5 Songs with Memorable Pop Culture References

Olive Soki

There’s nothing like a good mid-song pop culture reference. Not only are they certified earworms, but they also turn a simple track into a golden time capsule – instantly immortalizing the event or the person referenced. Similar to that feeling you get when you spot a familiar face in a crowded room, these clever lines are always sure to perk your ears and stick with you for a very long time. So without further ado, here's a short list of 5 songs with slick references and name drops, sure to woo their way into your heart.

“1999 Wildfire” - BROCKHAMPTON

“Silhouette looking like Charlie’s Angels…”

Let's start off with a song, more specifically a verse, that carries some of the best reference archetypes, condensed into one space. While Jazze Pha’s intro immediately plunges into a phrase that could be tied to The Wizard of Oz ( “lion tigers and bears”), Matt Champion's verse is completely littered with quick and catchy one-liners. From the classic jersey number and basketball player mention and the back-to-back cult-classic references, to the supermodel name drop, he never seems to skip a beat. Crafty and clever, this verse gives a glimpse into the best attributes of the collective’s legendary discography.

“Clam Chowder” - Shy High

“We’re playing Aminé, a lot of Pharrell, some Gunna as well…”

Second on the list is Shy High’s single “Clam Chowder." This song is an example of another version of the reference phenomena. Leaning towards the name drop end of the spectrum, the phrase is just as enticing as its contemporaries. While the verse in question does contain some biochem references – a subject I'm not looking to revisit anytime soon – the artist name drop that follows is what dreams are made of. Short, sweet, and relatable, paired with a playful production, this line is guaranteed to stay stuck in your head for weeks.

“Matthew McConaughey” - Noah Dillon

“Alright, alright, alright!” 

Based around the idea of a person wanting to change for their significant other, Noah Dillon offers a humorous track with an unforgettable subject. The further you get into the song, the deeper you get sucked into the McConaughey vortex, the core being an interlude where his iconic Dazed and Confused line is played mid-song. While I wouldn’t condone this behavior, I do have to say that McConaughey is a pretty cool guy, so I definitely see where he’s coming from and will gladly reference this song whenever I can.

“Gelato” - Tyler the Creator

"You got me on tippy toes / so who’s Oliver? Who Elio?”

 What better way to clear up any miscommunication than by referring to a well-known movie that clearly depicts how you feel. Arguably one of my favorite songs from Tyler’s throwaway era, “Gelato” offers a quick and much appreciated reference to the 2018 movie adaptation of Call Me By Your Name. Followed by sharp yet casual references to Pharrell and That’s So Raven, Tyler delivers a string of unforgettable and nostalgic punch lines.

“F**k it, i’m the man” - SEB

“They said look in the mirror / I’m more Micheal Jackson, Bad”

SEB’s breezy single is topped off with the perfect double-feature reference. Sandwiched between verses that tackle outside perceptions and expectations, the singer sets the record straight while effortlessly offering a full circle moment. Referencing not one, but two songs by the late king of pop himself, SEB embraces his individuality through two contrasting lenses. This song has a healthy balance of wit and honesty, a combination both efficient and catchy.

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