Rock Bands With the Most Intelligent Lyrics

List of Intelligent rock bands judged by lyrical content.

The Top Ten

1 Tool Tool Tool is an American progressive/alternative/post-metal band, that was formed in 1990. more.

At first listen I could hardly make out anything Maynard (vocals) was saying, but as soon as I read the lyrics of their songs I was completely unable to unhear those lyrics. The way all of their songs are crafted both musically and lyrically is genius. I'm not going to break it all down for you, if you want to be enlightened by the brilliance of Tool your going to have to stop reading these responses and actually go listen to them. Completely submerge yourself in their music and you will come out the other end a new person.

Just listen to lateralus and you will see how intelligent their lyrics are.

Tool has incredibly well thought out songs like Lateralus where the syllables of the lyrics work up and down the Fibonacci sequence or The pot where the entire song is supposed to make you think its about weed even in its name, but hidden meanings in the lyrics show it is truly a satirical work to criticize those who look at songs only on surface level. As well as well thought out album structure for example 10,000 days has three songs in it where two are played back to back while the third songs audio is layed over the other two to form a hidden song.

I extracted the meaning of all of tool's songs; placed them into a sonic concoction, and now I can't stop break-dancing. It's like I have an intel pentium performance platform running my mental data banks, and every time I hear the song "10,000 days" I cannot stop doing the robot. Artistically speaking, tool has pressed music and art to a threshold of evolution. Their bodies may not posses 46 and 2 chromosomes, but their album Anemia does. This song is a noteworthy elaboration on human evolution and requires a vast amount of mental horse power to create. Maynard is said to have an I.Q. of around 140 and a level of emotional intelligence that cannot be measured. The next time I listen to the song, "eulogy" I will make sure I do the electric worm.

2 Pink Floyd Pink Floyd Pink Floyd was an English progressive rock band formed in 1965 in London, England. They achieved international acclaim with their progressive and psychedelic music. The band consisted of 5 members - David Gilmour (Vocals and Guitar), Syd Barrett (Vocals and Guitar), Nick Mason (Drums), Roger Waters more.

Decode Waters' lyrics!
No one else can write thus

In my opinion, Roger Waters is the second best lyricist to ever live, behind only Bob Dylan himself.

Songs like Time, Money, US and Them (Dark Side of the Moon), Wish you were Here, the whole Animals album are time immemorial, not just for their music, but equally for their content too. Pink Floyd has inspired many artists for their concept albums which upholds the fact that their songs mean something.

"Every year is getting shorter,
never seem to find the time.
Plans that either come to naught,
or half a page of scribbled lines."

You cannot say that's not beautiful poetry. - MontyPython

3 Radiohead Radiohead Radiohead are an English rock band from Abingdon, Oxfordshire, formed in 1985. The band consists of Thom Yorke (lead vocals, guitar, piano, keyboards), Jonny Greenwood (lead guitar, keyboards, other instruments), Colin Greenwoood (bass guitar), Phil Selway (drums), and Ed O'Brien (guitar).

Will Sheff of Okkervil River (a band with incredibly impressive lyricism) put it quite well when he said "Radiohead lyrics are terrible".

Thom Yorke is definitely a creative visionary and a leading edge musician, but a good lyricist? I don't think so.

Thom Yorke

It is pretty commonplace to use complex metaphors to say something simple when it comes to poetry and songs. But how many people can use everyday words and phrases to convey something extremely deep? Thom Yorke is the answer.

Their songs are simply magical and they have a lot of meaning

4 Rush Rush Rush was a Canadian progressive rock band that was formed in 1968. Even though the only founding member still in the band is Alex Lifeson (Guitar), the band is most well-known for their current members Neil Peart (Drums) and Geddy Lee (Bass, Vocals). more.

