Tattoos Are Going Mainstream
Years ago when my daughter was a toddler, I often reminded her, "Don't write on yourself." I was trying to prevent graffiti surprises on our walls, the upholstery, or on her skin. My admonishments, however, prompted an awkwardly memorable interaction when she accompanied me to a local veterinary clinic.
At first, I didn't notice that my three-year-old was staring, mouth gaping at the young woman behind the desk. The clerk donned a prominent throat tattoo encircling her neck; it spelled REVOLT in ginormous letters.
I was so accustomed to dealing with the woman (who was actually pretty mild-mannered, in spite of her proclamation) that I had to shake my gobsmacked kiddo a little and ask her what was wrong. "The lady wrote on herself!" my toddler urgently retorted very loudly. She then quickly quizzed the patient clerk about her choice of body ink—what does that say, what does "revolt" mean, did she know that was never coming off, and what did her mom say?
Celebrate Body Art With Songs and Lyrics About Tattoos
You may not have body art that spells REVOLT, but chances get better every day that you have other designs. That's because tattoos are going mainstream. Celebrate body ink self-expression with a playlist of pop, rock, country, and R&B songs about tattoos, including those that are new ink, old and faded designs, matching tattoos, or regrettable tattoos. We have a long list of songs to start you off!
1. "Tattoos Together" by Lauv
As a couple, there's nothing like getting inked together to make lasting memories. In this catchy 2020 pop tune, a guy recounts a recent magical weekend in Portland with a new romantic partner when they threw caution to the wind and got tattoos together. He has fallen hard for her and he ardently hopes that their love will endure. However, even if it fizzles, at least they will have shared tattoos to memorialize their relationship.
2. "Rose Tattoo" by Dropkick Murphy
This 2013 rousing rock song has a strong Celtic kick and features a tatted up narrator describing his skin as the tapestry of his life. As the man does a show-n-tell of his body art, he explains what each design represents. Specifically, he takes care to point out his most prized tattoo:
I've got your name written here
In a rose tattoo, in a rose tattoo, in a rose tattoo
Signed and sealed in blood I would die for you.
3. "Tattoos and Scars" by Montgomery Gentry
In this 1999 country song, a young man meets an older one in a bar one night, and they compare notes on life histories. While the younger man's life milestones are etched upon his tattooed skin canvas, the older man's biography of hard work and wartime service is conveyed through a visual tour of his "ragged old and jagged ordinary scars." The elder gentleman is careful to point out to his youthful comrade that tattoos and scars are different things.
4. "Tattoo" by Jordin Sparks
The narrator in this 2007 worldwide pop hit has decided to move on with her life. After having grown weary of relationship gameplaying, she has learned some lessons from a relationship bust-up and doesn't plan on looking back with regrets. Instead, she regards their time together as an enduring part of who she is, wearing it like. a tattoo. (How very mature.)
5. "Tattooed Heart" by Ariana Grande
We all want to belong to somebody, and the woman in this romantic 2013 ballad is no exception. She wants to stake her claim on her partner through ink:
I wanna say we're going steady
Like it's 1954
No, it doesn't have to be forever
Just as long as I'm the name on your tattooed heart.
Country star Ronnie Dunn later recorded the song in 2016 as the title track to his album by the same name.
6. "Tattoo" by Van Halen
This bass-heavy tune was Van Halen's last Billboard Hot 100 hit before acclaimed guitarist Eddie Van Halen died in 2020. The 2012 rock track is a tribute to "poetry in ink" as a form of individual expression. The narrator particularly values brightly colored tattoos and dons a number of them himself, including Elvis on his elbow and hula girls on the back of his leg. Additionally, he sends out love to ladies with tramp stamps.
7. "New Tattoo" by Brian Dunne
Raw and emotional in its intensity, this 2018 pop ballad describes the disillusionment and doubt that often accompany aging. (Hey, adulting is a hard thing to master.) The protagonist in the song is a millennial who lives alone but still depends financially on his or her parents.
They get a new tattoo to remind them of their younger selves, back when they were untethered by expectations. Sadly, their desire for a no-strings-attached life has turned into a solitary one so that they now sleep alone, have no one to talk to, and they walk through life kinda numb.
8. "Angel with Tattoos" by Skylar Grey
Tattoos can harbor the weight of a lot of assumptions. In this 2019 pop song, a woman who has lived hard pleads for more understanding from her disapproving future mother-in-law. While the rest of her partner's family is supportive of the couple's relationship, her partner's mother remains judgmental and overprotective. The tattooed lady defends herself as a born-again tattooed angel whose evil past has faded like the ink in her body art. She swears she'll never do her man wrong.
