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The 30 Best Arctic Monkeys Songs

Celebrating the Sheffield band’s finest moments, from dirty dance floors to the Information-Action Ratio, and everywhere in between

Arctic Monkeys

ANY BAND THAT hits as hard as Arctic Monkeys hit in 2005 runs the risk of forever being trapped in rock ’n’ roll amber, doomed to push the same four-chord boulder up a hill, or fall into a nostalgic abyss. Arctic Monkeys not only avoided that fate, they thrived in the face of it. In the 18 years since their debut single (“Fake Tales of San Francisco” b/w “From the Ritz to the Rubble,” still both among their best), they’ve crafted one of the most compelling catalogs in contemporary music, and Alex Turner has solidified his place as one of this generation’s great songwriters and frontmen.

Arctic Monkeys achieved this not through pandering or “playing the hits,” but by regularly confounding expectations: enlisting Josh Homme to gunk up their jitteriness with some desert sludge, or trading in their guitars for pianos as they embarked on a full-blown space odyssey. And through his lyrics, Turner crafted a language and style all his own. He’s a yarn weaver, as quick with a quip or a clever bit of wordplay as he is with some stark, sincere, sage distillation of the ways we live and love. Even as his metaphors have grown more oblique, his imagery a touch phantasmagorical and deliciously ludicrous, his words remain grounded in the kind of kitchen sink realism that made Arctic Monkeys’ earliest recordings so thrilling and immediate.

So here are 30 great Arctic Monkeys songs that celebrate and showcase that creativity and breadth. Like any best of list, think of this as just a best of list, not the best of list (in other words, please don’t @ us). Hopefully, though, this list expresses what’s so great about those lovable lads from Sheffield — the way they got us to stop asking, who the fuck are Arctic Monkeys?, and start wondering, who the fuck are Arctic Monkeys going to be next?

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From Rolling Stone US


‘Pretty Visitors’

“Pretty Visitors” is an early highlight in Arctic Monkeys intriguing, often fruitful, sometimes divisive partnership with Josh Homme. With its eerie organ intro, booming choir-like vocals, and absolute monster riffage, it’s an ideal blend of the band’s early frenetic energy and Homme’s penchant for all things heavy and proggy. The song also features some of Turner’s wildest, strangest lyrics, delivered at breakneck speed, before landing at a chorus that seems to stare deep into the gnashing maw of fame and performance: “All the pretty visitors came and waved their arms/And cast the shadow of a snake pit on the wall.” —J.B.


“Fake Tales of San Francisco”

It’s Northern English tradition to take the piss out of sceney poseurs who do whatever the fuck the NME tells them, and in this amusingly scornful tune, Turner aims his pen at the Sheffield music scene — specifically, the hordes of uninspired bands in trilby hats and airtight jeans who were convinced they were the second coming of The Strokes or similar. This may be Turner’s most venomous song, and it’s a doozy: “And yeah, I’d love to tell you all my problem/You’re not from New York City, you’re from Rotherham/So get off the bandwagon, and put down the handbook.” Get ‘em. —M.S. 


‘Four Out of Five’

Arctic Monkeys announced their astounding about-face on 2018’s Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino with this high-concept lounge-lizard dream sequence set on the moon. Turner trots out his best Bowie impression as he invites listeners to visit his lunar resort, crooning sales pitches and jokes about gentrification over spacey chords. “Science fiction creates these other worlds to comment about this world,” Turner told RS, “and that idea in itself was interesting to me.” It was an inspired choice for a lead single, making the five-year gap that followed AM feel more like a century, and boldly marking a new era for the band. The title is a sly shot at record critics, and how “the people that are in charge of giving the scores, they never give a perfect 100,” as Turner explained in another interview. All we can say there, Alex, is that we’re honestly kinda over star ratings these days, too. — S.V.L.


‘Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?’

“We like to go out to the desert to ‘brown the garlic,’” Turner told Rolling Stone, after the band recorded some of AM at Rancho De La Luna in Joshua Tree, California. “If you want to be black-and-white about it, that means we went there to write.” This is especially evident on “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” the most psychedelic the Monkeys would ever get (for further evidence, catch the dripping Dalí clock in the video). The AM highlight is pure lounge pop, all about those late-night texts you send on a bender, with a chorus so catchy it even captured the attention of Miley Cyrus (spoiler alert: her cover is excellent). Speaking to us in 2013, Turner shared the recipe for the groove-laden gem: “We took a Dr. Dre beat from like 2001, gave it like an Ike Turner Beatles bowl cut, and then set it off galloping along on a Stratocaster into a liquid live show.” We’ve been high ever since. —A.M.


‘There’d Better Be a Mirrorball’

On “Mirrorball,” the lead single and opening track on The Car, Turner had one goal: set the vibe. “Before the words even come in, that instrumental piece [establishes] the feel of the record,” he told The Guardian. And by “feel,” he means acute disco depression featuring strings and an AM-era melody suitable for late-night yearning. It’s a dazzling snippet of a Seventies film, where Turner is his very own Thin White Duke, a cabaret singer who delivers lines like “How’s that insatiable appetite?” On “Mirrorball,” we’re always hungry for more. —A.M.


