Detective have always fascinated us.
Just look at the proliferance of detective stories throughout literary history.
And that has continued in modern times.
In addition to the many movies and TV shows about investigators, there are also a ton of songs about detectives.
Naturally, most of them are nothing special. But some are.
Keep reading for a list of the best songs about spies, detectives and crime fighting investigations.
Songs About Detectives
As always, I did my best to include songs from as many different genres as I possibly could. That way, there is hopefully at least one song here for everyone to enjoy. And ideally several songs you can enjoy.
Private Investigations by Dire Straits
Dire Straits sets the detective tone with Private Investigations. Mark Knopfler’s moody guitar work and the lyrics paint a vivid picture of a detective working on a complex case.
Dire Straits are a British rock band and this song reached number two on the charts in the United Kingdom. It comes from their album Love Over Gold.
With lyrics such as “this is my investigation”, “I go checking out the reports” and “digging up the dirt”, it’s easy to see why this is about detective work. Especially as certain lyrics hint to lying. It means the singer wants to get to the bottom of it.
Smooth Criminal by Michael Jackson
Michael Jackson’s Smooth Criminal isn’t just a dance hit, but it also tells the story of a detective on the trail of a criminal that hurt poor Annie. At least that’s one theory.
We have an in-depth analysis of the Smooth Criminal lyrics and their meaning that can shed some light on Jackson’s hit, if you are interested.
Smooth Criminal was the seventh single from Jackson’s Bad album. It was both written and composed by Michael Jackson and has been a much-loved hit ever since its release.
The song’s genre is mainly R&B and soul, however, there are some elements of pop to the track to add an upbeat feel to the song.
The James Bond Theme by John Barry Orchestra
No detective playlist is complete without the iconic James Bond Theme. John Barry’s orchestral masterpiece is so well-known that you’ll know the tune the second the song starts playing.
It was originally released in 1962 and has been used for numerous James Bond films such as From Russia with Love, Thunderball and most recently, Spectre.
Every Breath You Take by The Police
Sting’s haunting lyrics in Every Breath You Take create an atmosphere of obsession when he sings “I’ll be watching you”, making it an essential track for any detective-themed playlist, despite it’s real meaning: a stalker.
The song was released in 1983 and even won a Grammy award for song of the year. Other lyrics that make it the perfect detective song include lines such as “every breath you take and every move you make” and “every game you play.”
Secret Agent Man by Johnny Rivers
Johnny Rivers’ Secret Agent Man is a classic spy rock track that embodies a cool and confident detective taking on the world of espionage. The song was released in 1966 and comes from Rivers’ album … And I know You Wanna Dance.
The song was created for the American TV series about British Spies called Secret Agent. The song peaked at number three on the charts and became one of the biggest Johnny Rivers songs.
With the lyrics “there’s a man who leads a life of danger” and “odds are he won’t live to see tomorrow” this is the perfect song to add to your detective playlist.
Mission: Impossible Theme by Lalo Schifrin
Lalo Schifrin’s iconic Mission: Impossible Theme is a must-have for a detective playlist. This theme was written and composed by Lalo Schifrin and has played an important role in the Mission: Impossible franchise since 1967. Just like the James Bond theme, in that it’s one that’s sure to make you feel like a detective and a must to add to your detective playlist.
You Don’t Own Me by Lesley Gore
Lesley Gore’s empowering anthem You Don’t Own Me captures the independence and determination of a person, which are attributes commonly associated with a detective. The song was released in 1963 and has been a classic pop anthem ever since. It’s even still popular today.
Lesley Gore sings lyrics such as “don’t tell me what to do” and “I’m free and love to be free.” While the song is, on the whole, about asking someone not to tie her down, these lyrics can still be associated to detective work.
Who Killed it? by Nas
Who Killed It by Nas is a track from his eighth studio album, Hip Hop Is Dead, released in 2006. This standout track takes a narrative approach as Nas raps about a murder.
The song is structured as a murder mystery, and Nas adopts the persona of a detective investigating the “murder” of hip-hop.
Lyrics include “death by strangulation”, “behind the streetlight was a silhouette” and “your conspiracy theories won’t work without evidence.” These really make you feel like you’re in the center of an investigation.
