12 Unbelievable Music Conspiracy Theories

As these musicians can attest, conspiracy theories aren't just reserved for UFOs.
Those Illuminati rumors still haven't gone away, HOV ...
Those Illuminati rumors still haven't gone away, HOV ... / Ethan Miller/GettyImages

It can be hard to deny the allure of a good pop culture-inspired conspiracy theory, especially if it’s centered around your favorite singer or band.

From classic urban legends that still linger around The Beatles (like whether Paul McCartney is really dead) to more modern ones (such as Jay-Z’s alleged role in the Illuminati), these music conspiracy theories can still keep us guessing (and chuckling) through even the darkest doomscroll.

1. The NFL playoffs were rigged because of Taylor Swift and Travis Kelce.

Music conspiracy theories: Travis Kelce, Taylor Swift
Were the playoffs rigged to ensure the Chiefs made it to Super Bowl LVIII? Conspiracy theorists online are saying yes. / Patrick Smith/GettyImages

When it comes to Taylor Swift, the country songbird-turned-pop icon is no stranger to controversy (see the Great Snakegate of 2017, among other things). But her highly publicized romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce sent conspiracy theorists into a frenzy.

Things took a hard swerve toward the bizarre as rumors emerged ahead of Super Bowl LVIII that the NFL playoffs were rigged to ensure Taylor would be in attendance at the Super Bowl, guaranteeing huge viewership for the big event—which features the Chiefs squaring off against the San Francisco 49ers—and to ensure Kelce and Co. nab those championship rings. “The idea that this was in a script and this was pre-planned—that’s just nonsense,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told reporters. It didn’t stop this Taylor Swift conspiracy theory from circulating all over social media.

2. Jay-Z is in the Illuminati.

Music conspiracy theories: Jay-Z makes hand symbol, Jamal Crawford
First rule when you're in the Illuminati club? Don't talk about that Illuminati club. / Scott Gries/GettyImages

Is Jay-Z in the Illuminati? And more importantly, would it keep you from blasting “Empire State of Mind” the next time you’re in the Big Apple? Conspiracy theorists believe that Jay-Z is a member of the secret society called the Illuminati that supposedly has the ability to control world affairs. The proof, conspiracy theorists say, is in the rapper's “diamond cutter” hand symbol, which is believed to be connected to the Illuminati's all-seeing eye and pyramid symbols.

Conspiracy theorists believe that Jay-Z also has the power of mind control and time travel. In 2013, a curator at the New York Public Library unearthed a Sid Grossman photograph from 1939 that depicts two men, one of which looks very similar to the Brooklyn-born rap superstar. Other recording artists that theorists believe to be members in the Illuminati are Beyoncé, Rihanna, Kesha, David Bowie, and Lana Del Rey.

3. Michael Jackson’s death was planned to cover up political protests.

Michael Jackson conspiracies: Michael Jackson is pictured.
Some claim Jackson's death was actually part of an elaborate political conspiracy. / Pool/GettyImages

This Michael Jackson conspiracy is on the heavy side. But some people believe that the star’s accidental drug overdose was not an accident at all, but rather the Iranian government’s well-orchestrated attempt to divert Western media coverage of political protests in Iran in June 2009. Iranians disputed the presidential election after Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was reelected. Supposedly, the Iranian government tried to block news coverage, and the protesters took to social media to get the word out, but most U.S. news outlets were covering Michael Jackson’s death.

4. The CIA murdered John Lennon.

John Lenon, Yoko Ono
Some theorize that Lennon's death was actually a targeted assassination. / Rowland Scherman/GettyImages

According to conspiracy theorists, Mark David Chapman was just a pawn in John Lennon’s assassination. The real mastermind of the ex-Beatle’s death was the CIA. According to the theory, the organization recruited Chapman to kill Lennon because the CIA was secretly surveying the recording artist for his anti-American and anti-capitalist political views and pacifism.

5. Kris Kristofferson is a lizard.

Kris Kristofferson
Stranger things have happened. / Larry Ellis Collection/GettyImages

In 1999, British writer and sports broadcaster David Icke published a book called The Biggest Secret, which details his belief that a majority of the world’s political leaders and celebrities are actually members of a race of reptilian aliens called the Babylonian Brotherhood. They are from the constellation Draco and have the ability to shapeshift into human form and control all of humanity.

The internet, naturally, loved Icke’s theory. Kris Kristofferson is reportedly one of these shapeshifters; other members of the Babylonian Brotherhood allegedly include Barack Obama, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, the late Queen Elizabeth II, and Pope Francis.

6. Andrew W.K. is not the real Andrew W.K.

Music conspiracy theories: Andrew W.K.
All too real to us though, bud. / Corey Perrine/GettyImages

Apparently, the Andrew W.K. that we know today is not the same Andrew W.K. depicted on the record I Get Wet from 2001. In fact, Andrew W.K. grew a beard to hide his true identity, which may or may not be a person known as Steev Mike, who is believed to be a corporate amalgam that created the persona Andrew W.K. and is credited as an executive producer on I Get Wet. As the conspiracy theory goes, there were many people who played the role of Andrew W.K. in the past and there will be others in the future.

7. Beyoncé was never pregnant.

Beyonce conspiracy theories: Beyonce pregnant at MTV Video Music awards
Speculation that the former Destiny's Child singer wasn't really pregnant ran rampant back in 2011. / Jason Merritt/GettyImages

Full disclosure: If you're part of the Beyhive, this Beyoncé conspiracy theory might get you a bit riled up. But according to some corners of the internet, Beyoncé didn’t want to gain weight while she was pregnant, so she hired a surrogate to carry her daughter Blue Ivy Carter to term.

