Have you ever wondered why some songs are catchy, while others fall flat? Or why some send literal shivers down your spine? Every. Single. Time. And why are some of them evergreen while others quickly become dated? The truth is that songs function much like stories and are a form of hypnosis. Some of them may even drive you into deep trance if you do nothing more than close your eyes and listen.
Many songs tell a story. Sometimes it’s long and convoluted, while other times it’s a single happening.
And unlike regular stories, songs use music to guide our states and shape our thoughts, along with the words. You can use them to link concepts together that might otherwise be only tangentially associated.
I’m sure I’m not saying anything here that’s not obvious. But sometimes we just don’t think about these things until someone points them out.
I should also make it clear that this is not intended to be an exhaustive list. Our response to music is inherently subjective. What I notice probably won’t match what you notice. But with any luck you’ll at least be able to listen to some of these songs and start to take them apart.
How to Find Hypnotic Songs
It’s pretty straightforward to make a case that all songs are inherently hypnotic. It’s just not very helpful. Doing so would be a bit like claiming that all hypnosis is self-hypnosis: Technically true, but ultimately not useful to most people.
So if not all songs are hypnotic, how do we find the ones that are?
Fortunately there’s a very simple question we can ask to get started: What do lots of people like?
As I’m sure you know, just as books have bestseller lists, the music industry has charts.
While it’s certainly true that the charts can be manipulated by an adequate marketing budget, it’s also true that doing this for any length of time is unlikely to be profitable.
This means that if a song was popular in the past and people still rave about it today…
It’s as good a place to start as any!
Because the thing is… in order to be popular for any length of time, a song has to have some kind of hook.
And that’s hypnosis.
Now this method alone will not find all hypnotic songs.
To give one obvious example why, if someone were to create a song in an ancient language, the tune would probably have to be extremely catchy for it to take off. And there are other reasons I am sure you can figure out.
I’ve tried to provide links to the official audio for each of these songs. Due to the way that music licensing works, you may find that some of them are blocked in your country. If that happens, just search for the song and artist name and you will usually be able to find your local official version.
For best results with most of the songs listed here, listen to them through a decent headset with your eyes closed. Except for the ones where the video is an important component.
Naturally, since this is an English language website, most of these are English language songs.
And of course, as is often the case with such lists, we’re gonna start with number 10!
10. Barbie Girl by Aqua
I’m gonna start off the list with a song that’s probably not very obviously hypnotic to most people.
That is, until you watch the video…
And it becomes even more apparent…
Once you scratch beneath the surface…
This song is deep.
You could be forgiven for imagining it’s about the opposite of what it sounds like at first listen. Except that it goes in so many directions, you can’t tell! There are deceptively many layers.
Check out the official video over on YouTube: Barbie Girl by Aqua.
This is one of those songs where you have to watch the video for the full experience.
9. Accidentally Kelly Street by Frente!
Next up, we have an Australian classic!
This song is pretty much a direct hypnotic induction in visualization format. It orients you into a space, and rotates you through your senses, covering at least 3 of them in the first 35 seconds. Some covertly.
And then it spins you into a new environment, bringing in more senses, before taking you on a voyage into positivity at the end.
It’s best listened to with eyes closed. Although the flying cat shadow is pretty funny!
Here’s the official video on YouTube: Accidentally Kelly Street by Frente!
8. The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot
This one tells the story of one of the largest shipwrecks in the Great Lakes.
It sets the context, and then leads you through the disaster, almost orienting you into the position of being one of the crew, simultaneously there and not there.
And then it spins into theories about what happened and the lasting effects.
All done in a way that draws you through the story.
Like the previous one, it’s best to listen with your eyes closed.
Here’s the official audio on YouTube: Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot.
7. 99 Luftballons by Nena
Just in case a shipwreck wasn’t dark enough for you…
How about the accidental end of the world?
Close your eyes, follow the lyrics, and notice how the music carries the story forward.
Until it doesn’t. Feel the impact the drop at the end of the song has. Right before the last part of the lyrics.
It’s exactly what we do with our voices in hypnosis to drop people into whatever comes next.
If you happen to speak German, I’m told the German version is better, but since this is an English language website, here’s the official English video on YouTube: 99 Red Balloons by Nena.
6. Safety Dance by Men Without Hats
Ok so that was a bit dark… Luckily the next song on our list is pretty much the opposite of dark!
This one has possibly the most over-the-top 80s music video that I’ve come across, so watching is highly recommended! Honestly, it would probably get onto this list on the basis of the video alone, it’s that over-the-top.
At first glance, the lyrics seem like fairly standard catchy nonsense lyrics. Until you start to dig. And then you notice little things. It spins you through different modalities. Except that it does it a level or two down from what’s obvious.
And while it’s doing that, it subtly guides you into the dance itself. Until suddenly it’s blatant, and most people don’t even notice.
Also, I feel like I should point out… there are a LOT of hats in this video.
