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Radio Song

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Invisible airwaves crackle with life
Bright antennae bristle with the energy
Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength
Bearing a gift beyond price, almost free
Rush, "The Spirit Of Radio"

A Radio Song is any song about the medium or culture of radio itself, or that incorporates it as a central metaphor.

Radio as a technology and as a medium has played an indispensable role in shaping our popular culture and consciousness—especially so in the world of music. For decades before the advent of streaming services and widely available digital music, radio was the arbiter of public taste: who got played on the radio (and at what time of day) dictated who got popular and sold records, ranking systems like the Top 40 decided who was the best of the best, and station identities helped codify modern genre classifications.

As such, many artists over the years have had a . . . complex relationship to this medium that could make or break them on a whim. And, as musicians tend to do when confronted with complexity, many have written songs about it.

Since most of these songs were themselves written to be played on the radio, this is a subtrope of Heavy Meta. However, these can forfeit their own Radio Friendliness if they overlap with Protest Songs written by Disillusioned Artists about how Music Is Politics. Compare Hymn to Music, This Is a Song. Sister-trope to Rock Star Song. Because of the prominence of car radios, this often overlaps with Driving Song and maybe Car Song.

Not to Be Confused with Radio Friendliness, about songs written for but not about radio.

No Zero-Context Examples, please!


