Anyone who claims to not care about money must be a monk, a trust-fund kid, or a complete liar. Money makes the world go ‘round, and while there’s no disputing its hold over mankind, it means different things to different people. Cash can represent freedom, victory, power, validation, and security. It can be a means to an end or the be-all, end-all of one’s existence. It can’t buy you happiness, but it might get you a date on Friday night. All of that complexity carries over into what follows: the 15 greatest songs about money. Spin these hits on your yacht, in line at the unemployment agency, or anywhere in between.
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"C.R.E.A.M.," Wu-Tang Clan
The acronym in the title stands for “cash rules everything around me”—less a condemnation of materialism than a statement of fact. The drive for dough is especially pronounced in the urban war zones describes by these Staten Island rappers, who’ll sling white stuff or turn the streets red in pursuit of the almighty green. “Neglected for now, but yo, it’s got to be accepted,” raps Inspectah Deck to close his classic second verse. “That what? That life is hectic.”
Chart Peak: No. 60 on Hot 100, April 23, 1994; No. 8 on Hot Rap Songs, April 23, 1994
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There’s a good reason this is the highest-charting U.S. single for these Aussie hard-rock legends. Over a quintessential Angus Young riff, singer Brian Johnson equates love with success, describing a world where “fine hotels and big cigars” get you someone pretty on your arm. It might be cynical, but as with most AC/DC tunes, this one feels like a party.
Chart Peak: No. 23 on Hot 100, Feb. 9, 1991; No. 3 on Mainstream Rock, Jan. 26, 1991
"Money," The Flying Lizards
It was all in the delivery for these U.K. weirdoes, who turned an old Motown song famously covered by The Beatles into an icy 1979 New Wave tune that truly captures the essence of the lyrics. Singing with a tight-jawed arrogance that suggests she’s wearing a fur coat and clutching a golden cigarette holder, Deborah Evans-Stickland defines the decade about to dawn.
Chart Peak: No. 50 on Hot 100, Jan. 19, 1980
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"Rich Girl," Hall and Oates
There’s a danger to coasting through life, as H&O make clear on this 1976 chart-topper. “You can rely on the old man’s money,” Daryl Hall tells some well-heeled would-be lover who’s too busy burning through daddy’s cash to solve her problems or engage in meaningful relationships. For as pissed as Hall is, he kinda makes you feel bad for this girl.
Chart Peak: No. 1 (two weeks) on the Hot 100, March 26, 1977
"It's All About the Benjamins," Puff Daddy & The Family
There’s something poetic about rappers celebrating their rise from the projects to the penthouse by referencing one of America’s founding fathers. Puffy, Biggie, and the gang possess many little green portraits of Benjamin Franklin—$100 bills, y’all—and on this over-the-top ‘90s rap classic, they show little fiscal restraint. The best line goes to Jadakiss, who rhymes “Cristal” with “three-quarter reptiles.” Dude’s set from his champagne glass down to his exotic kicks.
Chart Peak: No. 1 (six weeks) on Hot Rap Songs, Dec. 13, 1997
"Money Don't Matter 2 Night," Prince and the NPG
Instead of worrying about your bank account, Prince sings on this 1992 truth-soul groover, you ought to balance your spiritual checkbook. “That’s when you find out that you’re better off making sure your soul’s alright,” the Purple One sings, painting money as something that leads to war and greed and other things that stand in the way of love. He was a wise man.
Chart Peak: No. 23 on the Hot 100, May 16, 1992
"Danny's Song," Loggins and Messina
A lot of people figure this 1971 soft-rock fave is called “Even Though We Ain’t Got Money (I’m So In Love With You, Honey),” a title Loggins easily could’ve used. Danny is actually his brother, whose perspective he sings from on this sweet song about settling down and starting a family. “And in the morning, when I rise,” the narrator tells his missus, “you bring a tear of joy to my eyes.” (At some point, of course, he’ll have to stop crying and go get a job.)
