Sometimes listening to a sad song just hits the spot. There’s nothing wrong with getting your cry on every once in a while. One type of song that should be on any “emo playlist” are ones about death. But would these songs work in a "crying-inducing" playlist if they sound happy?
These are a list of songs whose lyrics are incredibly depressing (because they’re about dying, doing various acts either in the pursuit thereof or out of sheer stupidity, killing or anything about the afterlife) but sound strangely positive.
If you don’t listen closely to these songs' lyrics, you’ll probably think the vocalists are singing about sugar, spice and everything nice ... rather than death. But that can't be farther from the truth.
20 "Do The Sick" – Direct Hit!
There’s no doubt about it. The guys of Direct Hit! were either on every drug known to man while writing Wasted Mind—and somehow were able to write a perfect (or pretty darn close) representation of the interminable mental and physical insanity that manifests during the most ridiculously accentuated highs and lows of drug abuse in a coherent and profound way without dying—or are just really good at writing hyperbole. This album is exceptionally trippy.
In his review, Atari from SputnikMusic said that “Do The Sick” sums up the satirical themes in Wasted Mind of intoxication and drug abuse. And he’s right.
Despite all of the inexplicable horrors that happen to the people in the song, vocalist/ guitarist Nick Woods attributes them to having a gung-ho-, YOLO-esque mentality: “And no one's survived em anyway, so we don't f—-- care/Give us a pill, pass us a drink.”
That’s the spirit! Maybe this song should be called “Do The OD.”
19 "Go Die" – Tickle Me Pink
There’s nothing uplifting about this band, album or song (except the melody… during the chorus). In addition to the album covering themes such as mortality, drug use, suicide and, not just breakups, but brutal breakups, its release date is marked by a horrific tragedy. It’s July 1, 2008. And the bassist of Tickle Me Pink, Johnny Schou, was found dead of a heroin overdose on July 1, 2008. Dang!
While “Go Die” is essentially a song about a pretty horrific breakup and therefore filled with overt emo-ness (especially the verses), singer Sean Kennedy throws all of the sadness away during the last line of the chorus (which is in a major key) by singing, “Now that it's all over, I want you to go die, die,” complete with a happy pop punk riff to top it off.
18 "Los Angeles is Burning" – Bad Religion
Before you end up murdering us yourself, just realize that we know what bassist Jay Bentley said about the meaning of "Los Angeles is Burning." Even though it was written during the Cedar Fire of late 2003, Jay insists that the lyrics are talking about the sensationalism of the media. The fire is just a metaphor. But, man, it’s one hell of a metaphor.
In the song, singer/guitarist Greg Graffin describes (metaphorically) Los Angeles falling victim to an incredible inferno where fatal casualties abound. There’s mention of “lives” being on the breeze, which implies a fiery tornado, and implications that the devastation is so immense that even things in space are “affected,” by saying, “even the stars are ill at ease.”
And yet, it has an infectiously upbeat melody that doesn’t sync up with the chaos.
In what only exacerbates this satirical point of view, some of Greg’s illustrations are even “pretty": “Palm trees are candles in the murder wind.” Candles are pretty. But there’s nothing pretty about a murderous wind.
Now, if you’re really upset about What Jay said about metaphors, then consider the song from the point of view of the media. They “want” there to be death because it would make a better story. Jay says, when referencing how the media exaggerates things, “a little forest fire becomes the end of the universe.”
17 "I'm Gonna Die" - Future Wife
There are only three statements that vocalist and acclaimed playwright Young Jean Lee sings during this highly depressing, yet straight forward song. The first, while sung over a creepy melody, is "I'm gonna die someday, and then I'll be gone, and it'll be okay." She's just basically rolling over and accepting it, which, while a healthy approach, is a little morbid at the same time.
What's worse, the creepiness quickly fades and turns into a "happy-happy-joy-joy" type of tune, creating the allusion that what she's singing about makes her happier, and when you take into account the lyrics, that realization becomes all the more dark. "Someone will miss me, someone will be so sad, and it'll hurt, it's gonna hurt so bad."
But it only gets worse. Not only does she accept death for herself, she accepts an even darker truth: "We're alive, but we can't live forever, we can't keep each other safe from harm."
16 "My Girlfriend’s Dead" – The Vandals
The fact that this particular song appears on an album called “Hitler Bad, Vandals Good,” should give you a good sense of the overall mindset behind the making of this LP. Ever since the 1980s, the Vandals have been known for their humorous lyrics. Heck, Mike DaRonco at AllMusic compared the band to a Tex Avery cartoon!
