Because let’s face it – those aren’t relevant anymore.

Please don’t send me an angry email about hating Paul McCartney or not respecting my elders.

I’m the daughter of a classic rock-addicted dad, a 10-year-employee of a secondhand CD store, and a drummer whose early repertoire included a lot of Beatles songs.

But I can’t take one more list of money-related songs that have “Money (That’s What I Want)” and Pink Floyd’s “Money” at the top. We can do better than this.

One thing music from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s has in common with music from this decade is that people are still in debt. So that has to mean there are newer songs out there with the same sentiments but some newer edge, right?

Yes. It does. Here are 10 songs about debt by artists we don’t hear on the oldies station every five minutes. And sure, some are throwbacks, like Elvis Costello – but I’d still argue that they’re played way less than anything by the Fab Four. You might even find something new you like.

1. “Saint Pablo” – Kanye West

This is the song that showed us you could have a massive empire of music, merchandise, and be married to a Kardashian – but still grossly mishandle your money.

In this song off his 2016 album, “The Life of Pablo,” Kanye West says “My wife said, I can’t say no to nobody/ And at this rate we gon’ both die broke/ Got friends that ask me for money knowin’ I’m in debt.

And yes, we all knew he was in debt by the time “Saint Pablo” was released, because shortly before the album dropped, West tweeted that he was actually $53 million in personal debt. [1]

2. “I Need a Dollar” – Aloe Blacc

Before blowing up in popularity from being on that Avicii single (the one that played on the radio every two seconds), Aloe Blacc’s “I Need a Dollar” was just this cool song in a Boost Mobile commercial.

The simple soul tune came out in 2010 and had lyrics that were super relatable: “I need a dollar, dollar/ a dollar is what I need.”  Not exactly Shakespeare, but it stuck, and you could soon hear it thumping at Urban Outfitters, where millennials like me spent all their dollars.

Since then, Blacc’s done pretty well for himself. He’s performed at sporting events, music festivals and even snagged a Grammy nomination in 2015. But we can still cling onto the good ol’ days when he just needed a buck like us.

3. “Sallie Mae Back” – Dee-1

People with student loans know that dealing with Sallie Mae is god-awful, but rapper Dee-1 wanted to make sure everybody else was aware of the grind. In “Sallie Mae Back,” Dee-1 raps about the student loan servicer, now known as Navient, calling him twice a day: “she want her money badly/ Calling me from different numbers, ooh she think she slick/ But I got them all memorized, I hit ignore quick.”

Even though the rapper wouldn’t tell how much debt he was in when we spoke to him, he did tell us why student loans became the topic of his tune. “So many people in college are listening to music about driving Bugattis, and I’m like, ‘Yo, this has nothing to do with what you’re going through right now.” Preach, Dee-1.

4. “The Debt I Owe” – Lou Reed

Lou Reed just gets it. Debt can be overwhelming. It can swallow you whole. And instead of turning the song – which was originally by Woody Guthrie – into some upbeat jingle, Reed gets straight to the point as he croons the lyrics, “Every day, several times a day, a thought comes over me / I owe more debts than I ever can pay back, more money than I’ll ever see.

Stings, don’t it? Of course, this song isn’t just about financial debt, it gets deeper than that. But something about “The Debt I Owe” just possesses this special ability to rip your heart out.  Cheery, I know.

5. “The More You Ignore Me, The Closer I Get” – Morrissey

OK, this song isn’t supposed to be about debt. It’s supposed to be about Morrissey being creepy as hell and irresistible. JUST LIKE DEBT.

The more you ignore me, the closer I get / I am now a central part of your mind’s landscape/ when you sleep I will creep into your thoughts,” the lyrics go. Sound familiar?

Apparently, the concept reminded the singer himself of money. So much so, he threw in this line toward the end: “like a bad debt that you can’t pay, take the easy way and give in.” This is actually pretty depressing now that I think about it. But the point being, debt sucks. It can haunt your dreams and Morrissey knows it.

6. “I Will Buy You a New Life” – Everclear

Everclear knew that the way to girls’ hearts was to promise to pay them back. The song starts off, “Here is the money that I owe you/ Yes you can pay the bills/ I will give you more when I get paid again.” Yeah, go ahead and swoon.

The late 90s tune features lead singer, Art Alexakis, promising he’d buy his lady a new life – including a new house, car, and a garden (where her flowers can bloom). The song was off of the band’s 1997 album, “So Much For The Afterglow,” which also housed singles like its title track and “Father of Mine.”

7. “Pay It Back” – Elvis Costello

You guys, he’s just like us. In “Pay It Back,” – the oldest song on this playlist – Elvis Costello goes on to say over and over (because it’s in the chorus) that he’s going to “pay it back one of these days.”

He says he’s going to pay it back like 20 times, but he never specifies exactly when. This song would take on a different tone if it went “I’m going to pay it back next Tuesday.” But he doesn’t do that. He’s ambiguous, unsure, and possibly even lying. This song reminds us that no one’s immune to debt.

8. “Pretty Girls” – R. Kelly and Jay Z

This song is an autobiographical description of how Jay Z risked going into debt at the club. OK, I’m stretching, but in this 2004 banger between R. Kelly and Jay Z about pretty girls, Jay Z goes onto take a verse about all the things he’d buy for the ladies to win them over. And of course, he’s putting them on his American Express black card – which he brags has no limit.

And the black card don’t got no max / Fall, back, blow on some Merikesh hash / With more Manolos than Sarah Jess’ had.”

This is literally how people fall into the hole, Jay Z. What are you doing?

9. “Strapped for Cash” – Fountains of Wayne

After getting a lot of recognition for singing about Stacy’s mom (who had it going on), Fountains of Wayne sang about something super relatable – being broke. And being in denial about it.

The song is a story about owing a friend money and saying that it’s on its way. When truly, the singer doesn’t even have it yet. Yeah, we’ve been there.

10. “Debt Song” – Matthew Squires

The newest song on this list, Matthew Squires’ “Debt Song” – an alternative tune about the struggle being real.

In the single, he talks about buying the cheapest bottle of wine possible from 7-11 and needing to pay his debts. It’s a fun, quirky tune about just getting by and was called a “squiggly lo-fi anthem” by Consequence of Sound. [2]

“This is a song about debt,” Squires told the publication. “Debt is your mother and your father. That’s why your life is a loan. You will have to give it back, one day. You can either do so smiling or crying. Either way, you will not make any dent in The Unending, Unbeginning Bureaucracy.”

Deep. Like our debt.

Want to listen? Checkout the songs out below…

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About the Author

Emily Bloch

Emily Bloch

Emily Bloch is a multimedia journalist who has covered music, entertainment, and politics for regional and national publications including Fort Lauderdale Magazine and Teen Vogue. Emily is a director of the Society of Professional Journalists Florida Pro Chapter. She graduated from Florida Atlantic University, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She currently is an education reporter at the Florida Times-Union.

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