet disorienting success. In addition, the track delves into post-breakup heartache. This is amplified by the physical separation of being in a different city.

The lyrics use Hollywood as a backdrop to convey the narrator’s feelings of displacement. He is thrust into a glamorous world — represented by Hollywood — while dealing with emotions and heartache.

13. “Gone Hollywood” By Supertramp

Finally, we have “Gone Hollywood” by the British rock band Supertramp. It’s the opening track to their 1979 album Breakfast in America.

The lyrics follow the narrator who experiences a rude awakening when he gets to Los Angeles. He dreams of becoming a movie star and realizes it’s more difficult than he has imagined.

“Gone Hollywood” paints a picture of the allure of Hollywood fame. The song mentions Hollywood as a symbol of the pursuit of fame and the potential disappointment that comes with it.

Summing Up Our List Of Hollywood Songs

From the list above, we’ve seen how Hollywood mirrors the allure, disillusionment, and sometimes the harsh realities of the entertainment industry. The songs reveal the ups and downs of life under the Hollywood spotlight.

Which songs about Hollywood do you think summarize the town best? Are there any songs we missed? Let us know so we can add them for you. Until the next article!

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Laura has over 12 years experience teaching both classical and jazz saxophone and clarinet. She now resides in California where she works as a session and live performer.