However, this one kind of catapults their hilarity to all new levels.
So, no, “My Girlfriend’s Dead” isn’t an ode to a former lover whose life was cut much too short by various horrendous things like “leukemia,” “sometimes bulimia” or “a great big truck." These things that are mentioned in the song are just as singer Dave Quackenbush says: “a total lie.” He’s lying because “it’s easier on me than having to admit that she likes someone else.”
Dave does “threaten” that he’ll jump off a building if people don’t stop asking about her, but he hasn’t yet, so it’s all good.
15 "The End Of The World Party" – I See Stars
The song’s title pretty much sums up its overall mood as well as the encompassing feel of the eponymous album. The world might be ending, but it’s a party. And we’re going to party hard because of it.
Sure, “The End Of The World Party” opens and ends with Zach Johnson’s characteristic unclean vocal assault, the classic high-pitched-scream-followed-by-guttural-growl combo, as he belts out “Bring me the dawn of the dead,” all of which is embellished by brutal guitars and menacing reverbs. But that mood quickly shifts, transitioning to cheerful synths as Devin Oliver belts out a very optimistic-sounding viewpoint about the world ending. Devin even highly encourages everyone to dance since it’s going to be the last time to do so. That’s the spirit!
14 "Zombies Ate My Neighbors" – Single File
The answer is, yes, the title of this song can get more awesome. It’s based on the video game by the same name. If you haven’t played it (and you should, it’s a cult classic), the game revolves around Zeke and Julie who have to rescue the titular neighbors from monsters (including zombies).
So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the song details a scenario where zombies Are attacking, and the singer is making a call to arms to neighbor kids to prepare for a long night of killing.
Like the game, most of the song is immensely humorous. Probably the funniest (and wittiest) moment is when singer Sloan Anderson talks about how he spots a zombie that had once been a girl who’d broken his heart. Because of this, he doesn’t regret what he must do: “I want you to know/that I won't be holding back tonight/She stole my heart/I'll be taking hers with a long dart now.”
We guess that’s one of the pluses of a zombie apocalypse. You can kill your exes if they’ve become zombies without having to deal with the ramifications of the law. Man slaughter doesn’t apply to zombies.
13 "Dead And Lovely" – Tom Waits
Tom Waits is probably one of the greatest artists who’s ever (and will ever) live. And that’s not just because he’s won Grammy Awards for two albums and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. When he was in his late-50s, early-60s, he was signed to the punk rock label Epitaph when it was still punk. Plus, his repertoire of musical styles is immensely eclectic, having delved into (and mastered) the blues, jazz, and vaudeville, which he then infuses with his signature blend of metal, punk and industrial, whenever and wherever he sees fit. The man’s insanely awesome.
Plus, he enjoys dabbling in subject matters involving horrific, often sleazy characters. And that’s where this song comes into play.
In the aptly named “Dead and Lovely,” Tom Waits tells the story of a girl who married for love and is dead because of it, implying that the guy she married killed her. As Tom growls, “But now she's dead/She's so dead forever/Dead and lovely now.”
12 "Summertime Suicide" – Murderdolls
To realize just how messed up this song is, you don’t need to know about how the Murderdolls—one of the many side projects of Joey Jordison (former Slipknot drummer with singer Corey Taylor)—enjoyed covering such lovely things like necrophilia, grave robbing and other highly controversial topics. Not do you have to know they have been defined as a fusion between Motley Crüe and the Misfits.
All you have to do is listen to the song.
Besides repeating the line “As the daylight died on the summertime suicide” as well as the word “suicide,” again and again and again, singer Wednesday 13 sings how he found “her” after she committed suicide. The scene is “beautiful” to him and he wishes that he could’ve been there to be a part of it. He wanted to be there so much that he decides to take his own life.
He must’ve really been excited to die because the song is just so darn happy.
11 "We’re All Gonna Die" – Everlast
Everlast lets us know from the get-go what his song is about by naming it “We’re All Gonna Die.” But maybe that’s because his “momma” apparently made this truth abundantly clear to him from the get-go, seeing as she ostensibly told him when he was “a very young boy” that “we’re all gonna die.”
Everlast doesn’t seem to be that bothered by it, though. The music features twangy guitars and a singing style that feels as though he’s saying “it is what it is.”
