These songs predicted the future.
The future, they say, is dark—not dark as in bad, just dark as in uncertain. But sometimes, people find ways to see in the darkness. Music seems to be one of those ways, and popular music in particular tends to be a harbinger of times to come.
Music's foremost clairvoyants include Leonard Cohen, David Bowie, and Kanye West, all of whom predicted the apocalyptic ennui and digitized realities that would define the future (or, our present). But other artists have had uncanny bursts of foresight inside their songs, envisioning distant political events and even predicting their own deaths. Here are some of music's strangest accurate predictions.
Jimi Hendrix Predicted Climate Change—and His Own Death
Hendrix was obviously endowed with supernatural abilities; anyone who's ever heard him play guitar can see that—but apparently clairvoyance was among his talents. Hendrix's song "Up from the Skies" was written in 1967, and it seems to describe an alien visitor coming back to Earth and seeing the devastation humans have wrought. The chorus features this chillingly foreboding line: "The smell of a world that has burned / Well, maybe, maybe it's just a change of climate."
JIMI HENDRIX - EXP / Up From The Skies (1968) www.youtube.com
Radiohead Predicted the Rise of Silicon Valley and Modern Technology
Radiohead are famously prophetic, and their songs are loaded with cryptic messages about the future—many of which have come true. According to Mic, their song "Pop Is Dead" predicted the rise of formulaic pop music; "No Surprises" saw the rise of suburban sprawl; "Fitter Happier" saw the invention of the Apple Watch and various self-help apps; "Palo Alto" saw Silicon Valley's rise before Google ever settled there; "Pyramid Song" envisioned the extreme consequences of rising sea levels back in 2006. Pitchfork recently did a massive expose entitled "The Radiohead Prophecies: How Ok Computer Predicted the Future."
"Each song actually yields a vivid premonition of life as it is lived now, when a volatile cocktail of unfettered consumerism, technological dependency, social disconnection, and paranoia has yielded a U.S. president with all the class and credibility of an infomercial huckster," Stuart Berman writes, before launching into a song-by-song expose.
Radiohead - No Surprises www.youtube.com
Wilco Predicted 9/11
Wilco's Yankee Hotel Foxtrot sounds like a mournful reflection on 9/11—except for the fact that it was released prior to 9/11. With lyrics that describe shaking buildings and people walking through flaming doors, it provided comfort to many people in the weeks after the disaster even though it was written before the towers ever fell.
I Am Trying to Break Your Heart www.youtube.com
Laurie Anderson Also Predicted 9/11
Laurie Anderson's brilliant vocoder-centric epic, "O Superman," is about the onslaught of modernity. Eerily, she sings, "Here come the planes / they're American planes / so you better get ready / ready to go." It's a song about America's complicity in colonization, perhaps, but it also contained the seeds of that catastrophic event.
Laurie Anderson - O Superman [Official Music Video] www.youtube.com
Snoop Dogg's "Murder Was the Case" Predicted His Future Murder Conviction
Snoop Dogg was convicted of murder in 1993, but before any of that, he rapped the lyric "Murder, murder was the case that they gave me."
Snoop Dogg - Murder Was the Case www.youtube.com
Tupac Shakur Predicted His Death
Tupac's death is shrouded in conspiracy theories, but part of the reason for this is that Shakur built up a mythology during his life—and predicted his life in song. "I been shot and murdered, can't tell you how it happened word for word. But best believe that n*ggas gon' get what they deserve," he raps in "N*ggaz Done Changed."
Richie Rich ft. 2Pac - Niggaz Done Changed www.youtube.com
The Game Predicted Obama Would Kill Osama Bin Laden
Rapper The Game released the song "Hard Times" in 2007, the year before Obama was elected for the first time. "I'm feeling like a black Democrat, Barack Obama, the only n*gga that can catch Osama," he rapped, an incredibly prescient lyric if there ever was one.
The Game & Lil Wayne- Hard Times (CDQ) [LYRICS] 1080p HD www.youtube.com
Nicki Minaj's song "We Miss You" appeared shortly after her cousin Nicholas Telemaque was shot in 2011, but it was recorded beforehand. It features the lyrics "Why'd you have to leave in July? Why would they take you from me? Why the doctors could not stop the bleeding? I could've told you all about my intuition, I could've even brought the extra ammunition."
Nicki Minaj - We Miss You Lyrics Video www.youtube.com
Jedi Mind Tricks Predicted Miley Cyrus's Chaotic Reinvention
In 2008, when Miley Cyrus was still mostly Hannah Montana, the group Jedi Mind Tricks released a song called "Trail of Lies" that features the lyric, "When Hannah Montana turned into Britney Spears, they chew you up and spit you out cause no-one really cares. Where the parents at cousin this is really bad, is this the motherf*cking manager or really dad. Is he concerned about his daughter or his silly pad?" Of course, now Miley seems to have calmed down and Britney Spears is a socialist hero, but you get the drift.
Jedi Mind Tricks - Trail Of Lies (with lyrics) www.youtube.com
John Lennon Predicted His Death
Lennon mentioned dying by gunshot several times, in interviews and songs. At the beginning of Come Together, he whispers, "Shoot me," and "Happiness Is a Warm Gun" involves similar themes. As early as 1965, Lennon allegedly told a reporter, "We'll either go in a plane crash or we'll be popped off by some loony." His last solo album contains a song called "Borrowed Time," which he was in the process of finishing when he was shot.
Borrowed Time - John Lennon (official music video HD) www.youtube.com
David Bowie May Have Predicted the Rise of Kanye West (and Also Climate Change)
Bowie predicted the rise of streaming and social networking. "I don't even know why I would want to be on a label in a few years, because I don't think it's going to work by labels and by distribution systems in the same way," he said in 2002. "The absolute transformation of everything that we ever thought about music will take place within 10 years, and nothing is going to be able to stop it. I see absolutely no point in pretending that it's not going to happen… You'd better be prepared for doing a lot of touring because that's really the only unique situation that's going to be left. It's terribly exciting. But on the other hand it doesn't matter if you think it's exciting or not; it's what's going to happen."
David Bowie was a visionary in many ways, particularly in terms of his sonic and visual creations. The album cover of The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars features a sign that reads "K. West." Here's a wild conspiracy theory: On this Bowie album is a song called "Five Years" that states that we have five years until the end of the world. Five years and two days after The Rise and Fall of Ziggy was released, one Kanye West was born.
The David Bowie & Kanye West Conspiracy Theory, Explained www.youtube.com
Bowie also predicted climate change — but, to be fair, he also predicted the arrival of an alien saviour in his song "Starman."
David Bowie - Starman www.youtube.com
The song is loud and braggadocios, and as police assault innocent protestors across the country, YG once again says what's exactly on our mind.
As protests swell across the country demanding an end to police brutality and justice for the murder of George Floyd, YG once again releases a protest song in line with the current political climate.
YG - FTP (Official Audio) www.youtube.com
It's time to study.
Now that you've flooded Instagram with photos of black squares, it's time to hunker down for some real activism.
If you're a white person, you're sitting on top of about four centuries of institutionalized racism. In the wake of George Floyd's murder by police and countless Black Lives Matter protests across the nation, it's time to show up—with your body, with your voice, and with your brain.