‘Fluorescent Adolescent’

In a rare moment of writing with someone outside his band, Turner joined forces with then-girlfriend Johanna Bennett on this playful, irresistibly catchy hit. The couple had written the song while on holiday together, doing a bit of wordplay in lieu of watching TV in their hotel. The result is a story of a woman who is getting older and increasingly more bored with her sex life. She looks back fondly on her days as a rascal and the “electric” boys of her past. “It’s great to think that it came from something we did for fun on holiday,” Bennett told The Guardian in 2007. It became a Top 10 hit in multiple countries, including the UK. “It’ll always be a good memory for Alex and I.” —B.S.


‘The Ultracheese’

Most writers do their best to avoid sentimentality, but “The Ultracheese” is a total embrace. The title reveals all, even before the piano starts its familiar romantic roll and the bass puckers up between the schmaltzy swinging drums. But for the lonely crooner at the heart of Tranquility Base Hotel and Casino, such earnest, mawkish, self-absorbed longing and reminiscence is all that’s left. And shallow characters like that can provide deep wells to plumb. Arctic Monkeys do it sublimely with a swooning ballad sprinkled with sly musical tricks, and a soliloquy that’s still tender, funny, and just the right amount of pathetic. —J.B.



In this Seventies-inspired dreamscape, we “take a dip into [Turner’s] daydreams” of his vixen lover, Arabella. With a guitar hook that heavily recalls Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs” (so much so, Arctic Monkeys started inserting the actual “War Pigs” riff into live performances), the track is as sonically sexy as Turner’s lyrics about a bombshell with “lips like the galaxy’s edge” that “take a sip of [his] soul.” Every glistening piece of “Arabella” that makes it magical explodes when the song reaches its masterful bridge: Turner’s frantic vocals, a tantalizing guitar line, and then a solo that slices through the song, driving at full-speed. —M.G.


‘I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor’

​​Arctic Monkeys blasted out of the gate in the fall of 2005 with their debut single: A fusillade of smart-assed teenage wit and overdriven riffs that set the stage for one of 21st-century rock’s few truly major success stories. All the elements of their legend were in place already, from the irresistible forward rush of the music to the audacious puns in Turner’s lyrics. (How many other songwriters would think of rhyming “Montagues and Capulets” with “banging tunes and DJ sets”?) It was an instant classic — and Turner began talking it down immediately. “It’s a bit shit,” he told one interviewer as the U.K. music-press hype ahead of Whatever People Say built to a fever pitch. “The words are rubbish. I scraped the bottom of the barrel.” Spoken with the arrogance of an artist who knows they have even better things in store. But by 2011, he’d come around on “Dancefloor”: “It’s more fun than ever to play it,” he said. “I probably fell out with it for a moment, somewhere along the way. But now when it comes around in the set, it’s just fun.” —S.V.L.


‘That’s Where You’re Wrong’

“That’s Where You’re Wrong” catches you with its simplicity — the buzzing bass, shimmering guitar, the tambourine shake that grows louder as the song progresses. Turner’s lyrics are evocative (“A pussyfooting setting sun,” “The sky is a scissor”), but the emotions feel oblique as uncertainty undercuts love. As bright as the song feels, something looms. And as Turner astutely reminds us, something always does: “You’re not the only one/That time has got it in for, honey/That’s where you’re wrong.” —J.B.


‘From the Ritz to the Rubble’

When Alex Turner and the Arctics first exploded into the public consciousness, he was branded the millennial Morrissey for his cheeky, picturesque lyrics depicting the agita and absurdity of young adulthood in Northern England, navigating punchy pubs and crowded clubs. No song captured this sense of youthful alienation more than “From the Ritz to the Rubble.” In it, Turner and his crew are turned away by a bouncer and spiral, the song crescendoing further and further into a cacophony of angular guitars and aggro percussion. When you’re twenty, every slight feels monumental. —M.S.


‘Star Treatment’

Few have captured the essence of a quarter life crisis better than Turner does with the indelible opening line: “I just wanted to be one of the Strokes/Now look at the mess you made me make.” But despite this bit of confessional autobiography, there’s no navel-gazing on “Star Treatment” — there’s barely any looking back in anger. “Star Treatment” is a total reinvention as Turner blurs his story with that of a washed up astro lounge lizard, simultaneously taking Arctic Monkeys from the world of uncut rock and roll to some stranger, surreal pop-rock realm. But even with such a massive musical vibe shift, Turner pointed out to Pitchfork just how quintessential that opening line is: “The style of me writing has developed considerably since the first record, but the bluntness of that line — and perhaps some other lyrics on this album — reminds me of the way I wrote in the beginning.” —J.B.



