Bo Burnham's Netflix special "Inside" features 20 new original songs.
Entertainment correspondent Kim Renfro ranked them in ascending order of greatness.
The penultimate song, "All Eyes On Me," is the best in the whole special, in this writer's opinion.
20. "Any Day Now"
It took a few close listens for me to realize that Burnham layers his natural voice with the same pitched voice he used for the Socko puppet in "How the World Works."
That's why this end-credits song sounds like we're being played out of a twisted episode of "Sesame Street." It's a cheerful song on the surface, but darker at its core ("It'll stop any day now, any day now!").
19. "Don't Wanna Know"
A perfect interlude track, "Don't Wanna Know" smartly asks the audience at home if they're really watching this special or not ("Am I on in the background? Are you on your phone?") right at the point that some people might be checking out.
It's timed right after Burnham has a long chat at the camera about why he won't actually kill himself — a point at which people uncomfortable hearing about suicidal ideation could be thinking about tuning out of the special.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression or has had thoughts of harming themselves or taking their own life, get help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) provides 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, as well as best practices for professionals and resources to aid in prevention and crisis situations.
18. "Unpaid Intern"
At just about 30 seconds long, this is one of the shortest songs Burnham sings in "Inside," and yet it's one of the catchiest tunes in the bunch. I particularly love Burnham's oddly pleasant-yet-screeching scatting that cuts off abruptly at the end.
17. "FaceTime With My Mom (Tonight)"
If you want proof that Burnham could be writing just straight-up pop music instead of parody-driven comedy songs, "FaceTime With My Mom (Tonight)" is exhibit A.
The lyrics recap the banality many people were all-too-familiar with after living through the COVID-19 pandemic, while the melody and composition create a head-bobbing earworm that's impossible to ignore.
The interludes that go from "ay, ay, ay" into "AT&T." The exquisite description of how a phone flash makes his dick "look frightened." The Ariana Grande-esque "yuhs" that punctuate the end of the song. What a jam.
"Problematic" is a roller coaster of self-awareness and masochism and parody.
Burnham seems to be poking fun at the vapid, rapid-response apologies celebrities will give to the world, maintaining the impression that they're fine being held accountable for problematic actions of their past.
14. "Bezos II"
The fur suit and swirling projection graphics help make this reprisal of the "Bezos" anthem something special. The manic way Burnham sings "You did it!" and "Congratulations!" in mock-celebration of Bezos being the richest person in the world lands perfectly.
13. "All Time Low"
This song is just a single verse, prompted by Burnham admitting to the audience that his current mental health is rapidly approaching an "ATL" ("All Time Low"). With four short lines, Burnham encapsulates pretty much exactly what having a panic attack feels like with an uncanny catchiness:
Feeling in my body, way down deep inside me
I try not to fight it (Describe it!) Alright
A few things start to happen, my vision starts to flatten
My heart, it gets to tappin', and I think I'm gonna die.
12. "Bezos I"
I'm not sure I'll be able to see the name "Jeff Bezos" in headlines again without hearing the anguished scream Burnham lets out at the end of this song. This synth-heavy tune makes a mockery of billionaire fanboys in glorious fashion. The lyrics build until Burnham is chanting: "Zuckerberg and Gates and Buffet, amateurs can f------ suck it. F--- their wives, drink their blood. Come on, Jeff, get 'em!"
The song is made even better because it leads right into Burnham's mini-speech about how "allowing giant digital media corporations to exploit the neurochemical drama of our children for profit … maybe that was a bad call by us."
11. "How the World Works"
The premise of this song comes from one of Burnham's favorite comedians, Hans Teeuwen. While Teeuwen's sock-puppet stand-up routine is all about an absurd, codependent relationship between puppet and master, Burnham's puts a new spin on the idea.
In "How the World Works," Burnham sets his character up as a stand-in for ignorant white idealists, while his puppet Socko takes on the role of non-white Americans. This is best displayed in the bit where Socko tells Burnham to go read a book if he wants to learn more about how "the simple narrative taught in every history class is demonstrably false and pedagogically classist."
When Burnham's character laments that he was just "trying to be a better person," Socko exasperatedly says: "Why do you rich f------ white people insist on seeing every socio-political conflict through the myopic lens of your own self-actualization?"
This prompts Burnham to pull-rank on Socko, brow-beating him back into submission before he rips the puppet off his hand anyways, showing us once again "how the world works" between the ruling classes and the oppressed.
10. "White Woman's Instagram"
This song is very solid musically, but the accompanying visuals are what make it really soar. Highlights include the bridge where the commentary on a "girlboss" aesthetic of women's Instagram photos opens up to imagine someone's post dedicated to her dead mother.
Also shoutout to the mega-sweet lyric "a ring on her finger from the person that she loves."
The first tune Burnham sings in "Inside" sets the tone perfectly with the line: "If you'd have told me a year ago that I'd be locked inside of my home (ah-ha-ha)." Then it moves to establish that "Robert's been a little depressed" — a core theme of the next 90 minutes.
But then Burnham really lays it on us, gloriously lighting up a disco ball with a light strapped to his head as he belts out, "But look I made you some content! Daddy made you your favorite, open wide."