Watching The Detectives by Elvis Costello
Watching the Detectives by Elvis Costello, released in 1977 as a single and later included on his debut album My Aim Is True, is a song that combines elements of punk, new wave, and reggae.
In Watching the Detectives, Elvis Costello explores the idea of surveillance and paranoia. The song’s lyrics are delivered from the perspective of someone observing a crime scene or a detective investigation. However, rather than focusing on solving a crime, the lyrics delve into the psychological and emotional aspects of watching such events unfold.
She Was A (Hotel Detective) by They Might Be Giants
Released in 1985, the song shows off the band’s much-loved blend of electric instrumentation, offbeat lyrics, and catchy melodies. While the title might suggest a conventional detective story, the song takes a surreal and abstract approach to the theme.
She Was a Hotel Detective by They Might Be Giants can be seen as a playful and abstract exploration of detective-like qualities such as observation, mystery, and heightened awareness. Lyrics in the song such as “she’s got her ear to the walls and she’s tappin’ the calls” make this a perfect option for your detective playlist.
Man In The Jar by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Man in the Jar by The Sensational Alex Harvey Band is a song that, at first glance, doesn’t seem to be about detectives. Instead, the lyrics tell a dark and mysterious story about murder.
However, with lyrics such as “I flipped open a fresh packet of cigarettes and considered the situation” and “I turned up the collar of my coat”, it’s easy to put yourself into the shoes of a detective. Make sure to add it to your detective playlist if you really want to feel like you’re on the hunt for someone.
We Are Detective by The Thompson Twins
We Are Detective by the Thompson Twins, released in 1983 as part of their album Quick Step & Side Kick. The lyrics employ detective-related imagery to convey a sense of curiosity, exploration, and a quest for understanding within the context of relationships and personal discovery.
Lyrics that make it perfect for your detective playlist include lines like “we saw him smoking by the newspaper stand” and “he left his footprints by the garden tree.” This song is sure to have you thinking like a detective.
Detective Song by The Blue Aeroplanes
The Detective Song was released in 1995. The title and some aspects of the lyrics could be interpreted metaphorically, drawing connections to the characteristics commonly associated with detectives.
The Blue Aeroplanes sing “in the heart of it, you try to see around it” and “when you find me a clue, drop me to earth and leave me articulate on.” While the song isn’t directly about a detective, there’s still mentions with hints of the song being about trying to find something.
Armchair Detective by Reverend and the Makers
Armchair Detective by Reverend and The Makers is a song that, in its title and lyrics, adopts the theme of being an “armchair detective.” The song was released in 2007 and comes from their album The State of Things.
The song’s lyrics go “armchair detective, what’s the synopsis?” and “what’s the best course of action? Waiting for advice.” The song may not be explicitly about detectives but with obvious references to this, it still makes a great choice for any detective playlists.
Mr Brightside by The Killers
The Killers’ Mr. Brightside explores themes of jealousy and suspicion, capturing the emotional turmoil that can be associated with detectives. While it isn’t completely about detectives there are certainly elements in the song you can relate to on a detective level.
There are lyrics that are about watching someone such as “and she’s calling a cab while he’s having a smoke” and “they’re going to bed and my stomach is sick.” This is definitely a catchy and much-loved song to add to your detective playlist, no doubt one that will go down a treat.
Goldfinger by Shirley Bassey
Shirley Bassey’s powerful vocals in the theme song for the James Bond film Goldfinger really add to the allure of being a spy and compliments the James Bond film perfectly. It comes from the 1964 James Bond film which is also called Goldfinger.
The song peaked at number two in the charts and was Bassey’s most successful single. The genre of the track is mainly pop, with the inclusion of orchestral pop and R&B.
Even though it isn’t directly about detectives, thanks to its link to James Bond, it still goes down in history as being one of the most recognisable spy songs.
Songs About Detecting And Crime Fighting: Final Thoughts
As mentioned, I made it my goal to include songs from every possible genre.However, I know I failed in that. Some genres are very underrepresented. And some are missing altogether. To solve that problem, I ask for your help.
If you know of any additional songs about detectives that you feel belong on this list, please let me know in a comment below. I appreciate any and all suggestions, despite their genre, but naturally appreciate songs in genres I missed the most.