Villains are symbols of power. After all, they are much more unbound characters than their heroic opposites. Furthermore, they are often the motive engines of their stories because heroes tend to be reactive. In contrast, villains move, thus forcing everyone else to move around them. On top of those, there is the thrill of transgression. With everything put together, it is no wonder people want to feel like a villain from time to time.
10. “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way” – Chorus
Ralph Bakshi released a couple of animated movies based on The Lord of the Rings in 1978 and 1980. “Where There’s a Whip, There’s a Way” is one of the best-known songs from those movies. It provides the perspective of the orcs, who are living previews of the eternal slavery Sauron intends for every inhabitant of Middle Earth. Sadly, a chorus performed the song, so the individual singers are unknown.
9. “You Should See Me in a Crown” – Billie Eilish
Billie Eilish took inspiration for “You Should See Me in a Crown” from a villain. Specifically, the title comes from one of Jim Moriarty’s statements on the BBC’s Sherlock series from the 2010s. For those unfamiliar, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created the character as a way to kill Sherlock Holmes. He failed because his stories were too popular. Still, subsequent works have turned Moriarty into an arch-nemesis for Holmes.
8. “My Prerogative” – Bobby Brown
Interested individuals might recognize more than one version of this song. For example, Brittney Spears did a cover in 2004. Similarly, LeBron James did a cover in 2007. Regardless, “My Prerogative” is interpretable. One can read it as a sympathetic expression of the desire to be left alone. Simultaneously, one can read it as a not-so-sympathetic expression of selfish willfulness. Much depends on the context in this as in other things.
7. “Genghis Khan” – Miike Snow
It is easy to interpret great conquerors as villains. After all, their path to glory is paved with the bones of their enemies. Yes, there are circumstances under which war is justified. However, if someone fights enough wars to become a great conqueror, chances are good their enemies aren’t the ones starting those conflicts. In any case, the song itself is also quite villainous. The viewpoint character is driven by an overwhelming sense of jealousy even though they aren’t interested in the person they are talking about. They acknowledge what they feel is wrong, but they follow their feelings anyway. For that matter, the music video ends with the villain’s presumed ex-wife going villain herself when he winds up with the hero.
6. “Castle” – Halsey
Halsey’s “Castle” is a challenge to a patriarchal system. Interestingly, she re-recorded it for The Huntsman: Winter’s War. There, it re-contextualizes both Ravenna and Freya, the Evil Queen and the Ice Queen respectively.
5. “Let It Go” – Idina Menzel
As strange as it sounds, “Let It Go” started as a villain song. This is because Elsa is another take on the Ice Queen, the villain in the fairy tale of the same name. Reportedly, “Let It Go” was the song that convinced the project’s higher-ups to change the story, thus making for something more original and more interesting. Still, it isn’t hard to see the song’s origins. Read conventionally, it is a song of liberation. The thing is. Interested individuals should always ask what the viewpoint character is being liberated from. Certainly, many villains would argue they are liberated from societal conventions needed to make societies function.
4. “Without Me” – Eminem
Spite is a powerful motivator. Eminem used “Without Me” to take shots at many of his critics. As a result, it is rather dated. Despite that, it is one of his best-known songs for excellent reasons. Catchiness is just one of them.
3. “Another One Bites the Dust” – Queen
Sometimes, straightforward songs are the best. For instance, Queen’s “Another One Bites the Dust” is about the bloodymindedness to fight one’s way through every single obstacle, whether human or otherwise. Determination is one of the most common heroic traits. Simultaneously, it is common in villains. Without it, it is hard to imagine such characters going to the extreme lengths they do.
2. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” – Lorde
The original was a Tears for Fears song. This one is the Lorde cover recorded for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. It is slow and purposeful, filled with a sense of building momentum rolling over the opposition. Content-wise, the song is what it sounds like. Not everyone is in a position to reach so high. Still, everyone should be familiar with the scramble for power wherever power exists. Back when we lived in bands, we competed for influence among our small circles of acquaintances. Nowadays, we still do that. Moreover, the expansion of our world beyond that of our ancestors has opened up more and more arenas in which interested individuals can compete for grander and grander stakes. Whether we like it or not, the desire for power is a part of human nature, meaning everyone will encounter it at some point in one way or another. This song is just very upfront about that.
1. “Defying Gravity” – Kristin Chenoweth
“Defying Gravity” is the final song for Wicked’s first act. In it, Elphaba decides to go against the Wizard of Oz, thus making it her declaration of defiance against the system rather than compliance with the same. As such, it is also the decision that puts her on the path to becoming the villain in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Strictly speaking, “Defying Gravity” is a heroic song because Wicked is a revisionistic story. That said, it isn’t hard to see it as something that a villain might sing, burning right by choosing to go against everyone and everything around them even if that means they will burn out faster for it.