Fans of Bo Burnham were shocked but excited when the comedian announced that he would be creating a new Netflix special after exiting the comedy scene five years ago. After the wait from the announcement to the special’s release, Bo Burnham: Inside did not disappoint.
Tackling a variety of issues such as depression, anxiety, the pandemic, celebrity culture, parasocial relationships, the modern scape of the internet, and contemporary social issues with Burnham’s typical sarcastic, yet insightful approach, the special (completely shot and performed by Burnham alone) spoke to many people on a deep level. Inside managed to take facets of a common, relatable experience (the pandemic) that many people went through and flesh it out on screen, leading viewers into deep contemplation of the world around them. Today, we’re taking another look at the special to contemplate, relive, and rank the songs of Inside.
*The rankings and interpretations presented in this listicle are purely based on opinion*
I mean, the title tells you pretty much everything you need to know about the song. Shoutout to those with a keen eye who noticed Burnham’s thermostat is set to 69 degrees for the entirety of this song.
19. FaceTime with my Mom (Tonight)
Video calls became one of the main forms of socialization and entertainment during quarantine, and Burnham perfectly captured the experience of keeping in touch with one’s technologically challenged parents in this short song.
18. Don’t Wanna Know
I think every artist can relate to craving validation for their work and simultaneously being afraid to know if it’s deemed “good enough.” It’s brutal out there in the court of public opinion.
17. Any Day Now
This song perfectly represents what the endless loop of quarantine felt like: waking up, hoping everything would go back to normal soon, and starting the process all over the next morning.
16. Bezos II
Jeffrey Bezos, he did it.
15. Bezos I
I feel like the Bezoses (Bezoses? Bezii?) have to go together. You know, for continuity. This song has absolutely no business being this catchy. “CEO, entrepreneur. Born in 1964. Jeffrey. Jeffrey Bezos.” Enough said.
14. All Time Low
Describing the feelings that accompany Burnham’s descent into an ATL in terms of mental health (and no, that does not stand for Atlanta), this song illustrates Burnham’s anxiety and is indicative of the darker spiral of the special that viewers are about to enter.
Hearing Bo Burnham call himself daddy was not something I was expecting to hear in the first five minutes of this production, but there it was. Starting off the special with a bang I guess.
12. Unpaid Intern
I truly wish I didn’t have to put this one so far down on the list, because as someone who has been the unpaid intern many a time, this one just hit a little different. This short tune highlights the exploitative nature of unpaid internships, which are becoming ever more common. And the reaction bit that Burnham does in response? Genius.
This song is midlife crisis-inducing. Revolving around Burnham’s feelings about turning 30 (a deadline at which he had hoped to be done with the special by, but was not), this song conveys the very relatable feelings that come with aging and the feelings of inadequacy that can accompany reaching a certain age and not having accomplished certain goals by that time.
10. White Woman’s Instagram
“White Woman’s Instagram” simultaneously manages to make fun of people’s usage of social media, mimicking the empty, trivial, and even ignorant posts that pervade the online platform, and highlight the heartfelt, emotional ways that people can find connection on it. In the first of many visually appealing numbers, Burnham pokes fun at posts purely used to present a pleasing aesthetic all while using the ratio formats that comprise the feel of Instagram. Ah, the duality of man presented in one sardonic song.
It physically pains me to put this one so far down. To be clear, most of the points lost are because of the song’s brevity. As soon as I heard “How we feeling out there tonight? Hahaha, yeeeeah, I am not feeling good,” I knew this song was going to be stuck in my head. I was right. “Shit” was the first song from Inside that quickly skyrocketed to popularity on TikTok, and it’s easy to see why. The tune is just so catchy despite its subject matter — maybe even because of it. Describing Burnham in the throes of a depressive episode, users on the platform seemed to relate to the experience, especially presented in such a humorous manner (ah, Gen Z and their coping mechanisms). In a world where depression seems to becoming more and more common, especially among younger generations, being able to see the experience comedically, visually, and musically articulated all in one work seems to be much appreciated by fans.
Apology? Parody? Self-deprecation? Why not all three. Burnham has been known to make jokes back in the day that would definitely not hold up to modern standards in terms of appropriateness — something that he’s commented on being ashamed of in the past. However, in “Problematic,” Burnham manages to address his misgivings in a fashion that is so very… him. His self-aware style of comedy allows him to simultaneously own up to his past actions while somehow still making fun of “cancel culture” all in a visually appealing, yet funny, package.
