13 Of The Best Songs About Karma

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Karma is a concept that originated in India. We know it more with the following statements: “What goes around comes around.” “You reap what you sow.” “What you put out comes back to you.”

The principle is that everything balances out in the end. In short, when you do good, you get good karma. Evil intent brings bad karma. This concept is popular with Buddhists but also with songwriters.

In fact, we have come up with a list of songs that deal with this theme. So read on to know more about 13 of the best songs about karma.

1. “Karma Police” By Radiohead

To start our list, we have “Karma Police” from Radiohead, one of the band’s most enduring singles. The song, originally released on the band’s album Ok Computer, was a breakout hit for the English group. It helped cement them as one of the biggest acts of the 1990s.

“Karma Police” sprung out of an inside joke from the band. They would joke about the karma police coming to arrest someone when they did something wrong.

The lyrics detail the titular group arresting a person for his crimes. The singer believes karma will punish those who do wrong. However, frontman Thom Yorke clarified that the song wasn’t serious.

2. “Bad Blood” By Taylor Swift

In our next song, Taylor Swift proves she’s a force to reckon with. She shows in “Bad Blood” that she’s not afraid to criticize people who mistreat her.

In “Bad Blood,” Swift teamed up with Kendrick Lamar to create this rap-inspired track. She released it on her album 1989, where it became one of the most listened-to singles.

“Bad Blood” involves an incident in Swift’s life. A close friend betrayed her, and she gives her piece of mind about it. The song focuses on an evil person getting their comeuppance. The singer is ready to exact revenge or wait for the universe to take care of the job. Either way, she is happy to see the person get what they deserve.

3. “Karma Chameleon” By Culture Club

Our next entry is a song with “karma” in the title. Culture Club created one of the ’80s’ best earworms with “Karma Chameleon.” The song remains one of the highest-selling singles in English history. Its success helped propel the album Colour by Numbers to new heights for the group.

“Karma Chameleon” is a song about the ways we try to hide our misdeeds. We all try to become karma chameleons, changing our morals to fit the situation and the people we accompany.

In addition, the song tells us that we get karma when we please everybody and not being true to ourselves. People usually do that out of fear of being alienated.

4. “Instant Karma” By John Lennon

Fans often overlook John Lennon’s solo work after the Beatles broke up. The former Fab Four member had several excellent tracks of his own. These include “Instant Karma,” which song stands as one of his best.

Some may think of karma as the universe evening things throughout a person’s life. But Lennon had a different interpretation. He saw karma as occurring immediately and said he took the idea from instant coffee.

“Instant Karma” is an ode to his philosophy. He believed people always saw the consequences of their choices immediately. This song was an instant hit for Lennon and remains one of the top songs about karma.

5. “Karma” By Alicia Keys

Singer-songwriter Alicia Keys was on the upswing when she recorded “Karma” for her second studio album, The Diary of Alicia Keys. While not a smash hit, “Karma” was a big song for Keys and helped expand her musical reach to a new audience.

“Karma” details a recent relationship in the singer’s life. Her partner treated her like a fool and failed to come through when she needed him. Eventually, he left her for another woman. And now he wants to get back with her.

Too bad for him because she has moved on and wants nothing to do with him. She believes he got what he deserved, a textbook case of karma.

6. “Happy Karma Christmas” By Sufjan Stevens

Our next singer, Sufjan Stevens, is among the most introspective and thought-provoking indie folk musicians ever. He is a Christmas lover and has a few albums related to the holiday. One of those is Silver & Gold, a record containing the track “Happy Karma Christmas.”

In this breakup song with “karma” in the lyrics, the singer talks about the consequences of our actions. He laments that he gave all his love to a girl and didn’t get anything back. She rejected him and his love.

The singer hopes that the woman has a happy karma Christmas. “Karma” and “Christmas” are two opposing ideas that show he wants to move on from his “karma girl.”

7. “Before He Cheats” By Carrie Underwood

In the mid-2000s, you have likely heard “Before He Cheats” a few hundred times. Carrie Underwood’s classic tune was one of the biggest country music hits ever and an obvious one to have in a list of karma themed songs.

