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The 11 best songs by Thirty Seconds To Mars

Why have a Top 10 when you can have one more? Here are our 11 favourite Thirty Seconds To Mars songs, ranked

Despite their evolution over the years, Thirty Seconds To Mars’ one constant is that they have always sounded massive. Even in their early days as alt-rock upstarts in all-black outfits and eyeliner, their aspirations to break out of the alternative bubble and conquer the world were writ large, and even before that, they always found a way of sounding triumphant. Now, they’ve made themselves a natural home in arenas, where their mid 00s emo anthems rub shoulders with their pop-leaning, mainstream-baiting missives of recent times. 

Forming in 1998, the Californian rockers’ eclectic self-titled debut didn’t make much of a splash, but 2005’s A Beautiful Lie changed everything, sending them on a stratospheric trajectory. Alongside the success of the band, eccentric frontman Jared Leto has also nurtured an illustrious acting career, appearing on the silver screen for several years before Thirty Seconds To Mars started to take off. 

But before the image of him as the Joker with lime green hair and silver teeth was seared into everyone’s memory, he was making waves in other ways, especially where 30STM’s visuals were concerned. The band became the first American artists to film an entire music video in China and even went to Antarctica for the video for ‘A Beautiful Lie’.

But which of their hits reign supreme? We’ve put together the definitive list… 

Thirty Seconds To Mars - Up In The Air

11. ‘Up In The Air’

(Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams, 2013)

As the mainstream began taking more of an interest in electropop than stadium rock, Thirty Seconds To Mars rolled with the punches and found a way to splice them together. This pulsing track still has a touch of the darkness and moodiness of their older material despite its poppy sheen – after all, it is, as Jared Leto puts it, “a portrait of the tortured you and I”. With this era, Thirty Seconds To Mars proved they could be musical chameleons, shifting to adapt to their surroundings.

10. ‘City Of Angels’

(Love, Lust, Faith and Dreams, 2013) 

Play this track, and it feels like instant transportation to the massive moment two thirds into a gig where everyone holds their phone lights up. Bolstered with strings and bubbling synths and subtly influenced by 80s rock (not to mention a whiff of U2), this isn’t just a striking arena ballad but, as the title suggests, a heartening love letter to the city where the Leto’s grew up. This is Thirty Seconds To Mars at their most emotional. 

9. ‘Walk On Water’

(AMERICA, 2018)

Laden in glossy synths, infectious ‘whoa-ohs’ and choral chants, ‘Walk On Water’ was Thirty Seconds To Mars’ way of creating an anthem for fraught times. Undoubtedly shaped by the social division of America following Donald Trump’s inauguration as President, the song represented a rallying call for unity, and the importance of fighting for freedom. Its electronic, mainstream-friendly sound meant it was primed for an even wider audience than they usually reached. Even when softening their sound, it had purpose. 

8. ‘Attack’

(A Beautiful Lie, 2005)

‘Attack’ almost didn’t end up making the cut for Thirty Seconds To Mars’ breakthrough album, but ended up being its lead single after the band were persuaded into keeping it on the tracklist. In fact, where they might have ended up without this grandiose rock beast of a track is anyone’s guess. Even though it’s not their singular biggest hit, it was the launchpad for their further success, paving the way for A Beautiful Lie’s later singles to properly detonate upon their release. 

Thirty Seconds To Mars - This Is War

7. ‘This Is War’

(This Is War, 2009)

Despite the underlying darkness of the lyrics on the title track from the band’s third album “A warning to the people/The good and the evil/This is war,” it’s one of their most uplifting-sounding songs. After its quieter, slow-burning opening verses, it goes from zero to 100 and takes flight in time for its monumental chorus. If that’s not enough of a sell, wait till you hear Jared Leto almost shriek “It’s a brave new world!” – it’s an undeniable moment of awe. 

6. ‘Closer To The Edge’

(This Is War, 2009)

Listen back to this knowing where Thirty Seconds To Mars went afterwards, and it becomes apparent that the fizzing electronics and shiny pop rock sensibilities of ‘Closer To The Edge’ formed a blueprint for their future. Musically speaking, it’s one of the lighter cuts from This Is War, but it’s an example of what a thirst for experimentation the band has always had. They’ve always had an eye on moving themselves forward, and this determined, impassionated hit is the best of what can come from that. 

5. ‘A Beautiful Lie’

(A Beautiful Lie, 2005)

Jared Leto is out to burn the past and be reborn in the dramatic, smouldering title track from the band’s second album. “Try to let go of the truth/The battles of your youth/’Cause this is just a game,” he offers, almost as if he’s giving a pep talk through the speakers. Even when they add a touch of theatricality to their angst, they have always remained earnest, and ‘A Beautiful Lie’ is a fantastic example of it. 

4. ‘Edge Of The Earth’

(Thirty Seconds To Mars, 2002)

Thirty Seconds To Mars’ self-titled album remains slept on to this day, but while it’s been absent from their setlists for years, ‘Edge Of The Earth’ is a true hidden gem. It’s not the most refined, but it doesn’t need to be – their vision is obvious and the jaggedness suits them, while their space-age electronic experimentation is a clear template for their future. Imagine Placebo if they really liked sci-fi and you’re not far off – it’s as good as it sounds. 

Thirty Seconds To Mars - From Yesterday (The Full Length Short Film)

3. ‘From Yesterday’

(A Beautiful Lie, 2005)

Thirty Seconds To Mars famously had to bat away rumours that they’d made the most expensive music video of all time for this song, and while they did make a 13-and-a-half minute short film, it wasn’t a bank breaker. Then again, it’s fitting for a song as majestic as this, and though it’s grandiose in its scope, especially in its tale of choosing fight or flight, it never feels over-indulgent. 

2. ‘Kings And Queens’

(This Is War, 2009)

‘Kings And Queens’ is an absolute behemoth. A near six-minute anthem celebrating a collective triumph and the feeling of absolutely anything being possible. It straddles the line between rock grit and mainstream-baiting, crowd-pleasing panache in a way that playing it anywhere other than the biggest of venues would feel criminal. It’s almost a shock that it didn’t end up becoming the band’s biggest song, but then again, the throne had already been occupied…

1. ‘The Kill’

(A Beautiful Lie, 2005)

The majority of Thirty Seconds To Mars diehards – a fan group known as the Echelon – will point to ‘The Kill’ as their signature song. It’s made a place for itself in the canon of 00s rock classics, combining angst, drama and a large dose of inner strength in a defiant tirade against a toxic person. It’s closer to their rockier roots than some of their other big hits and occasionally slightly more abrasive (Jared Leto’s scream of “This is who I really am!” doesn’t scream radio friendly as such), but these are tremendous strengths – and that’s before we’ve touched its skyscraping chorus. It’s powerful, instantly memorable and gloriously emo – what more could you want?

Thirty Seconds To Mars start their 2024 UK tour in April. Find tickets here.