30 Best Songs About Manipulation & Being Used (of All Time)

30 Songs about Manipulation
30 Songs about Manipulation

Powerful Songs about Manipulation and Being Used 

Manipulation is a powerful and complex theme that has inspired musicians across various genres to craft songs that reflect the darker side of human nature. 

Today we’re serving up 30 of the very best songs about manipulation, including both songs with a message around manipulation and being used, as well as songs with manipulation in the title. This list includes artists such as NSYNC, Radiohead, Fleetwood Mac, and many more.ย 

1. The Great Pretender – The Platters

The Great Pretender is a classic hit The Platters, released in 1955. The song explores the theme of manipulation as the singer admits to pretending to be happy and content while hiding their true feelings of loneliness and heartbreak.

This song showcases the idea that people can manipulate not only others but also themselves.

2. Positively 4th Street – Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan’s Positively 4th Street was released in 1965 and is considered one of the finest examples of Dylan’s songwriting skills.

The song delves into the darker side of relationships, portraying manipulation and deceit from supposed friends. The biting lyrics expose the hypocrisy of those who pretend to be trustworthy.

3. Behind Blue Eyes – The Who

Behind Blue Eyes, released in 1971 The Who, is a song that reflects the struggles of a manipulative person dealing with the consequences of their actions.

The song’s protagonist wrestles with guilt, as they acknowledge that their manipulative behavior has ultimately left them feeling isolated and misunderstood.

4. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac’s Go Your Own Way, released in 1977, is a song about the end of a relationship, tainted – manipulation and emotional turmoil.

The lyrics convey the message that sometimes, the only way to escape manipulation is to walk away from the relationship, even if it’s painful.

5. Maneater – Hall & Oates

Released in 1982, Maneater – Hall & Oates is a song that tells the story of a cunning and manipulative woman who uses her charm to get what she wants.

The song serves as a cautionary tale, warning listeners about the dangers of falling for someone who is only interested in exploiting them.

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6. Smooth Operator – Sade

Sade’s 1984 hit, Smooth Operator, is a sultry song that describes a manipulative man who effortlessly navigates through various relationships, leaving heartbreak in his wake.

The smooth operator in question is a master of deceit, effortlessly drawing people in with his charm before moving on to his next conquest.

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7. Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This) – Eurythmics

In 1983, Eurythmics released Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This), a song that explores themes of manipulation and control.

The haunting lyrics suggest that people are willing to manipulate others to achieve their own goals and desires, even if it means causing pain and suffering to those they exploit.

8. Control – Janet Jackson

Janet Jackson’s 1986 hit, Control, is an empowering anthem about breaking free from manipulation and taking control of one’s life.

The song serves as a rallying cry for anyone who has ever felt trapped or controlled – others, urging them to stand up for themselves and reclaim their independence.

9. Black Velvet – Alannah Myles

Black Velvet, released in 1989 – Alannah Myles, is a song that tells the story of a charismatic and seductive individual who uses their charm to manipulate others.

The song’s protagonist is a captivating figure who easily lures people into their web of deception, leaving them powerless to resist the allure of black velvet.

10. Creep – Radiohead

Radiohead’s Creep, released in 1992, is a song that delves into the mind of a person who feels like an outsider, observing and manipulating others from a distance.

The lyrics reveal the protagonist’s self-loathing and insecurity, which fuel their desire to manipulate the object of their affection to fit their own fantasies.

11. The Way – Fastball

The Way, released in 1998 – Fastball, is a song inspired a real-life story about an elderly couple who went missing.

The song’s themes of manipulation and control emerge through the couple’s decision to leave their ordinary lives behind and embark on a journey without telling their family, ultimately leading to their tragic end.

12. Bye Bye Bye – NSYNC

NSYNC’s catchy 2000 hit, Bye Bye Bye, is a song about breaking free from a manipulative relationship.

The lyrics express the protagonist’s determination to escape the emotional turmoil and control inflicted – their partner, vowing to say Bye Bye Bye to the toxic relationship once and for all.

13. Complicated – Avril Lavigne

Avril Lavigne’s 2002 hit, Complicated, is a song that explores the theme of manipulation within friendships.

The lyrics describe a person who changes their behavior to fit in with different groups, ultimately causing confusion and frustration for those who thought they knew the real individual behind the facade.

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14. Mr. Brightside – The Killers

The Killers’ 2003 hit, Mr. Brightside, tells the story of a man who imagines his partner cheating on him.

While the song doesn’t explicitly deal with manipulation, the protagonist’s paranoid thoughts and jealousy can be seen as a form of self-manipulation, as he convinces himself of a reality that may not exist.

15. You’re So Vain – Carly Simon

Carly Simon’s 1972 classic, You’re So Vain, is a song about a self-absorbed and manipulative individual.

The lyrics describe someone who believes that the world revolves around them, using their charm and good looks to manipulate others while remaining oblivious to the consequences of their actions.

