The band has a flair for theatrics, something which has earned them their status as one of the world’s biggest stadium rock acts, and this theatrical genius is also reflected by the band’s lyrical content. You could never describe Muse as being shallow, with their body of work (particularly post-2000) tackling high concepts such as economics, drone warfare, and government oppression. The band have seven studio albums under their belt and have sold millions of records across the world. They have even won two Grammys and two Brit Awards, as well as a prestigious Ivor Novello award. Since their inception in the 90’s, Muse have gone from strength to strength, with each album being more ambitious and grandiose than the last. Only time will tell what the future holds for the band, but you can rest assured, it will be great.
# 10 – United States of Eurasia
Our Top 10 Muse Songs list opens up with this deep cut from the Muse album The Resistance. The United States of Eurasia is one of the bands most conceptually and musically theatrical songs, and although its pomp might put some listeners off, its sheer boldness makes it worthy of a place on this list.
The Resistance is a concept album, loosely based on George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, and nowhere is this more evident than on this track, which references unwinnable wars and systemic injustice, not to mention the song’s title, which is a nod to one of the book’s three warring super-states.
The track begins slowly, with a quiet and contemplative piano riff, but as the song goes on this develops into a crescendo so Queen-inspired that you could be mistaken for thinking it’s a lost track. The epic guitars and drums meld perfectly together with an Asian-inspired orchestral piece, making the whole thing sound like it’s part of a Muse rock opera.
United States of Eurasia sees Muse at their most high concept, showing how rock and classical music can work together to tell a story and create a thought-provoking piece of musical art.
# 9 – Madness
Continuing our Top 10 Muse Songs list is this underrated track comes from the band’s sixth album The 2nd Law (2012), and it sounds like nothing the band have ever produced. At the core of the song is a repetitive vocal hook which is partnered with a pulsing, almost EDM-inspired, synth. The band has utilized dance/synth elements in the past, but this was the first time they had properly taken advantage of this harsher modern electronic trend.
Despite the song’s title, Madness is actually a rather laid back and relaxing track; perhaps this is because the lyrics see Bellamy reflecting on some madness of the past rather than him being currently plagued with it. The song was written after Bellamy had an argument with his girlfriend and, indeed, the track is actually quite sweet. Although the bridge sees Bellamy flex his guitar muscles during a stirring solo, the song borders on R&B in some places. Madness lives up to its name, but not in the ways you might expect; this is a bonkers track with an irresistible earworm, and it sounds like nothing you’d expect from Muse. An essential, if odd, modern classic.
# 8 – Feeling Good
There’s a reason this version of Nina Simone’s classic song is often written about as being one of the best cover versions of all time, as should be immediately obvious, even on first listen. Muse took the relatively stripped back jazz production of the original and took it up to the next level, replacing brass with some heavy guitar work and exceptionally frenetic drumming.
While Simone’s version feels as if it’s describing a personal victory, and that her future is bright, the Muse interpretation has a much more threatening and ominous feel; with the swelling and brooding instrumentation somehow suggesting that whilst the song’s protagonist may be feeling good, this doesn’t bode well for the rest of the world. While it might seem odd to include a cover version on a list such as this, thanks to the band’s next level rock refinement of the song, Feeling Good has, without doubt, earned its place as one of the most essential Muse Songs.
# 7 – Dead Inside
This opening track from 2015’s Drones was the public’s first taste of a sound which the band promised would tone down the orchestral and electronic elements of the past. But don’t let that fool you into thinking this would result in a stripped back or vanilla Muse, as Dead Inside is actually one of the band’s most interesting productions to date.
One of the key themes of Drones is dehumanization, and this resonates particularly well with the instrumental of this track. With its low-resolution fuzzy bass, distorted guitar solos and ceaseless drums – not to mention the brief vocoder sample – much of the song feels somehow mechanical. That’s not to say it feels boring or mindless, but rather that it’s an incessant cacophony of intricate noise, which somehow sounds like it’s been produced by a genius-level musical artificial intelligence. Bellamy’s vocals provide the human heart of the song, at least until the twist at the end when it’s revealed that the protagonist’s lover’s coldness has resulted in the hero himself becoming dead inside.
This multi-layered Muse masterpiece takes multiple listens to fully comprehend, and yet is immensely powerful and evocative even the first time you hear it. Dead Inside takes listeners on an aural journey and is one of those Muse Songs listeners will never forget.
# 6 –Hysteria
The third single from Absolution (2002), Hysteria is most notable for it’s astonishingly accomplished bass-line. The bass riff is jagged, funky and sinister, and, even more than the drums, forms the heart of the song. The track begins with just the extraordinary bass-line – further underlining its importance to the track – before the drums and a squealing guitar riff kicks in.
Bellamy’s vocals are as wonderful as ever, impressing with his falsetto during the verses before delivering a yearning sing-along chorus that it is almost impossible to resist. This track is somewhat reminiscent of Rage Against The Machine, with it’s dynamic and unstoppable instrumental, and it’s incredibly cinematic – you can picture it playing in an action film whilst a super-spy weaves in and out of on-coming traffic.
