Florence + The Machine, Top 10, List, Alternative

Top 10 Florence + the Machine Songs

Florence Welch and her band, AKA Florence + the Machine, released their latest album Dance Fever and wrapped up a tour last year (2022). They've come back into the limelight with the release of a pretty new song called "Mermaids." We're excited to see what the enchanting, folksy, and occasionally rock-tinged alternative band does in the future. That's why for this week, Florence + the Machine is the topic of our next Top 10 list!

The group was formed by Florence Welch in 2007. The name of Florence + the Machine is attributed to Florence Welch's teenage collaboration with Isabella "Machine" Summers. Welch and Summers performed together for a short time under the name Florence Robot/Isa Machine. Eventually, the duo expanded to include musicians Robert Ackroyd (guitar and backing vocals), Chris Hayden (drums, percussion and backing vocals), Mark Saunders (bass guitar and backing vocals), and Tom Monger (harp).

The group released their debut album Lungs in 2009, and it received tremendous acclaim and attention. They've released four more studio albums since then – each one more bold, experimental, and emotional than the last. For this list, we're taking a look at the 10 most noteworthy tunes in the group's catalogue. We'll only be focusing on original songs and covers from the group rather than collaborations Welch has had with others, so yes: "Sweet Nothing" by Calvin Harris isn't counting for this one.

Get ready to hear a whole lot of harp, reverb, electric guitar riffs, and Welch's gorgeous vocals. Here's our Top 10 Florence + the Machine songs!

10. "Ship to Wreck"

We're kicking off this list with two back-to-back songs from How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful. "Ship to Wreck" is the first track on the record, and is the only song to focus on water: a huge theme from Florence + the Machine's previous album, Ceremonials (2011). Welch revealed the album’s producer, Markus Dravs, told her not to write any more songs about water, but that she convinced him to make an exception for “Ship to Wreck.”

We adore the vintage soft rock vibes on this melancholy song. Self-destruction seems to be a common theme in Florence + the Machine songs, especially when it comes to relationships. "Ship to Wreck" may be one of the more chipper-sounding jams about love troubles.

9. "What Kind of Man"

The second track off How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful, "What Kind of Man" starts off as a deep ballad, then transitions into a slappy rock anthem. You could say this particular song draws on the frantic rock of the group's debut album Lungs and the soul sound of Ceremonials, complete with scornful vocals from Florence.

At its core, "What Kind of Man" is about the regret Florence has for falling for a guy who leaves her behind. She compares their past relationship to standing on opposite sides of a canyon, and says he is a "holy fool, all coloured blue." If we had to describe this song in one word, we'd say it's thorny. While "Ship to Wreck" is flowy like water, "What Kind of Man" is grounded like earth.

8. "Seven Devils"

Who knew a song that sounded so utterly demonic and evil could be so earwormy? "Seven Devils" comes off Florence + the Machine's Ceremonials and uses medieval demons as a metaphor for Florence’s rage against a wrongdoer. Personally, we think those seven devils are a reference to the seven deadly sins in Christianity, but in an interview given after the release of Ceremonials, Florence indicated “Seven Devils” was originally inspired by a narrative from a Chester Himes book, titled If He Hollers Let Him Go. In the book, the protagonist awakens one morning and states: “I woke up with seven devils inside me…”

With those echoey vocals, poetic imagery, and dark themes, "Seven Devils" is a showstopper. It's no wonder it was used for the promo of the second season of Game of Thrones. We can also swear we heard it for an American Horror Story: Coven promo back in the day, but that could just be devils playing tricks on us.

7. "Hunger"

"Hunger" is about having a craving for change and strength. It starts off with a gripping verse: "At seventeen I started to starve myself / I thought that love was a kind of emptiness / And at least I understood then the hunger I felt / And I didn't have to call it loneliness." This emotional song from High As Hope sees Florence exploring her vulnerability and search for love whilst comparing her teenage experience to the youth of today. Ultimately, it's a song about hope.

During a premiere and interview with Annie Mac on BBC Radio 1, Florence said: "It’s also a celebration of how much I see young people changing things, like, 'No, I wanna look this way.' They’re just so switched on and engaged and they’re not gonna be told how they should look and behave. I was really lost when I was a teenager, I was really confused and sad, so I feel really inspired by the young women I see today."

6. "Kiss With a Fist"

A catchy, old-school track from the group. The punchy rock song "Kiss With a Fist" was written by Florence Welch when she was 17 and comes from the band's first studio album, Lungs (2009). It was also released as Florence + the Machine's debut single. A good choice, considering the shock value on this tune is pretty high.

Yes: on first listen, the lyrics make this song sound like it's a domestic violence situation. ("You hit me once / I hit you back / You gave a kick / I gave a slap / You smashed a plate / Over my head / Then I set fire to our bed.") And it can be interpreted that way, if you choose to do so. But the band has made it clear the song is actually just a metaphor for the strength of Florence and her lover’s passion.

