20 Songs With the Best Intros
Great songs have memorable lyrics and melodies, but it’s the intros that allow the music to cast their spell from the very first note, sucking you in and holding you spellbound.
Intros establish important elements of a song, such as the key, rhythm, and tempo, and set the mood for what is to come.
Here are the 20 songs with the best intros that hook you in and force you to listen to the music.
- 1. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
- 2. “The Less I Know The Better” by Tame Impala
- 3. “Come Together” by The Beatles
- 4. “Feel Good Inc” by Gorillaz
- 5. “The Final Countdown” by Europe
- 6. “Down Under” by Men At Work
- 7. “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
- 8. “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
- 9. “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
- 10. “Layla” by Derek & The Dominos
- 11. “Chop Suey!” by System Of A Down
- 12. “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
- 13. “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses
- 14. “California Love” by 2Pac ft. Dr.Dre
- 15. “Song 2” by Blur
- 16. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
- 17. “Fade To Black” by Metallica
- 18. “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson
- 19. “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
- 20. “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top
1. “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson
Listening to Micheal Jackson’s classic hit, it’s hard to believe that producer Quincy Jones wanted to cut the intro. Luckily, Jackson refused, arguing that the introduction made him “want to dance”. Today, it is difficult to argue with his assessment.
The song starts with a standard drum beat and hi-hat, followed by two bars in by a shaker. The repetitive bassline that is one of the defining features of this masterpiece enters two more bars later. There can be little doubt that Billie Jean has one of the best intros ever produced.
2. “The Less I Know The Better” by Tame Impala
Another great song with a catchy bassline, the intro to Tame Impala’s The Less I Know The Better is full of groovy bass hooks and mesmerizing piano chords, underpinned by wonderful synth notes. Once you hear the first few bars, you’ll want to hear the entire song.
3. “Come Together” by The Beatles
Come Together is a classic song in The Beatles’ seemingly endless repertoire of hits. However, it is the intro that immediately grabs the attention as it is full of intriguing sounds that are hard to pinpoint. It turns out that The Beatles used the sound of a rotary phone along with their voices, drums, and bass to create the song’s memorable introduction.
4. “Feel Good Inc” by Gorillaz
The intro to Feel Good Inc is both different and hooks you at the very start. A hit song by the Gorillaz, it begins with a laugh, followed by vocals and an acoustic guitar hook. There are even some violins included, along with a great bassline to underpin the catchy melody. It’s safe to say that the intro, like the rest of the song, is unforgettable.
5. “The Final Countdown” by Europe
A hit from the ‘80s, Europe’s The Final Countdown has an iconic synth intro that is as memorable as the rest of the song. Some band members were not too happy with it when they first heard it. Happily, the intro was included, helping to create the classic song that we have today.
6. “Down Under” by Men At Work
A highly popular song, especially in Australia, Men At Work’s Down Under has a catchy melody and strange lyrics that perfectly capture the cheesiness of the ‘80s. But it’s the intro that is especially intriguing, as it begins with an unusual bass riff with percussion notes that were reportedly played on filled water bottles.
7. “I Want You Back” by The Jackson 5
The Jackson 5’s first hit, I Want You Back introduced the world to Micheal Jackson. However, you can tell it is a great song before he even says a word. The instrumental intro convincingly communicates the excitement of the song, with the piano run, conga drums, chicken-scratch guitar, and strings. Best of all is the bassline, a thrilling chord progression that effortlessly pulls you into the song.
8. “Let’s Get It On” by Marvin Gaye
A masterpiece that is still popular today, Let’s Get It On has an iconic intro that leaves no doubt about its intentions. The beginning guitar notes are as famous as Marvin Gaye’s soulful vocals and establish the song’s slow-burning sensuality. Unsurprisingly, those notes are often featured in movies and TV shows, cementing the song’s enduring appeal.
