Throughout his career, Bo Burnham has made some great songs. Some have poked fun at himself, at society, social media, and everything in between. Burnham has become known for his introspective comedy loaded with social commentary, his candid discussions about mental health, and, of course, his music.
While there’s no possible way to narrow down a solid list of best songs (and why would you want to try and pin them down?), here are nine of many that definitely deserve a highlight.
“Art is Dead” – Words, Words, Words
In his first hour-long special, Burnham was already taking jabs at his own profession. “So people think you’re funny, how do we get those people’s money?” It’s certainly not common for artists to go after themselves this hard, but here at the very beginning of his career Burnham was ready to lay it all out.
“Problematic” – Inside
While Burnham may have made this song seem comedic, deep down it’s really not. That’s absolutely one of his greatest skills as an artist in general, and Inside really highlighted that. “Problematic” is catchy, the video is hilarious (and available in the full special on Netflix), and while one song doesn’t erase wrongdoings (and he mentions that), he’s right “If I wanna catch up, first I gotta fess up.”
Burnham has mentioned that his older comedy doesn’t hold up in current times, and while he’s not trying to make excuses for his past words, it’s a great representation of some inherent issues in our society today. “Some of it was perfectly lawful, just not very thoughtful.”
“Problems” – Make Happy
If you were to ask me what my favorite Bo Burnham special is, it would be akin to making me choose between children, but Make Happy would edge out Inside by a hair. (Look, I love the sandwich skit …) Every time this song gets to the line about the iPod Touch’s case I lose it, so of course, it makes the list. However, while it’s an absolutely hilarious song, there’s nothing like someone noting their (straight, white man) privilege and also taunting the people who refuse to acknowledge that privilege.
“Comedy” – Inside
While “Problems” poked fun at people refusing to acknowledge their privilege, “Comedy” went to the other side of the spectrum. “Comedy” tackles the concept of “white saviorism” perfectly. Performative activism has become a staple of society in past years, “Making a literal difference, metaphorically,” if you will, and Burnham calls it out. He also turns the mirror on himself and his actions in the process, one a lot of people need to be looking in. And let’s be honest, the dance moves featured in the video are iconic.
“Country Song” – Make Happy
This is one of Burnham’s best songs and I will not be taking questions. One, it’s fun to hear Burnham sing in his parodied country twang. Two, it’s funny. Like, really funny. While this is about “stadium country” music, I think the concept of pandering (and the second chorus) can be applied to … a lot of different things these days. “It’s a f*cking scarecrow again!”
“That Funny Feeling” – Inside
There’s no way we were getting through this list without “That Funny Feeling” making it. While this song is not funny, it is very real. I’m not saying I know a grown man who cried listening to this, but maybe I do. “Twenty thousand years of this, seven more to go.” Inside was a journey, and this song really echoed the existential dread I feel on a daily basis due to the deterioration of society. I get “That Funny Feeling” quite a bit and I know I’m not the only one. “Hey what can ya say, we were overdue. But it’ll be over soon, you wait.”
Oddly enough, as hard as this song is, it brings a sense of peace. Maybe it’s the guitar and the way Burnham sings it, or maybe it’s in the knowing I’m not alone in how I feel. Either way, this is definitely one of Burnham’s top songs.
Tell me “A gift shop at the gun range, a mass shooting at the mall,” isn’t heavy. You can’t.
“From God’s Perspective” – what.
So as we near the end, the trend in this list is the songs that are calling out societal institutions that may or may not need to be dismantled. In “From God’s Perspective” Burnham tackles organized religion as he calls out the issues plaguing society in the name of these organizations. “If you want love, then the love has gotta come from you.” It was certainly a bold move, but bold moves aren’t really something Burnham shies away from. The Bible has been wielded as a weapon for a long time, and he wasn’t afraid to say it outright.
“Maybe life on Earth could be heaven, doesn’t just the thought of it make it worth a try?”
“All Eyes on Me” – Inside
Polishing this off with my two personal favorite Bo Burnham songs. “All Eyes on Me” was a favorite off of Inside, and for good reason. “That Funny Feeling” resonated with my existential dread and “All Eyes on Me” grabbed it and gave it a hug. It’s raw, it’s honest, it’s incredible, and the video is pretty haunting. I’ve listened to this at least 100 times and I still get goosebumps.
While the importance of mental health is becoming more prevalent, it’s always encouraging to hear prominent performers talk about their struggles. Particularly in Burnham’s case, his fan base consists of a lot of millennials and younger generations who may need to hear things like this from people like him.
“All Eyes on Me” was the perfect end to Inside. Inside was an emotional journey from start to finish, and after the past 18 months, I think a lot of us are currently … here. “You say the whole world’s ending, honey it already did.”
“Can’t Handle This (Kanye Remix)” – Make Happy
I could probably write a thesis on this song. But I’ll spare you. If someone asked me to give them a song to get to know me, I would give them this one. One of the most incredible aspects of Burnham’s work is his ability to create his content to be interpreted in multiple different ways. It’s certainly a “take what you need” kind of art. And Burnham has been very clear in stating he wants it to stay that way, and not sullying people’s interpretations with his own commentary or insight into his process.
With that being said, what I take from this song may not be what you take from it. But some parts of me are loudly reflected in “Can’t Handle This.” After the Make Happy tour was the start of Burnham’s 5-year break from comedy, and this song has always hit a lot harder after knowing that it wasn’t a joke, but he did try and mask it with some.
Was Bo Burnham the overstuffed tortilla? He wouldn’t have gotten half of it if he knew it wouldn’t fit …
You can watch three of Bo Burnham’s specials — Inside, what., and Make Happy — on Netflix. Words, Words, Words is available for rent or purchase. what. is also available on Burnham’s YouTube page for free.
Bonus: “How the World Works” – Inside
Did you really think we were going to do all this and not mention “How the World Works?” This is pure art and my commentary is just that I hope you took from this song what you needed to and thought about the lyrics. Yes, the sock puppet is funny … or is it?