16. Backstabber – Kesha

Kesha’s 2010 song, Backstabber, is a catchy and energetic track that tells the story of a manipulative and deceitful friend.

The lyrics warn against trusting someone who is only interested in spreading lies and causing trouble, revealing the dark side of friendship and the damage that manipulation can cause.

17. Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye ft. Kimbra

Somebody That I Used to Know, released in 2011 – Gotye and featuring Kimbra, is a song that explores the aftermath of a manipulative relationship.

The lyrics depict the disconnect between two former lovers, as they grapple with the realization that the person they thought they knew has turned into a stranger.

18. Gaslighter – The Chicks

The Chicks’ 2020 song, Gaslighter, is a powerful anthem that takes aim at manipulative and deceitful individuals.

The term gaslighting refers to a form of psychological manipulation in which one person causes another to doubt their own reality.

The song serves as a rallying cry for those who have experienced gaslighting, urging them to stand up against their manipulators and reclaim their truth.

19. Blinding Lights – The Weeknd

Blinding Lights, released in 2019 – The Weeknd, is a song that touches on the theme of manipulation within a tumultuous relationship.

The protagonist finds himself drawn to a person who is both alluring and destructive, unable to resist their charm despite the emotional turmoil they cause.

20. Truth Hurts – Lizzo

Lizzo’s empowering 2017 hit, Truth Hurts, is a song about breaking free from a manipulative partner and realizing one’s self-worth.

The lyrics celebrate the protagonist’s decision to end a toxic relationship and move on, emphasizing the importance of recognizing and valuing oneself above the manipulations of others.

21. No More Drama – Mary J. Blige

Mary J. Blige’s 2001 song, No More Drama, is a powerful anthem about ending the cycle of manipulation and abuse in a relationship.

The lyrics express the protagonist’s desire to break free from a toxic partner and embrace a life without the emotional turmoil that manipulation brings.

22. Back To Black – Amy Winehouse

Amy Winehouse’s 2006 hit, Back To Black, is a soulful song that delves into the theme of manipulation and heartbreak.

The lyrics describe a protagonist who, despite being manipulated and betrayed – their partner, finds themselves returning to the darkness of the relationship, unable to let go.

23. The Hills – The Weeknd

Released in 2015, The Hills – The Weeknd explores themes of manipulation, addiction, and desire within a tumultuous relationship.

The protagonist is caught in a cycle of self-destructive behavior, drawn to a toxic partner who manipulates and exploits his weaknesses.

24. Bad Liar – Selena Gomez

Selena Gomez’s 2017 song, Bad Liar, is a track that touches on themes of manipulation and deception.

The protagonist attempts to hide their true feelings for someone, but ultimately fails, admitting that they are a bad liar and cannot conceal their emotions.

25. Shake It Off – Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift’s catchy 2014 hit, Shake It Off, is a song about overcoming manipulation and negativity from others.

The lyrics encourage listeners to shake off the judgments and criticisms of others, asserting that the best way to deal with manipulative people is to rise above their attempts to bring you down.

26. Love The Way You Lie – Eminem ft. Rihanna

Love The Way You Lie, released in 2010 – Eminem and featuring Rihanna, is a powerful song that explores the theme of manipulation within a volatile and abusive relationship.

The lyrics depict the cycle of violence and emotional manipulation, with both parties seemingly unable to break free from the destructive pattern.

27. Puppeteer – MAX

MAX’s 2015 song, Puppeteer, delves into the theme of manipulation and control within a relationship.

The lyrics describe a protagonist who feels trapped and controlled – their partner, likening the manipulative dynamic to being a puppet on strings.

28. Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood – Nina Simone

Nina Simone’s 1964 classic, Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood, is a song that explores the theme of manipulation through miscommunication.

The lyrics reveal the protagonist’s plea for understanding, as they worry that their words and actions may be misconstrued, leading to unintended manipulation and hurt.

29. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt

Bonnie Rait t’s 1991 heartbreaking ballad, I Can’t Make You Love Me, is a song that deals with the theme of emotional manipulation in the context of unrequited love.

The protagonist recognizes that they cannot force someone to feel something they don’t, ultimately accepting the futility of trying to manipulate love.

30. Take A Bow – Rihanna

Rihanna’s 2008 hit, Take A Bow, is a song about calling out a manipulative and deceitful partner.

The lyrics sarcastically applaud the partner for their dishonesty and unfaithfulness, likening their manipulative behavior to a performance that deserves a bow.

Summary: Songs About Manipulation

This compilation of 30 songs about manipulation showcases the power and complexity of this dark theme in music. 

Spanning various genres and time periods, these songs demonstrate the many ways manipulation can manifest in relationships and human behavior. 

Whether you’re looking for a powerful anthem to help you break free from a manipulative situation or simply

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Thomas Smith
As Visionary and Chief Editor of 122BPM, Thomas is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of music pioneers. With a degree in Music and 10 years industry experience, Thomas is now shaping 122BPM as the central hub for music and audio education.
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