11 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 and 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 11 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

“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, went to rehab, and wrote “Celebrity Skin” as an homage to how painful life becomes when you “really make it.”

2. “Hollywood” by Madonna

Madonna’s “Hollywood” is a psychedelic folk-rock song from her 2003 album American Life.

The song’s lyrics are about the dream of Hollywood being only an illusion. Musically, “Hollywood” is a simple, upbeat, and fun song in an electronic style.

At one point in the song, Madonna sings that her reputation is lost, but is too distracted by her convertible to care. “Hollywood” serves as both a warm invitation to Hollywood and an eerie warning of the town’s toxic celebrity culture. 

The song’s bridge comments about music stations playing the same songs over and over again. Its closing lines repeatedly command the listener to change the station.

3. “Hollywood Swinging” by Kool & The Gang

“Hollywood Swinging” is an R&B funk song from Kool & the Gang’s album Wild and Peaceful.

The song is about seeing Kool & the Gang live and being so blown away by their Hollywood swing that you want to become “a bad piano-playing man” yourself.

“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

“Welcome to the Jungle” is a 1987 Guns N’ Roses song about the dark side of Los Angeles and Hollywood.

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

Ironically, frontman Axl Rose wrote, “Welcome to the Jungle” 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 No. 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

“Say Goodbye To Hollywood” is a farewell letter to Los Angeles by Billy Joel. The New Yorker had moved to Los Angeles in 1972 in the hopes of finding a better record deal, but 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 the song.

6. “Hollywood Nights” by Bob Seger

“Hollywood Nights” is an upbeat rock song by Bob Seger about the nights that can only be experienced in the City of Angels.

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

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.

7. “Hollywood” by Lana Del Rey

“Hollywood” is a euphoric, unreleased song by Lana Del Rey. The song was originally recorded in 2012 but was never officially released. In 2013, it got leaked and instantly took off on the Internet. 

Del Rey’s song is about dreaming 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.

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 (feat. Ludacris)

“Glamorous” is an R&B soul song by Fergie for 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 follows 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

Michael Bublé’s “Hollywood” is yet another song centering around the dangers of fame and the celebrity lifestyle.

Originally titled “Hollywood is Dead,” “Hollywood” is about not losing yourself when going after a life of fame.

The music video parodied Hollywood, featuring Bublé traveling across town and visiting various film sets. It even featured 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

“Paparazzi” is a Lady Gaga song that’s nearly impossible to get out of your head. The lyrics are about the pursuit of fame in Hollywood. Gaga wrote “Paparazzi” in 2007 near the start of her career, but it wasn’t released until 2009.

Throughout the song, there is a constant conflict between whether this chaotic fame is good or bad, with the press being used to personify how demanding the celebrity lifestyle is. 

The music video won multiple awards, featuring Gaga alongside actor Alexander Skarsgård. The video demonstrated 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

“Lost in Hollywood” is a troubling rock song by the band System of a Down.

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

The lyrics of “Lost in Hollywood” were written by guitarist Daron Malakian who had grown up near Santa Monica Boulevard.

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

Summing Up Our List Of Songs To Do With Hollywood

We hope you found this guide helpful. For such a diverse city, it’s interesting to see the similarities between these Hollywood songs. 

Which songs about Hollywood do you think summarize the town best? Are there any songs we missed? 

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Written by Laura Macmillan
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.