There is only one band serving this designation. Just a few examples:

Animate - man's need to embrace his feminine side
Earthshine - a rock song about astrophysics/planetary science for crying out loud! Find me another rock tune that does THAT!
Limelight - "I can't pretend a stranger is a long awaited friend" Were truer words ever spoken?
The Trees - a story about the apprehensions of Quebec, as it feels threatened within an English dominated Canadian confederation
Entre Nous - perhaps the most concise analysis of the intricacies of relationships... in fewer than 250 words
Distant Early Warning - A Canadian perspective, told by one with genuine concern and affection for America, expressing concern about America's dangerous course
New World Man - a tribute to America's great potential, with a cautionary admonition. Of course, a little tweak for the old powers of Europe never hurts.
Territories - a rejection of nationalistic fervor, and bling allegiance to a ...more

The older I become, the more I appreciate Neil's lyrics. Coming back to old favourites and listening to them again after some of life's curves and challenges, makes me realize what genius this band possesses. After some deeply personal losses in my own life, the meaning within Something for Nothing, One Little Victory, Earthshine, Dreamline, Bravado, Secret Touch and Ghost Rider resonated.

Even when they do decide to do a song about some rock staple like a car... they created the gem that is Red Barchetta. If that isn't the perfect car song, I don't know what is!

Add to all that the fact they are all musician's musicians makes Rush the only one I could vote for in this "top ten" list.

Neil does NOT have a degree in English. He is a high-school dropout. Neil is a self-taught, self-made man. He has gotten where he has through hard work & perseverance.

Just look into how the lyrics are written and you'll understand

5 Bad Religion Bad Religion Bad Religion is an American punk rock band that formed in Los Angeles, California in 1979. The band makes extensive use of soaring three-part vocal harmonies, guitar solos and lyrics that often contain religious and political commentary.

Better then a thesaurus for complex words, better than your television for political discourse

Agree with this. Also, Dead Kennedys somewhere. - JoLeKosovo

Undoubtedly Bad Religion are the most intellectual and articulate band on any notion.
Factual information that form intelligent deep thoughts on the human condition comminguling with a wide array of emotions.

There's a running joke among punks about the "Bad Religion Dictionary" that is needed when analyzing their lyrics. Graffin is actually a university professor, and his articulate diction definitely shows this.

6 System of a Down System of a Down System of a Down formed in 1994 as an Armenian-American Alternative Metal group from Glendale, California. The band name is sometimes shortened to System or SOAD. more.

A first I thought these guys were just noisy and high on cocaine... But one particular day I took my time to really understand their lyrics, they are very good

They enjoy hiding deeper meanings in their songs by making it sound like they are just a bunch of idiots. I love it - kempokid

Eye opening. They have left nothing untouched with their critical, harmonic verses.

Very political

7 Iron Maiden Iron Maiden Iron Maiden are an English Heavy Metal / Hard Rock band formed in Leyton, East London, in 1975 by bassist and primary songwriter Steve Harris. The most critically acclaimed period for the band was from 1983-1989. With vocalist Bruce Dickinson, bassist Steve Harris, lead guitarist Dave Murray, rhythm more.

Many of their songs provide a stunningly complex view of a historical event. For example, "Paschendale" off of Dance of Death examines its namesake WWI battle, while "The Trooper" examines the Charge of the Light Brigade, an attack in the Crimean War. Another common theme amongst Maiden's music is literature. "To Tame a Land" summarizes Frank Herbert's sci-fi classic, "Dune", while Powerslave's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner" is capable of passing as a complete thesis on the Coleridge epic. Overall, Iron Maiden puts out consistently fantastic music, paired with some of the most intellectually stimulating lyrics that can be found in rock and metal.

8 Manic Street Preachers Manic Street Preachers

Every lyric is deeply meant and sang for a reason, particularly the political side most can relate to. There is no "beating around the bush", the Manics say it how it is and their lyrics tread on grounds most other bands fear to tread.

What the other guy said.

9 Queen Queen Queen are an English rock band formed in 1970. Members were Freddie Mercury (Vocals and Piano), Brian May (Guitar, Vocals), Roger Taylor (Drums, Vocals), and John Deacon (Bass Guitar, Vocals). Before forming into Queen, Brian May and Roger Taylor had played together in a band named Smile. Freddie Mercury more.

With the constantly declining intelligence in song lyrics its nice to have an intellectual space in music

Just listen to Killer Queen, Crazy Little Thing Called Love, Under Pressure Etc. All of them have very complex lyrics.

Queen had a Doctor in the band. And they all wrote some pretty deep lyrics to their songs

10 Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin Led Zeppelin was an English rock band formed in London in 1968. The group consisted of Robert Plant (Vocal), Jimmy Page (Guitar), John Paul Jones (Bass, Keyboard) and John Bonham (Drums). The band's heavy, guitar-driven sound, rooted in blues and psychedelia on their early albums, has earned them recognition more.

