Narcissism (or Narcissistic Personality Disorder) is when a person develops a wildly inflated sense of self-importance along with a compulsive need to always be right, be liked, and be the center of attention.
Sound like someone you know? It’s believed around 3-5% of the population could be diagnosed with NPD, but that number is estimated to be much higher if you only consider people who show signs of a narcissistic personality.
From Ted Bundy to Steve Jobs, the list of famous narcissists and their impact on our lives is long. Here, we’ve compiled the top 15 songs written about, for, or by narcissists.
The Top 15 Songs about Narcissists
1. Backstabbers – The O’Jays
We’re starting off by going back to the 60s to a song where emotions are running high. Co-writer John Whitehead has mentioned that the personal issues he was having with people close to him at the time were what inspired this song.
I don’t have to go out on too big a limb to guess there was betrayal involved? Backstabbers make the list because, in many areas, the cruel tactic of betrayal is part of the narcissist’s standard playbook, smile to the face, stab in the back.
Sure, being full of yourself doesn’t automatically make you a backstabber, but having Narcissistic Personality Disorder almost certainly does. Like the song says, “All the time they want to take your place, The back stabbers, They smilin’ in your face.”
2. Don’t Come Around Here No More – Tom Petty
We’ve heard a lot about what narcissists might do, but what about the people who are hurt by them? What should they do? How should they feel? The answer is in this Tom Petty tune. No stranger to penning songs with an edge. Petty lays out his own epiphany in terms of how to deal with toxicity, liars, and narcissists.
The negative consequences of extreme narcissism can only be understood in the context of those who have to deal with them. That’s what this song focuses on, enough is enough.
3. Me, Myself, and I – De la Soul
This 1989 hip-hop/R&B track is one you likely haven’t heard of but it makes it to number thirteen on our list of songs about narcissists. The title doesn’t exactly leave much to the imagination, but an alternate title could easily have been An Ode to Me. What could be more narcissistic than singing a self-congratulatory anthem celebrating yourself?
A thinly-veiled argument can be made about celebrating individuality. I suppose, but let’s face it if you have to work so hard to tell people that you don’t really care, who are you really kidding?
4. I don’t care anymore – Phil Collins
Perhaps the narcissist’s biggest fear is when the jig is up, the show’s over, and his true nature has been revealed. What then? Does he give up? Repent? Ask for forgiveness and try to find a path back into people’s good graces? Of course not, he just doesn’t care anymore. That’s the message coming through in this obstinate Phil Collins song.
Expert Tip: It’s a song about loneliness, but not the kind that’s cast upon you, the kind you choose for yourself. The deeply stubborn nature of a man unwilling to bend to anyone’s whim, unwilling to change his ways, and unwilling to admit error is what put this song on our narcissist’s list.
“I don’t care now what you say, I don’t play the same games you play, Okay Phil, we get it -you don’t care.”
5. Rap God – Eminem
Is there anything more narcissistic than a God complex? Early Eminem wouldn’t have any place on this list. The rapper from Detroit started out from humble beginnings, generally kept it real, and spent a good part of his career embroiled in problems and controversy many of which are reflected in much of his earlier work. But things have changed.
Having gone from being the stick-out-like-a-sore-thumb white kid from 8-mile to an international mega-star. Eminem blossomed into quite the narcissist in his later years, and no song better encapsulates that than this six-minute epic from The Marshall LP2.
The song combines hating the haters, respecting the elders (a touch of humility is left yet!), and putting on a dazzling display of word-wizardry that could, maybe, begin to make the argument for him.
6. Liar – Rollins Band
“Now you’re desperate and in need of human contact and then you meet me and your whole world changes because everything I say is everything you’ve ever wanted to hear.”
If this song is not about a pathologically lying narcissist, then I am sober. Henry Rollins does not mince words in this honest expose. The song is the stream of consciousness most narcissists have running in their heads as they go about a life of constant manipulation and chicanery.
Rollins even lays out his tactics: “I’ll hide behind a smile and understanding eyes and I’ll tell you things that you already know, so you can say I really identify with you, and all the time that you’re needing me is just the time that I’m bleeding you.”
7. Linger – The Cranberries
The song that put The Cranberries on the map is from the perspective of a person who met someone like Henry Rollins in the previous song. Arguably the song’s most memorable and powerful line is also a heartbreaking one: “You know I’m such a fool for you.” This song culminates into a similar albeit more emotional and tragic realization as Tom Petty in Don’t Come Around Here No More.
Expert Tip: The song is about being betrayed by a soldier a liar, and a narcissist who broke her heart. Songwriter Dolores O’Riordan later admitted that she wrote the song about “the way I reacted to infatuation.”
8. You’re so Vain – Carly Simon
Anyone who’s ever dated or befriended a narcissist will instantly recognize the behavior described in this 1972 Grammy Hall of Fame inductee by Carly Simon. There is plenty of speculation about who the song is about, with heavy hitters Mick Jagger and Warren Beatty in the mix, but there isn’t any definitive evidence.
