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It’s a well-known fact that listening to certain genres of music, namely classical music, can increase brain activity and lead to a rise in IQ. But let’s face the facts: while classical music can sound nice, it isn’t what you want to listen to on the radio.
You might be surprised to discover that there are many non-classical tunes that can make you smarter. These songs come from all genres and contain everything from historical facts to important life lessons.
So, if you want to raise your IQ by a few points, keep reading as we dive into 25 songs that make you smarter.
1. “Back in the USSR” by The Beatles
2. “American Pie” By Don McLean
The music industry has had several tragedies over the years, but none was more heartbreaking than the plane that crashed in 1959 while carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and The Big Bopper. Don McLean’s song “American Pie” covers the emotions the world felt as a result of this event, aptly naming it “the day that music died.” While it probably won’t help you on a test in school, it can help you learn more about world perspectives.
Related: 21 Best 60s Songs
3. “Alexander Hamilton” from the musical Hamilton
The entire musical Hamilton can help you learn a lot about America’s former president and the founding of our country. It was hard for us to pick just one song from this amazing show, but we think “Alexander Hamilton” offers the most helpful facts you’ll probably need to know.
4. “Sunday Bloody Sunday” by U2
While you likely won’t find questions about a North Ireland massacre on a trivia card anytime soon, listening to this tune can teach you about some of the struggles the Irish faced because of British occupation over the past few centuries. Many of these struggles resulted in the loss of Irish lives, specifically in two massacres, one in 1920 and the other in 1972—the latter of which inspired this song.
Related: 16 Crazy Facts About Bono
5. “Zombie” by The Cranberries
Next on our list of songs that make you smarter is “Zombie” by The Cranberries, which is a sorrowful tune about the damages of terrorism…although you’ve probably mistakenly heard it added to a Halloween playlist at least once. This song is specifically written about the murder of two children killed by the IRA in Washington…so you should probably delete it from your Halloween playlist right away.
Related: 15 Best 90s Songs
6. “Best [Expletive] Band in Wyoming” by No-No Boy
This is a bit of a weird one, but there is an entire side of World War II that most Americans never hear about, and that is the fact that America also had concentration/internment camps where we imprisoned Japanese citizens. In one of these internment camps, laborers formed a Japanese Jazz band, and well, the rest of the story is in this song.
7. “Alexander the Great” by Iron Maiden
Surprisingly, even some metal songs made our list of songs that make you smarter, specifically this one by Iron Maiden, which covers the life of none other than Alexander the Great. In fact, there are dozens of Iron Maiden songs that have lyrics about history and literature.
8. “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel
There is no song that covers quite as much history as “We Didn’t Start the Fire” by Billy Joel. Whether you need to know about the major players of the Cold War or the escalation of events, this song has you covered.
9. “The Fall of Saigon” from the musical Miss Saigon
The Vietnam War is the subject of several songs, but perhaps the most heartbreaking is “The Fall of Saigon” from the heart-wrenching musical Miss Saigon. Following the story of a young Vietnamese prostitute, this song is a mid-show climax that shows listeners the rapid and damaging way America left Vietnam—and the wreckage left in their wake.
10. “Family Snapshot” by Peter Gabriel
Peter Gabriel has released many songs that make you smarter, specifically “Family Snapshot,” which covers the attempted assassination of George Wallace in 1972. Peter got the inspiration for the song from a book written by the attempted assassin, and it covers the polarizing feelings surrounding segregation.
11. “Waterloo” by ABBA
Unfortunately, there are some songs that make you smarter which are not 100% accurate. While the tune “Waterloo” by ABBA is catchy and will tell you a little about the battle that occurred there, it’s important to know that Napoleon didn’t actually surrender there—so check your facts before you start singing this song in History class.
Related: 20 Best Disco Songs
12. “William the Conqueror” by DMX Krew
This is an interesting one, for sure, but it sure is catchy. Covering the Battle of Hastings, which was part of a brutal (and violent) pacification of England carried out by William the Conqueror, this song probably shouldn’t be sung in public. But at least you’ll have all your facts straight!
13. “Our Solemn Hour” by Within Temptation
Within Temptation is a gothic metal band based in the Netherlands, and thus it should come as no surprise that they’ve written several historical and politically charged anthems. One of their most famous is “Our Solemn Hour,” which, if you listen closely, has a spoken overlay which is none other than a historical recording of one of the speeches Winston Churchill gave toward the end of WWII.
14. “The Marseillaise,” aka The French National Anthem
National anthems are all songs that make you smarter, but this one specifically can help educate you about the French Revolution. It’s a bit violent, but the struggle of the revolutionaries wasn’t easy, so this song is definitely accurate.
15. “Deutschland Uber Alles” German National Anthem Pre/During WWII
Ever wonder how the Germans got away with the Holocaust in the first place? It probably has something to do with their old national anthem, which, translated to English, means “Germany over all.” Of course, Germany has since changed their national anthem, but listening to this one can give you an idea of what led Germans to their actions during WWII.
16. “Being for the Benefit of Mr. Kite” by The Beatles
The struggle of black individuals has been prominent around the world for centuries, especially during the 1800s and 1900s. In Britain during the Victorian era, one black man – Pablo Fanque – overcame the stigma and started his own successful circus, something this song by the Beatles will teach you all about.
17. “Victoria” by The Kinks
Apparently, the British have no shortage of songs that make you smarter as they sing about their vast and controversial history. This next tune on our list will teach you about the shame imperialism brought down on the British empire, though it does leave some of the words to your imagination.
18. “Redemption Song” by Bob Marley
As we mentioned above, black people have long struggled for the right to their place in society. This famous song by Bob Marley discusses the horror of African Americans being stolen from their homes and sold into slavery. Powerful song.
19. “Rasputin” by The Boney M
If you’re unlucky enough to take a history course in which you must study the fall of the Romanov dynasty, listen to this song as you study. While it isn’t as in-depth as some other songs on this list, it will give you a catchy way to remember some basic facts about Gregorii Rasputin, who is, ahem, famous for more than just his political exploits.
20. “Revolution” by The Beatles
Chinese politics is a tricky subject in conversation, but this song by the Beatles shows the general opinion of Chairman Mao. While John Lennon, the main singer in the song, eventually became more radical, this is still his greatest political statement.
Related: John Lennon’s Net Worth
21. “Ohio” by Neil Young
No list of songs that make you smarter would be complete without “Ohio” by Neil Young. This song is about the Kent State University Shootings, which shocked the nation on May 4th, 1970, and are still talked about today.
22. “Give Ireland Back to the Irish” by Paul McCartney
The poor Irish have struggled to live in their own country for so long, and this song, while controversial, embodies their almost never-ending fight.
Related: Paul McCartney Biography
23. “Istanbul(Not Constantinople)” by They Might Be Giants
Now this next song isn’t too deep, but it can help keep a few historical facts straight, mainly that present-day Istanbul was once Constantinople, though there are verses in the song that cover some of the details of the Byzantine Empire. We recommend this song for anyone struggling in World History class.
24. “Digital World” by Amaranthe
This song isn’t a history lesson but rather a commentary on the current digital revolution. Discussing the dangers of social media and the fact that “everything is for sale” in the digital world, this song makes you think about the current direction society is headed and whether or not it’s the right one.
25. “Children of the Revolution” by T. Rex
Last on our list of songs that make you smarter is “Children of the Revolution” by T. Rex. This particular jam reminds listeners of the struggle, both in Britain and America, during the Industrial Revolution. While it may not come in handy on tests, it can help remind you how society got where it is today.
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