Table of Contents
- 1. “The Blue Mask” by Lou Reed
- 2. “A Ritual Mask” by Peter Hammill
- 3. “Long Black Veil” by Dave Matthews Band
- 4. “Ski Mask Way” by 50 Cent and Eminem
- 5. “Behind the Mask” by Fleetwood Mac
- 6. “Mask” by Bauhaus
- 7. “Put On Your Mask” by Baby Joy Joy
- 8. “The Man in the Iron Mask” by Billy Bragg
- 9. “Marty Beller Mask” by They Might Be Giants
- 10. “Dead Skin Mask” by Slayer
- 11. “Mask Off” by Future
- 12. “Beautiful Gas Mask” by The Mountain Goats
- 13. “Take Off the Mask” by Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band
- 14. “Under the Mask of Happiness” by Graham Parker
- 15. “The Mask” by Fugees
- 16. “Cynthia Mask” by Robyn Hitchcock
- 17. “Mask” by Iggy Pop
- 18. “Behind the Mask” by Michael Jackson
- 19. “Make Me a Mask” by Fleetwood Mac
- 20. “Behind the Mask” by Eric Clapton
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the importance of face masks to the forefront of public consciousness. While masks have been used in various cultures and for different purposes throughout history, it is only in recent times that they have become a necessary accessory for our daily lives. As people around the world continue to navigate life in the pandemic era, music has offered a source of comfort, inspiration, and escape. In the spirit of exploring this new reality, we have compiled a list of the top 20 songs about masks that spans multiple genres, decades, and moods.
From Lou Reed’s somber reflection on the persona he adopts in his life, to Future’s boastful anthem about removing his mask to reveal his true self, each song offers a unique take on the symbolism and significance of masks. Whether it’s the physical mask of cloth and elastic that we wear to protect ourselves and others, or the figurative masks we wear to present ourselves to the world, these songs offer a glimpse into the myriad ways in which masks can be interpreted and experienced. While some of these songs were written long before the pandemic, they have taken on new meaning in the context of our current reality. By exploring these songs, we hope to deepen our understanding of the role that masks play in
1. “The Blue Mask” by Lou Reed
“The Blue Mask” is a deeply introspective song by Lou Reed, released in 1982 as the title track of his album of the same name. The song features Reed’s signature spoken-sung style and gritty vocals, which are backed by a minimalist guitar riff. The lyrics reflect on Reed’s life, past relationships, and mortality. He explores his inner struggles and anxieties, wondering if he has made the right choices in his life. The song’s haunting and melancholic tone is heightened by Reed’s emotive delivery, making “The Blue Mask” a haunting and powerful reflection on the human condition.
2. “A Ritual Mask” by Peter Hammill
“A Ritual Mask” by Peter Hammill is a haunting, experimental piece that blends elements of progressive rock, avant-garde, and electronica. The song is built around a repetitive synth riff and layers of dissonant guitars and effects. Hammill’s unique vocal style adds an eerie, otherworldly quality to the track. The lyrics explore themes of identity, transformation, and the masks we wear in different situations. The song’s hypnotic rhythms and unsettling soundscape create a mesmerizing and immersive experience.
3. “Long Black Veil” by Dave Matthews Band
“Long Black Veil” is a cover of a classic country ballad, originally written by Marijohn Wilkin and Danny Dill in 1959. Dave Matthews Band recorded their version of the song for their 2005 album “Stand Up”. The song tells the tragic story of a man falsely accused of a murder and executed, despite the fact that he was with his best friend’s wife at the time of the crime. The song’s haunting lyrics, emotional vocals, and acoustic instrumentation make for a poignant and heart-wrenching tale of love, loss, and betrayal. Matthews’ voice perfectly captures the song’s sorrowful and mournful atmosphere.
4. “Ski Mask Way” by 50 Cent and Eminem
Released in 2005, “Ski Mask Way” is a collaboration between two of hip-hop’s biggest names, 50 Cent and Eminem. The track features a hard-hitting beat and aggressive lyrics, with both rappers showcasing their skills and swagger. The song’s title refers to the ski masks that are often worn during criminal activity, and the lyrics touch on themes of power, wealth, and the criminal lifestyle. While the song is not specifically about face masks or the COVID-19 pandemic, it offers a glimpse into the darker side of masking and the role that masks can play in concealing one’s identity and intentions. Overall, “Ski Mask Way” is a classic example of the bold and uncompromising style of rap that made 50 Cent and Eminem such iconic figures in the genre.
