A picture is worth a thousand words, but cameras are worth a thousand pages of sheet music.
Photographs and cameras have been the subject of several songs over time, and thanks to the fervent feedback we received from our Top 10 Songs About (Or To) Computers feature, we decided to put together this collection of the best-ever songs about photography.
Without a doubt, the most popular song title in the realm of camera-related songs is "Photograph," with everyone from Ringo Starr to Nickleback to The Tiny Tot Players (covering Def Leppard) offering up a track with that title. Although none of those acts made the cut, a song called "Photograph" made our Top 10 list.
Normally, we would ask you to visit the Comments section and remind us of the songs we missed on this list, but not this time. This list is beyond reproach. These are simply the best songs about photography, presented in an order that is not subject to debate. (Just kidding. Flame away in the Comments section.)
But before we get started, here are three songs that are tangentially related to cameras and photography, and although they're not specifically about cameras, they're better songs than some of the entries on our Top 10 list. Here we go...
Three Great Songs That Are Loosely Affiliated With Cameras
1. Hey Ya -- Outkast
If Outkast's enormously catchy hit was explicitly about cameras, it would definitely be top-5 material on our list. As it stands, the song's "shake it like a Polaroid picture" refrain earns it an extremely honorable mention, and this Charlie Brown mashup video is just icing on the cake.
2. Sure Shot -- Beastie Boys
Back in the day, Canon's compact film cameras went by the name "Sure Shot." Nowadays, the company's compact digital cameras are known as "PowerShot" cameras. Through it all, the Beastie Boys have been getting live on the spot, putting all types of shame in that game you got.
3. Flash to the Rescue -- Queen
We don't always recommend using your camera's flash in low-light situations, but we do recommend listening to this Queen jam from the Flash Gordon soundtrack at volume 11 in any situation. We're pretty sure that without this song's bass line to lead the way, "Eye of the Tiger" by Survivor wouldn't have existed, and we wouldn't want to live in that kind of world.
And now for the main event:
The 10 Best Songs About Cameras and Photography
10. Camera -- R.E.M.
To be honest, we don't have a clue what Stipe is talking about in this song: "Alone in a crowd a bartered lantern borrowed / If I'm to be your camera then who will be your face?" Wha? In most early R.E.M. you can't understand many of the words anyway. But you catch a word here and a word there and--with the help of Peter Buck's (fairly brilliant) guitar work--the whole thing kind of works together to make a great song. "Camera," from the group's 1984 record "Reckoning", is a good example.
9. Pictures of Lily -- The Who
A crafty little number about an insomnia-ridden boy whose dad gives him some horny photos of somebody named "Lily" to help him, uh, relieve his tension enough to sleep. But then the boy falls in love with "Lily," and his sleeping problems return. Okay, nice one Pete. While the song isn't exactly a Who classic, the video does feature some nice lip-syncing by Daltry and Townsend, and even some cool french horn-syncing by bassist Entwistle. But the best bits are the shots of Keith Moon, whose "sync-drumming" is a full-on disaster--by design, we expect. Or maybe not: Who knows what strange, barbiturate-flavored music Moon (who preferred to be called "Jet Powers" by his mates) was hearing in his head at the time.
8. Video Killed the Radio Star -- Buggles
You may recognize this as the first-ever music video played on MTV way back in 1981, and its lyrics are eerily prophetic if you think about what has gone on in mainstream media ever since. To that end, "reality TV" has now killed off the music video, and MTV ain't what it used to be.
7. Girls on Film -- Duran Duran
Ooh, Duran Duran! Even the sound of your name is sexy and dangerous. And your videos! The "Girls on Film" video was so hot that a toned-down version had to be made for MTV. In its uncut glory, the video depicts what attractive British people in the 80s acted like when the lights turned on and the cameras rolled. Shocking. The truth is that "Girls on Film" was about the tawdriest thing millions of pimply teenagers could see on late-night TV back in the 1980s. And for many, that euro-disco beat and whiny guitar is still the very sound of, well, puberty.
6. Pictures of You -- The Cure
Goths all over the world rejoice in this whiney, syrupy lost-love anthem from the Cure's 1989 "Disintegration" LP that sounds like New Order on a really bad day. The "pictures" in question are all that the heartbroken narrator is left with after the object of his affection decides to say "goodbye, cruel world," which is what one of us felt like saying after listening to a seven-and-a half-minute-long live version of this downer-jam on YouTube.
5. Kamera -- Wilco
"Dude, I just realized something. A camera looks OUTWARD, but it's really a reflection of what's going on, like, INWARD. It's a periscope for your soul or something, man. But even if you see what I'm seeing, are you really SEEING what I'm SEEING, you know?" That's totally what this song is about, we think.
4. I Turn My Camera On -- Spoon
Despite the cute dancing robot in the video, this Spoon song is pretty depressing once you dive into the lyrics. Jilted lover, hiding behind his camera, absorbed in apathy as a defense mechanism for his busted heart, et cetera. Still: FUNKY BASSLINE BEGETS INFECTIOUS GROOVE. Try getting this song out of your head for the next couple of weeks.
3. Freeze Frame -- J. Geils Band
"Freeze Frame" is a shoo-in for the top 5, even before you factor in the bonus points earned by its mandatory 1980s horns. First of all, the song's lyrics serve up a slew of photography-related double entendres, from "lipstick reflex got me wound" to "darkroom sweet-talk" to "zoom-lens feelings," whatever those are. What's more, the J. Geils Band must have had a thing for photography, as their most famous hit, "Centerfold," was about two forms of exposure.
2. Photograph -- Def Leppard
I (M.S) love this song. Not in an ironic way either. I really love it. I don't really want to; I just do. It puts on no airs. It's a well-crafted pop song with a huge hook from a British soft metal band called Def Leppard. The lyrics are not clever: Boy meets Girl. Girl gives Boy photograph of Girl. Girl departs. All Boy has is photograph. Boy looks at photograph and decides to sing a song about it. SOFT ROCK MASTERPIECE ENSUES.
1. Kodachrome -- Paul Simon
Not only is this the most detailed song on our list in terms of describing the color fidelity of Kodak film, but it also settles the debate on whether Paul Simon shoots Nikon or Canon (it's Nikon) and whether he prefers the artistic look of black-and-white shots (nope, everything looks worse in black and white). Despite the digital revolution, this is a timeless song that deserves the number one spot.
Honorable Mention: Video Phone -- Beyoncé, featuring Lady Gaga, which gets our vote for, uh, most-intriguing video; Picture Book by the Kinks, because the Kinks are just cool. Photograph -- Weezer, which gets bonus points for reminding us of "Buddy Holly"-era Weezer; Cameras -- Matt and Kim, which has a video reminiscent of a Bruins-Canucks game; Into the Lens -- Yes, which is, like, 100 minutes long; and Cameras in Paris -- The Fixx, which is the best song about Auto mode.