  • "Ain't Misbehavin'", first published in 1929, is an early example. The song in general is about staying home, waiting for your baby, and one of the verses discusses listening to the radio instead of going out dancing.
  • The title track to The Beach Boys' That's Why God Made the Radio is a 21st-century example. According to co-writer Jim Peterik, the song came from a conversation he and Brian Wilson (also a co-writer) had at a restaurant about radio and how songs sounded over car speakers, and Wilson responded "Yeah, that's why God made the radio." The chorus:
    That's why God made the radio
    So tune right in, everywhere you go
    He waved His hand, gave us rock 'n' roll
    The soundtrack of falling in love
    That's why God made the radio
  • The Blasters' "Border Radio" describes a woman who calls up a radio station and requests a song that she and "her man" used to enjoy, in hopes that it'll console her and her child. It's left indeterminate why exactly the father can't be reunited with them.
  • The Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" is about the falling out of the use of radio in favor of music videos, silky-voiced radio personalities replaced by beautiful, often less talented celebrities. Appropriately, it was the first video ever played on MTV.
  • In "Yesterday Once More" by the Carpenters, the singer reminiscences about hearing her favorite song on the radio.
  • Harry Chapin's "W.O.L.D." is about a D.J. whose aging voice lost him his job at a big time station, landing him back in his hometown.
  • "On the Radio" by Cheap Trick, which Rick Nielsen described as "about being fourteen years old and wishing you had a car, riding out, where your best friend was the guy on the radio."
  • "Radio" by The Corrs, where the singer listens to the radio to remedy her loneliness.
  • One of Elvis Costello's most beloved songs (and the one that got him banned from Saturday Night Live for a while) is the iconoclastic "Radio Radio."
    Radio is a sound salvation
    Radio is cleaning up the nation
    They say you better listen to the voice of reason
    But they don't give you any choice 'cause they think that it's treason
    So you had better do as you are told
    You better listen to the radio ...
    I wanna bite the hand that feeds me
    I wanna bite that hand so badly
    I wanna make them wish they'd never seen me
  • Daryl Hall & John Oates' "Portable Radio" is an ode to the portable fun of the boom box and FM radio. Hell, the cover of the album it's from, X-Static, features a boom box in its pure glory.
    • From the same album, the video for Wait For Me depicts the band playing inside a boom box.
  • "Midnight Radio" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, about the magic of radio and rock 'n roll.
  • Joe Walsh has "The Radio Song," about finding a quiet place alone and listening to music on the radio.
  • Joni Mitchell's "You Turn Me On, I'm a Radio," which she wrote after being asked for a catchy love song that could be played on the radio.
  • In "Radio," Lana Del Rey uses being "on the radio" as a synechdoche for fame, discussing its double-edged nature.
  • LL Cool J: "I Can't Live Without My Radio," about his love for his boombox.
  • Maren Morris's "My Church" combines this with Driving Song, describing listening to music on the road as a religious experience.
  • "I Radio Heaven" by Over The Rhine uses the radio as a metaphor for a would-be lover struggling to make a connection.
  • Queen's "Radio Ga Ga," an unabashed ode to the radio.
    Let's hope you never leave, old friend
    Like all good things, on you we depend
    So stick around, 'cause we might miss you
    When we grow tired of all this visual
  • Bonnie Raitt's "Love Letter", about writing a love letter while listening to a love song on the radio.
  • Rammstein's "Radio" is about evading East Germany's censorship by surreptitiously listening to foreign broadcasts late at night on shortwave radios.
  • The Ramones' "Do You Remember Rock N Roll Radio?" laments the rock stations of the 70s straying away from the genre's roots.
  • Regina Spektor: In the chorus of "On the Radio", the singer relates listening to the same song (Guns N' Roses's "November Rain") twice because the radio DJ had fallen asleep.
  • R.E.M.'s "Radio Song" seemingly blames the radio for destroying society with monotonous low-grade crap, featuring a rap by KRS-One.
    DJs communicate to the masses
    Sex and violent classes
    Now our children grow up prisoners
    All their life, radio listeners
  • "Hearthammer" by Runrig describes growing up in Scotland in The '60s. The second verse is about Radio Caroline.
  • Rush's "The Spirit of Radio" is half a delightfully verbose celebration of the medium and half a lament on FM radio passing into more regulated, commercial formats during the late 70s.
    Invisible airwaves crackle with life
    Bright antennae bristle with the energy
    Emotional feedback on a timeless wavelength
    Bearing a gift beyond price almost free
    For the words of the profits were written on the studio wall
    Concert hall
    And echoes with the sounds
    Of salesmen, of salesmen, of salesmen
  • Shemikia Copeland's "Who Stole My Radio?" discusses the general decline of radio-music quality.
  • "FM," by British Punk Rock band The Slits, takes a look at the darker side of public radio and its potential to control the populace. The lyrics are vague and paranoid, repurposing FM to stand for frequent mutilation.
    My head is like a radio set
    I'm waiting to hear what program is next
  • Sloan: "Listen To The Radio" where the singer listens to the radio but there is just static.
  • The Smashing Pumpkins: "I of the Mourning" is told from the perspective of a man who seeks comfort in his radio and hears voices within that inspire him to start a band.
  • Steely Dan: "F.M. (No Static at All)". Created as the opening song for the film FM, it song sings the praises of Blues, Reggae, Elvis Presley and the lack of static when compared to AM.
  • Donna Summer's "On the Radio", about how a man's letter to The One That Got Away is found by someone and read on the radio. The woman hears it and reunites with him.
  • Twenty One Pilots have "Car Radio," about someone whose car radio has been stolen discovering how much they've been using music to block out uncomfortable thoughts.
  • "Radio" by Vienna Teng depicts the aftermath of a suicide bombing in a major American city through the perspective of a first responder. The speaker alludes to a time when such events were only a distant reality reported on the radio, at which she could easily "turn away to another station" to hear a love song.
  • "Mexican Radio" by Wall of Voodoo is a tribute to the powerful AM radio stations located near the U.S.-Mexico border known as "border blasters."
  • Mark Germino's "Rex Bob Lowenstein" is about a Johnny Fever type D.J. who refuses to play the station's playlist and has to be dragged out of the booth.
  • Charlie Dore's "Pilot of the Airwaves": The singer tells a D.J. (unclear whether on the phone or only in her head) that she stays up listening to the overnight radio show every night and the D.J. seems like a friend.
  • The Members' "Radio", though it's also a bragging Image Song.