There are hundreds, if not thousands of great tracks out there. Some have gone down in history as being one of the greatest songs ever for a variety of reasons, but the thing that often makes a track memorable is the intro section. It’s like a signature, telling everyone exactly what’s coming and the part people will both remember most and recognize the fastest. In this article, we’ll look at 25 songs with the best intros of all time.
1. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson
The beginning of Billie Jean is an infectious beat that leads into a funk rhythm and keeps expanding the longer it goes on. It’s one of the most iconic intros of all time, seeing as the track and album it came on are both amongst the best-selling ones of all time. There’s just something about Michael Jackson’s music that makes you want to get up and dance, and it’s impossible to not at least tap your foot along with this tune.
It was obviously a number-one single and is one of the few certified diamond singles in history. A signature of his, it still sees plays and cover versions today.
2. Kashmir – Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin released some of the best rock songs in history, thanks in large part to their incredible instrumentals. Most of their tracks have incredibly strong openings that are instantly recognizable years and years after the original release of the song. Kashmir might have the best opening of any of them. It’s an instant hit of rhythm guitar that permeates the whole track and drives it to the opening lines.
Recommended: The greatest Led Zeppelin songs of all time
3. Let’s Go Crazy – Prince & The Revolution
Prince was absolutely legendary. But the intro to Let’s Go Crazy was something else. Hearing him speak the opening line you’d expect to hear at a wedding is something you just can’t forget. Any time I heard “Dearly beloved, We are gathered here today.” I instantly think of this song no matter the context. Once that’s delivered, the track explodes into guitar and keyboard with him killing one of the best pop-hype songs to ever come out.
4. Hotel California – The Eagles
The instant Hotel California starts, you know something spooky is going on. It’s got a mysterious vibe to it that makes you feel like you’re the one driving down the highway and deliriously sleepy. It feels like it has that Spanish kind of influence to it, owing to the flamenco guitar that pays tribute to the state of California and the Southwestern US as a whole.
5. Straight Outta Compton – N.W.A.
N.W.A. was such a powerful cultural movement thanks to its political messaging and ability to actually discuss societal issues. Starting off Straight Out Of Compton with the line “You are now about to witness the strength of street knowledge” in such a matter-of-fact manner set the tone for the whole song. Adding to it a beat that almost sounds like marching music makes sure everyone takes what’s to come seriously. One of the most iconic tracks of all time with an iconic intro that just screams simplicity and perfection.
6. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen
Bohemian Rhapsody is an absolute masterpiece from Queen, there’s just no other way to say it. Its intro that’s half sung and half spoken is so memorable that just about everyone can get through the beginning of the song without stumbling over any of the words. It’ll raise goosebumps on your arms as it sets the tone for the soft beginning of the track too and is easily one of the greatest intros of all time.
7. The Zephyr Song – Red Hot Chili Peppers
One of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ best tracks and quintessentially in line with their melodic style of rock, The Zephyr Song also has one of the best intros ever. It’s very short, lasting only a few seconds, but it lays down the rhythm and style of the whole track by creating a dreamlike atmosphere that makes you feel like you’re floating alongside the clouds in the sky.
8. Dreams – Fleetwood Mac
You can make a solid argument that Dreams is the best song Fleetwood Mac ever came out with. The funky intro span of the track is complimented by Stevie Nicks crooning vocal ad-libs and does as good a job as any on this list at creating what you’d call a dreamy sound. Overall, it’s just a good song to vibe out on, whether you happen to be sober when it starts up or not.
9. The Final Countdown – Europe
The intro for The Final Countdown is one of the coolest uses of synths I’ve ever heard. Instead of making them into stabs, they mimic brass instruments to lay down an energetic rhythm that’s sure to get your juices flowing. Their playing almost on their own adds to their effect, as there’s nothing distracting you from their flowing, rhythmic sound.
10. Rich Girl – Gwen Stefani Feat. Eve
Rich Girl starts off with a rich pop beat that sees Gwen Stefani harmonizing over it in what can only be described as epic. Even if you’ve only heard it once, it’s both catchy enough and unique enough that you’ll instantly recognize it.
11. Crazy Train – Ozzy Osbourne
Of all The Prince of Darkness’s songs, it’s hard to surpass the intro of Crazy Train. Just hearing Ozzy Osbourne scream “All aboard” before diving into an excellent guitar section is all you need to set the tone for the track as a whole and really makes it stand out in the rock world.
12. Welcome To The Black Parade – My Chemical Romance
Mid-2000s emo kids rejoice, your song made it. Welcome To The Black Parade has been memed to death over the years but is one of the most iconic tracks of the Hot Topic aesthetic that was popular during the 2000s, mainly for its intro. A beautiful vocal performance and a very emotional one for many people who grew up during that time.
13. Welcome To The Jungle – Guns N’ Roses
For this one, I don’t think there’s a lot I need to say. The muted yet building guitar, the siren buildup, the amazing rhythm that all pushes towards the first verse, and the wall of sound that comes at you when it starts are just legendary.
