Dark Light

MGMT, the brainchild of Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, has been a pivotal figure in the contemporary pop rock landscape. A narrative of the enigmatic duo’s journey would be incomplete without nodding to their knack for sleek synths and psychedelic pop concoctions. From the upbeat, iconic hooks of “Kids” to the dark and captivating “Little Dark Age”, their sound has been a wild ride that has consistently pushed the boundaries.

“Time to Pretend” and “Electric Feel” are anthems of a generation, with their crafty lyricism and electrifying beats. But let’s not forget the psychedelic complexities of “TSLAMP” and “Bubblegum Dog” or the touch of 80s synth-pop in “Me and Michael”. Even in their least mainstream moments, say “Mother Nature” or “Weekend Wars”, there’s a certain magnetism that draws you in and keeps you hooked. They’ve shown us that they can venture into the unknown territories of experimental music, while still keeping their essence intact.

The diversity and evolution in their sound is a testament to the fact that MGMT is not just any pop act, but one carving out its own indelible spot in the pop music pantheon. So let’s get into it. From TSLAMP to Little Dark Age, here are the Top 15 MGMT Songs Ranked, from Worst to Best.

15. TSLAMP

Known for its deliciously cynical commentary on smartphone addiction, this song is a cutting critique on today’s screen-hooked society. Sonically, it’s a hazy blend of synth-pop and psychedelic, adorned with MGMT’s signature peculiarity. The narrative follows a protagonist mesmerized by the glow of his phone screen, portraying his growing detachment from reality. The guys from MGMT, Andrew VanWyngarden and Ben Goldwasser, lay it on thick: lost moments, social isolation, shallow connections. lyrically, “TSLAMP” is a cry against the digital age’s distortion of human interaction. It’s a compelling commentary no doubt, but the song doesn’t quite match up to their classic hits. Hence, it lands our last spot on the list.

14. Of Moons, Birds & Monsters

The lyrics are a rush of cosmic metaphors and a quest for existential understanding, featuring recurring themes of celestial bodies and the idea of the ‘other’. It delves into the realms of the surreal, suggesting a longing for an escape or a push for exploration. The narrative seems to depict a vivid daydream of space, birds, monsters, and the unknown. The song speaks of a person desperately trying to fix their world, cutting holes in the moon, and hoping for an unknown force to repair their environment. The lyrics play on uncertainty, disillusionment, and the eagerness to reach out for something beyond immediate comprehension. These words wrap together fantasy and reality, balancing between the rational and the fantastical, which is what pop-psychedelia truly thrives on. “Of Moons, Birds & Monsters” is a hypnotic excursion into the depths of human existence and ambition.

13. Indie Rokkers

The lyrics paint an evocative portrait of a young man’s grapple with love, fear, and identity, set against a backdrop of a late-night road trip, replete with a sparkling Chevy and the brilliance of the moon. It’s a song that depicts youthful recklessness, from the smoky breaths to the backseat confessions, and the fear and uncertainty coupled with the discovery of love.

The song also throws soft jabs at the indie culture – the sensibly dressed heart, with the brain lost in the dirt. Still, it doesn’t shun away from the grittiness of reality, referencing a friend’s struggle with addiction. MGMT stands out in their use of vivid, relatable imagery, embracing the messiness of coming-of-age within the indie rock culture, and “Indie Rokkers” is testament to this.

12. She Works Out Too Much

It’s all vivid colors and zesty energy, a jazzy, synth-soaked carousel ride. The track resembles an ’80s aerobic VHS that’s been hijacked for a musical joyride. MGMT uses a satirical lens to mock modern society’s obsession with physical fitness and digital superficiality, borrowing dance tropes and fitness clichés for its lyrical playground.

Brilliantly tongue-in-cheek, “She Works Out Too Much” is also a commentary on doomed relationships where couples are out of sync, each party with different priorities. The lyrics cleverly juxtapose a failing romance with workout terminology, creating a hyperbolic, yet insightful narrative about communication and compatibility in relationships. It’s a nod to the icons of yesteryear, a fresh twist on the ‘synth-laden pop meets social commentary’ formula, popularized in the ’80s, underlined by MGMT’s characteristic flair for the experimental.