I’m at the commentary. I’m at the parody. I’m at the combination commentary parody. This number just screams peak Bo Burnham. Commenting on the desire to help contribute something to the world during a tumultuous year of sickness, isolation, and social turmoil but feeling it’s not his place as a “straight white man” (see what I did there?), Burnham contemplates the propriety of creating this special during a time wrought with tragedy in “Comedy.” The contemplative nature of this song gives an oddly reminiscent callback to the song “Sad” from his 2013 Netflix special what., in which the comedian points out the tragedies of the world but ultimately ends in an irreverent tone, something that he chose not to slide into this go around.
6. How the World Works
In a callback to Hans Teeuwen, whom Burnham cited as one of his favorite comedians back in a 2010 round table, “How the World Works” is a comedic bit with a sock puppet that turns dark pretty quickly. Mimicking an educational program targeted towards kids, Burnham presents a happy-go-lucky, surface-level explanation of how the world works that is often peddled in society — especially to children. However, when Socko escapes his “liminal state of being,” he presents the darker, more accurate version of the world’s driving forces: oppression, power imbalances, and inequality. In a stroke of genius, the sock puppet’s point is essentially illustrated when he’s forced into silence after angering Burnham with his colorful viewpoint.
5. All Eyes On Me
Listening to “All Eyes On Me” feels like sinking underwater; perhaps it’s meant to mimic Burnham slowly sinking into the throes of depression amidst the trials of the pandemic and developing the special. Time feels frozen, something that’s emphasized by the camera’s timestamp in the background being stagnant as well. Mimicking the experience of a live performance, this song is where Burnham explains his decision to leave the comedy scene for mental health reasons and his plan to return right before the pandemic hit. The vocal distortions of this oddly soothing, yet catchy song encompass the static feeling that the pandemic produced for people across the nation.
4. Look Who’s Inside Again
In my opinion, this song represented the main theme from the special. In this short yet expressive song, Burnham compares his experience creating the art that is Inside via the isolation imposed by the pandemic to the social isolation that he sought to escape as a child through his art. This song is about putting oneself out there, revealing oneself to the world in the pursuit of that thing humans hold so dearly: connection. No wonder audiences found it so relatable. And isn’t that exactly what Burnham set out to do with this special? Reconnect with audiences after his self-imposed isolation from the comedy scene? There are so many layers to Burnham’s songs, and this work of art is one of the best examples of that.
3. That Funny Feeling
What many people on Twitter have dubbed as the modern “We Didn’t Start the Fire,” “That Funny Feeling” is definitely one of the more emotional pieces in the special. Many of Burnham’s songs from Inside are delightfully and deliberately wacky, with flashy visuals to boot. This makes it all the more impactful when this song is stripped down to what can be considered the bare bones — just Burnham and his guitar. Describing and listing things that could evoke the phenomenon of derealization, “That Funny Feeling” lists phenomena in modern society that simply make one feel disconnected from reality or as if they’re in some type of simulation. The song truly presents a musical moment in which one can sit down and contemplate what we are doing as a society and how modern culture is affecting the world around us.
2. Welcome to the Internet
This song screams information overload — as it should. A big part of Inside is the commentary revolving around the different facets of internet culture. From the sheer amount of content the web is saturated with to the repercussions of the (mostly) unfettered ability to seek out “anything that brain of yours can think of,” this song explores the dual nature of the web as well as the burdens that modern generations have inherited from it. Burnham contrasts the benign and malicious intents that this weapon, the web, can be wielded with all in a visually stunning five-minute package. By the end of the song, you’ll be questioning whether the modern iteration of the internet has done more good or damage — one of the fundamental questions that the special sets out to address.
In my humble opinion, “Goodbye” is Inside‘s pièce de résistance. The penultimate song in the special, “Goodbye” is the culmination of all of the themes that Burnham infused throughout the special, tying in motifs from songs like “Comedy” and “Look Who’s Inside Again.” The song both serves as a sendoff to this artfully crafted experience and the final piece of insight into Burnham’s feelings about stepping into the limelight once more, all while making those final bits of commentary on the social issues that pervade society. Chef’s kiss.
No matter your ranking of the special’s songs, most can agree that Inside was a wacky yet emotional, thought-provoking piece of art that managed to combine comedy and music while simultaneously addressing serious topics — Burnham’s specialty. One can’t help but come out of it on the other side changed by the events that played out on screen, as Burnham manages to somehow make it so relatable to a variety of different audiences. Arguably one of the best things to come out of 2020, Burnham’s return is something that audiences are not soon to forget.
Think one of your favorite songs from the special should have been ranked higher? Be sure to let us know your favorite tunes from Inside in the comments!