9. "Like a Tattoo" by Sade
War is an experience that is seared into the psyche of those unlucky enough to have lived through it. This haunting 1992 jazz number is based on Sade's interpretation of a conversation she had with a Vietnam vet she met in a bar:
The war is still raging inside of me
I still feel the chill
As I reveal my shame to you
I wear it like a tattoo
I wear it like a tattoo
I wear it like a tattoo.
10. "Matching Tattoos" by Gene Noble
Thank goodness for small miracles, like that decision to forego matching tattoos. Didn't it seem like a cute idea at the time?
In this 2020 R&B ditty, a guy who has broken up with his lady is super glad they didn't go through with their often discussed idea about getting matching tattoos to forever memorialize their love. Not having that constant reminder staring back at him makes it easier to move on emotionally from their failed romance. Always remember this: love may disappear but tattoos are forever.
11. "5 Tattoos" by Ella Henderson
In this 2014 emotional ballad by the British X Factor contestant Ella Henderson, a woman suspects that she may have met her one and only. It's early in their courtship, but their attraction is intense. Mesmerized, her attention fixates upon him. She takes in all of his details and counts the five tattoos between his shoulders and his hands. This man may be the one to complete her.
12. "Tattoos on This Town" by Jason Aldean
The narrator in this 2011 country song notices physical signs that conjure up memories of a teenage romance as he revisits his hometown years after being away. All over town, the young couple left marks on the world like a tattoo, and they still remind him (as if he could forget).
Georgia boy Jason Aldean was married to his high school sweetheart for 12 years, until he was caught "acting inappropriately" in a bar with failed American Idol contestant and cheerleader, Brittany Kerr. The country singer subsequently filed for divorce from his first wife. He then married the younger woman and has since started a second family. Aldean wears tattoos in honor of his new wife and children.
13. "Tattoo" by Ava Max
In this playfully taunting pop song from 2020, a narrator teases her sweetheart that once she focuses her love on him, it will be indelible, just like a tattoo. Part threat, part promise, the edgy lady notes that she'll soon be under his skin. Her love will be permanent, just like tattoo ink. What's more, she flirts, is that he shouldn't resist. It's gonna hurt but he'll like it. Wait just a minute! Is this love or something else?
14. "Margaritaville" by Jimmy Buffett
This laid-back 1977 country rock song defined Jimmy Buffet's career for more than four decades. The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for its cultural and historical significance.
The tune details a man's drunken escape to a tourist beach resort after a relationship breakup. He bullet points his vacation activities to include sunbathing and a whole lot of boozing it up. Proof that the guy is probably working on a serious substance abuse problem (let's be honest here) is that he now wears a brand new tattoo of a Mexican woman and has utterly no idea how it got there.
15. "Last Tattoo" by Rehab
If you're like many people, then you've probably fallen for a lover who turned out to have a roving eye. Unfaithfulness hurts like hell. In this 2005 rock song, a dejected man describers his heartbreak after discovering that his partner has not only abandoned him for another guy but also blamed him for her infidelity.
The love scorned man directs the tattoo artist to bear down hard in removing the tattoo of his ex's name. If only wiping away her memory were this easy:
This will be my last tattoo
To cover the memory of someone I thought I'd always need
Cover her name with a smoking gun
Make it hurt as much as possible and make it bleed.
16. "Tattoos Blues" by Corb Lund
Have you ever acquired a poorly considered piece of body art? Maybe it's located on your neck or head. Perhaps you allowed your friends to talk you into getting it on a whim when you were three sheets to the wind. If you can identify, then you'll particularly appreciate this funny poem about regrettable tattoos which has been set to music.
The 2020 guitar tune urges people to look at the tattoo artist's previous portfolio of work and consider the final nature of their choice of body ink. It also pokes fun at
- badly drawn tats of your kids
- Asian characters that aren't what you think
- illegible script, and
Got a bad tattoo? We'd love to hear about it in the Comments Section below.
17. "Tattoos" by Shane Runions
They say you shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but that's unfortunately not the personal experience of the heavily inked fella in this 2016 country song. His canvas of tattoos is a reminder of his sins, including a stint in prison. While some people use his body art as a weapon for casting judgment upon him, he reminds them that the tattoos haunt him more than they scare strangers. He wears those old prison tattoos proudly as proof of the sins that God washed away.
18. "Tattoo" by Stephen Lynch
Comedian Stephen Lynch offers up his opinions on what makes a tattoo cool in this 2012 song. Almost no tattoo is off limits from from his criticism: Laughing Jesus, barbed wire, angel wings, unicorns, Tweety Bird, school mascots, tramp stamps.
19. "Tattooed on My Heart" by Bishop Briggs
Have you ever wished you could press "undo" on that love relationship that crashed and burned? Unfortunately, starting over is harder when you've carved an ex's name into your skin and thus carry them as a constant reminder (think: Justin Bieber's Selena Gomez tattoo).