The lyrics originally came from Ashok’s “Happy Slap,” which Florence Welch sang for the band’s sole record. She's also compared "Kiss With a Fist" to Leona Lewis‘ “Bleeding Love.” She told Uncut Magazine in 2010, "I want to make it clear that a man has never beaten me up and I would never advocate that in a song in any way whatsoever. There are no victims in ["Kiss With a Fist"]. They’re both beating the s–-t out one another, there’s no victimisation in it. The song is describing a highly destructive relationship, but one which both partners enjoy. But it’s all metaphorical."

5. "Cosmic Love"

Dreamy, harp-heavy, and with drums that pound right into your heart, "Cosmic Love" is one of our favorite tunes from Lungs. It's ethereal, yet has a melancholy tone to it. That's because Florence is singing about the rush - as well as the habit of overlooking things – that come when you fall deeply in love with someone. Welch told The Sunday Times "Cosmic Love" illustrates how being in love means “you give yourself up to the dark, to being blind.”

Florence also described about its creation on the band’s webpage. “'Cosmic Love' was a joke title, but it stuck. The most hungover I’ve ever been when writing a song. I went to [Isabella Summers’s] studio after having been to a party, and I was lying on the floor wanting to vomit. We were working really hard on a song and just trying to make this sh-- piano part work, and all of a sudden I hit on one note, and I’d got it. We wrote the whole song in ten minutes."

4. "Never Let Me Go"

This song is a well-crafted mix of piano ballad, R&B, and gospel embellishment. "Never Let Me Go" is another hit off Ceremonials and was written by Welch and Paul Epworth. Talking about the track, Welch said: "The gospel thing comes from my obsession with hymns. I’m drawn to anything that has a hymnal quality, be it spiritualized or dusty old albums by Georgian choirs."

"Never Let Me Go" serves as a continuation of the previous track in Ceremonials, “What the Water Gave Me,” which narrates entering the water with the purpose of drowning. In the chorus of this song, Florence sings, "And the arms of the ocean are carrying me / And all this devotion was rushing out of me / And the crashes are heaven for a sinner like me / But the arms of the ocean delivered me." Additionally, the band stopped playing "Never Let Me Go" live for ten years, but eventually brought it back while touring for Dance Fever.

3. "Shake It Out"

"Shake It Out" may be one of the greatest songs ever written while its artist was overcoming a hangover. "I think I came to the studio with a bit of a hangover, and it was one of those strange days where you’re not really sure where a song comes from," Florence revealed about the song's creation. "[Producer] Paul [Epwoth] just had these chords on the organ, and they sounded optimistic and sad at the same time. And I was thinking of regrets, like, you know when you feel like you’re stuck in yourself, you keep repeating certain patterns of behavior, and you kind of want to cut out that part of you and restart yourself."

"Shake It Out" was released as the first official single from Ceremonials.
It was very favorably received, even being voted as the “2012 Track of the Year” by NME. The song has a grand, epic feel to it. It's relatable to anyone trying to shake the devil on their back - for anyone who needs to be reminded that "it's always darkest before the dawn." It's mournful yet uplifting, and embraces torment while also looking forward to the future. We also love rewatching the lavish music video, which was shot at Eltham Palace. "We were kind of going for a sort of ‘Gatsby at West Egg’-style house party but with maybe slightly ritualistic and sort of satanic undertones and séances," Florence Welch told MTV.

2. "You've Got the Love"

These next two Florence + the Machine songs are the ones we feel are their most recognizable. The bops most fans start off with before diving into the rest of the group's catalogue. For our #2 pick, we have "You've Got the Love." This song was featured on Lungs as the final track and is actually a cover of the 1986 song by the Source. It's been described as one of Florence Welch’s “favorite songs ever.”

What makes this cover so unique is its more ethereal, magical undertones. The original song has more of a hip-hop beat, while this version has more focused, rock-based, and even grander production. Florence's vocals truly shimmer in this tune, and her vibrato-filled wails fill us with so much life. And there are so many ways to interpret this song: it works for finding God, for caring about family and friends, or falling in love with your partner.

1. "Dog Days Are Over"

And for our #1 song, we've got another banger from Lungs. For us music nerds here at Live365, it almost feels like we can separate life before "Dog Days Are Over" and life after "Dog Days Are Over". This song seriously changed what popular alternative music could be. With it's heavy harp sounds, peppy clapping beats, and foggy tone that fits so perfectly with a cloudy day, it's no wonder this got everyone's attention back in 2009.

"Dog Days Are Over" tells the fairytale-like story of a woman who suddenly finds happiness, but disbelieves that it’s actually there. We love how this track has a mix of fast and slow moments – from the rushed "Run fast for your mother and fast for your father" to the chilled-out bridge where Florence croons "And I never wanted anything from you." Fun fact: "Dog Days Are Over" also has not one, but TWO music videos! While the later one feels like it has a higher budget (Florence, wearing pale white makeup and a flowy gown, dances with two beehive-haired blue women), we prefer the earlier one. It depicts Florence being greeted by a bunch of zany forest dwellers. It's colorful, enchanting, and feels fitting with the noises in the song.

Check out our selection of free stations streaming Florence + the Machine music at Live365.com.

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Article Image: Florence Welch of Florence + the Machine looks to the audience during a performance at Rock Werchter festival in 2019. (benhoudijk via DepositPhotos.)

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About Kathryn Milewski

  • New Jersey