And that’s probably very much the case. Everlast has a religious point of view of life (and the afterlife). In the song, he makes references like “Babylon to Zion” and “praise the most high.”
It makes sense. Everlast was originally Catholic (probably because he was raised that way) but converted to Islam in 1996, after pronouncing his shahadah, which is a formal requirement to become a Muslim. Good for him!
10 "We’re All Gonna Die" – AJJ
This was a close call. As you probably gathered, the song before this one is also called “We’re All Gonna Die.” The reason why AJJ’s version "won" is because the melody is just a little cheerier (straight up guitar strumming) and the lyrics are more serious. The perfect combo.
As AJJ (Andrew Jackson Jihad) says, “We’re all gonna die/this is true/It’s true for me and it’s for you.” He just sounds so accepting of his mortality that it had to make the list in the top 10.
Despite many of the depressing scenarios that AJJ shares, like getting hit by a Chevrolet when he was riding his bike to school but no one believed him because it was April Fool’s Day, he still sounds happy. And that’s because he is. When he asks "where do we go when we die, "he answers by saying: “Who cares? I’m just glad to be alive.”
9 "The End of Western Civilization" – Tuesday Afternoon
This song is very similar to another tune on this list except this one isn’t an antiwar anthem. Instead, this is a grim but cheery outlook of, well, the end of Western Civilization. And you don’t just have to hear how “okay” the band is about it. For, as they sing, “that’s okay, okay with me.”
But lyrics aside, it’s the actual melody that really makes this song so resonate. It’s a ragtime. But, more importantly, it’s a ragtime that somehow exemplifies the already pronounced innocence of the genre to the point of ridiculousness. And that’s the point. It’s a superfluous effort, through and through. The guitars twang. The piano notes lightly trill away. Plus, there’s a harmonica solo. Heck, there’s even a jaw harp!
What’s more, during that glorious chorus when we hear the words “This is the end of Western Civilization,” there’s a whole gang of people singing this at the top of their lungs, which brings to mind a saloon where everyone is locked arm in arm, laughing and dancing together. In fact, one annoying fella decides to go all Michael Scott (Steve Carell) on us by making an obnoxious attempt at singing a higher-registered harmony in falsetto, a register he can’t do well. But that’s the point.
It’s the end of Western Civilization, so who cares?
8 "Rotting Piñata" – Sponge
Even though singer Vinnie Dombroski’s disturbingly excited outlook for getting killed and then having his deceased corpse mutilated, which sounds borderline masochist, is intriguing enough, the background of the song is just as interesting.
In Volume CXVIII, Number 117 of Columbia Daily Spectator, published on November 10, 1994, Vinnie talks about a comment he made after shock punk singer GG Allin died (who talked a lot about dying), saying that GG’s dead body should have been put on display during performances so that people could hit it with a bat, making it like a rotting piñata. That’s how the title of the song (and album) came into being.
That’s intense. But so are the lyrics.
7 "I Feel Like I'm Fixin' To Die Rag" – Country Joe & The Fish
There’s nothing more refreshing than an anti-war song that doesn’t tug on your feelings. Today’s scene of leftwing crybabies permeates today’s radio waves with sad “let’s stop the fighting” tunes. Maybe we should return to how it was done, like this specific form of protest against the war in Vietnam by Country Joe & The Fish.
“I Feel Like I’m Fixin’ To Die Rag” doesn’t just have a ragtime vibe to it. It feels like it could be played in a Western film by a piano man at a local saloon after having opened his act with “The Entertainer.” It’s just that darn chipper!
More deliciously, the lyrics are saturated with dark sarcasm, with gems like “Now you can go out and get those reds/'Cause the only good commie is the one that's dead.” But the best culminates to a moment in the chorus when Country Joe exclaims emphatically “Whoopee!”, a shout of jubilee that was made in reference to them all dying because he’s ostensibly happy about it.
And that’s not even including the wordplay that takes place during the first part of the chorus. Here, Country Joe counts up from one to eight, and “plays” with the various significations of words like “four” by replacing it with “for” so he can say “what are we fighting for?” He does something similar when he continues to count, singing “five, six, seven, open up the pearly gates,” where “gates” rhymes with the consecutive number that proceeds seven (which is eight).
Yah, you don’t hear anything like that anymore. God! We’re a bunch of pansies.
6 "It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)" – R.E.M.
Everyone knows this song. If you don’t, then you should probably go onto YouTube, Spotify or whatever the heck you use to quench your music needs and play the crap out of it.
