Depending on your perspective, the future can be a realm of endless possibilities or the scariest place in the world. Many artists throughout history have written about their idea of what the future will look like, whether that’s their own personal future or the future of humanity centuries down the line.
Some are optimistic, some are depressing, and some are just strange.
The future is on our minds a lot, and there’s plenty of music out there to help us process all our dreams and worries. Here are 20 of our favourite songs about the future.
Top Songs About the Future
“Year 3000” – Busted
This upbeat track from Busted tackles that relatable scenario in which your neighbour builds a time machine and travels a thousand years into the future. Written by James Boune, it was inspired by his obsession with Back To The Future, and paints quite a cheerful picture of the year 3000. Society lives underwater, boy bands are a dime a dozen, and women have three breasts. Oh, and “Year 3000” has gone multi-platinum.
The music video is filled with whacky visuals, depicting a society full of aliens and flying cars. The members of Busted have apparently survived for a thousand years, although they are considerably older now, and are still playing to live audiences.
“When I Grow Up” – Pussycat Dolls
The Pussycat Dolls sing about their younger selves and confess that they always wanted the spotlight. Singing from the perspective of their younger selves, they detail what their vision of the future used to be: themselves starring in movies, appearing on the cover of magazines, releasing music videos and achieving fame and fortune.
Their future selves know that all of this happened – and that fame can also be a double-edged sword. “Be careful what you wish for ‘cause you just might get it,” they sing.
Lead singer Nichole Scherzinger has explained that she would always sign notebooks with messages such as Remember me when I’m famous! when she was a child, certain that she knew where her future was headed. “I don’t know of a little kid who hasn’t aspired to be someone,” she said.
“A Better Future” – David Bowie
Bowie demands an unnamed power for a better future, threatening to stop “watching”, “needing” or “loving” them if they don’t comply. The song feels like a plea to a country or government that is failing certain citizens, and a wish for a more secure, more optimistic future for those affected. Bowie’s voice is eerily robotic and monotone throughout the song, adding to the dystopian effect.
“Mean” – Taylor Swift
“Mean” sees Swift beat down by her bullies and “feeling like a nothing”. However, as she reminds herself, her future contains more exciting things that they could never predict – and they’ll always be stuck in their bitter ways. Thinking about her future comforts her even though her present is less than ideal.
“Mean” has become an anti-bullying anthem, but Swift didn’t write the song about school bullies at all. Instead, the song was inspired by music critics who couldn’t stop taking harsh shots at her career and talents. She pictures them “drunk and rumbling on about how I can’t sing” whilst she rises to higher heights.
“Future Lovers” – Madonna
This dance track from Madonna has a futuristic vibe from the off, even before Madonna’s half-whispered voice starts speaking over the pulsing instrumental. The lyrics are fairly abstract, but Madonna seems to be calling those with hearts full of love towards the future, encouraging them to move forward with her. The song appeared on Confessions on a Dance Floor and opened her 2006 Confessions tour.
“In The Year 2525” – Zager & Evans
Zager & Evans accelerate into the future in this surreal track, jumping forward to the year 3535, 4545 and beyond, all the way to the year 10,000. Mankind will take pills to keep them compliant, have no use for teeth and eyes, forget how to use their legs and arms, make all children in test tubes, all leading up either to an apocalyptic end or an endless reign of the human race.
“Dear Future Husband” – Meghan Trainor
Trainor lays out some instructions for the man she’ll end up marrying, asking him to take her on dates, buy her flowers, and generally treat her well. She also tells him that in their future marriage he shouldn’t expect her to be a housewife as she also has a flourishing career, and she never learnt to cook.
Trainor’s 2015 release came three years before her future husband became her present husband. The pop star married Spy Kids actor Daryl Sabara in 2018, in a private ceremony in the backyard of their Los Angeles home.
“Welcome To The Future” – Brad Paisley
This country track from Paisley is a sweet look at how his younger self might react to his ‘futuristic’ life. His ten-year-old self dreamt of a future when he could own his own Pacman game and watch TV on a long car ride. Paisley feels lucky to be living in a future where those things exist, even though they’re only simple pleasures.
On a call with Tokyo, he reflects how his grandfather fought the Japanese, and how pleased he would be to see the peaceful relations that now exist between the two countries. It’s a wholesome reflection on how Paisley’s younger self hasn’t grown up into such a bad future after all.
“Next 100 Years” – Bon Jovi
Jovi promises that the subject of this track doesn’t have to be scared of their future. He tells them that even though the future can be scary, he’ll be with them for a long time. “I’ll be standing here for the next 100 years,” he sings. The future can be easier to face when you have someone consistent standing by your side.
“Video Killed The Radio Star” – The Buggles
The Buggles paint a bleak picture of the future in this track – particularly the future of the arts. It tells the story of a radio star made obsolete by the invention of new medias in the 20th century, and how visual arts were beginning to eclipse auditory arts. The ironic thing is, this song has remained incredibly popular over forty years since it was first released.