The pop star announced her pregnancy by rubbing her baby bump at the tail end of her performance during the MTV Video Music Awards in 2011. However, a week before her performance on MTV, Beyoncé performed a concert and many believe that she showed no visible signs of a pregnancy. The conspiracy theory also stemmed from an interview with Beyoncé soon after the MTV VMAs when her belly seemed to fold as she began to sit down, and rumors suggested that she was wearing a prosthetic pregnancy belly. The singer denied that she used a surrogate, and footage that aired during the On the Run tour that shows her naked baby bump seems to prove conspiracy theorists wrong.

8. Gangster rap was invented to fill prisons.

Snoop Doggy Dogg and Tupac Shakur
Some rumors claim Tupac (pictured on the right) isn't really dead, either. / Mitchell Gerber/GettyImages

According to conspiracy theorists, in 1991, record label CEOs and very wealthy “decision makers” met behind closed doors to invent and actively push gangster rap onto the American public. The goal, allegedly, was to promote selling drugs and street violence through music to fill privately owned corporate prisons. An anonymous letter sent to HipHopIsRead.com detailed a music industry insider’s part in this conspiracy theory. 

9. The Wizard of Oz and Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon share an uncanny link.

Music conspiracy theories: Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, Nick Mason, David Gilmour - Rock Musician, Richard Wright - Keyboardis
The Wizard of Floyd is a long-standing music conspiracy theory. / Koh Hasebe/Shinko Music/GettyImages

The idea that Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon perfectly syncs up with The Wizard of Oz is probably one of the best-known and popular conspiracy theories among the general public. Supposedly, if you start playing the record at a certain point in The Wizard of Oz, then Pink Floyd’s music will be in step with the visuals of the Hollywood classic. “The result is astonishing,” Charles Savage wrote in the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette in 1995. “It’s as if the movie were one long art-film music video for the album. Song lyrics and titles match the action and plot. The music swells and falls with character’s movements. Don’t expect to be overwhelmed. But do expect to see enough firm coincidences to make you wonder whether the whole thing was planned. And expect to see many more coincidences that would be definite reaches if it weren’t for other parts lining up so well.”

The reality is The Wizard of Oz is roughly 112 minutes, while Dark Side of the Moon is about 43 minutes long, so you’d have to play the record around two and a half times to get the audio to perfectly sync with the picture.  

“It’s such a non-starter, a complete load of eyewash,” Alan Parsons, Pink Floyd’s audio engineer, said in 2003. “I tried it for the first time about two years ago. One of my fiancée’s kids had a copy of the video, and I thought I had to see what it was all about. I was very disappointed. One of the things any audio professional will tell you is that the scope for the drift between the video and the record is enormous; it could be anything up to twenty seconds by the time the record’s finished. And anyway, if you play any record with the sound turned down on the TV, you will find things that work.”  

10. Elvis is alive.

Music conspiracy theories: Elvis Presley
The king stays the king. / Ronald C. Modra/GettyImages

In terms of Elvis conspiracy theories, many believe that the King is still alive and well, and living today in Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. According to conspiracy theorists, Elvis faked his death in 1977 because he was tired of being famous. There are a few “clues” that point to Elvis still being alive: His middle name is misspelled on his gravestone; multiple sightings (such as allegedly being seen with Muhammad Ali in 1984); and his life insurance was never cashed or claimed—although some claim it never existed in the first place. Of course, this is all myth and speculation.

11. Paul McCartney is dead.

It has been rumored since 1967 that Paul McCartney died in a car accident and was replaced with a look-alike. Conspiracy theorists point to two records from the Beatles that “confirm” McCartney’s death. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band is believed to be McCartney's burial record: The cover features a hand above McCartney’s head, which indicates being blessed and given Last Rites; on the record’s inside jacket, he’s facing backwards, while the rest of the band is facing the viewer. Abbey Road, conspiracy theorists say, is his funeral procession album; it features McCartney barefoot, which symbolizes Paul being out-of-step with his “living” bandmates.

Rumors of McCartney’s death were so prevalent as far as Beatles conspiracy theories go that he had to explain his whereabouts to LIFE magazine in 1969. “Perhaps the rumor started because I haven’t been much in the press lately,” he said. “I have done enough press for a lifetime, and I don’t have anything to say these days. I am happy to be with my family and I will work when I work. I was switched on for 10 years and I never switched off. Now I am switching off whenever I can. I would rather be a little less famous these days.”   

12. Avril Lavigne died and was replaced by a look-alike.

Avril Lavigne
Why you gotta go and make music conspiracies so complicated, guys? / Jeremy Chan/GettyImages

To dig into this humdinger of a conspiracy, let’s transport ourselves back to the halcyon days of 2003, when the jeans were low-rise, shirt collars were popped, and a pop-punk teenager from Canada was at the top of the Billboard charts.

While you probably wouldn’t have earned much street cred for rocking out to Avril Lavigne’s debut album, Let Go, you would have been distraught if you thought she had died. That’s the basis for the conspiracy theory that claims Lavigne died in 2003 and was replaced by a look-alike named Melissa Vandella to avoid upsetting young fans. Vandella was allegedly recruited before the “Skater Boi” singer’s death to pose as her for the paparazzi.

Some fans claim subliminal messages in subsequent albums provide “clues” to the mystery, though Lavigne has gone on record debunking such theories, calling them a “dumb internet rumor” and saying she felt “flabbergasted that people bought into it.”

A version of this article was originally published in 2014 and has been updated for 2024.

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