Simon cleverly has fun with this ambiguity by throwing in the line: “You’re so vain
You probably think this song is about you I mean if that doesn’t hook a narcissist. I don’t know what will.”
9. Under my Thumb – The Rolling Stones
This 1966 Stones tune is the narcissist’s double-whammy. The song describes a man getting out from under the thumb of a woman who seemed to be a bit controlling, narcissistic even only to then firmly place her under his own thumb with the force of a thousand narcissistic suns.
Takes one to know one, maybe? The song was not without controversy as many interpreted the protagonist to simply be controlling and emotionally abusive. Either way, narcissism is strong with this one.
10. You don’t own me – Lesley Gore
Often regarded as one of the first female public figures to speak openly about women’s independence. Lesley Gore just misses out on the top five with this 1963 release. The immortal words most narcissists have probably heard, and everyone who has known a narcissist has most definitely thought, you don’t own me.
The song has stood the test of time, appeared in Hollywood movies in the 90s and 2000s, and has become an anthem of sorts for any woman who feels controlled or otherwise stifled by a controlling, narcissistic partner.
11. I want you to want me – Cheap Trick
The more oblivious one is to their narcissistic tendencies, the deeper entrenched they will become in their self-centeredness. It’s easy to forget this song is about a narcissist because of the catchy tune and familiar melody.
If you’re not careful and many people are not, it may even come off as a love song. But love song it is not. One of the most infuriating things to narcissists is not getting what they want, and this song perfectly captures how such a person might react to being reneged.
12. I’m too Sexy – Right Said Fred
The closer we get to the end. the more brazen and showy our songs become. There’s little point dancing around the issue. They know they’re narcissists. They’re proud of it. They’re happy about it. “And you’re still dancing. So what’s the problem? Right Said Fred is too sexy for his love, his shirt, the party in Milan, New York, and Japan. In fact, he’s too sexy for the song, but not too sexy for our list of songs about narcissists.
13. Blank Space – Taylor Swift
It was difficult to include only one song by Taylor Swift on this list. At one point I considered making a separate “Top 5 Taylor Swift songs about Narcissism”, but it seemed a bit much.
Arguably her darkest song, Swift holds back no punches as she transforms into the personification of a mean, manipulative, narcissistic monster. She sweeps through a laundry list of scary scenarios and erratic behaviors and does so with the sweet charm of a psychopath.
It is perhaps this underlying sweetness that adds an even sharper edge to the words. One can’t hear this song and help but wonder if Napoleon didn’t have a Taylor Swift complex.
14. My way – Frank Sinatra
“An oldie but a goodie. Don’t be seduced by the velvet voice and smooth piano, this is a quintessential narcissistic song. I’ll make it clear I’ll state my case, of which I’m certain.” It’s about a man whose insistence on doing everything his way and indeed has done everything his way is a great element of pride for him. Ain’t that the case for them all.
As discussed before, this song paints the picture of the purest type of narcissist one that remains blind to their tendencies and even sees them as a source of strength. There is perhaps no more significant appeal to a narcissist than a perpetual parade of things happening their way.
15. Narcissus – Alanis Morisette
“Okay, I know what you’re thinking. It’s a little on the nose, but hear me out. Better yet, hear her out.” One of Alan Morissette’s lesser-known songs tops our list of songs about narcissists.
Leaving zero room for interpretation, the tune melodically touches on the many toxic flaws of narcissistic people, while simultaneously acknowledging people’s weaknesses in being drawn to them.
This same duality of being drawn to that which has hurt you is evident across multiple songs on this list (and countless others that didn’t make it).
Many of Morisette’s examples are classic staples of narcissistic behavior: I know you’ve never really apologized for anything I know you’ve never really taken responsibility I know you’re not really into conflict resolution or seeing both sides of every equation or having an uninterrupted conversation.”
What narcissists are afraid of any talk of healthiness, connectedness, resolving this, selflessness, working at this, being of service. And how many tend to react under pressure or scrutiny:
“You (go) running for the door. You go back to the women who will dance the dance. You go back to your friends who will lick your ass. You go back to ignoring all the rest of us. You go back to the center of your universe. Damn. She’s not wrong, but damn.”
Perhaps the song’s most profound message comes in the final verse, where she admits:
“I don’t know why I still feel affected by you. And there’s the rub.” In the album’s track-by-track commentary.
Morisette acknowledged this by further admitting: “It’s that dichotomy of loving someone and really wanting it to work and yet at the same time, being totally repulsed by the qualities that are being presented and the pain that comes from it.”
That’s a doozy. What have we learned? Our relationship with liars, narcissists and those who hurt us is complex. At the same time, it’s easy to see, know, or be told what “the right” thing to do it’s often the furthest thing from easy. Sometimes, it may even seem impossible.
Conversely, these songs tell us that narcissists also have a story to tell, albeit one that people are less willing to hear.
Perhaps in the future, we can imagine a world where we get to love the narcissists in our lives, so long as they treat us well and have the courage and fortitude to toss them to the curb when they don’t. Who knows, maybe everyone will benefit?