There are songs they don't even use the title in

Based heavily in literature, sex, and some current events, led zepplin tells stories in a beautiful way. Not only are the lyrics fantastic but the instrumentals are great too.

Music is good!

The Contenders

11 Cog Cog Cog are an Australian progressive rock band that formed in 1998. Their debut album, The New Normal, was nominated for Triple J's 2005 J Award.

A Progressive rock band! The best of all time! Their lyrics are deeply well thought out! And most. Of all intelligent

12 Rage Against the Machine Rage Against the Machine Rage Against the Machine is a rock band formed in Los Angeles, California. The band consists of vocalist Zack de la Rocha, bassist Tim Commerford, guitarist Tom Morello and drummer Brad Wilk.

This band is the ultimate political criticism.

The best ever!

Social commentary throughout the 90's. Considered one of the most politically dangerous groups at the time. References societal ills stemming from the beginning of the US.

13 Muse Muse Muse are an English alternative rock band from Teignmouth, Devon, formed in 1994. The members are Matt Bellamy (lead vocal, lead guitar, piano, keyboard), Dom Howard (drums, percussion) and Chris Wolstenholme (bass, backing vocals). They've won several awards including 5 MTV Awards, 8 NME Awards, 2 more.

Lyrics don't get much deeper than this

14 King Crimson King Crimson King Crimson is a British progressive rock band that was formed in 1969. While the band has had numerous lineup changes, the head of the band has always been Robert Fripp (guitar). However, the most notable lineup is between 1972-75, consisting of Fripp, John Wetton (bass/vocals), Bill Bruford (drums), more.

Peter Sinfeld wrote some of the most articulate, well thought out lyrics in the early days of King Crimson

"Death seed blind man's greed
Poets' starving children bleed
Nothing he's got he really needs"

15 Cold Cold Cold is an American rock band, formed in 1996 in Jacksonville, Florida. With two gold-albums, Cold has sold over one million records in the US alone.

Cold often assumes a brooding, contemplative tone, but its latest album, Superfiction, changes all of that with imagery that alternates between raw realism and depressing majesty, and messages that convey a more authentic and often unexplored side of humanity, revealing us as a race striving to imbue our lives with meaning and purpose, and inevitably failing, but admirable nevertheless in its relentless, naive optimism.

One of the best hard rock bands I know, took me a while to like them but it seemed each time I would play a song over and over I understood something new

16 Within Temptation Within Temptation Within Temptation is a Dutch symphonic metal band founded in April 1996 by vocalist Sharon den Adel and guitarist Robert Westerholt.

Generally, I think all goth bands are creative and intelligent, but I personally think there isn't a goth band better that these guys, especially their old stuff like "Enter"

Sharon's lyrics are full of emotion and actually mean something. Even though she sometimes forgets them herself when performing live.

Sharon den Adel's lyrics kick ass

Sharon's Lyrics are meaningful & thought provoking.

1 Comment
17 Nine Inch Nails Nine Inch Nails Nine Inch Nails is an American industrial rock band and, founded in 1988 by Trent Reznor in Cleveland, Ohio.
18 Apocalyptica Apocalyptica Apocalyptica is a Finnish metal band from Helsinki, Finland formed in 1993. The band is composed of classically trained cellists Eicca Toppinen, Paavo Lötjönen, and Perttu Kivilaakso and drummer Mikko Sirén.

All I can say is that their music is an "ART" and only intelligent minds can understand the cello metal

19 The Beatles The Beatles The Beatles were an English rock band formed in Liverpool in 1960. The members consisted of John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr. They were soon known as the foremost and most influential act of rock era. Rooted in skiffle, beat, and 1950s rock and roll, the Beatles later experimented more.
20 The Sisters of Mercy

No offense but the list I see here doesn't reflect much intelligence. Some of them express social awareness in their music but are literally singing commentary instead of intelligent lyrical craft. Try also listening to other intelligent acts like Leonard Cohen, Velvet Underground and Depeche Mode.

21 Poets of the Fall

This amazing band has the most beautiful and complicated lyrics.

22 Rodrigo y Gabriela

This duo is amazing!

