The giant ape has been namechecked by everyone from ABBA to Tom Waits to Jibbs. Here’s a list of every song called “King Kong,” from the best to the worst to the deeply weird
King Kong has been a massive cultural touchstone ever since he KO’d a dinosaur and scaled the Empire State Building with a lady in his fist back in 1933. Since then, he’s popped up everywhere, from cartoons to remakes to video game parodies.
There’s a reason that Kong has become so ubiquitous in pop culture ever since he hit the silver screen 84 years ago. King Kong is basically the id personified—he’s nature’s ultimate badass, and does what he wants, when he wants to (at least until a fleet of military planes comes for him). It’s no coincidence that King Kong got a shout-out in Training Day and Taxi Driver’s Travis Bickle wore a patch of the ape on his sleeve.
Musicians seem to have a thing for the giant ape, too—Kong’s been namechecked in songs by everyone from ABBA to Tom Waits to the rapper Jibbs. He’s become a touchstone in hip-hop culture, referenced in Kanye’s “Black Skinhead” music video, serving as a kind of shorthand for defiance, power, and strength.
But Kong isn’t just a badass monster. He’s also a tragic figure. Musicians have been connecting to that side of him, too—just look at Daniel Johnston’s raw and heartbreaking “King Kong” song. Kong’s about to make a return to the big screen in this spring’s Kong: Skull Island and, while the movie has a 70s throwback feel, it gives Kong an emotional depth that’s only been hinted in the character before.
This new side of Kong will probably wind up inspiring a whole new wave of artists. But until that happens (and in honor of the big ape’s latest film) here’s a ranking of every song called “King Kong,” from the best to the worst to the deeply, deeply weird.
20. Ming + 2Beeps - “King Kong”
This Dim Mak track is like the auditory version of TAG body spray, but it could also serve as a reasonable soundtrack if you were beamed into that original Mario game and had to rhythmically leap over barrels flung by Donkey Kong. Maybe that’s why the song got this title? Automatically pushed to the end of the list for never actually saying the words “King Kong.”
19. Bob Schneider - “King Kong”
Alright, Bob name-checks King Kong right off the bat, but things go south pretty fast afterwards. He rhymes “Kong” with “thong,” so points for that, but the whole thing starts to fall apart when the song segues into a nonsense line about a “sugar hammer,” which sounds pillaged from a lost book of Wayne Coyne’s poetry that should have stayed lost. The track opens up into a gorgeous bridge towards the middle, but maybe too little, too late.
18. Bad Seed Rising - “King Kong”
Bad Seed Rising is a middle-of-the-road rock band of Baltimore teenagers. When I was a teenager, I could barely scrape together two verses of knock-off Modest Mouse yelping, so good for them. The hooks are decent and the lyrics are mostly gibberish but they use King Kong as shorthand for “badass.” Hopefully someday the band will summon the Kong-like courage to stand up to whatever producer or parent-turned-manager thought it was a good idea to master their song like this, though.
17. Gorilla Zoe - “King Kong”
Gorilla Zoe is named “Gorilla Zoe” so maybe the King Kong reference was inevitable. The song is generic 2000s radio hip-hop, but it does what it does well.
Vector is a Nigerian rapper who also inexplicably wound up becoming the voice of Sprite in his home country. His song is mediocre but he is the only person on this entire list who manages to rhyme “machine gun” with “King Kong,” so he has earned his place.
15. DeStorm - “King Kong”
DeStorm built his career through being a YouTube and Vine personality, and now he has enough subscribers to fill a small city. He also dropped a mixtape in 2003 called King Kong. The man understands how to harness the brute power of the internet. He will rule us all someday.
14. Serge - “King Kong” ft. Social Club and Izzy
Serge is a Christian rapper, and his “King Kong” is pretty wholesome. At one point he talks about going to the grocery store and buying fruit. It’s good!
13. Jack Black - “King Kong”
Before Jack Black started voicing kung-fu pandas and playing children’s horror authors in film, he starred in Peter Jackson’s King Kong as Carl Denham, the filmmaker who goes searching for Kong. Black hosted SNL in 2006 to promote the movie, and wound up whipping out this song during his monologue.
12. Luu Breeze - “King Kong”
Watch the Throne was better the first time.
11. Night Birds - “King Kong”
The main guy sings like every word in his lyrics is separated by the clapping hands emoji. “I’m! King! Kong! And! I’m! Big! And! Strong!” What’s the over-under on how many dudes try and fail to crowd surf at a Night Birds show each night?
10. Sepa - “King Kong”
Sepa wins the award for saying “King Kong” the most times out of any of these songs. He’s also from Amsterdam and raps primarily in Dutch, except for, you know, the “King Kong” parts.
9. Frog - “King Kong”
I love this more than I can articulate clearly. What is this band? What is going on? Is that a glockenspiel?
8. Daniel Johnston - “King Kong”
Now we’re deep into the top ten, and we’ve got a string of stone-cold jams lined up. Here’s Daniel Johnston somehow capturing the depth of the tragedy that is the King Kong story with just a simple melody and no musical accompaniment for almost six minutes.
7. Tom Waits - “King Kong”
This is a cover of the Daniel Johnston song. Daniel Johnston is Daniel Johnston, but Tom Waits is Tom Waits, so there you have it.
6. Jibbs - “King Kong”
Remember Jibbs, that ringtone rapper from 2006 who made the song “Chain Hang Low”? He also made a song called “King Kong,” apparently. Play it through the speakers of your Motorolla SLVR for full effect.
5. Frank Zappa & the Mothers of Invention - “King Kong”
Back at the top of this list when we chewed out that song for never actually saying “King Kong” at any point? Yeah, well, this is an instrumental song too, but it’s so much brain-bleedingly better than the majority of songs on this list that I don’t care. Frank Zappa is great. Fifty million dads can’t be wrong.
4. ABBA - “King Kong Song”
ABBA’s Waterloo is a masterclass in hooks. This is maybe the fourth best song on the album. This track is tied for third with the next song...
3. The Kinks - “King Kong”
This Kinks track from Arthur is also tied for three. Why do unhappy siblings make the best music together? The band could have been as big as the Beatles if they were a little better looking. The label was afraid to put their faces on album covers.
2. Sean Price - “King Kong”
Sean Price was a fundamental player in underground New York hip-hop for decades. The guy first came up as a member of Heltah Skeltah and then dropped some incredible solo albums in the 2000s. He passed away in 2015, but left behind some great work. “King Kong” isn’t his best track, but it’s still Sean Price, so it’s better than most.
1. The Jimmy Castor Bunch - “King Kong”
The Jimmy Castor Bunch. This is the pinnacle of music, everybody. This is the single crowning achievement in the history of recorded sound. Listen to it again if you don’t agree. Then again. Then again. It will hit you.
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