Popular music is full of songs about life lessons, with common themes touching on growing up, having a good time, and falling in and out of love. While a good majority of songs revolve around this trio of topics, it does leave out one major category: songs about money. And in many cases, popular songs about money can have lessons we can learn from.
As it turns out, there are a great many songs focused on money, from making it to losing it, needing it, getting it, and then losing it all again. Sometimes you have to wonder how money became such an inspiration for many creatives and artists.
Why Are There So Many Songs About Money?
Popular music often becomes popular partly because it takes people away from their everyday lives. By singing about fame and fortune, artists can inspire listeners to aspire to a lifestyle generally perceived as better than the one they currently have.
On the other hand, singers can also sing about topics and situations that are relatable to a vast majority of their audience. This could mean reflecting the mood of listeners and/or society as a whole, and finding common ground by singing about financial hardship.
Either way, money (or a lack of it) can be a universal celebration or concern that resonates with just about everyone.
Can You Really Learn from Music?
Studies have shown that music can help people retain learned information, according to Johns Hopkins University. "The soundtrack increases interest and activates the information mentally, physically, or emotionally,” says international educator, author, and musician Chris Boyd Brewer.
He continues, “Music creates a highly focused learning state in which vocabulary and reading material is absorbed at a great rate. When information is put to rhythm and rhyme, these musical elements will provide a hook for recall."
While we don’t want our readers to adopt the aural takeaways from, say, Take the Money and Run by the Steve Miller Band, we do think there are a number of songs that can actually teach us all a thing or two about money.
Our Top 12 Songs About Money
Ready for some music about money? We’ve put together an alphabetical playlist of songs with lyrics about money and what we can learn from them, with further information just a click away. From the groovy ‘60s to the disco-infused ‘70s, the awesome ‘80s to the eclectic ‘90s and beyond, let’s get rocking.
1. Ain’t Got No, Patrice (2010)
Singer-songwriter Patrice took Nina Simone’s classic and gave it his own spin, altering some of the lyrics to include mentions of being out of work – something many Canadians experienced (and continue to experience) during the COVID-19 crisis.
Ain't got no money...
Ain't got no work…
Ain't got no job...
Ain't got no mind
Losing a job, especially through no fault of your own, can be devastating both mentally and financially. However, the song does offer hope, as Patrice (and Nina before him) point out that despite the setback, life goes on: Got my brains… Got my smile… Got my blood...
Of course, it can be difficult to look on the bright side when you’re struggling financially without a job, which we address frequently in our blog and other resources.
> Download our free guide: Surviving a Layoff
2. The Gambler, Kenny Rogers (1978)
While this tune has become a country karaoke staple and a popular “bar sing-along song” that’s loved by many, it has a very important message for gamblers and card sharks. While it might be okay for some people to put a few chips on a roulette table or play a couple of slots at the casino for fun, unfortunately, many people don’t know when to stop, which is what Kenny warns about in his song.
You've got to know when to hold 'em
Know when to fold 'em
Know when to walk away
And know when to run
Gambling can become highly addictive, and if you don’t know when to “fold ‘em” or “walk away,” you could find yourself in deep financial trouble. Thankfully, it's possible to stop gambling and there are ways to get yourself out of gambling debt with help.
> Read more: How to Financially Recover from Gambling Debt
3. Goodbye Yellow Brick Road, Elton John (1973)
Elton John has long been known for his lavish lifestyle. But in this sobering song from the early ’70s, he seems to long for simpler times, singing about giving up the so-called good life of fame and fortune (the “yellow brick road”) and going back to basics.
I should have stayed on the farm
I should have listened to my old man…
You can't plant me in your penthouse
I'm going back to my plough...
Oh, I've finally decided my future lies
Beyond the yellow brick road
We wrote about the idea of reliving simpler times — from cooking and eating as a family to choosing low-cost entertainment options — in a recent blog you’ll want to check out if this song speaks to you!
> Read more: Save Money By Going Back to Basics
4. If I Had a Million Dollars, Barenaked Ladies (1989)
This song is about imagining what someone would do with $1,000,000. (A million dollars might not seem like a ton of money now to some people, but back in 1989, having a million dollars meant you were rich.) While some purchases seem perfectly reasonable, the list of items eventually becomes more and more outlandish and unnecessary.
Well, I'd buy you an exotic pet
Yep, like a llama or an emu
If I had a million dollars
We wouldn't have to walk to the store
We'd take a limousine cause it costs more
While this is a fun song (after all, haven’t you always wanted a mon-key?), it does remind us of the pitfalls of winning the lottery.
While lottery odds are never in your favour (the odds of winning any prize with Lotto Max is 1 in 7 million; the odds of winning the Lotto Max jackpot is 1 in 33.3 million), people do win. When they do, poor money management and irresponsible purchases, like the ones listed in the song, often result in the winner losing everything.
> Read more: Lottery Odds: Are Tickets Worth Your Money?
5. Love Don't Cost a Thing, Jennifer Lopez (2001)
It was a tough choice between this JLo song and The Beatles’ similarly-themed “Can’t Buy Me Love,” but since the Fab Four show up at #12 on this list we thought we’d go with Jenny from the Block. In this catchy song, Lopez makes it clear that she doesn’t care about money – she’s in it for love.
Think you gotta keep me iced (You don't)
Think I'm gonna spend your cash (I won't)
Think I wanna drive your Benz (I don't)
Even if you were broke
My love don't cost a thing
We think the ultimate message here is that if it’s true love, material things won’t matter (despite what the artist in our next selection says). Of course, everyone has different ideas about money, and sometimes couples aren’t on the same financial page. Thankfully, it's possible to begin seeing eye-to-eye as a couple when it comes to money matters.