9. “I’m Coming Out” by Diana Ross
Diana Ross’ I’m Coming Out has an extended intro that features the diva’s voice front and center. The intro also has a memorable horn line and syncopated groove that effortlessly pulls you into the song’s disco beat.
10. “Layla” by Derek & The Dominos
Layla’s intro contains one of the most iconic guitar riffs of all time. It’s impossible to hear the first few chords and not want to grove to this classic song. Originally written as a ballad by Eric Clapton, it was turned into a riff-laden rock anthem by Derek and The Dominos.
11. “Chop Suey!” by System Of A Down
Heavy metal band System Of A Down’s signature song, Chop Suey contains an intriguing intro that mixes guitar melodies with syncopated blasts of bass. The song is both brilliant and bizarre, and the introduction memorably communicates the vibe of the song.
12. “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC
Australian hard rock band AC/DC has had many hits, and Thunderstruck is arguably up there with the best of them. The opening guitar riff combines with the vocals to deliver a truly intoxicating intro that sucks you into the song’s energy.
13. “Welcome To The Jungle” by Guns N’ Roses
Welcome To The Jungle propelled Guns N’ Roses onto the big stage and is filled with high octane power. Nowhere is this more in evidence than in the intro. Slash’s first, echoing notes have an ominous quality that is amplified by Axl’s howl. The guitar riff is dramatic and intense, instantly conveying the vibe of the song.
14. “California Love” by 2Pac ft. Dr.Dre
2Pac’s California Love is a thrilling mix of funk and hip hop with the intro communicating the vibe perfectly. The vocals, in the beginning, combine brilliantly with bass, piano, horns, and drums to create the musical backbone of the track.
15. “Song 2” by Blur
Another great hit, Song 2 by Blur is a grunge classic that commands your attention with its intro. The drumline is compelling, but it’s the iconic “Woo hoo’ chorus that is most remembered, often being played on TV shows and numerous events.
16. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana
Nirvana’s greatest hit, Smells Like Teen Spirit has one of the greatest intros ever written. The beat is scintillating and the double-tracked main guitar riff, which includes Cobain’s syncopated sixteenth note strum, has a major part to play in this song’s enduring appeal.
17. “Fade To Black” by Metallica
Metallica’s first ballad, Fade to Black is a mournful meditation on depression and death. The beginning of the song is full of melodious, solemn guitar riffs that fit the mood perfectly, effortlessly communicating the meaning of the lyrics.
18. “Smooth Criminal” by Michael Jackson
Another masterpiece by Micheal Jackson, Smooth Criminal has an infectious groove right from the start that is impossible to resist. The beat is strong and propulsive and the synth notes underline that song’s combination of R&B and rock edginess.
This is said to be Jackson’s favorite song and it is easy to see why, as it grabs you from the first bar, keeping you spellbound until the song is over.
19. “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi
Bon Jovi’s You Give Love A Bad Name is a sing-along anthem about a breakup. The song certainly doesn’t deal with subtlety, and the intro wastes no time in communicating its infectious energy and enthusiasm.
It begins with Bon Jovi’s a cappella chorus before the screeching guitars, synths and booming drums take over. The groove is established right from the start and gives this glam-metal hit its propulsive power.
20. “Sharp Dressed Man” by ZZ Top
Sharp Dressed Man by ZZ Top is a classic from the ‘80s that is still regularly played today. The beat, described by ZZ Top as a mix of techno-pop with bar bland blues, grabs your attention from the very first bar.
This was also one of ZZ Top’s first songs to use synthesizers that mix with the guitars to create a rhythmic and engaging intro.
Intros are what make songs memorable, you hear them once and you are hooked. Each song has its own unique way of capturing your attention with the intro notes or chords.
All these songs are classic examples of using the intro to engage the attention of listeners, even while establishing the harmonic, rhythmic, and melodic themes of the songs.
While the beginnings of many tracks are forgettable, these hits demonstrate how a carefully crafted intro can add to the enduring appeal of a song.