Best Falsetto Songs

ListCaboodle Playlist: The Best Falsetto Songs Ever Made

When you think of a famous falsetto voice, who comes to mind? The Bee Gees are perhaps the best-known for popularizing the vocal technique during the mid-70s disco era. Or perhaps you remember the avant-garde singing style of Tiny Tim and his song Tiptoe Through the Tulips?

Falsetto is more than just singing in a high pitch. The Italian word means “false little voice.” So, where the normal vocal range originates in the chest, the falsetto sound comes more from the head. The result is a sound not dependent on the lungs and chest as much as a vocalization through the mouth and nose.

Editor’s Picks: The best falsetto songs

Here are some of our favorite songs featuring falsetto vocals. In some, the entire song is sung in a high voice. And in others, only a line or two is in falsetto. Enjoy!

1.) Night Fever by the Bee Gees

Album: Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack
Date: 1977

The Brothers Gibb (Bee Gees) did not fully embrace their signature sound until their 1975 album Main Course. The brothers had always had incredible vocal range, hitting high notes in hit songs like 1968’s I Started A Joke and How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? in 1971. But it was Barry Gibb’s falsetto voice that propelled the band to superstardom in the disco music era with the release of the Saturday Night Fever Soundtrack. The album won the 1978 Grammy for Album Of The Year and sold over 30 million copies worldwide.

2.) After The Gold Rush by Neil Young

Album: The Gold Rush
Date: 1970

There’s a blunt honesty to Neil Young’s imperfect falsetto voice. In After The Gold Rush, he uses it masterfully to take listeners on a haunting and mystical journey through time. The song is about three different times in history, according to Young. “There’s a Robing Hood scene, there’s a fire scene in the present, and there’s the future… the air is yellow and red, ships are leaving, certain people can go, and certain people can’t.” He adds cryptically, “I think it’s going to happen.”

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3.) Got To Give It Up by Marvin Gaye

Album: Live at the London Palladium
Date: 1977

By the mid-seventies, the Prince of Soul and other Motown artists felt building pressure to record dance-friendly music to suit current trends. Disco ruled the day; Marvin Gaye’s response was to parody it. He began writing a song titled Dancing Lady in response to the hit Disco Lady by Johnnie Taylor. The song eventually became Got To Give It Up, rising to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1977.

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The best falsetto songs list

4.) Let’s Work by Prince

Album: Controversy
Date: 1981

Prince used his soulful falsetto voice in many of his most popular songs. Some of the most notable examples are his hit songs Kiss, Cream, and When Doves Cry. But we chose Let’s Work as our favorite falsetto song from Prince’s catalog of hits. The song was borne out of the Minneapolis dance scene of the early ‘80s and features the raw funk and minimalism present in much of Prince’s early work.

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5.) Only The Lonely by Roy Orbison

Album: Lonely and Blue
Date: 1961

Roy Orbison’s vocal range allowed him to selectively use falsetto for maximum impact, as in the crescendo to his hit Only The Lonely. His lament over lost love hits its highest notes with the line, “But that’s the chance you gotta take.” Orbison—along with writing partner Joe Melson—originally intended to offer the song to Elvis Presley or the Everly Brothers, but instead decided to record it himself with encouragement from Phil and Don Everly. Only The Lonely hit No. 2 on the U.S. Billboard pop music charts and No. 1 in the U.K. in 1960.

6.) I’m Not The Only One by Sam Smith

Album: In the Lonely Hour
Date: 2014

“I wanted to make a Norah Jones-Esque record with a heavier beat,” Sam Smith told 4Music about his heartbreaking song I’m Not The Only One. “This is the same chord pattern again and again. It’s complex in its simplicity.” The story of two people cheating on each other in a marriage is sung in Smith’s amazing falsetto, from the wife’s point of view. The song charted at number 5 in the US and number 3 in the UK.

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7.) September by Earth, Wind & Fire

Album: The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1
Date: 1978

Earth, Wind & Fire’s hit song September reached No. 1 on the Billboard Hot R&B Songs chart in the US in 1978. The upbeat dance hit features lead vocalist Maurice White’s falsetto voice singing the phrase “badee-ya” throughout the song. Songwriter Allee Willis questioned its meaning and suggested replacing it, but in the end, he relented. “I learned my greatest lesson ever in songwriting from him (White), which was never let the lyric get in the way of the groove,” Willis said.

8.) High And Dry by Radiohead

Album: The Bends
Date: 1995

Among modern rock and pop singers, Thom Yorke stands out prominently in his use of falsetto. A good example is Radiohead’s High And Dry, in which he criticizes macho vanity. The band never intended to include the song in their album The Bends. Yorke wrote it off as “not bad… it’s very bad” according to Q magazine. But because of its presumed commercial appeal, it was eventually added. The album ranks number 110 on Rolling Stone’s 500 greatest albums of all time.