23 Isis

Very heavy, very drifting and helps me think clearly

24 30 Seconds to Mars 30 Seconds to Mars Thirty Seconds to Mars (commonly stylized as 30 Seconds to Mars) is an American rock band from Los Angeles, California, formed in 1998. The band currently consists of brothers Jared and Shannon Leto.
25 Pearl Jam Pearl Jam Pearl Jam is a Alternative/Grunge Rock Band formed in Seattle, Washington in 1990. The band had comprised of Eddie Vedder, Mike McCready, Stone Gossard and Jeff Ament. more.

Pearl Jam must be way higher than this!

26 Opeth Opeth Opeth is a Swedish progressive death metal band from Stockholm, formed in 1990 by David Isberg, who invited Mikael Akerfeldt into the band as a bassist. Isberg ended up leaving the band, which lead to Mikael becoming the band's vocalist, guitarist, principal songwriter, and driving force. Along with more.
27 The 1975 The 1975 The 1975 are an English pop rock band from Manchester, consisting of lead vocalist and rhythm guitarist Matthew "Matty" Healy, lead guitarist Adam Hann, bassist Ross MacDonald, and drummer George Daniel.
28 Marilyn Manson Marilyn Manson Marilyn Manson is an American rock band from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Formed in 1989 by frontman Marilyn Manson and Daisy Berkowitz, the group was originally named Marilyn Manson & the Spooky Kids with their theatrical performances gathering a local cult following in the early 1990s. more.

Pick any song of this master's discography and you will know why he deserves the Number One spot. The Beautiful People, Get Your Gunn, The Fight Song, and Cake and Sodomy, you will see that Manson is undoubtedly the most intelligent Metal Singer this world has ever seen.

A lot of people think his lyrics have bad messages, but if you dig deeper, they actually have good messages.

29 Dream Theater Dream Theater Dream Theater is an American progressive metal band from Boston, Massachusetts. The band was formed in 1985 under the name of "Majesty", only to change its name to Dream Theater later. more.
30 Genesis Genesis Genesis are an English rock band formed at Charterhouse School, Godalming, Surrey in 1967. The most commercially successful and long-lasting line-up includes keyboardist Tony Banks, bassist/guitarist Mike Rutherford and drummer/singer Phil Collins.
31 Streetlight Manifesto

Lyrically and instrumentally one of the smartest bands

32 Arctic Monkeys Arctic Monkeys The Arctic Monkeys, otherwise known as the Death Ramps, are a British indie rock band formed in 2002 in Sheffield, England. The band consists of Alex Turner (lead vocalist, songwriter, electric and rhythm guitarist), Jamie Cook (electric and rhythm guitarist, songwriter), Matt Helders (percussionist, more.

Although they write what seem to be clever alternative rock love songs, there are always multiple interpretations. The she in songs can be a stand in for the love of democratic ideals. Tranquility Base, the latest is more direct like Muse, Pink Floyd or Bad Religion. They are also like the beatles super catchy. They can reach an audience in 15 different ways with one song. They remind me of poet Percy Byshe Shelly, Mary Shelly's husband. Very keen observers of human nature. I am a 54 year old and my wife who is also well read in the classics agrees.

This band from Sheffield,England have the most lyrically creative,diverse and relatable masterpieces that no band can even hope to match. - Praj

33 Slit
34 Marillion Marillion Marillion are a British rock band, formed in Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire, England, in 1979. They emerged from the post-punk music scene in Britain and existed as a bridge between the styles of punk rock and classic progressive rock, becoming the most commercially successful neo-progressive rock band more.

Plenty poetry, social comment, on relationships, global apocalypse, some clever, some really visceral. Fugazi, Misplaced Childhood albums, say. Bass-line arpeggio in Chelsea Monday from "Script for.." album.. is more poetry - like many tracks from around this period.

People who appreciate neo progressove rock definitely admire this band! Listen to pseudo silk kimono, you would need a dictionary to decipher their well written english grammar mixed with metaphorical meanings, loved them always!

35 My Chemical Romance My Chemical Romance My Chemical Romance was an American rock band from Jersey City, New Jersey, active from 2001 to 2013. For much of their career, the band consisted of lead vocalist Gerard Way, guitarists Ray Toro and Frank Iero, bassist Mikey Way, and drummer Bob Bryar.