“Before He Cheats” is a classic tale of a scorned lover seeking revenge. The singer suspects her lover is unfaithful and plans to get even with him for his crimes. Instead of letting karmic justice take over, she handles things herself. She is the karma.

The singer destroys his beloved car as an act of revenge. She smashes the headlights with a bat and vandalizes the interior. The singer believes sometimes you have to dole out your karma.

8. “You Get What You Give” By The New Radicals

If the title is any indication, then you know that this song is about karmic justice. New Radicals‘ “You Get What You Give” was an instant hit for the band. It even earned them kudos from singer Joni Mitchell and rapper Ice-T.

“You Get What You Give” looks at the positive side of karma. Instead of focusing on bad things happening to good people, the song encourages people to be good to have good things happen to them. 

The song’s ending sees the singer calling out several celebrities. Marilyn Manson and Beck both took umbrage with the final verse that says, “Fashion shoots with Beck and Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson.”

9. “What Goes Around… Comes Around” By Justin Timberlake

Singer-songwriter Justin Timberlake definitely knows a thing or two about karma. Just check out his “Cry Me A River and “What Goes Around… Comes Around.” But for our list today, let’s talk about the latter.

In the song, we find a man who is betrayed by his lover in the most painful way. The girl cheats on him, leading to their breakup. In the chorus, the singer swears that one day, she’ll get what she deserved.

And she did. Now she finds herself spending nights alone waiting for the man she chooses over the singer. She knows that he’s doing to her what she did to her ex. There’s no better karma than that.

10. “Outrunning Karma” By Alec Benjamin

Can you really outrun Karma? Let’s see what Alec Benjamin has to say about it in “Outrunning Karma.”

As with many other songs, this one is open to interpretation. Some people even say it’s about a murderer or criminal on the run. If you listen to the song, it can also be about a narcissistic person who’s done bad deeds throughout his life.

Perhaps he has broken many hearts and used and hurt people for his own gain. And now karma is after him, and he’s trying to outrun it. To answer the question, no, he cannot outrun it. It will chase him until the end.

11. “Karma’s Payment” By Modest Mouse

Before exploding in popularity, Modest Mouse was a popular indie act in the pacific northwest. In 1997, the band released the delightful EP The Fruit That Ate Itself. The EP features the trademark “Karma’s Payment” which would sound alien to modern fans.

“Karma’s Payment” covers similar ground to many of frontman Isaac Brock’s songs. This one sees Brock’s work in the world of the spiritual and melding it with modern life.

“Karma’s Payment” is about working out a loan with the universe to balance your karma. The singer wants to slowly pay off his karmic debt like someone would a bank loan. It’s humorous and introspective, the essence of early Modest Mouse.

12. “Only A Matter Of Time” By Joshua Bassett

Our next song mentions “karma” from the point of view of someone mistreated. In “Only a Matter of Time,” Joshua Bassett leaves it up to karma to do the retribution for him.

As we found out from the lyrics, the singer is hurt by what his ex did to him. She lied, pretended, and made him pay for her crimes. We can only imagine the betrayal he feels from someone he loved.

But if she thought she deceived him, she was wrong. Because eventually, he will move on. But there’s no respite for her, and she’ll end up “drowning in regret.”

13. “Past Lives” By Ke$ha

One of the primary tenets of Buddhism and karmic thinking is the idea of reincarnation and past lives. Ke$ha used this concept for the song “Past Lives” from her album Warrior in 2012.

The song details a person who feels like she loved someone in a past life. The two individuals meet again, and the singer believes they share a spiritual connection. She keeps falling for that person every time.

The singer ponders what past lives brought them to this point. And what mistakes they might have made in those days leading to karmic retribution.

Summing Up Our List Of Karma Songs

The idea of retribution and things evening out is ubiquitous in music. Many of the songs above showed us that it’s never a good thing to hurt people. As such, we should always consider the consequences of what we do.

So we hope you liked the selections we have included on our list. If you feel betrayed or hurt, you can always go back to these songs. These will show you that karma rewards good deeds and punishes bad ones. And you know what you’ll get in the end.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.