14. Come Together – The Beatles
The intro for Come Together is meant to catch your attention. The Beatles going ‘shoop’ alongside gentle music and rolling cymbal taps is the perfect opening for one of the best songs of all time.
15. Down Under – Men At Work
The 80s were extremely cheesy and so was Down Under by Men At Work. Using bottles to start the beat for the song was clever and kind of funny, and following it up with a funky pop kind of beat made it one of the more memorable intros on this list.
16. Let’s Get It On – Marvin Gaye
Have you ever heard a song intro that was so good that it quite literally became the universal signal for sexy time? Marvin Gaye’s Let’s Get It On has an incredibly simple intro of a few short guitar wah-wahs but was so well-known as the introduction of one of the lustiest tracks out there it’s been used in films and shows ever since it was released. From the few seconds that actually introduce the song to his wailing vocals, the track is a treat and one of the most recognizable openings to a song ever.
17. Chop Suey! – System Of A Down
System Of A Down nailed a lot of their intros, but Chop Suey! is just something special. It starts with a fairly soft but fast-tempo guitar chord that slowly builds itself by adding a deeper guitar and drums, and then the full band kicks in. What starts off soft turns into a heavy rock anthem that gets everyone jumping with the short, loud line deliveries that have made it one of their most beloved songs.
18. Thunderstruck – AC/DC
When it comes to classic rock songs, you can’t go wrong with Thunderstruck. The intro is absolutely fantastic. The fast guitar strums, the vocals, the build-up of energy. Everything about it is perfect from the moment AC/DC begin to play to the moment they finish the track. It doesn’t even feel like it ends when the first verse starts, it just keeps building up into one of the best sports rock songs of all time.
19. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
Smells Like Teen Spirit is Nirvana at its best and is actually one of the songs that are credited for bringing alternative rock to mainstream audiences. For many, the intro was their initiation into the grunge-punk sound that the band was largely spearheading. It would go down as one of the best and most important tracks in rock history, with a legacy and intro that will forever be remembered as one of the greats.
20. You Give Love A Bad Name – Bon Jovi
You Give Love A Bad Name is an instant hit of energy that really will make you feel like you’ve been shot through the heart. The iconic opening line will forever live on, but the blaring electric guitars that come right after are what set it over the top. Then the quick transition to softer guitars for the first verse just sets the song up so well. This one could easily make it anywhere on this list and is more than deserving of a spot.
21. Song 2 – Blur
It’s super hard to leave this song off the list. It’s got a decent drum solo to get it started and a catchy guitar rhythm, but the part that really makes it stand out is the constant “Who-hoo” going through the intro and the chorus. It adds infectious energy to the track and makes it something you’ll instantly recognize as soon as it comes on.
22. Hot For Teacher – Van Halen
The scattered, heart-pumping drums that open Hot For Teacher could alone be enough to make it an iconic song intro, but the frantic guitar that comes in to join it does just as much. The music video version is just as iconic, with a spoken introduction that’s hilarious. Matching the rhythm to the lyrics helped make it as catchy and memorable as possible, with Van Halen truly pulling off a track that was both funny and iconic.
23. Stairway to Heaven – Led Zeppelin
I praised Led Zeppelin a lot earlier for their music and song intros, so it shouldn’t be a huge shock that I’ve got another one of their tracks on here. Stairway To Heaven starts off with an intro that creates a soft and dreamy atmosphere that feels just a little bit melancholy. The humming that comes with it adds a religious feeling to it that can bring goosebumps up on your arms. Definitely one of the best intros of all time despite being fairly simplistic.
24. For Whom The Bell Tolls – Metallica
Church bells seem to be ingrained into much of the western world in some way. Their big “bong” sounds elicit a response. The first thing you hear in For Whom The Bell Tolls is one of those bells, which continues tolling as they begin one of the best basslines in music history. As with any good intro, it slowly builds up, working itself into a fever pitch to create one of the most legendary metal intros in history.
25. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) – The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Jimi Hendrix is widely considered one of the best and most innovative guitar players of all time, and his skill is on full display in the intro of this song. Voodoo Child (Slight Return) starts off with some very ahead-of-its-time wah-wah guitar riffs before breaking out into a full band accompaniment and a masterful guitar riff in full sound.
It’s also one of the best tracks to come from The Jimi Hendrix Experience and their 1968 Electric Ladyland album. There’s a reason it was featured on almost all of his setlists and would become one of the songs he was best known for during his all-too-short career.
As a contributing writer for Music Grotto, Dakotah writes and produces professional music/media content. He works closely with editorial staff to meet editorial standards and create
quality content for the Music Grotto website. Dakotah is passionate about music in a wide variety of genres, from hip-hop to country and lo-fi to metal, and he enjoys creating music pieces for Music Grotto.