Song Writing

16 Songs With a Heartbeat

by Amanda Flinner

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Deee-Lite was right: Groove really is in the heart. Plenty of songs use actual heartbeats or pulse-like instrumentation to express the joy of life, the finality of death, and a few heartbreaks in between. The pulsating beat throughout Kelly Clarkson's hit "Heartbeat Song" is actually her daughter River's heartbeat, recorded while she was still in the womb and slowed down for the rhythm of the track. Here are 16 more songs with a nice (heart)beat.

1. "Sex in the Summer" - Prince
Heartbeat Appears: Mixed into the percussion

While Prince was recording his Emancipation album, he was also eagerly anticipating the birth of his first child with then-wife Mayte Garcia. Like Clarkson, he recorded the baby's heartbeat from the ultrasound and blended it with the drum beat for "Sex in the Summer."

Sadly, baby boy Gregory died from a rare skull disease called Pfeiffer's syndrome a week after his birth. Music has a tragic history with this kind of thing. While Yoko Ono was miscarrying, John Lennon recorded the baby's waning heartbeat from a heart monitor and later released it as the track "Baby's Heartbeat" on the Unfinished Music No. 2: Life with the Lions in 1968, credited to John Ono Lennon II. Their follow-up Wedding Album featured their own heartbeats thudding for almost a half-hour while the two called back and forth to each other on "John & Yoko."


2. "Follow Me" - Muse
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction

Matt Bellamy's introduction to fatherhood is a happier story. Days before his son, Bingham, was born, the Muse vocalist recorded the baby's heartbeat on an iPhone. A few months later, he found the recording and was inspired to write "about wanting to lead and protect, all the feelings that having a kid evokes."

Similarly, Sepultura frontman Max Cavalera incorporated his son Zyon's heartbeat in the opening track of the Brazilian heavy metal band's 1993 album, Chaos AD.


3. "The Heart of Rock & Roll" - Huey Lewis and the News
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction, before chorus, at the end

Rock & Roll is only mostly dead, so Huey Lewis claims. Kids today with their newfangled music owe a great debt to grandpa rock n' roll. Beneath all that flash, "it's still that same old back beat rhythm that really, really drives 'em wild."

Even though the "old boy may be barely breathing," Huey lets us know there's still some life in there. For a full 20 seconds, we hear the thump-thump-thump of the geriatric ticker before the band launches into an ode to the genre, complete with a rollicking sax solo by Johnny Colla.


4. "Heartbeat" - Seduction
Heartbeat Appears: :24

Can you feel the beat? Can you feel my heartbeat?

The '90s hip-hop dance trio Seduction demands to know. We may not be able to feel it, but we can certainly hear it pumping at the beginning of this track, a slick cover of Taana Gardner's 1981 R&B hit. The beating is the only sound at the beginning of Gardner's track for a few seconds until the rest of the instrumentation kicks in.


5. "Anywhere In The World" - Mark Ronson & Katy B
Heartbeat Appears: Mixed into rhythm section throughout

Mark Ronson, the man who produced Amy Winehouse and brought the funk uptown with Bruno Mars, took a corporate gig in 2012, crafting this song for Coca-Cola's Summer Olympics campaign. Ronson took it to heart, recording athletes in training and working those sounds into the rhythm track. In the mix are strikes from Mexican taekwondo competitor Maria Espinoza, grunts from American hurdler David Oliver, and the heartbeat of Russian runner Kseniya Vdovina, which at 120 BPM, provides just the right tempo for the track (she was recorded on a treadmill).


6. "Cosmic Love" - Florence + the Machine
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction (again at 2:27)

Florence Welch wrote most of the songs from Lungs while in the throes of a breakup. Perhaps no better example is the lush and dramatic "Cosmic Love," which begins and ends with a heartbeat.

The entire world has gone dark – the stars, the moon – with the end of the affair. In the void, the only sound that connects her with her lover is the beating of his heart. The heartbeat sound starts the track and then kicks in when she finds him again with the lyrics "Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness, too."