11. The Youth

Woven into its upbeat, synth-driven soundscape, the lyrics echo with the energy of youth and the potential for transformation. The band calls upon the younger generation to rise above adversity, advocate change, and embrace one another. It’s the essence of that adolescent moment when you’re standing on the brink, about to step into your own power, intercut with a certain melancholy about how world-weary you might have to become to do so. The repetitive phrase “The youth are starting to change. Are you starting to change?” underscores the now-or-never urgency at its core. As its title suggests, the song is a testament to the power borne by the young when they choose to act collectively.

10. Weekend Wars

This number, taken from their 2007 debut album, Oracular Spectacular, is a classic example of the band’s synth-drenched pop aesthetic. The lyrics paint a surreal narrative, where the mundane and the fantastical mix as freely as oil and water. The protagonist is a self-proclaimed ‘weekend warrior’, who tosses about references to backyard bomb-making, a dietary hunting habit, and his own perceived curse – all spun out in an apathetic tone that’s signature MGMT. “Weekend Wars” offers a commentary on the complacent suburban lifestyle, wrapped in layered harmonies and a rhythmic drive that’s subtly infectious. The song doesn’t shy away from exploring the disillusionment of routine life, and swerves between the melancholy and the absurd. It’s a track filled with unexpected twists and thought-provoking lyricism, proving MGMT knows how to tackle big themes with a wry smile.

9. Bubblegum Dog

The lyrics are an exquisite pillory of the mundane, as it explores existential ennui within our everyday lives. The titular “Bubblegum Dog” serves as a potent metaphor, embodying one’s constant lurking fears or suppressed desires. It’s all about the chase, the act of ‘running,’ but also the inevitability of whatever it is ‘catching up.’ The song’s surreal imagery – from ‘tenement homes’ to ‘juvenile quetzal birds’, from ‘manicured lawns’ to ‘igneous basketballs’ – paint a caricature of the waking world that bleeds into the unconscious realm.

Beyond its melody, “Bubblegum Dog” strikes a chord with its raw indictment of our ‘bubblegum world’, a satirical jab at mass-produced, candy-coated realities. It grapples with the weight of hate, the strength of that emotion, and the toll it takes. There’s a sense of pressing urgency that crescendos with the end, a longing for respite, a newfound recognition: even in the relentless pursuit of placating the ‘Bubblegum Dog’, we must find calm, find unity, and keep banging our heads against the gong of existence.

8. Me and Michael

An exploration of friendship and unity, the track playfully twists the typical pop-beat, creating an alluring synth-driven anthem that sparks with creativity. The lyrics, at their core, celebrate the bond between two mates — the “it’s not a question now” refrain underscoring the unwavering loyalty in their friendship. There’s something oddly reassuring in the line “Me and Michael, Solid as they come”, hinting at an unshakeable alliance, a united front against the world. Amidst the flickering imagery of imaginary bombs and binary stars, there is an assertion of solidity, a resistance to external forces. This is MGMT at their best – defying pop conventions and delivering a track that’s layered, complex and impossibly catchy.

7. Congratulations

The lyrics capture the conflicting emotions that come with success in the music industry. The song talks about how artists are often marooned in the public eye, subjected to the pressures and expectations of fame, paradoxically feeling invisible and hyper-visible at the same time. MGMT expresses the struggle of maintaining artistic control and personal wellbeing amidst the chaotic whirlwind of showbiz. With, “You look down from your temple/As people endeavor to make it a story,” they hint at how personal narratives and experiences are often distorted and commodified in the glare of stardom. This track scales back the glitz and glamour to expose the human vulnerability, making “Congratulations” a timely critique of the pop-industry’s grueling mechanisms.

6. Mother Nature

The lyrics cleverly weave the mundane with the fantastical, grounding the song in everyday strife while exploring broader existential questions. The song’s protagonists grapple with the bewildering terrain of human emotions, amidst landscapes shaped by others’ expectations and personal self-awareness. The lyrics explore the tension between wanting to conform and longing to break away from societal norms—symbolized by the front lawn, billionaire’s row and castle gates—while also acknowledging the transformative and cyclical nature of life. The reference to Mother Nature serves as an apt metaphor for the raw, primal essence of existence, blending the struggle for survival with an inherent understanding of life’s unpredictability. In a nutshell, “Mother Nature” lays bare the human condition in an existentialist garb, asking listeners to confront their anxieties and negotiate their place in the scheme of things.

