Revenge songs are everywhere in modern music. There are so, so many. Cheating husbands, cheating wives, cheating business partners, you name it.
Revenge they say is a dish ‘best served cold’, and many of these songs are often dark, spiteful and even violent, but they also speak to a universal human experience: that sometimes you need to get even with those who have wronged you (though it’s never the best course of action).
So we’ve compiled a list of the best revenge songs out there. Listening to them will make you feel better if you have been betrayed, just remember revenge is rarely worth it and often does more damage to you.
- “How Do You Sleep?” by John Lennon
- “I Hope You’re Happy Now” by Elvis Costello
- “Goodbye Earl” by The Chicks
- “Brain Damage” by Eminem
- “Forget You” by Cee Lo Green
- “Songs For The Dumped” by Ben Folds Five
- “Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan
- The Mariner’s Revenge Song by The Decemberists
- Smile by Lily Allen
- “Better Than Revenge” by Taylor Swift
- “You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
- “Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé
- “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette
- “Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
- “I’ll Get Even” by Megadeth
- “Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood
- “Having A Blast” by Green Day
- “Don’t Get Mad, Get Even” by Aerosmith
- “Here Comes Revenge” by Metallica
- “Your Time Is Gonna Come” by Led Zeppelin
- “I Feel So Good” by Richard Thompson
- Songs about Revenge – Final Thoughts
“How Do You Sleep?” by John Lennon
Included on Lennon’s first post-Beatles album Imagine, How Do You Sleep is a thinly veiled, all out attack on Paul McCartney.
“Those freaks was right when they said you was dead, the one mistake you made was in your head” makes reference to the conspiracy theory that Paul was dead (which turned out to be plain wrong, obviously).
There’s cheap digs at Paul’s composition Yesterday “the only thing you done was yesterday” and an overall disdain for his music “the sound you make is muzak to my ears”.
It’s harsh, and while the song is pretty good, it’s hard listening for any Beatles’ fan.
Lennon later retracted the song, saying he realised the song was about himself and not Paul! Make of that what you will.
But don’t worry, Paul got it his own back on Too Many People, a track from his album Ram.
“I Hope You’re Happy Now” by Elvis Costello
Supposedly written about Costello’s ex-wife, this superb high-brow pop song is a spiteful post-breakup song that mocks the ex’s new boyfriend.
Written by one of the best songwriters of our generation, you’d expect some gems, and he doesn’t disappoint: “you make him sound like frozen food, his love will last forever”.
Costello is staging a full-on attack: “and I know that this will hurt you more than it hurts me” and concedes that “I never loved you anyhow”.
It’s easily one of the best songs about hating on your ex.
“I hope you’re happy now”….yeah, right!
“Goodbye Earl” by The Chicks
This song tells a story of a woman exacting the ultimate revenge (murder) on a violent husband.
The song is written by Dennis Linde, who incidentally wrote the 1972 Elvis Presley hit, “Burning Love.”.
It’s funny and slightly macabre tale of an abusive husband who had “put her in intensive care”.
He get’s his comeuppance…
“That Earl had to die, goodbye Earl, those black-eyed peas, they tasted alright to me, Earl” Good riddance Earl!
Unfortunately for him, “it turns out he was a missing person who nobody missed at all”!
“Brain Damage” by Eminem
If you didn’t already know, Eminem (Marshall Mathers) had a really hard upbringing. One of worse things was the bullying he experienced all-through school.
The song addresses a time he was bullied by “this fat kid named D’Angelo Bailey”.
After getting a beating, he takes his revenge “I’m getting you back bully”.
He grabs “some sharp objects, brooms, and foreign tools” and “beat him over the head with it ’til I broke the wood, knocked him down, stood on his chest with one foot”.
Whether the last bit actually happened, or its a classic bit of ‘revenge fiction’ from the comic books he so loves, who knows.
It’s easily one of the best songs about getting your own back (even if its fictional, the song is real).