7. "Feel Again" - OneRepublic
Heartbeat Appears: :09

Frontman Ryan Tedder said this song was about a lonely soul learning to love again, but his heart wasn't in it, so to speak. That sound you hear at the beginning is one of many heartbeat samples recorded from children in Malawi and Guatemala to promote Save the Children's Every Beat Matters campaign.

Tedder, who was inspired by the sounds after a trip to Guatemala, also incorporated hand-clapping and percussion to mimic a heartbeat. A portion of the single's proceeds was donated to the cause, which seeks to provide healthcare for children in need around the world. A special edition music video includes footage from Tedder's trip.


8. "Smooth Criminal" - Michael Jackson
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction and throughout

We've heard of artists putting their hearts into their music, but the King of Pop took it to the next level with "Smooth Criminal." Dr. Eric Chevlen made a recording of Jackson's heartbeat, which was then processed through a Synclavier and played over the opening of the Bad album track. The smooth criminal's victim, Annie, might not be so lucky, as Jackson incessantly implores "Annie, are you OK?"


9. "That Was Just Your Life" - Metallica
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction and throughout

It was hard for Metallica fans to miss the symbolism of that throbbing heartbeat that ushers in the Death Magnetic album. After the previous album, St. Anger, introduced a dramatic shift in sound that abandoned guitar solos and complex instrumentation in favor of a raw, stripped-down production, hardcore fans wondered if the Metallica they knew and loved was dead. Six years later, with producer Rick Rubin at the helm, the band would return to their thrash roots, hinting at their resurrection with an empty coffin on the cover and that slow, persistent thud at the beginning of the track.


10. "Beautiful Day" - U2
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction and throughout

Bono described this as being about "a man who has lost everything, but finds joy in what he still has." Embracing this new zest for life, an invigorating heartline runs through the song, beginning with a Euro kick drum pumping out a faux heartbeat, leading into the lyrics "the heart is a bloom, shoots up through the stony ground."

According to The Edge, the guys thought the song was pretty boring until the album's co-producer Brian Eno suggested some changes, including the telltale opener.

Other heartfelt songs from U2: "Two Hearts Beat As One" and "Mothers of the Disappeared"


11. "Closer" - Nine Inch Nails
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction and throughout

Trent Reznor will steal your heart with this one... and then hold it captive in a creepy laboratory so it can thump out the beat of this obsessive track.

The controversial music video was accused of promoting animal cruelty, sexual debauchery, blasphemy, misogyny, and all sorts of other –y's. Reznor says it's really about self-hatred.


12. "Cry Little Sister" – Gerard McMann
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction and throughout

In the '80s horror flick The Lost Boys, Kiefer Sutherland leads a pack of teenage vampires on a blood-sucking spree in a California town. As the movie's goth rock theme song, Gerald McMann's "Cry Little Sister" fuels their desire, starting with the intoxicating boom of a heart pumping blood – actually synth drums that just sound like one. No wonder they're angry.


13. "Teardrop" - Massive Attack
Heartbeat Appears: :06 and continues throughout

"Teardrop" is built on a heartbeat-like rhythm, making it an appropriate choice as the theme for the medical drama House, M.D., which used the instrumental sections for the opening for most of its eight-season run. Because of licensing issues, however, many regions outside the US use alternate music, even in the band's native UK.


14. "Pink Maggit" - Deftones
Heartbeat Appears: 6:18

Near the closing minute of the Deftones' "Pink Maggit," the bass drum creeps in with a slow beat like a pulsating heart until it's the only sound heard at the end of the song, which also closes the White Pony album. To the band's regret, the song was re-worked for the single "Back to School (Mini Maggit)." Heartbeat not included.


15. "Night And Day" - Cole Porter
Heartbeat Appears: Introduction

Frank Sinatra knew a thing or two about obsessive love, what with his infamous all-consuming affair with Ava Gardner, but his various versions bypass the maddening thumping during the build-up to "a voice within me keeps repeating 'you, you, you'" that is prominent in other renditions like Ella Fitzgerald's.