Here’s the official video on YouTube: Safety Dance by Men Without Hats.
5. Down Under by Men At Work
Another Australian song!
Anyone would think I were biased.
On the face of it, Down Under seems very upbeat and positive…
If you don’t listen too closely, it tells the tale of an Australian apparently on their OE.
But when you listen closely…
And pay attention to the words…
That is, if you can, while the music’s doing what it does…
Plus also, the video footage is fairly entertaining in its own right… it’s worth watching for the facial expressions and visual storytelling alone!
And when you add in the upbeat music, lyrics that pull you through the story, and the underlying darker message…
Done covertly. You might almost call it hypnosis.
Did I mention the stuffed Koala?
Check out the official video on YouTube: Down Under by Men At Work.
4. Total Eclipse of the Heart by Bonnie Tyler
It’s no surprise that with so many great songs about the undead, at least one of them has made it onto this list.
Sadly it’s not The Zombie Song…
But this one causes extensive covert fractionation, both with the lyrics and with the music.
See if you can spot just how many different ways it does that.
There are a lot!
And that’s before you even get to the fact that it’s telling a story.
Check out the official video over on YouTube: Total Eclipse of The Heart by Bonnie Tyler.
3. How Bizarre by OMC
This one is deceptively simple.
You really have to listen closely to the lyrics and you’ll notice something odd…
I mean… the artist is clearly from South Auckland… you can tell from his accent…
And yet he’s singing about stuff that pretty much never happens in New Zealand.
Oddly enough, the apparent inspiration for the song was a drive in North Island.
The lyrics include a bunch of words that we don’t use here like freeway and gas…
It’s literally engineered for an audience that understands American English.
And when you look at the lyrics more deeply…
Even though they seem very straightforward…
There’s some interesting messaging going on.
It’s almost as if the song were created out of transderivational search… and then uses that itself.
And then there’s the blatant sales copy… I still can’t tell whether it’s a not-so-subtle attempt to have a movie made from the song, or ties in with one of its underlying meanings.
Sadly the songwriter is no longer with us, so we can’t ask him.
Have a listen and discover how many alternate meanings you can find for the lyrics.
Here’s the official video on YouTube: How Bizarre by OMC.
2. Poor Boy by Split Enz
Way back when I was first experimenting with self-hypnosis, I quickly discovered that music could help to guide me there.
This is partly because it helps to drown out any background noise, and partly because certain sequences of notes are very effective at fractionating the mind.
And Poor Boy contains an abundance of these note sequences!
I find it eerily haunting.
It’s also the very first song that I noticed drove me into deep trance from the music alone!
Check it out on YouTube: Poor Boy by Split Enz.
1. Year of the Cat by Al Stewart
As I’m writing this, it’s the start of 2023… the Year of The Cat. So it seems fitting to mention it here.
Side note: And now, as I’m about to hit publish, it’s almost the end of 2023!
Plus every time I tried getting various systems to rank songs for hypnotic effect, it was always this one or Poor Boy that came in at #1.
So since it’s currently the Year of the Cat, it has to win! 😺
Now, as a scientist, I’m not normally into such things.
And most of 2023 is officially the Year of The Cat. In Vietnam at least.
Year of the Cat tells a story… and it rotates the listener into the story by telling it in the second person. That is, as the listener, the things in the story are happening to you.
It fully utilizes hypnotic constructs, including descriptive language, similes, contronyms, other forms of transderivational search, linking words, and prepositions.
And then there’s the music! Close your eyes and listen with a good quality stereo headset for full effect.
Even by itself, the music is set up in such a way as to induce fractionation and guide the listener’s state.
Like most of the songs on this list, I cannot do it justice in a simple description.
You just have to go and listen to it yourself: Year of the Cat by Al Stewart.
Go Deeper With Hypnosis
If you’ve been paying attention, you’ve possibly noticed a few common themes throughout this article.
To summarize, first, there’s the music itself. When skillfully crafted, music can be used to lead someone’s state. Simply meet them where they are, and then move them up and down on different time scales. By making the steps just right, it’s possible to guide someone from just about any state to just about any other state.
Next up, a lot of songs tell a story. Especially the more hypnotically compelling ones. Stories are brilliant for just about everything because our minds literally run on story.
And of course, there’s the extensive utilization of various hypnotic technologies, including fractionation and transderivational search among others.
Ultimately, the most hypnotic songs tend to be popular for an extended period. This gives us the opportunity to explore hypnosis from another direction.
Specifically, if we can find a song that’s remained popular for a long time, there’s a reason for that. And usually, the reason is hypnosis.
By taking these songs (and others like them) apart, we can deepen our own understanding of hypnosis.
As luck with have it, I’ve covered many of these topics in a lot more depth! So if you’d like to get started on your own exploration, you might like to check out my article on covert hypnosis next. In it I give an overview of many of the hypnotic processes we’ve covered, only in the context of doing hypnosis.