(Tell us how you're feelin') Well, I feel like s--- (Oh, s---)
Feeling like a saggy, massive sack of s--- (Oh, s---)
Big 'ol motherf---ing duffel bag of s--- (Oh, s---)
I would dance to this song at a bar. I have danced to this song in my car. I will laugh to this song for years to come. It's depression and mirth all in one.
Burnham's ability to express incredibly dark mental headspaces into upbeat songs is on full display in the back half of "Inside," and this is one of his best.
7. "That Funny Feeling"
"That Funny Feeling" is a song about things that make you feel like you're living in a warped simulation or have totally disassociated from reality, or perhaps have begun to accept that we're at the edge of the collapse of civilization ("Googling 'derealization,' hating what you find").
My favorite part of this song is when Burnham seems to reference the seven-year timeline we have to take action against global warming before its effects are irreversible.
Ah yes, "the quiet comprehending of the ending of it all."
Burnham takes on the persona of an ego-driven, white male comic with the first parody song in his special, amping up his well-established style of being a self-aware entertainer. He laments being unsure of whether he should be "joking at a time like this," and lands on the solution ("Healing the world with comedy, making a literal difference, metaphorically").
Not only does this song show off how much Burnham's vocal chops have advanced since his first viral parody song he wrote when he was 16 years old, but it also keys into the musical style of the whole special. It establishes the way he'll be veering in and out of different characters, mocking both himself and the role of white entertainers writ large in today's cultural conversation.
He even kicks into a key change at the very end, something he highlighted in his 2016 special "Make Happy" as an easy way to pander to an audience. And look at that — it worked on me.
Maybe it's because I was also born in 1990, and older folks used to always gawk when I revealed my birth year in the exact way Burnham describes in this song. Or maybe it's just because I also turned 30 in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic and feel the sands of time creep into my psyche. Either way, I unabashedly love this song.
The gallows humor of it all is painfully catchy, tapping into the memes millennials have been making about wanting to die for many years now. I keep walking around my house singing: "It's 2020 and I'm 30, I'll do another 10 — 2030 I'll be 40 and kill myself then."
4. "Look Who's Inside Again"
Another of the shorter songs in the special, "Look Who's Inside Again" manages to be one of the most profound pieces of music Burnham writes. He goes from describing the efforts of creating the very special we're watching ("trying to be funny and stuck in a room") to poignantly summarizing the experience of a teenager who feels trapped ("I was a kid who was stuck in his room").
It's one of the times that you feel like Burnham isn't putting on a character, but is singing from the depths of his vulnerable inner-self.
Then comes the gut-punch, a line that echoed in my head for days after I watched this special: "Well, well, look who's inside again. Went out to look for a reason to hide again."
This seemingly simple rhyme captures a complicated mental cycle that people who experience depression, anxiety, or other mental disorders will know all too well. The notion that, despite understanding how being stuck inside a room (or your own head) isn't good for your wellbeing, it becomes a comfortable type of sadness — a state that you often find yourself crawling back to when the world becomes too overwhelming to bear.
3. "Welcome to the Internet"
Luring you down a poisonously designed Internet K-hole, "Welcome to the Internet" plays like Burnham's villain song in the musical theater production that is "Inside." His talent as an actor is on display throughout this whole special, but there's a particularly alluring style he has in this song as he veers from a circus salesman persona to a falsely benevolent tech founder and then straight into a Bond-villain laugh.
"Welcome to the Internet" captures the mania and dissonance and addictive qualities of the internet while explaining to you the malicious ethos underlying today's online culture and the businesses built up around it ("Apathy's a tragedy and boredom is a crime").
The grand finale of his musical spectacular, "Goodbye" brings all the main motifs from earlier songs back into the fold. Burnham layers various characters and observations about the role of comedy, the internet, complete mental spiraling, and the crush of pressure to "reenter" the world.
There's an inspiring spin to the bleak lyrics, an earnestness that brings so many emotions to the forefront as Burnham closes out his greatest work yet.
1. "All Eyes on Me"
The vocal distortion on Burnham's voice in this song makes him sound like the manifestation of depression, a force that's trying to convince us to sink into the comfort of inertia.
The song's melody is oddly soothing, and the lyrics are a sly manifestation of the sometimes-inviting nothingness that depression can offer ("It's almost over, it's just begun. Don't overthink this, look in my eye. Don't be scared, don't be shy, come on in, the water's fine.")
But of all the brilliant lines in "Inside," nothing has shaken me the way this verse did:
"You say the ocean's rising, like I give a s---
You say the whole world's ending, honey it already did
You're not gonna slow it, heaven knows you tried
Got it? Good. Now get inside."
New harmonies kick in after this line, adding to the haunting beauty of the song. Listening to "All Eyes on Me" is like having a religious experience with your own mental disorder. Burnham's voice crawls into your skin, speaking to a dark corner of your mind that's been waiting for permission to give up.
It's terrifying. It's cathartic. It's the most powerful song Burnham has ever written. I couldn't look away even if I wanted to.
For more on "Inside," read our full breakdown of 27 details you might have missed in the special here.
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