The song was originally written for a Fred Astaire number years before Sinatra made it his first solo hit in 1942. Porter wrote it for the Broadway musical The Gay Divorce in 1932 and, two years later, Astaire reprised his role for the film The Gay Divorcee and sang it to Ginger Rogers.


16. "Eclipse" - Pink Floyd
Heartbeat Appears: 5:17

Perhaps the most famous album ever recorded, Dark Side Of The Moon begins and ends with a heartbeat. For the album opener "Speak To Me," the heartbeat is followed by a series of cacophonous sounds, indicating the pressures of real life that lead to insanity. For the closing track "Eclipse," it is once again peaceful, with just the beating heart ending the album after the parting thought: "There is no dark side of the moon really. Matter of fact it's all dark." The heartbeat is actually a processed kick drum.


Many other songs invoke a heartbeat in a less literal sense. Among them:

The Psychedelic Furs "Heartbreak Beat" introduced the concept of what a heart sounds like when it's breaking.

The Velvet Underground mimicked the erratic pulse rhythms of shooting up in "Heroin."

Canadian family-pop band The DeFranco Family had their big hit in 1973 with "Heartbeat - It's a Love Beat."

Lovestruck Buddy Holly's heart skips a beat in "Heartbeat."

Cherie Currie took an unrecorded Runaways track about Joey Ramone and turned it into the band's "Heartbeat" about the pursuit of an older man, inspired by her idol David Bowie.

Don Johnson took a break from busting criminals on Miami Vice to record his hit "Heartbeat."

The rhythm of Rod Stewart's heart was "beating like a drum" in his 1991 hit "Rhythm of My Heart," while that same year Amy Grant's "Every Heartbeat" belonged to God.

Def Leppard's last Top 40 single was the power ballad "Miss You in a Heartbeat."

Katy Perry's heart fluttered like a "Hummingbird Heartbeat" when she was in love. Considering a hummingbird's heart can beat up to 1,260 beats per minute, it must've been quite a romance.
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Comments: 10

  • No One from NowhereThere is a literal heartbeat throughout (almost) the entire song of "This is Gospel" by Panic! at the Disco. It even says quietly "this is the beat of my heart" a few times.
  • Mariah from California Nickelbacks If everyone Cared has a heartbeat. https://youtu.be/-IUSZyjiYuY
  • Stacy from HomeThere was a country song years ago that starts with a babys heartbeat. The video is of an officer rushing to the hospital to see his baby born. I can't remember the name of the song.
  • Karl from AzKing Crimson: Heartbeat ' I can feel your heart beat heart beat. So close it feels like mine.'
    Robert Fripp/Adrian Belew era of King Crimson.
  • Daniel from AmsterdamGuns N' Roses - Use Your Illusion I - Coma. Very clear heartbeat, intro and throughout, including heart monitor beeping =]
  • Swiftie13 from Swiftie LandTaylor swifts song wildest dreams also has her heartbeat all the way through the song, only pausing at parts for effect=DDD please add her song to the list!!
  • Keith Lewis from Victoria, AustraliaHi Amanda. Recently I was reminded of a song from yester-year that I liked but can't remember much of it. I think it came out in the 60's or possibly early 70's. It is male soloist and I thought it was called Heart. I say thought because I can't find it under that name. I seem to remember there was a heartbeat running right the way through it. The theme roughly was the man talking to his heart telling it not to beat too much when they meet the one he loves. He is singing 'heart' several time at the end going into a crescendo as his heart can't hold back how he is feeling when he sees/meets her. If any of your readers could help I would be so pleased and Thank you.
  • Ab from InternetI'm pretty sure there's a heartbeat in "This is Gospel" by Panic! At The Disco.
  • Nisarg from IndiaTaylor's Swift song Wildest Dreams of album 1989 also contains her own Heartbeats! Please include this one too!
  • Stephen Salgaller from Philadelphia, Pahttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IkMFLUXTEwM

    1967 hit with a definite heart-beat sound - along with crickets chirping !

    I Think We`re Alone Now - Tommy James & The Shondells

    Trivia: while Tommy James is from Detroit, the Shondels who sang with him were from Pittsburgh !
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