The futuristic sound of the track was meticulously crafted, and the song spent an entire three months in production. The male and female voices were recorded through different mediums and mastered to sound like they were coming from two entirely different times and places.
“Future Starts Now” – Kim Petras
Petras isn’t about waiting for the future – she’s making it come to her. Encouraging her listeners to get lost in whatever it is they’re doing and reach for their futures, she tells them to “worry about it in the morning”, and focus on seizing opportunities sooner rather than later. “Future Starts Now” was the German singer songwriter’s debut track under a major record label.
“My Next Thirty Years” – Tim McGraw
Tim McGraw celebrates both the past and the future in this ode to the aging process. Raising a glass to his first thirty years, he turns his attention to the next three decades of his life, listing everything he wants to do – “cry a little less, laugh a little more,” and just generally live a more fulfilled life.
He also decides that its time to start taking his health seriously, an aspiration for the future that many of us have. He closes out with a wish that he and his wife will “raise a little family”.
“Future Games” – Fleetwood Mac
This eight-minute track from Fleetwood Mac describes how wondering about the future can sometimes be a dangerous affair. The pressure of the impending years can cause us to panic over wasted time and the want to stay on a certain track. Fleetwood Mac advise us not spend our time “sitting playing future games” and instead live in the present.
The track takes on a more ominous tone as they tell the listener, “You know there’s no escape”. The way Fleetwood Mac see it, the future is an inevitable force that comes for all of us and can’t be reasoned with, so there’s no point obsessing too much over how we’re going to make it work for us. “Future Games” is the title track from the band’s 1971 album of the same name.
“my future” – Billie Eilish
Eilish describes the feeling of recovering from mental health issues that take away your optimism. Suddenly, for the first time in a while, she’s excited about what’s coming and she’s off finding her own adventure. “I’m in love with my future/Can’t wait to meet her,” she sings.
She’s so in love, in fact, that she no longer has time for other romantic relationships, instead focusing on herself. The ambient ballad was penned with Eilish’s older brother Finneas O’Connell, like most of her music.
Usually a perfectionist, Eilish recorded the vocals for the song in far fewer takes than usual, deciding that one take was “the only way it could be” and resisting the temptation to do another.
“Futureproof” – Nothing But Thieves
Nothing But Thieves criticise those who only pretend to work towards a better future in this alternative rock track. “They’re shutting down the protest, yeah, we’re so on trend,” sings Conor Mason in the first verse, going on to describe a kind of person who wants to be ‘futureproof’ but isn’t actually doing anything useful.
“Future Nostalgia” – Dua Lipa
Lipa gives us her best impression of something timeless in “Future Nostalgia”, with a futuristic and at the same time retro sound. Her thoughts are with the future, and listeners who will hopefully always find the track both of those things no matter when it’s played.
In the track, Lipa refers to herself as a “female alpha”. She has since said that she doesn’t always feel like a female alpha, but putting it in the song was a way to help herself act the part.
“Future Proof” – Massive Attack
Massive Attack paint a bleak, dystopian image of the future with this eerie track. Opening with disembodied beeping sounds, the low, whispered vocals come in to describe a lonely, separate existence that keeps the subject “future proof”.
People have speculated that the track uses these dystopian images as a metaphor for drug use. The subject may be using drugs to avoid having to face his future, as mankind invents stronger and stronger means of escape.
“Future Starts Slow” – The Kills
The Kills sing from the perspective of two people who can’t be together due to their dysfunctional relationship. They know they’re meant to end up together, but with life constantly interfering, their future seems to be approaching them slowly. As the song goes on, we begin to doubt whether a successful relationship together is in their future after all.
“Future People” – Alabama Shakes
Alabama Shakes sing about thinking about what you actually want out of the future. They encourage the listener to think more deeply about their own future, and have a progressive open mind when they consider what they might become. “You’ve got to give a little, get a little/And see it like future people,” they sing.
The track has an experimental sound like many of the songs on the Sound & Colour album. Vocalist Brittany Howard explained that the band experimented with children’s choral sounds, native African rhythms, and dream sequences, among other things.
“They Say Vision” – Res
“I wanna try that pill that people take,” sings Res in the opening line of “They Say Vision”. She goes on to describe a product called Vision that keeps the user happy, content and obedient. It feels like a science fiction story and is quite an ominous prediction of a future in which people are supplied with drugs to mollify them.
We can never know exactly what the future holds, but these tracks explore many possibilities of both the near and distant future. The only person who will ever truly know what’s coming for you is your future self, so you might as well sit back, switch on this playlist, and trust that it’ll all work out.
Caitlin Devlin is a music, entertainment and lifestyle writer based in London. When she’s not creating playlists for Repeat Replay, she’s reviewing gigs and interviewing artists for Ticketmaster UK and thinking about what her Spotify Wrapped will look like this year.