Ambulance, Burn Bright, Fake Your Death, The Ghost of You, The Light Behind your eyes, The World is Ugly to name just a few. My Chemical Romance have created some of the greatest songs I've ever heard. By far the most thought provoking and deepest lyrics I've ever heard. There's a reason their my favorite band.

36 Alice in Chains Alice in Chains Alice in Chains is an American rock band formed in Seattle, Washington, in 1987 by guitarist and songwriter Jerry Cantrell and original lead vocalist Layne Staley.

Seems like a lot of people are unaware of this band.I will place it next to Pink Floyd and definitely above Nirvana.

37 Red Hot Chili Peppers Red Hot Chili Peppers The Red Hot Chili Peppers is an American funk-rock and alternative rock band, that was founded in 1983. more.
38 Dio Dio Dio was an American heavy metal band formed in 1982 and led by vocalist Ronnie James Dio, after he left Black Sabbath with intentions to form a new band with fellow former Black Sabbath member, drummer Vinny Appice.
39 Editors

Also took me some time to really understand the depth of these guys plus the lead singers voice is epic

40 Nirvana Nirvana Nirvana was an American grunge band that was formed in Aberdeen, Washington in 1987. Nirvana disbanded after Kurt Cobain committed suicide in 1994. The drummer of the band, David Grohl, went on to start the Foo-Fighters, an alternative rock band. more.

So understated. Not always saying something pertinent, and sometimes not saying anything at all, but the genius comes from being able to connect through emotion and melody. in my humble opinion harder and smarter to sing that way.

41 Dog Fashion Disco

Listen to "We aren't the World" and you'll see. But actually listen.

42 Eagles Eagles The Eagles are an American rock band formed in Los Angeles in 1971 by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bernie Leadon, and Randy Meisner.

Don Henley is one the most intelligent lyricist that I know of. He was an English major and attended college. All the other members of the Eagles were also good at writing lyrics, but not as good as Don Henley.

43 Smash Mouth Smash Mouth Smash Mouth is an American rock band from San Jose, California. The band was formed in 1994, and was originally composed of Steve Harwell, Kevin Coleman, Greg Camp, and Paul De Lisle.

Get Shrekt

44 Blind Guardian Blind Guardian Blind Guardian is a German power metal band formed in the mid-1980s in West Germany. They are often credited as one of the seminal and most influential bands in the power metal and speed metal subgenres. Heavily influenced by Queen, they use the technique of overdubbing. They also incorporate large more.
45 Nightwish Nightwish Nightwish is a symphonic metal band from Kitee, Finland. The band was formed in 1996 by lead songwriter and keyboardist Tuomas Holopainen, guitarist Emppu Vuorinen, and lead singer Tarja Turunen. It's currently formed by Tuomas, Emppu, lead vocalist Floor Jansen, bassist and vocalist Marco Hietala, more.
46 Gojira Gojira Gojira is a progressive metal band from Bayonne, France. The band was known as Godzilla until 2001. Gojira is composed of Joe Duplantier on vocals and rhythm guitar, his brother Mario Duplantier on drums, Christian Andreu on lead guitar, and Jean-Michel Labadie on bass.
47 Cire

A band centering around philosophy, psychology, and politics its strange that they aren't on this list.

48 Emptyself

Eric Johanson's second band, a very mellow and thought provoking band who's lyrics invoke emotion with heavy meaning and well thought out structure. every song tells a story that can either bring you to tears or lift your spirits to new heights.

49 Skyclad
50 Coheed and Cambria Coheed and Cambria Coheed and Cambria is an American progressive rock band from Nyack, New York, formed in 1995. The band consists of Claudio Sanchez, Travis Stever, Josh Eppard, and Zach Cooper.

The Coheed and Cambria albums have been released out of sequence in relation to The Amory Wars story arc; the last album released was the first part of the series. The Amory Wars, originally titled The Bag. On. Line Adventures, is an ongoing series of comic books written by Coheed and Cambria frontman Claudio Sanchez and published by Evil Ink Comics. The story of The Amory Wars is also the focus of the band's music. Each studio album released by the band tells a chapter in the science fiction tetralogy originally narrated by Sanchez's lyrics.

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