Television and rock stars have a controversial past. While many singers became famous thanks to television, many rock stars warn of the dangers of watching too much television.
By the 1980s, songs about television were everywhere. MTV sparked a whole generation of musicians that were permanently tied to this new medium.
Today, we’ll cover some of the best songs about tv.
1. “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Bugles
Song Year: 1979
Starting off the list for songs with television in the title is “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Bugles. This track was the first song to air on MTV and sparked a new generation of musicians and artists in the 1980s.
The song focuses on how many musicians' careers won’t translate well to television. During the 80s, the music industry saw a shift, and many artists had to rework their images to fit better with the younger television generation.
The song still rings true today as many musicians focus more on their appearance and TV image than the substance of their music.
2. “57 Channels (And Nothin On)” by Bruce Springstein
Song Year: 1992
Bruce always has a point in his songs, and this song is no exception. 57 Channels (And Nothin’ On) is Bruce Springstein’s critique of American materialism.
The story of the song is about a rich man and his wife. No matter how nice their house or possession is, the couple is never satisfied. They install cable television and satellite TV but are never satisfied.
While the moral is simple, it’s important to remember that money and luxury won’t always buy happiness.
3. “Satellite Of Love” by Lou Reed
Song Year: 1972
Released on Reed’s album, “Transformer,” “Satellite Of Love” was a minor hit for Lou Reed in 1972. It’s since gone been heralded as one of his best songs.
The song focuses on a man who watches a satellite launch on TV. The satellite launch was a major news event, but the man finds jealousy in the launch. An unfaithful girlfriend is the cause of jealousy.
Produced by David Bowin and Mick Ronson, “Satellite Of Love” is a rare romantic song from Lou Reed.
4. “Television, The Drug Of The Nation” by The Disposable Heroes Of Hiphoprisy
Song Year: 1992
As you’ll see from this list, many musicians view television negatively. “Television, The Drug Of the Nation” is extremely blatant in its critique of the media.
The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy view television as a drug that’s just as bad as any other addictive drug. The song is a statement against the ills of watching too much TV and encourages its listeners to stop.
The track is critical of politicians, systemic racism, the education system, and many other ills of society.
5. “Kicking Television” by Wilco
Song Year: 2005
Wilco wants you to turn off the TV and go out and enjoy life. “Kicking Television” encourages listeners to go to a rock concert instead.
To Wilco, a rock concert is the antithesis of television. Instead of sitting alone in your home and glued to the tube, you’re out with friends and strangers experiencing life. Live music is the best cure for television addiction.
The song also became the title of Wilco’s live album, “Kicking Television: Live in Chicago” in 2005.
6. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron
Song Year: 1971
Perhaps the original anti-television anthem, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” premiered in 1971. The song is a call to action for Americans and African Americans in particular.
During the 60s, the United States was a place of turmoil and political revolution. The song explains how your television won’t show you what’s happening in the real world.
From African American rights to Anti-Vietnam War protests you won’t see it on TV. Gil Scott-Heron demands listeners to be the change they want in the world in this revolutionary anthem.
7. “Found a Job” by Talking Heads
Song Year: 1978
The Talking Heads use “Found a Job” to encourage and inspire listeners. The story of the song begins with a couple bored with the quality of TV shows.
Inspired, the couple decide to begin their show. Surprisingly, the song becomes a hit, and the couple’s relationship flourishes thanks to the show.
The moral of the song encourages listeners to seek out a life that will enjoy. Doing what you love in life is the best way to enjoy life. If you’re not doing what you love, then you're doing something wrong, and it’s time for a change.
8. “I’m the Slime” by Frank Zappa
Song Year: 1973
While the lyrics might be cryptic, “I’m the Slime” is a song about the ills of television.
Frank Zappa delivers intro lyrics as a riddle. He describes himself as a tool for the government and capitalism. He also describes himself as vile yet you can’t look away.
The second verse of the song gives you the answer to the riddle, and that answer is television.
“I’m the Slime” was recorded at Ike & Tina Turner’s Bolic Sound Studio, and if you listen closely, you can hear the legendary Tina Turner on backup vocals for this track.
9. “My Country” by Randy Newman
Song Year: 1999
Randy Newman often has a unique satirical take on many of his songs. “My Country” is no exception.
Newman takes us on a journey back to a simpler time when everyone in the family would join together and sit around the television. He provides detailed imagery of his childhood as he and his family sat and watched the tv and how they couldn’t look away.
Unfortunately, time doesn’t stand still, and the kids eventually grow up and leave. Now the kids have TVs and families of their own, and the parents are along with their television
10. “She Watch Channel Zero?” By Public Enemy
Song Year: 1988
Collaborating with Slayer, Public Enemy released “She Watch Channel Zero” in 1988. Inspired by Gil Scott-Heron’s The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” Public Enemy delivers their signature mix of hard-hitting beats and poignant lyrics on this track.
The song explains the dangers of watching too much TV. Chuck D. explains that no matter how long you change the channel, you’ll just end up brainwashed. No matter what channel you watch, the shows are blinding you to reality.