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9.) Redbone by Childish Gambino

Album: Awaken, My Love!
Date: 2016

Redbone is a sultry jam by Childish Gambino about his light-skinned black girlfriend. When asked if his falsetto voice was tweaked electronically in the recording of his album Awaken, My Love!, he said, “…there was no vocal pitching on the album. I just sang differently.” The tune rose as high as number 12 on the US charts and won the award for Best Traditional R& B Performance at the Grammy Awards.

10.) Don’t Worry Baby by the Beach Boys

Album: Shut Down
Date: 1964

Beach Boy’s lead singer Brian Wilson was so impressed with the Ronettes hit Be My Baby, he wondered if he could write a song that could match it. Don’t Worry Baby was the result. According to lore, he wondered aloud if he could write a song as good, and his wife replied, “Don’t worry, baby.” The phrase inspired him to write the song along with his friend Roger Christian. It now ranks as one of Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, appearing on the list at #178.

11.) Blue Orchid by White Stripes

Album: Get Behind Me Satan
Date: 2005

The song Blue Orchid takes inspiration from the Biblical story of Adam and Eve when Eve took the apple from the tree in the Garden of Eden. It’s believed Jack White wrote the song to call out a nefarious Russian website accused of abusing children. Some fans thought the song was about White’s altercation with Von Bondies lead singer Jason Stollsteimer in a Detroit bar, but this is a misconception. The song’s video is noted as one of the scariest music videos of all time by Yahoo at number 13.

12.) Emotional Rescue by The Rolling Stones

Album: Emotional Rescue
Date: 1980

Mick Jagger’s falsetto voice and a dance beat alienated Rolling Stones fans who saw the record as a sell-out to disco. Even though it angered some of their loyal supporters, Jagger explained they just wanted to make funky dance music with a nice groove. Bandmate Keith Richards never warmed up to the song; the band kept it off their concert setlist for 33 years after it was originally recorded. Despite the backlash, the tune made #3 on the US singles chart and #9 in the UK.

Our favorite falsetto songs

13.) Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough by Michael Jackson

Album: Off The Wall
Date: 1979

Like many songs from the disco era, Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough featured a catchy dance beat and his falsetto voice. In the #1 hit song, Jackson shows off his vocal range, including his trademark squeals and screams similar to those in his Thriller album. Quincy Jones produced the album Off The Wall, with whom Jackson had worked in the 1978 film The Wiz. Jackson won his first solo Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance for the song in 1980.

14.) Just My Imagination by The Temptations

Album: Sky’s The Limit
Date: 1971

Original Temptations band member Eddie Kendricks knocks out this falsetto performance about a guy who is madly in love with a girl in his imagination. The airy ballad earned The Temptations their third chart-topping hit. The song was written in the late 1960s but was held back because Motown writers felt it wouldn’t fit well with the psychedelic nature of songs at that time. It was offered to The Temptations as a change to their socially relevant music to that point. In 1971, Just My Imagination hit #1 on both the Hot 100 and the US Billboard R&B Singles charts.

15.) Sherry by The Four Seasons

Album: Sherry And 11 Others
Date: 1962

A list of famous falsetto songs is not complete without a contribution from the king of falsetto, Frankie Valli. Bob Gaudio, a songwriter for The Four Seasons, wrote this tune in less than 15 minutes. It took longer for the band to come up with a name for the song than it took for him to write it. Originally, the song was called “Terry.” The band’s producer suggested a name change, prompting them to use “Sherry.” The song hit #1 in the US and #8 in the UK in 1962.

16.) Tracks of My Tears by The Miracles

Album: Going To A Go-Go
Date: 1965

Berry Gordy of Motown once said Tracks Of My Tears highlights the best of Smokey Robinson. The song became a favorite among American soldiers during the Vietnam War. Another big fan was The Who’s, Pete Townshend. He found inspiration in how Robinson sang the word “substitute” in the song, using it as a springboard to The Who’s hit song of the same name.

One of the classic falsetto songs

17.) The Lion Sleeps Tonight by The Tokens

Album: The Lion Sleeps Tonight
Date: 1961

This classic falsetto song originated as a hunting song from Zulu (now Swaziland) in Southern Africa. In the 1930s, the song became popular after Solomon Linda recorded it with his group The Evening Birds. Disc jockey Murray the K began playing the Tokens version in 1961. It climbed the charts, eventually taking the #1 position by year-end in the US and #11 in the UK.

Falsetto Songs bonus track #1: Just Ain’t Gonna Work Out by Mayer Hawthorne

Bonus track #2: Goodbye Stranger by Supertramp

Thanks for reading this list of the 17 Best Falsetto Songs. Be sure to check out more interesting music lists below:

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By Greg Johnson | Published 1/25/2021

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