We live in a time where the meme is king. Every time you get on Facebook, Instagram, or TikTok, you get bombarded with them. They are a great way to use imagery and music to put a punchline at the end of a joke or give a quick, funny response to a question or comment.
Millions of memes, GIFs, and short videos are floating around using recognizable pictures and text. And TikTok is loaded with snips of music to make a joke or a point to an argument. Here are the best meme songs out there.
1. “Never Gonna Give You Up” by Rick Astley
Song Year: 1987
This is the original song meme that started it all. It started as the ultimate online game known as “Rick Rolling”. In those days, no link was secure. People would hide deceptive links to this song's YouTube page to entice clicks. Once it started playing, you knew you had fallen for it.
2. “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton
Song Year: 2002
People love to play around with this song. The simple melody has a place just before the chorus where the music starts to go up a notch. Meme creators and TikTokers love to add repetitive videos like dancing animals in that spot.
“A Million Miles” was infamously performed by Terry Crews in the movie “White Chicks”. That rendition is still used online because he sings it with hilarious passion. It is not uncommon to still catch Terry Crews singing this classic occasionally.
3. “Photograph” by Nickelback
Song Year: 2005
Everyone talks about how terrible Nickelback is, but they love this song. It comes back over and over. On TikTok, it shows up in videos where people are looking back at old pictures of themselves and their families. The first four words of the song are often all that are used.
4. “The Sound of Silence” by Simon and Garfunkel
Song Year: 1964
This song has been around for decades. It gained popularity on Vine, making it accessible to a new generation. The opening few words are usually used in a funny video after a person has been rejected or found themselves alone.
5. “All-Star” by Smashmouth
Song Year: 1999
It seems as if this song were created to be a meme. It was released in the late 90s but popularized by children after appearing in “Shrek”. Recently, it has seen a comeback as a sound used on TikTok. Videos usually open with the word “Some”, as a person starts an activity. They then fail and fall over or get hit as the rest of the song kicks in and begins to play.
6. “The Harlem Shake” by Baauer
Song Year: 2013
You can argue that “The Harlem Shake” would be unheard-of if it had not been for the online dance craze that came with it. Videos were released left and right of one person dancing among a group of people who are not paying them any attention. Then the music would cut abruptly, and the video would change to the entire group performing disjointed, senseless dances.
7. “Teenage Dirtbag” by Wheatus
Song Year: 2000
Nostalgia is all the craze today, and this meme started in 2022 to capitalize on it. A trend began recently with celebrities on TikTok showing someone with a modern selfie that gradually morphs into older pictures of themselves. It took off and is now done by many people, with versions created for people to show off their favorite TV shows and musical groups.
8. “I’m Just a Kid” by Simple Plan
Song Year: 2002
Here is another example of a meme trend giving new life to a song that would be forgotten without it. “I’m Just a Kid” was popular at the turn of the century, but over the pandemic, there were hundreds of content creators that used it as the soundtrack of their nostalgia.
Most of these videos showed a group of people in an awkward pose. When the music kicks in, the image changes to a photograph of those same people taken years before in that same pose. Celebrities have jumped on this one as well.
9. “Remember (Walking in the Sand) by The Shangri-Las
Song Year: 1964
Most people that have seen the meme associated with this song do not realize how old it is. Many believe the song is titled “Oh No” because it is used as part of a TikTok trend showing people having accidents or misfortune. The song was sampled by Capone in 2005, with that being the version most people hear in these memes.
10. “Frolic” by Luciano Michelini
Song Year: 2000
This playful march is best known as the theme music for the HBO series “Curb Your Enthusiasm” starring Larry David. In each episode, Larry tries to get out of something or fool someone. Inevitably, it all backfires, and this music plays. The internet loves to play with this idea and make their versions of a “Curb” ending with the music.
11. “Run” by Awolnation
Song Year 2015
The way the beginning of “Run” is structured is perfect for making memes. It has an upbeat sound that works well in videos showing someone running away from something or someone. And the way the music starts slow and does not kick up until the singer speaks the word “Run” is perfect for setting up a joke.
12. “Ring of Fire” by Johnny Cash
Song Year: 1963
This trend showed up out of nowhere last year when people started posting videos of themselves running away from something, usually in a bathrobe, carrying a bunch of random objects. It could be a pack of beer, a lamp, or a dead fish. But it leaves you wondering where they are coming from, why they have those things, and where they are going. All of this happens while this Johnny Cash classic plays in the background.
13. “Part of Your World” by Jodi Benson
Song Year: 1989
This song is famous for being sung by Ariel in “The Little Mermaid”. She laments living in an underwater kingdom while so much life is happening above the surface. Pieces of this song were used repeatedly over the pandemic by people forced to work from home and practice distance learning.