5. When You Die

The song digs deep into the darker side of human existence, reflecting a raw, perhaps even nihilistic view of life and death. At the heart of it, this track is an unrestrained, blistering middle finger to niceties and false fronts. The lyrics speak to an anger boiling under the surface, a readiness to “blow my brains out” or “eat your heart out.” The line “We’ll all be laughing with you when you die” adds a chilling tone to the cheeky nihilism, suggesting a shared understanding of life’s ultimate punchline. All in all, “When You Die” emerges as a darkly twisted yet captivating part of MGMT’s discography, blending their catchy, upbeat music with an undercurrent of existential dread.

4. Time to Pretend

It’s a vivid display of psyche-pop, crafting a narrative of aspirational indulgence that then slams into the sobering wall of consequence and the inevitable passage of time. This tune embodies the stark contrast of youthful idealism and harsh realism.

MGMT paints a picture of a glamorous life full of reckless abandon, throwing caution to the wind and living in the moment. The protagonist desires fame, fortune, and hedonistic pleasures, but at a steep cost. They fantasize about moving to Paris, marrying models, and entangling with the stars, but on the flip side, they understand they are doomed to pretend.

The melancholia and desolation seep through in the lyrics as they mourn the impending loss of their innocent, regular life—the playgrounds, loved ones, and even the mundane moments of solitude. The song ultimately serves as a grim reminder of the disillusionment that often comes when chasing a superficial, glitzy dream.

3. Electric Feel

The type of tune that captures the essence of a summer evening, the kind of track you’d blast in a convertible while driving down the Pacific Coast Highway. Quite literally electric, the song propels with a pulsating rhythm and synth-laden layers, creating a vibrant soundscape. The lyrics, while not overtly complex, weave a narrative of an entrancing woman whose presence is likened to electricity. Her allure is not only physical but also energetic, depicted as a force that can even “change the world.” The powerful yet playful imagery invokes ideas of a free-spirited love, a magnetic attraction, a connection that’s electrifyingly potent. “Electric Feel” serves as an electrified love letter to the exciting, mysterious lure of a woman who embodies electric energy. The song has an almost uncanny ability to encapsulate that feeling of youthful exhilaration and attraction, making listeners yearn for a taste of that intoxicating “electric feel” themselves.

2. Kids

Breaking it down, the song’s lyricism takes a unique perspective on childhood and the journey into adulthood. The opening lines paint a picture of a boisterous, curious child exploring the world around them, already too loud for the constraints of prescribed behaviors. MGMT cleverly intertwines the elemental with the personal, symbolizing everyday occurrences with a natural ebb and flow that comes with growing up.

The chorus, repetitive and simple, is a call to mindfulness – control yourself, take only what you need, a poignant reminder in a world hell-bent on excess. Using the analogy of a family of trees wishing to be haunted, MGMT underscores the interconnectivity of individuals in society, our shared experiences and impact on each other.

From the innocence of a child’s laughter to the metaphor of a newborn’s cry for attention, “Kids” is a microcosmic representation of life – unpredictable, idiosyncratic, and a mixed bag of consequences.

1. Little Dark Age

Guided by an ominous bassline and melancholic synths, MGMT deftly broadcasting a profound sense of despair and anxiety prevalent in current times. Underneath its catchy melody, the lyrics wrestle with self-doubt and existential dread, setting a somber mood that’s somehow ironically danceable.

The narrators confront the uncomforting realities of life – feelings rotting “one wink at a time,” the discomfort in self-realization, and the inescapability of personal demons. They find themselves standing alone, “horrified on the stage” of life, ominously referred to as a “little dark age.” It’s an exploration of emotional decay vis-à-vis systemic oppression, painting a picture of societal disillusionment.

“Little Dark Age” manages to perfectly balance light and dark, capturing the painful yet familiar dance between despair and denial, yet leaving spaces for resilience and defiance.