NME named Hysteria as the best bass line of all time, beating the likes of Queen and Michael Jackson. This should give you some idea of just how truly remarkable it is. Thankfully, the Muse songs other elements are just as successful, working together to create a genuinely stunning song.
# 5 – Time Is Running Out
Another track from Absolution (with yet another funky and distorted bass line), as the title of the album suggests, this Muse Songs era concerned itself with themes relating to the end of the world. You might assume Time Is Running Out ties into this, however, the lyrics of the song tell a different story.
The song is actually about the end of a toxic relationship, with time running out for the couple in question rather than for the world as a whole. The song perfectly illustrates this desperate need for the protagonist to escape his lover, with the urgent drums and intense guitar riffs capturing the feeling of impending doom and the need to escape. Similarly, Matt Bellamy’s vocals – especially during a creepy section at the end of the first verse and during the pre-chorus – sound suitably pained, with every syllable pumped full of anxiety, distress, and conviction.
Time Is Running Out is one of the band’s most recognizable songs among casual fans and, hopefully, it’s hypnotic vocals and creepy tone will inspire them to further explore the weird and extraordinary world of Muse.
# 4 – Knights of Cydonia
Named after a region on Mars that features seemingly human-like rock formations, this track from 2006’s Black Holes and Revelations, is one of Muse’s most peculiar – and genius – creations. The song opens with a Doctor Who-style sound effect, followed by the sounds of horses and laser-guns – quite a statement to make. After this, the non-stop drum beat and some Wild West-inspired guitar begins, but this Spaghetti Western in space is soon interrupted by a surf rock-like twang, as an alien-sounding guitar riff begins. All this in the first minute! Muse bassist Chris Wolstenholme once described Knights of Cydonia as “40 years of rock history in six minutes, ” and it’s not hard to see why.
Once the vocals finally kick in, they are appropriately ethereal and compelling, instructing listeners not to be afraid to stand up for themselves and forge their own future. This is something which Muse themselves have undoubtedly done, creating their own niche in the world of rock. Those lucky enough to experience this song in a live setting are in for a truly impressive and utterly unparalleled rock experience.
# 3 – Uprising
The lead single from The Resistance is a politically charged glam/synth rock masterpiece. Clearly, someone in the band is a big fan of Doctor Who, as, just with Knights of Cydonia, the synth is eerily reminiscent of the cult British show’s iconic intro theme. Fans have also noticed similarities between this track and Blondie’s seminal Call Me, with the latter band even performing a mash-up of the two songs during a live performance.
As you might expect, the Nineteen Eighty-Four inspired lyrics describe a world where the government and elite are using various methods to exercise extreme control over the common people, with the song compelling the 99% of that world to rise up and revolt. Muse have never been afraid to be political, and this song allows them to discuss many common conspiracy theories.
With a thumping drum beat and dangerously catchy guitar/vocal hook, this politically charged anthem is just as catchy and captivating as it is thought provoking.
# 2 – Plug In Baby
It says a lot about Muse that one of their best songs is also their most lyrically impenetrable. Coming from 2001’s Origin of Symmetry, the band have discussed a number of contradictory meanings for the song’s confusing and nonsensical lyrics, saying at various times that it’s about the tour lifestyle, or that it’s about inanimate objects having emotions. There’s even one interview with Bellamy where he can’t remember what the song’s about, except that it was inspired by a book he read. Because of this, fans tend to accept that the song’s lyrics are open to interpretation, with each individual having their own theories. Still, when the instrumental is this good, who cares about the lyrics?
Plug In Baby’s memorable guitar riff has become an instant classic and is often discussed as being among the best riffs produced this century. From its scratchy feedback-like intro, this song goes off and is very much at the heavy end of the Muse rock spectrum. The interplay with the complex guitar and the bouncy fuzz-bass is something to behold, and, as ever, Bellamy’s superlative vocals add the perfect pinch of sweetness to this savage triumph of a track.
# 1 – Supermassive Black Hole
This is it, the ultimate Muse song, and, as you would expect from a band whose influences vary wildly, it sounds like nothing else the band have ever produced.
This first single from Blackholes and Revelations sees Muse pair crunchy alternative guitar riffs with a funky dance-inspired beat. There’s something very glossy about this song, which features Bellamy’s trademark falsetto vocal whines and some inspired production elements that wouldn’t seem out-of-place on a Daft Punk track. Prince is also a clear influence here, with funk and pop elements blending effortlessly with the alternative rock – not to mention a slight disco twinge thanks to the backing vocals echoing Bellamy’s high notes.
Although the lyrics – which compare a woman to an all-powerful and infinitely destructive black hole – would likely result in a number of think pieces were the song to be released now, the interplay between the bouncy, catchy lyrics and the coolly glamorous instrumental works flawlessly to create this massive dance-rock magnum opus.
Muse are a band which are impossible to pigeonhole. Every single song on this list, as well as countless others, are some of the most unusual, unique and interesting rock songs you’ll ever hear. There’s a reason the band have risen to the upper echelons of the modern rock pantheon, and there can be no doubt that, with a discography such as this, they fully deserve their success.