"Gold Digger," Kanye West Feat. Jamie Foxx
Actually, Yeezy is saying she’s a gold digger on this 2005 smash, which features Jamie Foxx doing the Ray Charles impression that earned him an Oscar. Amid all the vitriol and cynicism (“We want prenup! We want prenup!”), Kanye makes the case for sticking with your broke man and having some faith he’ll one day make it. “This week, he mopping floors,” ‘Ye says. “Next week it’s the fries.” Week after that, you never know.
Chart Peak: No. 1 (ten weeks) on Hot 100, Sept. 17, 2005
"Got Money," Lil Wayne Feat. T-Pain
Anyone can celebrate getting cash. Lil Wayne’s absurdist glee on this 2008 hit, however, is pretty damn unique. Weezy gives himself a new nickname, Mr. Make-It-Rain-On-The-Hoes, and then warns everyone in the club to bring an umbrella (“ella-ella-ella-ay”) to shield from the dollars and jewels he’s throwing down in the VIP section. And to think, some people save for rainy days.
Chart Peak: No. 10 on Hot 100, Sept. 17, 2005
"Fuck Up Some Commas," Future
As any kid in math class can attest, the bigger the number, the more commas it has. Future has that lesson down pat, and on this 2014 smash, he celebrates the joys of addition (“hundred thou, another hundred thou”) and subtraction (“let’s have a money shower”). With his cars, guns, and drugs, the Atlanta rhymer has swagger to the fiftieth power.
Chart Peak: No. 55 on the Hot 100, June 13, 2005; No. 11 on Hot Rap Songs, June 27, 2015
"Mo Money, Mo Problems," Notorious BIG ft. Puff Daddy and Mase
Working from a sample of Diana Ross’ self-empowerment anthem “I’m Coming Out,” the Bad Boy crew touches on the troubles that come with making bank. In the third verse, Biggie has the feds on his back, tapping both of his phones. They probably heard him talking about Rolies, mounds of cash, and all the large living he was doing before his life was sadly cut short. But that’s the postscript—on this glossy 1997 flosser’s anthem, the party is still going.
Chart Peak: No. 1 (two weeks) on the Hot 100, August 30, 1997
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"She Works Hard for the Money," Donna Summer
Disco queen Donna Summer goes synth-rock on this 1983 ode to a woman busting her hump for tips. “She’ll never sell out,” Summer sings, right before the insanely ‘80s sax and guitar solos. If the music is a little dated, the story is not. Be good to your waitresses and bathroom attendants—they deserve all the respect in the world.
Chart Peak: No. 3 on the Hot 100, Aug. 6, 1983
"Opportunities," Pet Shop Boys
This one starts out like every great scheme. “I’ve got the brains,” Neil Tennant sings. “You’ve got the looks. Let’s make lots of money.” Whether he’s talking about doing deals or committing crimes, Tennant infuses this sophisticated synth-pop jam with just enough wit, style, and possibly irony to make it seem like he’s going places.
Chart Peak: No. 10 on the Hot 100, Aug. 2, 1986
"Money for Nothing," Dire Straits
A tongue-in-cheek critique of MTV rockers that naturally became a massive MTV hit, “Money for Nothing” features a killer Mark Knopfler guitar riff and guest vocals from Sting. Knopfler wrote the song from the perspective of workaday blokes watching frilly rockers prance around on TV, getting “money for nothing and chicks for free.” Knopfler seems critical of both the rockers and the Joe Six-Packs, two classes of hard workers that probably share more in common than they think.
Chart Peak: No. 1 (three weeks) on Hot 100, Sept. 21, 1985
"Can't Buy Me Love," The Beatles
The irony of future billionaire Paul McCartney singing “I don’t care too much for money” isn’t lost on anyone. But he really sounds like means it on this 1964 classic. Also worth nothing: the joy with which the Fab Four sing about the possibility of loving someone for all the right reasons. It was no accident these guys became filthy rich.
Chart Peak: No. 1 (five weeks) on Hot 100, April 4, 1964