5. “Behind the Mask” by Fleetwood Mac
“Behind the Mask” is a song by Fleetwood Mac from their 1990 album of the same name. It was written by British composer and producer Ryuichi Sakamoto, and features Stevie Nicks on lead vocals. The song is a moody, atmospheric ballad that explores themes of love, loss, and the struggle to move on. Nicks’ powerful vocals and the band’s haunting instrumentation make for an emotive and introspective track that captures the essence of Fleetwood Mac’s iconic sound. “Behind the Mask” remains a popular and beloved song among fans of the band, and stands as a testament to their enduring legacy.
6. “Mask” by Bauhaus
“Mask” is a goth rock classic by the British band Bauhaus, released in 1981. The song’s haunting melody and atmospheric soundscapes, paired with frontman Peter Murphy’s distinctive vocals, have made it a fan favorite and a defining track of the genre. The lyrics explore the idea of masks as a means of self-protection and a way to obscure one’s true identity. With lines like “And behind my mask, I am wearing another mask”, the song delves into the complex layers of identity and the ways in which we present ourselves to the world. Overall, “Mask” is a dark and introspective track that showcases Bauhaus’ unique style and influence on the goth rock genre.
7. “Put On Your Mask” by Baby Joy Joy
“Put On Your Mask” is a children’s song by Baby Joy Joy, released in 2020 amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. The song’s cheerful melody and upbeat lyrics encourage young listeners to wear masks as a means of protecting themselves and others from the spread of the virus. The simple and repetitive lyrics make the song easy for children to learn and sing along to, while the colorful and playful animation in the music video adds to its appeal. Overall, “Put On Your Mask” is a fun and educational song that aims to help children understand the importance of wearing masks during the pandemic.
8. “The Man in the Iron Mask” by Billy Bragg
“The Man in the Iron Mask” is a song by British singer-songwriter Billy Bragg from his 1991 album “Don’t Try This at Home”. The song’s lyrics tell the story of a mysterious historical figure who was imprisoned in an iron mask during the reign of King Louis XIV of France. Bragg’s passionate vocals and acoustic guitar create a sense of urgency and intensity that matches the song’s political and social commentary. The track serves as a powerful reminder of the importance of freedom and individual rights, and showcases Bragg’s signature style of blending punk rock and folk influences to create a unique and powerful sound.
9. “Marty Beller Mask” by They Might Be Giants
“Marty Beller Mask” is a song by the alternative rock band They Might Be Giants, released in 2020 as part of their album “Book”. The track is an upbeat and catchy tune with a playful, whimsical sound that is typical of the band’s style. The lyrics center around the concept of masks and their ability to conceal one’s true identity, while also touching on themes of self-expression and individuality. The song is driven by the band’s signature use of quirky instrumentation and clever wordplay, and showcases their ability to turn seemingly ordinary topics into something fun, memorable, and thought-provoking.
10. “Dead Skin Mask” by Slayer
“Dead Skin Mask” is a classic heavy metal song by the American band Slayer, released in 1990. The song is based on the true story of serial killer Ed Gein, who famously made masks from the skin of his victims. The track’s ominous and foreboding sound, paired with lead singer Tom Araya’s haunting vocals, creates a chilling atmosphere that is both eerie and intense. The lyrics delve into the mind of a killer and the gruesome details of his crimes, making “Dead Skin Mask” a powerful and unsettling track that showcases Slayer’s unique sound and influence on the heavy metal genre.
11. “Mask Off” by Future
“Mask Off” is a hip-hop song by American rapper Future, released in 2017. The track features a flute melody from the song “Prison Song” by Tommy Butler, which has become one of the most recognizable elements of the track. The lyrics of “Mask Off” touch on themes of fame, success, and the sacrifices that come with them. The song’s catchy chorus and hypnotic beat have made it a popular hit, with the music video amassing millions of views on YouTube. Overall, “Mask Off” is a standout track that showcases Future’s signature sound and influence on the rap genre.
12. “Beautiful Gas Mask” by The Mountain Goats
“Beautiful Gas Mask” is a hauntingly beautiful song by indie folk band The Mountain Goats. Released in 2002 as part of their album “Tallahassee”, the song is an evocative, poetic reflection on love, loneliness, and the search for connection in a world that can sometimes feel dark and oppressive. The lyrics are sparse and impressionistic, but manage to convey a sense of yearning and longing that is both universal and deeply personal. The song is anchored by the band’s signature acoustic guitar-driven sound, which is both spare and ethereal, creating a haunting atmosphere that perfectly complements the weighty themes of the lyrics.
