13 greatest credit card songs meld pop, plastic
Debt ditties from George Strait, Shania Twain, Kanye West and more
Songs about money are a dime a dozen. But where's the love for credit cards?
Granted, it's only been 50 years since American Express issued its first consumer charge card and about 40 years since plastic came into widespread use.
That's not much time to build up a musical repertoire. After all, the generic term money has been popular in song for centuries. Musical references to gold probably predate the Pharaohs.
Then there's the lyrical obstacle. Let's face it: credit card is downright clumsy in verse compared to the rhyming possibilities of money and gold.
That said, plastic is gaining play in popular music. While credit cards have yet to be immortalized in a pop classic on the order of Hank Williams' "If You've Got the Money, I've Got the Time," the Beatles' "Can't Buy Me Love," Dire Straits' "Money for Nothin'" or the Barrett Strong standard "Money (That's What I Want)," it's only a matter of time.
Where's the love for credit cards in song? We found it. Here are 13 best songs (including one two-for-one selection) that do feature credit cards in the narrative. If we've missed any more worthy, or if you have a story about credit cards and songs you want to share, write Editors@CreditCards.com.
Song: "Credit Card Baby"
Artist: Wham! featuring George Michael
Why it's worthy: George Michael and Andrew Ridgeley, two blow-dried British pop singers collectively known as Wham! took America by storm in 1984 with their "Choose Life" T-shirts and infectious hit, "Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go." In this Mods-meet-Motown mash-up from the same album, the singer vows not to be tricked in love by a gold-digging girlfriend. Unfortunately, the catchy refrain, "You can have my credit card, baby/But keep your red-hot fingers off my heart, lady" doesn't exactly make fiscal sense. After all, if you don't love her, why would you fund her?
Money lesson: Excessive blow drying may damage brain cells.
Song: "The Power of Love"
Artist: Huey Lewis and the News
Why it's worthy: This horn-heavy riff on the money-can't-buy-love theme, written by affable bar-band veteran Huey Lewis for the hit Michael J. Fox film "Back to the Future," gave the News their first No. 1 single in 1985. In a Hollywood twist, Fox and his movie rock band croon Huey's classic refrain, "Don't need money, don't take fame/Don't need no credit card to ride this train" to Lewis, a judge in the battle-of-the-bands scene.
Money lesson: While love is always preferable, you can indeed earn reward points by booking rail travel on your credit card.
Song: "It's Not Right But It's Okay"
Artist: Whitney Houston
Why it's worthy: File this smooth 2000 R&B Grammy winner under TMI as Houston tosses her man (read: bad boy hubby Bobby Brown) to the curb after his night out with the boys. "If six of y'all went out/then four of you were really cheap/cause only two of you had dinner/I found your credit card receipt." For rebuttal, see Brown's 2001 hit, "But Girl, We Split the Check!!!" (Just kidding. Really.)
Money lesson: Keep your credit card receipts through the next billing cycle to better spot discrepancies. Or hit singles.
Song: "Sunspot Baby"
Artist: Bob Seger
Why it's worthy: Come back, baby, identity theft never forgets! This Chuck Berry-inspired concert favorite from Seger's classic 1976 album "Night Moves" bemoans a girlfriend who "took off with my American Express" and "charged up a fortune," well before most Americans even carried plastic. After tracking the bills from Miami to Jamaica to the Bahamas, Seger shrugs off her transgression with rock-star swagger: "Man, that was sure unkind." But hey, when you've got sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, who needs a credit rating?
Money lesson: Report credit card theft to your card issuer immediately, man.
Song: "Puzzling Evidence"
Artist: David Byrne of Talking Heads
Why it's worthy: In this high point of his satiric 1986 film "True Stories," Byrne ignites a fire-and-brimstone gospel rave-up to excoriate the neocon agenda. The conspiracy-themed sermon begins, "You got the CBS.../and the ABC.../you got Time and Newsweek/well, they're the same to me!" Byrne blames unbridled greed for society's ills: "Got your Gulf and Western and your MasterCard/(Puzzling evidence)/Got what you wanted, lost what you had/(Puzzling evidence)." Considering the state of the nation, it may have been a prescient moment.