“505” is one of the most interesting tracks in Arctic Monkeys’ catalog. Built around an organ line pulled from Ennio Morricone’s The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly score, it marked a sonic departure from the otherwise punkish Favourite Worst Nightmare. “505” laid the groundwork for future experimentation, with a pensive eeriness that matches Turner’s anticipation as he navigates his way back to a girlfriend’s apartment. Even the subject of the song differed from the band’s usual topics; as Turner told NME it was “the first proper love song [they’ve] done.” The change was a welcome one, and the 2007 track has proven its staying power with two viral revivals since its release. During the mid-2010s Tumblr era, posts containing the dark lyric, “I’d probably still adore you /With your hands around my neck,” were plentiful on the site. In 2022, “505” got a streaming bump after circulating on TikTok — this time for the jolting bridge in which Alex screams, “I crumble completely when you cry.” —M.G.


‘Do I Wanna Know?’

Even casual Arctic Monkeys fans remember the first time they heard the riff to “Do I Wanna Know?” A decade later, the moment is still cemented in our brains — and not just because the song taught American teens what a “settee” was. Up until that point, in the summer of 2013, our only taste of AM was the frenetic energy on “R U Mine?” No one was expecting Turner to pivot to a molasses-level tempo and casually deliver a seductive masterpiece about the possibilities of unrequited love. “I suppose I do want to think of ‘Do I Want to Know?’ as ‘Are You Lonesome Tonight?’ with a jet-pack on,” he told us in 2013. The song has 1.5 billion views on YouTube, and we’ll watch it again and again, if not to imagine what it would have sounded like if Haim had sung those falsetto backing vocals. “We had to finish our record,” Este Haim told NME, of Days Are Gone. “That would have been our biggest dream come true: to sing on an Arctic Monkeys record. It was one of the most painful calls to say no. Maybe the worst day of my life.” —A.M.


‘A Certain Romance’

Everything great about Arctic Monkeys can be traced back to “A Certain Romance.” Turner seemed to admit as much in a 2022 interview with NME, saying the song “showed that we did actually have these ambitions beyond what we once thought we were capable of.” Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not, as the title suggests, is an album overflowing with assured assertions of self — especially the grandiose kind people make as they exit adolescence and try to grasp onto adulthood. What makes “A Certain Romance” special is the way it captures that grasping. What starts as a critique of people who are ostensibly less sophisticated, stylish, or romantic, soon becomes an astute deconstruction of the snark, cynicism, and us-vs-them posturing endemic to youth. It’s a rather tender, empathetic note to land on, and Arctic Monkeys emphasize it not with words, but two dueling livewire guitars twisting around each other in a perfect tangle of uncertainty and exultation. —J.B.



Leave it to Alex Turner to have the only song on Humbug written in a major key also be the album’s most incisive and heartbreaking. The track’s narrative sees Turner looking for an old lover at her old haunts, and in the faces of new lovers. Over three verses, these romantic distractions turn down the singer and his odd request to call them by his ex’s name. Then in the perfect songwriting twist, he finds someone who’ll oblige in the final verse — his ex’s sister. Turner has often spoken about how proud he is of “Cornerstone,” which was inspired by Patsy Cline. “I was listening to a lot of country music when I wrote it, and it had that formula where the verses always end the same way,” he told Vulture in 2018. “Not to sound like a wanker, but with that song, I had an idea and it wrote itself. I’m not sure how I ended up with the girl’s sister in the last verse, though. When I was in school, I think I probably fancied my girlfriend’s sister or something.” “Cornerstone” is as much a favorite of Turner’s as it is of Arctic Monkeys fans; the track has become a staple on their setlist in the 14 years since its release. —B.S.


‘No. 1 Party Anthem’

This isn’t just for the bit. If you want to pinpoint the “where are you going, where have you been” fulcrum for Arctic Monkeys, it’s hard to do better than “No. 1 Party Anthem.” It’s the piano ballad outlier on 2013’s AM, otherwise one of the best rock guitar albums of the last 20-odd years, and it points to the far out spaces the band would explore on their next two records. Yet it’s also vintage Arctic Monkeys, one of the best late-night tales Turner has ever told (and he’s told tons). “To me, that song is about a kind of midnight where you feel like you’re in this parallel universe,” he put it to Rolling Stone in 2013.On “No. 1 Party Anthem,” Turner is no longer navigating the dingy debauchery of Sheffield nightclubs; he’s on the prowl at some high-end spot, lonely and rakish. But while the setting is different, the stakes remain the same. There’s yearning and self-consciousness, intoxicated posturing and sober disillusionment, lingering adolescent anxiety and a particular proclivity for poor decisions: “It’s not like I’m falling in love, I just want you/To do me no good/And you look like you could.”The one thing that can cut through all that noise, or at least help someone make sense of it? Music. An obvious answer, and also a kind of cheesy, slightly embarrassing one. Turner gets that, deeply and sincerely. Which is why “No. 1 Party Anthem” culminates around a rousing call — at once a genuine plea and a drunken request shouted at an uninterested DJ — for some nameless, ideal song. Because the song always has the answer. No matter what it is, even if it changes from one night to the next. That’s why it’s the best one ever. —J.B.