14. “Let It Go” by Idina Menzel
Song Year: 2013
Staying with famous Disney princess songs, this one has been used in many videos online. It is funny that only the words “Let it go” are normally used in meme videos. Often, the meme is political and will show a politician or president talking about an issue they have been talking about for years with no changes occurring. This song or pieces of it will play at the end as a plea to the speaker to talk about something else.
15. “The X-Files Theme” by Mark Snow
Song Year: 1996
The theme music from The X-Files is a creepy piece of music. It has an echoing, electronic sound that is almost trance-inducing. It was perfect for the show full of secrets it was paired with. In recent years, it is used in memes and videos when something happens that can not be explained. Many TikTok creators use it for fun “mystery” videos as they ask questions about why we drive on a parkway but park in a driveway.
16. “Scatman (ski-ba-bop-ba-dop-bop) by Scatman John
Song Year: 1995
Scatman John was a talented performer who could do things with his mouth that an instrument could not. In 1995 he attempted to take scatting to mainstream music and created this single that took over MTV. Now, it is used a lot in videos on TikTok and YouTube when a creator wants something fun to dance to that is different from the current trends.
17. “Jiggle Jiggle” by Louis Theroux and Jason Derulo
Song Year: 2022
Theroux is a comedian who wrote a rap song as part of his routine. It resurfaced in 2022 when someone put the lyrics over a beat, making it sound like an accomplished piece of music. The chorus was used in a song Jason Derulo put together and became this hit. Hundreds of dance videos have surfaced online using this chorus in their routine.
18. “Sandstorm” by Darude
Song Year: 1999
“Sandstorm” has had a long road to becoming a meme. It has been used for years by sports teams for training videos and as a way to work up a crowd. After being featured in a video about one of the Call of Duty video games, it has become popular to use as background music for game footage or in workout videos on social media.
19. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day
Song Year: 2004
When content creators are looking for a song to set a mood for one of their videos, they look for the right tone of voice and music. They also want something that people have heard and will resonate with them. Often when they want something melancholy, they will reach for this song by Green Day. While being part of their “American Idiot” album makes it popular enough, it garnered a long life thanks to memes and comedy videos.
20. “What is Love” by Haddaway
Song Year: 1993
Somehow, this song became an anthem for partying and going to dance clubs. The lyrics have nothing to do with that, but a dance remix appeared in a sketch on Saturday Night Live with Will Ferrell and Chris Kattan. That sketch was made into a theatrical film called “A Night at the Roxbury” in 1998. Since then, this song has been synonymous with those sketches.
21. “Fight for Your Right” by Beastie Boys
Song Year: 1987
Possibly one of the best-known songs by the Beastie Boys, “Fight for Your Right” has become a party anthem. In the world of memes, it usually is turned into wordplay or a “dad joke”. Puns using words that rhyme with party or par-tay are popular with this one.
22. “Dueling Banjos” by Arthur Smith
Song Year: 1954
Arthur Smith had no idea he was creating one of the world’s first memes when he strummed this music in the early 1970s. It was a popular piece that involved two banjos playing an increasingly difficult series of notes against one another.
The movie “Deliverance” used it and popularized it in the modern day while also aligning it with backwoods, murderous hillbillies. Smith sued the filmmakers, but the damage was done. Now the music is used in memes to portray crazy mountain people.
23. “Dreams” by Fleetwood Mac
Song Year: 1977
Nathan Apodaca did not know he was creating a meme and giving new life to a song when his truck broke down in 2020. He went into a store for some cran-raspberry juice and made a TikTok video as he rode his skateboard home.
It worked out for him since the members of Fleetwood Mac loved it, Ocean Spray bought him a new truck, and he now has a role on the series “Reservation Dogs” on Hulu.
24. “Your Love” by The Outfield
Song Year: 1985
“Your Love” has been used in skits and memes for a long time, but a new trend started a few months ago. TikTok skits play the song with someone lip-syncing the lyrics while another person comes into the background and begins to set up something to use as drums. By the time the chorus comes in, they are ready and they all play together.
25. “In the Air Tonight” by Phil Collins
Song Year: 1980
There are many ways this song is used in memes and videos online, and they almost always involve the way the drums come in at the end of the first verse. People love to replace the drums with the sound of them slapping their chests, falling down the stairs, or even closing cabinets in just the right combination.
26. “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X
Song Year: 2019
It seemed like Lil Nas X came out of nowhere in 2019. “Old Town Road” climbed to the top of the charts and became a viral phenomenon. But most people do not realize that his climb only seemed sudden because of the spread the song was seeing on social media sites like TikTok. It had garnered a lot of attention before the video and celebrity collaborations took place.
