20 Songs About Being Manipulated

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Written By Julia Mehalko

Julia is a music journalist with a passion for retro songs. She holds a degree in journalism from University of Nevada.

Realizing someone is manipulating you is never easy. What can you do other than feel deep pain, sadness, despair, and anger when the one you love has done this to you? Luckily, many artists have been in your shoes in the past — and have written many songs to help you along your own path.

The 20 songs below are all about being manipulated in different situations. While most of the songs here are about romantic relationships, you will find some that detail what it’s like to be manipulated by friends or other loved ones — and by corporations and the government! 

1. “There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” by Shawn Mendes

“There’s Nothing Holdin’ Me Back” by Shawn Mendes explores a toxic relationship where Mendes’ girlfriend holds all the control. Even though his girlfriend seems to control what they do, and even if she is crazy, he doesn’t care. He wants to be with her — even though he does know that she’s manipulating him!

He sings, “You take me places that tear up my reputation / Manipulate my decisions / Baby, there’s nothin’ holdin’ me back.”

2. “Words” by Madonna

1992’s “Words” by Madonna follows the singer as she realizes what her partner is all about. Her friends warned her about this man before — but Madonna didn’t listen. Now, however, she realizes that they were all right. She’s done with his man manipulating her and saying terrible things to bring her down!

She sings, “You think you’re so smart / You try to manipulate me / You try to humiliate with your words.”

3. “Nipple to the Bottle” by Grace Jones

Grace Jones’ 1982 song “Nipple to the Bottle” explores trying to ignore someone who is bad for you. Jones knows that she has to avoid someone who will only manipulate her to get what they want. Even though she knows this, it is hard to completely avoid this person.

So, she sings the lyrics, “I won’t give in and I won’t feel guilty / Rant and rave to manipulate me / From the nipple to the bottle / Never satisfied.”

4. “Love Voodoo” by Duran Duran

“Love Voodoo” by Duran Duran, first released in 1993, describes a toxic relationship. The singer explains that he once fell completely in love with his partner. However, he eventually realized that this person is manipulative and can’t be trusted… and now, he’s trying to leave this relationship. But he can’t! He can’t leave her, no matter how he tries!

Thus, he sings, “Night after night I try to prove / That I can resist you / Tied up inside your love voodoo / Designed to manipulate.”

5. “Lucky Escape” by Years & Years

In “Lucky Escape”, Years & Years sings about an ex. The singer explains that he did love this person. However, he learned how terrible they were — especially towards the end of their relationship. Now, his ex has moved on with another man, and the singer calls them out for the pain they’ve put him through.

He sings, “You’re so deluded, you’re such a fake / And now you got somebody else to manipulate / I think I dodged a bullet / I made a lucky escape.”

6. “Under” by Sampha

“Under” by Sampha follows the singer as he sings about a woman who has him captivated. He cannot resist this woman — even though he’d really like to. He sees her put her other lover under a spell and seems to know he’ll soon be in a similar relationship, as she’ll manipulate him.

So, this leads him to sing, “I wonder, sit and watch you wonder / I see you manipulate your lover / Take cover, waves come crashing over us / And I go under / And, yes, I’m under your spell.”

7. “You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies” by Simon & Garfunkel

Simon & Garfunkel’s 1967 song “You Don’t Know Where Your Interest Lies” explores a complicated relationship. The singer describes a woman he’s friends with, yet says that he sees right through her. Even though she thinks that she has the upper hand, he says that he does. He also says that he’s going to play her and be manipulative — as he thinks she is.

The duo sings, “Don’t try to debate me / You should know that I’m womanly wise / Still you try to manipulate me / You don’t know where your interest lies.”

8. “Where’s the Revolution” by Depeche Mode

“Where’s the Revolution” by Depeche Mode is about how everyone is manipulated by governments and those in power. The band describes all the various things that regular people must go through in their everyday life. The singer then asks why people haven’t revolted yet. Why do they continue to be treated this way?

The band sings, “They manipulate and threaten / With terror as a weapon / Scare you till you’re stupefied / Wear you down until you’re on their side.”

9. “Die For You” by The Weeknd

“Die For You” by The Weeknd follows the singer as he struggles in his relationship. He loves his partner — but he also feels that he needs to let this person go. Their relationship has issues, and he isn’t sure if things will work out.

As he talks about this, he also mentions how he tries to manipulate his girlfriend’s feelings. He sings, “I’m findin’ ways to manipulate the feelin’ you’re goin’ through / But, baby girl, I’m not blamin’ you / Just don’t blame me, too.”