13. “Take Off the Mask” by Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band
“Take Off the Mask” is a reggae song by Clinton Fearon and the Boogie Brown Band, released in 2007. The song is a call for people to be authentic and true to themselves, and to cast off the masks that they wear to fit in or conform to societal norms. The lyrics are delivered in a smooth, soulful voice, backed by the band’s trademark deep bass lines and skanking guitar rhythms. With its infectious groove and uplifting message, “Take Off the Mask” is a standout track that captures the essence of reggae music – the call for liberation and freedom from oppression.
14. “Under the Mask of Happiness” by Graham Parker
“Under the Mask of Happiness” is a poignant song by British singer-songwriter Graham Parker, released in 1992. The track is a reflection on the elusive nature of happiness and the different masks people wear to conceal their pain and insecurities. The lyrics paint a vivid picture of a man trying to find happiness by wearing various masks to hide his true feelings. Parker’s vocals are soulful, emotive and perfectly capture the mood of the song. The gentle acoustic guitar and piano accompaniment create a melancholic atmosphere, making this song a touching and thought-provoking exploration of the human condition.
15. “The Mask” by Fugees
“The Mask” is a hip-hop classic by Fugees, from their 1994 debut album “Blunted on Reality.” With its addictive beat and sharp lyrics, the song showcases the group’s unique style and energy. The track features a number of iconic samples, including “The Edge” by David McCallum, “Get out of My Life, Woman” by Lee Dorsey, and “Blues and Pants” by James Brown. The lyrics touch on issues of identity, self-worth, and the masks that people wear in their daily lives. “The Mask” is a standout track on an album that helped define the sound of 90s hip-hop.
16. “Cynthia Mask” by Robyn Hitchcock
“Cynthia Mask” is a folk-rock song by English singer-songwriter Robyn Hitchcock, released in 1985. The track’s upbeat rhythm and catchy melody, paired with Hitchcock’s distinctive vocals and witty lyrics, create a playful and whimsical atmosphere. The song tells the story of a woman named Cynthia who wears a mask, prompting Hitchcock to wonder what she is hiding and what her true identity might be. “Cynthia Mask” is a standout track on Hitchcock’s acclaimed album “Fegmania!”, and it showcases his talent for combining clever songwriting with catchy hooks and infectious melodies.
17. “Mask” by Iggy Pop
“Mask” is a punk rock song by American musician Iggy Pop, released in 1981. The track features a driving beat, scorching guitar riffs, and Pop’s signature growling vocals, creating an intense and energetic sound. The song’s lyrics focus on the idea of masks as a form of deception, questioning the authenticity of those who hide behind them. “Mask” is a standout track on Pop’s album “Party”, which features collaborations with other prominent musicians of the era. Overall, “Mask” is a powerful example of Pop’s influential sound and uncompromising attitude towards making music.
18. “Behind the Mask” by Michael Jackson
“Behind the Mask” is a song by Michael Jackson that was originally written and recorded by Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto. Jackson’s cover features a groovy, upbeat rhythm with an infectious melody and catchy lyrics. The song’s message is about trying to uncover the true identity and emotions of the person behind the mask, and it has been interpreted by some as a reflection of Jackson’s own struggles with fame and public scrutiny. Jackson’s cover of the song was released as a single in 2011, two years after his death, and it received critical acclaim for its high energy and Jackson’s signature vocal style.
19. “Make Me a Mask” by Fleetwood Mac
“Make Me a Mask” is a song by Fleetwood Mac that was released in 1970. The track was written by guitarist and singer Danny Kirwan, and it appears on the band’s album “Kiln House.” The song is a laid-back bluesy tune with a catchy guitar riff and Kirwan’s soulful vocals. The lyrics express the singer’s desire for a woman who is elusive and enigmatic, and he requests that she make him a mask so he can hide his true feelings. The song’s languid, dreamlike quality and Kirwan’s heartfelt performance make it a standout track on the album.
20. “Behind the Mask” by Eric Clapton
“Behind the Mask” is a song originally written by Japanese musician Ryuichi Sakamoto, but the Eric Clapton version features his signature guitar riffs and solos. The song is a love ballad about a couple who have been hiding their feelings and true selves from each other, and how they both long to be their true selves and open up to each other. Clapton’s soulful vocals and smooth guitar playing beautifully capture the emotions of the lyrics. The song was a hit for Clapton, and it has been covered by many other artists over the years, becoming a classic in its own right.