27. “Abcdefu” by Gayle
Song Year: 2022
This song was not only made successful on TikTok, it was inspired and created there. Gayle is a recording artist who asked her TikTok followers for ideas for a breakup song. Eventually, it led to the “Abcdefu” which is used in a lot of video memes.
28. “WAP” by Cardi B
Song Year: 2020
The song is suggestive, and the lyrics are NSFW, but those are ingredients ripe for a viral meme online. When Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion released “WAP” in 2020, it did not get much radio play. The lifeblood of this song was online, and content creators loved making it the subject of their memes and videos.
29. “Crank That” by Soulja Boy
Song Year: 2007
Long before videos were made into TikTok videos, Soulja Boy’s song “Crank That” found life on YouTube. Kids loved dancing to it, and it was played in skating rinks and bowling alleys by adults that did not pay much attention to the lyrics. It was one of the first examples of a song that could grow and become popular by going viral online, rather than traditional routes like music television and radio.
30. “Watch Me (Whip/Nae Nae)” by Silentó
Song Year: 2015
In 2015 there were not many places you could go to get away from the Whip and Nae Nae craze. It was a song that went viral on YouTube and Twitter and had everyone singing along when they heard it. A barrage of memes were created playing on the lyrics. Most people had never done a dance called the stanky leg before they heard it.
31. “Fast Car” by Tracy Chapman
Song Year: 1988
This classic 80s song by Tracy Chapman has received new life in the past few months thanks to a viral trend. Skits posted to TikTok and Instagram usually show two people getting into an unwanted situation. They lip sync to the first two lines of the song’s second verse, which relays a need to get away.
32. “Running Up That Hill” by Kate Bush
Song Year: 1985
Making a viral video for 2022 was not at the front of Kate Bush's mind when she released this song in 1985. However, thanks to the hit TV show “Stranger Things”, it has gained a lot of strength. People have begun using it as an anthem of hope in their online videos, and the renewed interest took it back to the number one spot in charts worldwide nearly 40 years after it was written.
33. “The Wellerman” by Nathan Evans
Song Year: 2021
“The Wellerman” was not an original song written by Nathan Evans. It is a recreation of a sea shanty sung by people working in shipyards in the 19th century. This one is about a supply ship seen as a hero by whalers who lived at sea for months at a time. The song is catchy and repetitive, making it perfect for content creators to cover and duet on social media.
34. “Love Grows” by Edison Lighthouse
Song Year: 1970
We live in a time of female empowerment when women are embracing their true selves. A trend on social media is to show yourself as you truly are, without perfect hair, makeup, and clothes. Many women have accompanied their videos with this classic tune that relays that sentiment perfectly.
35. “It’s All Coming Back To Me Now” by Celine Dion
Song Year: 1996
Celine Dion is far from the first person to record this song. It is a power ballad inspired by Wuthering Heights that was first released by Pandora’s Box in 1989. The version that Dion sang has been popular online for years. Recently, people have been creating videos that claim their friends do not realize how well they can sing and then lip-sync Dion’s voice.
36. “I Would Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That) by Meat Loaf
Song Year: 1993
“Bat Out of Hell II: Back Into Hell” was a comeback album for MeatLoaf. One of the singles released that year was “I Would Do Anything For Love” which showcased his singing talent and had some dark imagery in both the song and music video. Content creators have loved making lip-sync videos with Meat Loaf’s voice for a long time. In the months since his passing, the amount of viral videos has increased.
37. “Stacy’s Mom” by Fountains of Wayne
Song Year: 2003
“Stacy’s Mom” has been a fun song to play with since its inception. The music video set up the playful tone the band was going for. In the years since a lot of people have created content using the iconic music and chorus. It is especially useful when they want to talk about an older person they find attractive.
38. “I Knew You Were Trouble” by Taylor Swift
Song Year: 2012
There is nothing about this song that made it go viral on its own. An edit of it was created where a goat screaming was added in the chorus making for a hilarious video. The screaming goat meme owes most of its existence to this song, including its addition to the latest “Thor” movie.
39. “Turn Down For What” by DJ Snake and Lil Jon
Song Year: 2013
Even before TikTok was giving creators a place to put their lip-sync and dance videos, “Turn Down For What” was making waves as an early viral music sensation. The music was infectious and has been used in countless videos. The imagery in the music video is unforgettable and led the Daniels to later make the film “Everything, Everywhere, All At Once” which was released in 2022.
Top Meme Songs Ever, Final Thoughts
Memes and viral videos are part of our language. We can have entire conversations online without ever saying a word through the use of memes and GIFs. Music is at the heart of that language. Videos like these can bring new life to old songs, and provide a way for a new generation to discover music they would not have heard otherwise.