If you haven’t yet made your New Year’s resolutions, we’re here to help. We’ve listed the Top 11 songs about bad habits you should resolve to change this year, next year — and every year, honestly, if you’re unable to stick to it this time around.
Most people will find one or two of their behaviors here. If you need to make all 11 of these New Year’s resolutions, seek professional help …
11. Material Girl by Madonna (Materialism)
After its release in 1984, Madonna said that Material Girl reflected her character. “I’m very career-oriented,” Madonna told Company magazine. “You are attracted to people who are ambitious that way, too, like in the song Material Girl. You are attracted to men who have material things because that’s what pays the rent and buys you furs. That’s the security. That lasts longer than emotions.”
In the music video, Madonna imitates Marilyn Monroe’s performance of Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend from the 1953 film Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Madonna later regretted that the song’s success gave her the nickname “Material Girl.”
“Talk about the media hanging on a phrase and misinterpreting the damn thing as well,” Madonna said in Madonna: An Intimate Biography. “When I’m ninety, I’ll still be the Material Girl.”
Material Girl by Madonna
10. Jealous Guy by John Lennon (Jealousy)
John Lennon’s Jealous Guy first took shape during the Beatles’ time in India with Maharishi Mahesh Yogi. Inspired by the guru, Lennon wrote Child of Nature, a song that never appeared on the Beatles’ studio albums. In 1971, Lennon kept the melody and added new lyrics about Yoko Ono to create Jealous Guy.
“The lyrics explain themselves clearly: I was a very jealous, possessive guy. Toward everything,” Lennon recalled in All We Are Saying. “A very insecure male. A guy who wants to put his woman in a little box, lock her up, and just bring her out when he feels like playing with her. She’s not allowed to communicate with the outside world – outside of me – because it makes me feel insecure.”
But Paul McCartney said in 1985 that he believed Lennon wrote Jealous Guy about him. “He used to say, ‘Everyone is on the McCartney bandwagon,’ the singer told Playgirl magazine. “He wrote I’m Just a Jealous Guy, and he said that the song was about me. So I think it was just some kind of jealousy.”
Jealous Guy by John Lennon
9. Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen (Gluttony)
“With Fat Bottomed Girls, I was trying to write about the feelings I had about being on the road,” Queen guitarist Brian May told Uncut magazine. “Good title, too, in my opinion.” The 1978 track was released as a double A-side with Bicycle Race. The two are often played together on classic rock stations.
May told Absolute Radio that Fat Bottomed Girls was inspired by fans who attend their concerts: “A lot of girls and boys who just devote their lives to living the dream in their particular way. So this song was really inspired by them. And they didn’t have to be beautiful girls, they didn’t have to be pretty boys or whatever, they’re just people whose hearts were in it. They’re the people you’re speaking to. They’re the people you see in your line of sight when you’re playing on a tour. In a sense they’re the lifeblood because in a sense they’re your first line of connection to an audience.”
Fat Bottomed Girls by Queen
8. You’re So Vain by Carly Simon (Vanity)
Fans have long debated the identity of the man who inspired Carly Simon’s You’re So Vain. Warren Beatty tops the list of suspected celebrities that includes James Taylor, Kris Kristofferson and David Bowie. Mick Jagger, another suspect, performed backing vocals on the song.
“He happened to call at the studio while I was doing the background vocals with Harry Nilsson,” Simon explained on CBS This Morning. “Mick said, ‘Hey, whatcha doin’?’ and I said, ‘We’re doing some backup vocals on a song of mine, why don’t you come down and sing with us?’
“Harry was such a gentleman, he knew that the chemistry was between me and Mick in terms of the singing and so he sort of bowed out and said, ‘You know, the two of you have a real blend – you should do it yourselves.’”
Four decades later, Simon has still not solved the mystery of the song’s inspiration for curious fans. “You know, I could never solve it,” Simon said on CBS Sunday Morning. “Because if I solved it, then no one would have anything to talk to me about.”
You’re So Vain by Carly Simon
7. Cruel to Be Kind by Nick Lowe (Cruelty)
The twisted logic of Nick Lowe’s Cruel to Be Kind was first recorded with a Philadelphia sound by Lowe’s band Brinsley Schwarz. “Originally it was sort of a rip-off of The Love I Lost by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes,” Lowe told Yep Roc Records. “We weren’t good enough to play it that way, but it was fun to attempt to play that sophisticated stuff. We tried to record it on the last Brinsleys album that was really quite poor.”
Lowe’s solo power pop version became his only Top 40 hit in 1979. “I know a lot of people think that for one-hit wonders, like I suppose I am, that one tune can be a real millstone around the neck. They think you can’t get out from under it. There is this one thing that puts food on the table and shoes on your kids’ feet, but you loathe it. Well I don’t feel that at all about Cruel to be Kind. I love doing it, it cheers people up and it’s a cool little tune, and I’m very lucky.”
Cruel to Be Kind by Nick Lowe
6. Southern Man by Neil Young (Prejudice)
Neil Young wrote Southern Man as an indictment of the South’s racist past. Young’s lyrics evoked the era of slavery and cross burning. Beach Boys drummer Dennis Dragon recalled that Young, a member of Buffalo Springfield in 1968, wrote the song during a tour of the South. Dragon and Young were eating at a diner when Dragon overheard some good old boys.
“There were some guys sitting across the way who were looking at us with our long hair,” Dragon said in Neil Young: Reflections in Broken Glass. “They were planning to beat us up when we got out of the place… Fortunately some of the other guys arrived and we waited it out and nothing happened, but Neil was really upset – just the vibration, the ignorance, the stupidity; he’s a very sensitive guy. That did it. He went straight to work on Southern Man.”
Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd recorded Sweet Home Alabama as an answer to Southern Man. The line “I hope Neil Young will remember, a Southern man don’t need him around anyhow” didn’t bother Young. “Oh, they didn’t really put me down!” Young told Mojo magazine. “But then again, maybe they did! (laughs) But not in a way that matters… I think Sweet Home Alabama is a great song. I’ve actually performed it live a couple of times myself.”
Southern Man by Neil Young
Sweet Home Alabama by Lynyrd Skynyrd
5. Lyin’ Eyes by the Eagles (Lying)
Written by Don Henley and Glenn Frey, Lyin’ Eyes tells the tale of an unfaithful young woman who cheats on her older husband. With vocals by Frey, the song reached number two in 1975. The inspiration for Lyin’ Eyes was a woman the band spotted in a famous Hollywood haunt.
“Songs like Lyin’ Eyes, with its incredibly evocative lyrics, enhanced our reputation for not only playing great music but for telling a story, too,” guitarist Don Felder wrote in Heaven and Hell: My Life in the Eagles (1974-2001). “The idea for that particular track came one night in Dan Tana’s restaurant, next to the Troubadour. We were sitting at a table when we noticed a pretty young blonde with a much older but clearly wealthy man. Glenn laughed and turned to the group and said, ‘Look at those lying eyes.’”
The band immediately began to write the lyrics for the song on cocktail napkins. In two evenings, said Frey, the song was completed.
Lyin’ Eyes by the Eagles
4. One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer by George Thorogood (Alcoholism)
George Thorogood’s ode to alcohol is a medley of two songs popularized by bluesman John Lee Hooker: House Rent Boogie and One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer. The tune opens as Thorogood is booted from his room for failure to pay the rent. Next stop, the barroom, where he drowns his sorrows in three types of booze.
“I had an album by John Lee Hooker called Live at the Café au Go Go,” Thorogood recalled to Ear of Newt. “And then I went to see him at the Café au Go Go. He did One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer in both sets, and I noticed that people were dancing – and the people that were dancing were all women! So I said, ‘Wow, this has got a hook!’”
“There are certain songs, by certain people, that need to be exposed – some really good material,” Thorogood told Blues Blast. “Of course, when I went to all the record labels, they said, ‘You don’t know what you’re talking about. Bourbon, Scotch and Beer? That’ll never catch on.’”
One Bourbon, One Scotch, One Beer by George Thorogood
3. Bad Girls by Donna Summer (Promiscuity)
Bad Girls was a monster hit in 1979, topping the rock, R&B and disco charts. The song was inspired by an incident that happened to Nellie Prestwood, a secretary in the PR department of Donna Summer’s label, Casablanca Records. Police profiled Prestwood, who was suspected of being a prostitute. That prompted Summer to write a song that empathizes with working girls.
“A lot of people don’t realize how connected we all are,” Summer told Pop Matters. “Your compassion really kind of feeds your information about a person. You look at someone and your heart identifies with their pain. You don’t know why it does. There’s just something in them and you go, ‘Oh, that person needs me. I need to touch that person. I need to say something nice about that person. I feel that person.’”
And the “toot-toots” and “beep-beeps” that Summer adds to the track? The singer explained that the noises were meant to evoke the sound of car horns used to attract prostitutes on the sidewalk.
Bad Girls by Donna Summer
2. Piggies by the Beatles (Greed)
Piggies, George Harrison’s whimsical dig at greedy people, appeared on the Beatles’ White Album in 1968, a time when activists often called police “pigs.” John Lennon combined his own snorts with sound effects from Abbey Road’s audio library to create the swinish background noises. “There’s a tape called Animals And Bees (Volume 35) which includes pigs. It’s from an old EMI 78 rpm record and the Beatles may have used a combination of that and their own voices,” engineer Stuart Eltham recalled in The Complete Beatles Recording Sessions. “That always works well – the new voices hide the 78 rpm scratchiness, the original record hides the fact that some of the sounds are man-made.”
Like other songs on the LP, Piggies was misinterpreted by Charles Manson as a call to kill the rich. Harrison denied the song’s connection to Manson or the police in his autobiography I Me Mine.
“Piggies is a social comment. I was stuck for one line in the middle until my mother came up with the lyric, ‘What they need is a damn good whacking,’ which is a nice simple way of saying they need a good hiding. It needed to rhyme with ‘backing,’ ‘lacking,’ and had absolutely nothing to do with American policemen or Californian shagnasties!”
Piggies by the Beatles
1. I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones (Drug Abuse)
The Ramones originally released I Wanna Be Sedated on their 1978 LP Road to Ruin. In Punk Rock Blitzkrieg: My Life as a Ramone, drummer Marky Ramone describes first hearing a demo tape of the song.
“It was catchy and huge even in stripped-down form on a cheap cassette tape. It was pop but without sacrificing hardness… the song captured being on the road just about perfectly.”
Sedated was written by singer Joey Ramone during a 1977 British tour. “Danny Fields was our first manager and he would work us to death. We would be on the road 360 days a year,” Joey recalled on MTV’s Unplugged. “We were there at Christmas time and Christmas time, London shuts down. There’s nothing to do, there’s nowhere to go.
“Me and Dee Dee Ramone were sharing a room in the hotel, and we were watching The Guns of Navarone. So there was nothing to do, I mean, here we are in London finally, and this is what we are doing, watching American movies in the hotel.”
I Wanna Be Sedated by the Ramones