Money lesson: "The love of money is the root of all evil." (Timothy 6:10, KJV)
Song: "High Tone Woman"
Artist: George Strait
Why it's worthy: On "Somewhere Down in Texas," his 597th album (just kidding; he's only at 596), barroom philosopher Strait warns a compadre to steer clear of the expensively dressed, perfectly coiffed gold digger on barstool number three. "You're a fool if you saddle yourself to a high-tone woman," he insists. "She'll cut up your heart like an old credit card when the fun and the money runs out." Then, knowing full well that that line of reasoning won't slow, much less stop 99 in 100 Dallas day traders, ol' George plays the ultimate Texas hole card: "She doesn't like cowboys and thinks less of fools." Ah jeez, that's different...
Money lesson: Avoid her if you can't afford her. And put it on George's tab.
Song: "Labels or Love"
Why it's worthy: Just what America needs: a shopping anthem! But don't expect your stimulus check to go far in the pricey boutiques cataloged by The Dutchess in this retail rap from the "Sex and the City" movie. Opening to samples from the popular TV theme, Fergie celebrates the joys of retail therapy as the cure for romantic complications "cause I know my credit card will help me put out the flames." Where Madonna's "Material Girl" lusted for a man with money, Fergie simply eliminates the middleman: "Let's stop chasing them boys and shop some more."
Money lesson: For maximum enjoyment, have your shopping valet choose your credit cards by spending limits, just as a golf caddy selects your club.
Artist: Shania Twain
Why it's worthy: The video of this Arabian nightmare from her 2002 album "Up" finds our skimmer-clad Canadian contessa scampering barefoot through an apocalyptic wasteland of Western materialism. "We've created us a credit card mess/we spend the money we don't possess/our religion is to go and blow it all/so it's shoppin' every Sunday at the mall." While Madonna and Fergie would have no problem with that, a country girl knows better. Shania even employs a three-legged dog as a visual metaphor for wanton spending.
Money lesson: Forgo the bling and feed Jake.
Song: "Pretty Girls," "Better Than Yours"
Artists: Jay-Z & R. Kelly; Kanye West
Why they're worthy: Although money references run rampant through rap and hip-hop, only one card truly rates a shout-out: the coveted American Express Black Card, aka the Centurion Card, offered primarily to celebrities and assorted high rollers. In two songs, three well-known hip-hop artists have paid homage to the dark-hued AmEx plastic. As Jay-Z explains, "groundhogs stay with the cash/and the black card don't got no max," as in spending limit. Kanye West pays homage to his: "Oh my God, is that a black card?/I turned around and replied why yes/but I prefer the term African American Express."
Money lesson: If you're in the market for a card that charges a $2,500 annual fee, you don't need money lessons from Jay-Z and Kanye.
Artist: Gretchen Wilson
Why it's worthy: On this cut from her bust-out 2004 debut "Here for the Party," one-time bartender Wilson takes, ahem, a proactive approach to "a real hot cookie with a new hairdo/your high heel boots and your credit card/long legs and a miniskirt/yeah, you know what works and you work it hard." Think you're woman enough to steal Gretchen's man? "Now honey, I'm a Christian but if you keep it up/I'm gonna go to kickin' your pretty little butt."
Money lesson: Pay cash in 'kicker bars and save your credit card for hospital emergencies.
Song: "The Way That I Love You"
Why it's worthy: Plastic turns deadly in this hit R&B single and video from Ashanti's "The Declaration." The girl's in love and doesn't want to believe her man is straying, but "there is was, it was you and her/you left your credit card receipt inside the beamer babe." What a blow, huh? One might question the choice of murder weapon (enormous French knives are best used for chopping) but not Ashanti's devastation at being two-timed.
Money lesson: Successful couples communicate openly and honestly about money. And cutlery.
Song: "Strapped for Cash"
Artist: Fountains of Wayne
Why it's worthy: Credit cards are great in an emergency, but as this cautionary tale from New Jersey's pop masters illustrates, not everyone takes credit. When an ex-con named Paul "who just got out of prison" calls to collect his dough, our singer assures him he's "just a little strapped for cash" and will have the money soon. After trying without success to win it back at the horse track and the Taj Mahal, he has to think fast when "six bodybuilders pulled up in a Pinto/next thing I know they're coming through the windows/hate to keep you waiting I know times are hard/now would you prefer a Visa or a Mastercard?" Judging by the repeated cymbal crashes that follow, these dudes don't take plastic.
Money lesson: Maintain an emergency fund for unexpected expenses -- or guests.
See more CreditCards.com stories by Jay MacDonald: Licking, plastic bagging and other credit card secrets, The short, unhappy life of a credit card, What's your sign? Zodiac credit cards, Are you smarter about credit cards than a 5th grader?, 5 sneaky credit card tricks -- and how to beat the bank
Published: July 15, 2008