> Download our free guide: Couples & Money
6. Material Girl, Madonna (1984)
A song and an artist that needs no introduction, we actually hesitated to put Madonna’s hit on our list despite it being such a money song and the perfect representation of the “greed decade.” But we really wanted to include it, and we found a way with these lines:
Some boys try and some boys lie but
I don't let them play (no way)
Only boys who save their pennies
Make my rainy day
While it takes the song a while to get to this part about saving money, and it does so in a questionable way, it does make the point that saving up money is a wise idea. However, it’s important to understand that according to many experts, saving for a “rainy day” is not the same as saving for an emergency fund.
A rainy day fund is for a last-minute gift, some school supplies, a car repair, replacing an appliance – things that you know you'll eventually need and so, you should budget for. An emergency fund is for true emergencies, like a health crisis, a separation or divorce, a job layoff, etc.
The amount of money you save for an emergency fund should be greater than the amount you save for a rainy day fund, simply because a rainy day fund is for a one-time cost whereas an emergency fund should be enough money to cover all your living expenses for at least three months.
7. Mo' Money, Mo' Problems, The Notorious B.I.G. (1997)
This rap hit was all about the way people who covet your money try to bring you down. Ultimately, the refrain laments that the more money you have, the more problems you’ll have, too.
I don't know what they want from me
It's like the more money we come across
The more problems we see
While a bit of a stretch, the song did make us think of how people who are hurting financially may come asking for help or a loan if you have some cash to spare. This can cause the lender financial hardship, and put a strain on the relationship if the borrower doesn’t make good on repayment. That means mo’ problems for both people involved, which can be avoided through other options!
8. Money in the Bank, John Anderson (1993)
This song is all about prioritizing your spending! Country crooner John Anderson would love to buy a fishing boat and a race car (just look at that thing…and the price tag!) but realizes there are more important things in life:
I wish I had a bass boat and a Z/28
But I guess that stuff will have to wait
'Cause I'm saving on a washer and a wedding ring
We love this song because prioritizing your spending is an important aspect of budgeting and saving money.
> Read more: Save It or Spend It: Tips for Making the Tough Call
9. Money, Money, Money, ABBA (1976)
This disco classic imagines how much fun it must be to be a rich man, and gets right to the point. Just look at some of these lyrics:
Money, money, money
Must be funny
In the rich man's world
Money, money, money
In the rich man's world
While having money can make for a more comfortable, “sunny” life, it’s important to remember that many wealthy people got that way by living frugally; they’re not all spending with reckless abandon as this song seems to imply.
Even after accumulating their wealth, many of the rich and famous continue to watch their spending. We covered the benefits of living frugally and looked at five famous people who follow a frugal lifestyle in a recent blog.
> Read more: How Frugal Living Pays Off
10. Opportunities (Let’s Make Lots of Money), Pet Shop Boys (1986)
While the most popular money song lyrics of this 80’s synth staple focus on who has the brains, the brawn, and the looks, there’s a pretty keen observation mixed in with those lyrics that we love:
Oh, there's a lot of opportunities
If you know when to take them
You know there's a lot of opportunities
If there aren't, you can make them
These words have never been truer! Today, the “gig economy” allows people to earn money on the side, taking part-time jobs (from grocery bagger to Uber driver) or working a side hustle (from dog walking to skills sharing). While the Pet Shop Boys’ probably couldn’t predict the internet opportunities that would come back in 1986, today the world is your online oyster!
> Read more: 10 Ways to Earn Some Extra Cash
11. She Works Hard for the Money, Donna Summer (1983)
This often-misunderstood early ‘80s diddy is actually a tribute to hardworking women in various careers. The video for the song confirms this, showing a nurse, housekeeper, waitress, and other women coming together at the end for a group dance in the street. Summer has said this is meant to show that these women have overcome their challenges and succeeded. And indeed, key lyrics highlight this triumph in the end:
She's seen her bad times
These are the good times
This song reminds us of everyone who, despite their hard work, still find themselves in financial trouble. We want you to know there is a light at the end of the debt tunnel!
> Download our free guide: How To Be Debt-Free (and Worry-Free)
12. Taxman, The Beatles (1966)
No musical list would be complete without a song by The Beatles. For the last song about money on our list, we chose “Taxman” for these powerful and timeless lyrics:
If you drive a car, I'll tax the street
If you try to sit, I'll tax your seat
If you get too cold, I'll tax the heat
If you take a walk, I'll tax your feet
The song demonstrates that no matter what you do, you’re going to have to pay up, as far as the government is concerned. Of course, owing taxes can present a big problem for Canadians who are struggling financially. Thankfully, help is available even when the taxman is at your door!
> Read more: How to Get Help if You Owe Taxes and Can’t Pay
Forget Music about Money, Let’s Talk about Money!
We hope you enjoyed our songs about money (and perhaps the trip down memory lane with some of them). Be sure to check out our top movies about money as well! In the meantime, if song lyrics about money aren’t helping you get your financial footing, Credit Canada can help.
For more than 50 years, Credit Canada has helped millions of Canadians overcome debt problems and improve their money management skills, and we can help you too. Call us for a free, confidential, and non-judgmental consultation at 1.800.267.2272. You can also book a free debt assessment online here.
P.S. Did we forget to include your favourite songs about money? Be sure to let us know in the comments below – we’re always looking to add to our playlist!