“Forget You” by Cee Lo Green
This is the radio-friendly version of “F–k You”, Cee-Lo Green’s sweary hit (he drops 16 f-bombs in the song).
The words are directed at a friend who’s taken his girl “See you driving ’round town, with the girl I love”.
He doesn’t care though, because the girl is just a gold-digger “I pity the fool that falls in love with you oh (Oh ssh she’s a gold digger)”.
“I guess he’s an X-box, and I’m more Atari”
“Songs For The Dumped” by Ben Folds Five
If you’ve ever split up with someone and he or she still owes you money, you’ll be able to relate to this song from piano rock supremos Ben Folds Five.
“So you wanted, to take a break, slow it down some and have some space, well f&@k you too, give me my money back”
The lyrics are a great mix of anger and humour “I wish I hadn’t bought you dinner right before you dumped me”.
There’s also a random verse in Japanese!
“Positively 4th Street” by Bob Dylan
Classic outtake from Dylan’s Blonde on Blonde LP, Positively 4th Street is a scathing attack on someone. But who?
“You see me on the street, you always act surprised, you say “how are you?”, “good luck”, but ya don’t mean it”
Its likely to be about his days in Greenwich Village (he used to live on 4th street).
Could it have been about folk singer Phil Och, who Dylan had a long standing spat with? In many circles it was it was believed so.
“I used to be among the crowd you’re in with”
Whether Dylan wrote it about someone in particular, or about a particular type of person, it doesn’t really matter. It’s a great piece of writing.
The Mariner’s Revenge Song by The Decemberists
Indie band The Decemberists make literary, story-telling ballads with folk instruments such as mandolins and accordions.
The Mariner’s Revenge Song, produced by Death Cab for Cutie’s Chris Walla, is a wonderful story-in-a-song, worthy of a novel.
The story is too elaborate to summarise here, just listen and enjoy.
Smile by Lily Allen
This was Allen’s first single, and was a big hit in England.
In the song, Lily laughs at her ex-boyfriend, DJ Lester Lloyd, as he tries to win her back after being terrible to her when they were together.
The organ part was sampled from “Free Soul,” by the ’60s reggae group The Soul Brothers.
“Better Than Revenge” by Taylor Swift
This is one of Taylor’s aggressive songs in the tradition of “Picture To Burn,” but this time directed at a woman.
It is rumored that the song is directed at an actress (Camilla Belle) who Joe Jonas (Swift’s one time boyfriend) sought after their break up.
“She came along, got him alone, and let’s hear the applause/She took him faster than you could say sabotage.”
“You’re So Vain” by Carly Simon
This song is about vanity, plain and simple.
“You walked into the party, like you were walking on a yacht, your hat strategically dipped below one eye, your scarf, it was apricot”
“You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you”
But who was it directed at?
She has never specified exactly who the song was written about; rumors include Warren Beatty, Kris Kristofferson, Cat Stevens, and Mick Jagger.
In the book ‘The Record Producers’, the song’s producer Richard Perry is quoted as saying that the track is about a compilation of men Carly had previously encountered during her life, but mainly Warren Beatty.
“Irreplaceable” by Beyoncé
In this girl power anthem, Beyoncé sings from the point of view of a woman addressing her ex-lover, a low life piece of scum who had been cheating on her.
“Because you was untrue, rolling her around in the car that I bought you” she accuses him.
But there he stands in the front yard, saying “how I am such a fool, talking about how I’ll never ever find a man like you”
She reminds him “don’t you ever for a second, get to thinking you’re irreplaceable”.
It’s an empowering song for anyone who’s had the dirty done on them.
“You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette
One of the most scornful, angriest pop songs ever written.
By all accounts the song is autobiographical, and is about the actor actor Dave Coulier who she’d had a romantic involvement with at a young age (17 or 18).
He broke off the relationship with her, and she didn’t take well to it.
“I’m here, to remind you, of the mess you left when you went away”. She was, according to a Spotify interview “mortified and devastated” by what had happened.