10. “Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” by Iron Maiden

“Seventh Son of a Seventh Son” by Iron Maiden appears on the band’s 1988 album of the same name. This song tells the story of a seventh son who is born and becomes the chosen one. This special child is born and many people watch him to see what will become of his obvious power.

Thus, the band sings about how so many powers are looking to manipulate him for their own purpose. The band sings, “Then they watch the progress he makes / The Good and the Evil, which path will he take? / Both of them trying to manipulate / The use of his powers, before it’s too late.”

11. “When a Woman” by Shakira

Shakira’s song “When a Woman” explores how deeply women love in relationships. Shakira explains that only women can feel such intense emotions while in love.

She then goes on to sing about manipulation, singing the lyrics, “Manipulate and cause you pain / But lift you up when you’re hurting / Scream goodbye, laugh when you cry / But cool the tears when they’re burning.”

12. “Dignity” by New Politics

In “Dignity”, New Politics sings about the many powerful people, governments, and corporations in the world that control people’s lives. The band hates that they don’t have control of anything — and that they live in such fear.

They sing, “You manipulate / With your bag of tricks / You’re playing God with the world on my shoulder.”

13. “Please Don’t Judas Me” by Nazareth

1975’s “Please Don’t Judas Me” by Nazareth, which appears on the rock band’s album Hair of the Dog, is also about manipulation! The band sings about how they don’t want people to betray or treat them poorly. Instead, they would like to be treated kindly.

So, they sing, “Don’t frustrate me / Manipulate me / Please don’t Judas me.”

14. “My Attic” by P!nk

“My Attic” by P!nk follows the singer as she explains that she holds all of her flaws and insecurities in an illusory attic. This is where her true self lies. She wants to fall in love, but she warns her partner to not manipulate her — as she won’t stand for that.

She sings, “But don’t go pushing too hard / I’m not so easy to manipulate / I will give you all of my secrets / If you promise you can brave my attic.”

15. “Easy” by Barenaked Ladies

“Easy” by Barenaked Ladies is one of the best songs about manipulation in relationships! In this track, the singer explains that he knows his partner is going to use and manipulate him. However, he almost doesn’t care anymore — as it’s so easy to forgive her at the end of the day.

The band sings, “You can obfuscate and manipulate / But it’s only at your own expense.”

16. “No Win Situation” by Hoobastank

Hoobastank’s song “No Win Situation” also describes a toxic relationship. The singer explains that his partner uses him and treats him poorly. He knows he deserves better. However, he can’t seem to leave his partner — leaving him in a “No Win Situation”.

He sings the lyrics, “Manipulate and control me / Because you think that you owe me / Like you’re the one who wears the crown.”

17. “Spreading the Disease” by Queensrÿche

1988’s “Spreading the Disease” by Queensrÿche sees the band compare religion to prostitution. They say that both of these things can manipulate people. At one point in the song, the band says, “Religion and sex are power plays; / Manipulate the people for the money they pay / Selling skin, selling God / The numbers look the same on their credit cards.”

18. “Loving You” by Jennifer Lopez

2002’s “Loving You” by Jennifer Lopez explores a struggling romantic relationship. Lopez explains that she wants to make things work between her and her partner. However, she thinks they need some space or to take things slow to get back to where they used to be.

She also sings about manipulation — but in an almost positive light. She trusts her partner and believes he won’t harm her. So, she sings, “I could see when I look in your eyes, you mean no harm / It’s just the way you manipulate me with your charm / And I can tell the love I have for you still strong.”

19. “The Worst Person” by New Found Glory

New Found Glory’s song “The Worst Person” explores a terrible friendship that has come to an end. The singer explains all the horrible traits and flaws this former friend has, explaining that they were truly the worst person around. This person used to manipulate him — but he won’t anymore.

The band sings, “You would only stand close to me / To steal a dollar from my back pocket / Manipulate situations and weak minds / To feed all your desires.”

20. “S.O.S. (Mother Nature)” by will.i.am

“S.O.S. (Mother Nature)” by will.i.am follows the singer as he talks about climate change and global warming. He wants all of us to unite together to save the planet, but he also takes the time to call out governments and powerful people who manipulate us all.

He sings the lyrics, “People trapped behind the gates, ignorance is a state / Of mind ’cause they formulate a plan just to penetrate us / You see, they stimulate us with fear manipulators / Each year they dominate, dividin’ us like calculators.”

Listen to the full playlist on YouTube here.