But then she went on to become Alanis Morissette, so who got the last laugh?! She also got the inspiration for this song, so she did alright out of it.
“Since U Been Gone” by Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson won two Grammy Awards from the album Breakaway, that this song is from. She’s also the most successful winner of TV show American Idol.
The lyrics are about betrayal “How can I put it? You put me on”
But now she feels free “I can breathe for the first time”.
In the music video, you see a girl go trash an ex-boyfriends house. If you’ve been cheated on or betrayed, watching it will make you feel better.
“I’ll Get Even” by Megadeth
A lot of Megadeth songs are about revenge, “I’ll Get Even” is another example with some slightly creepy lines.
The protagonist is “thinking about the times, when you lied to me”.
He’s “gonna get even with you, you better look behind you” which sounds slightly stalkerish.
He doesn’t say how precisely, but it doesn’t sound like he’s going to give her flowers.
“Before He Cheats” by Carrie Underwood
Petrol heads look away now.
This song is about your own back by vandalising his car. Yes, while he’s dancing with a “bleached-blond tramp” she’s out in the parking lot trashing his “souped-up four-wheel drive”.
She carves her name into his leather seats and takes a baseball bat (a a Louisville slugger) to his headlights.
Personally, I think the car should have been spared. It’s not the cars fault that its owner is a moron!
The song won Carrie Underwood a ton of awards, including Female Vocalist Of The Year at the 2007 Country Music Association Awards.
“Having A Blast” by Green Day
This song is another angry number with a thoughtful message at the end.
Lead singer Billie Joy Armstrong sings about “taking all you down with me, explosives duct taped to my spine”. Bit disturbing, right?
Quite what he’s angry about isn’t said, but he’s enraged, that’s for sure.
The final verse is more reflective though. He asks “do you ever build up all the small things in your head?” to a big problem that adds up to nothing.
He’s stating that we often get so wound up about small stuff, things that “add up to nothing”, and that we shouldn’t bother.
“To me it’s nothing” he says. It’s a good message, stop taking yourself so seriously.
“Don’t Get Mad, Get Even” by Aerosmith
Starting off with a great bluesy riff, this song explodes into a rocking number with the perfect revenge message “don’t get mad, get even”!
When “you catch your girlfriend, with her skirt hiked up to here, honey, don’t get mad, get even” Tyler sings.
“The times they be a-changing” (nice little nod to Dylan there) and “the blind lead the blind”.
The only solution is to get even. That means keeping a cool head, not getting angry, but planning how you’re going to rise above.
“Here Comes Revenge” by Metallica
Songs about revenge are a staple of metal bands.
In this track from Metallica, James Hetfield takes a different twist, and sings about the damage revenge can do to the one seeking revenge.
“Revenge, you can’t undo, revenge, it’s killing me, revenge, set me free”
Perhaps revenge itself is a poison chalice? Must you always seek revenge, or are there better ways of dealing with the injustice you’ve experienced?
“Your Time Is Gonna Come” by Led Zeppelin
Played with an unusual 10-string steel guitar, with Jones on an organ in church mode, Your Time Is Gonna Come has a good message about knowing when to say ‘enough is enough’ and move on.
The woman in the song has been mistreating her man “you been bad to me woman”.
“Lyin’ cheatin’ hurtin that’s all you seem to do, messin’ around with every guy in town”
He decides to leave her, “don’t care what you say ’cause I’m goin’ away to stay”, in the knowledge that he’ll have the last laugh.
Sometimes walking away is the best move. Plenty more fish in the sea.
“I Feel So Good” by Richard Thompson
The unusual portrayal of a convict just released from jail who “feels so good” he’s going to break somebody’s heart tonight.
“Now it’s my time to have all the fun” with a suitcase full of fifty pound notes.
He’s getting his own back on society for locking him up all those years.
Songs about Revenge – Final Thoughts
We’ve heard country songs, rock songs, metal, and pop songs about revenge. It’s a truly universal topic!
On a related subject, be sure to check our list of betrayal songs.