Besides the title (and its perpetual usage during the chorus, especially the outro), the song is made up of an impressive tirade, which has been described as a “stream of consciousness rant” on MSNBC. All of these things singer Michael Stipe spews out ends up compounding the fact that even though he perceives these things as leading to the end of the world, he, nonetheless, feels fine, hence the happy sound of the song.
Heck, “It’s The End Of The World …” is played at The Boneyard at Disney’s Animal Kingdom (a rather fitting placement, seeing as bones signify death). If the guys at Disney, a place where kids go to have fun, feel fine (pun intended) about the song playing, then you know that it’s definitely happy-sounding enough and not too morbid enough to play at one of their attractions … even though it’s about the end of the world.
5 "Point/Counterpoint" – Streetlight Manifesto
“Point/Counterpoint” is, in a way, like “Adam’s Song” by blink-182, in that a great deal of the story revolves around a person wrestling with the possibility of committing suicide but changes their mind. The difference is that this song is much more complicated and involves another character who ends up having her own issues, but that’s neither here nor there.
But, also unlike “Adam’s Song,” the entirety of “Point/Counterpoint” sounds as though the singer is feeling jolly.
4 "This Could Be Love" – Alkaline Trio
Alkaline Trio have been known for their abrasive punk sound that teeters on the edge of “emo” (please tread lightly when interpreting emo), due to their morbid fascination with death and heartache. They’re also critically acclaimed for oftentimes conveying these dark themes wittingly.
Even beyond his music, singer/guitarist Matt Skiba (yes, he’s in blink-182 now with Travis Barker and Mark Hoppus) has shown an affinity for being cheeky in his personal life by professing his role as a Satanist, saying he’s a long-time member of the LaVeyan Church of Satan even though he’s profusely stated that he doesn’t take it seriously and does so because he enjoys "ruffling people's feathers and poking fun at organized religion.”
Even the name of the song is a play on a common saying: “This Could Be Love.” As later revealed in the song, “love” does not signify the potential feelings in a relationship. We find out it's a “love for fire.” So, yes, the song is more about death (even though it’s the death of a relationship… and one of the lovers).
Interestingly, the actual tune during the verses actually matches the overall tone of the lyrics, painting a rather grotesque picture of a man overly obsessing over “bad ideas” involving “you” and “me” in a dreary, minor key.
But then the chorus slips in. And the change is dramatic. While the words are, surprisingly, more disturbing than the verses.
3 "Bullet" – Hollywood Undead
If you were wondering, the “bullet” in the title of this song is a direct reference to something that singer Charlie Scene says he’ll put in his head. But shooting himself isn’t the only way he could commit suicide. He sings about death by pills; death by jumping “off the edge”; and cutting.
But despite these horrible scenarios, Charlie Scene might as well be singing about how sunny the sun is. It’s been described as "a disturbingly upbeat song about a man attempting suicide" and, despite it telling a “potent and poignant tale” of one longing for suicide, it’s “the sunniest and catchiest tune” on the record, from Revolver and Artist Direct, respectively.
2 "Murder the Government" - NOFX
NOFX are known for their inappropriate lyrics, oftentimes revolving around childish things. But the band is also known for being infamously shrewd in regards to politics, as is many fair-weathered punk rockers (NOFX spearheaded the two-part Rock Against Bush compilation series). But that doesn’t mean that they’re always serious (though they’ve proven they can).
"Murder the Government" is a perfect example. Within a short span of 50 seconds, singer/bassist Fat Mike talks about wanting to see the Constitution burn, the White House overturn as well as “blue blood bleed red,” before making some direct hits at various organizations, using rather insightfully disturbing words that actually directly correlate to what Fat Mike wants to kill, saying he wants to “lynch” the KKK and “pull” and “shoot” the NRA.
1 "Ready To Die" – Andrew W.K.
It would only make sense that a rocker who’s known for his love of partying (even to the extent of puking) would write a fun, happy-sounding song about killing. To be more precise, it’s about a group of people identified as we who have, apparently, made a sacrifice that would allow them to take the life of “you.” As a side note, the victims Andrew W.K. is threatening are also told that they should, in addition to get ready to run, should get ready to kill. So it’s kill or be killed. A double whammy!
But, remember, the song isn’t scary. The tune has an excited feel to it, and it makes sense, because, as he says, “it’s what we like to do.” If you’re doing what you like to do, then you’re going to be happy doing it.
Heck, the song starts off with what sounds like something that would come out of a jack-in-the-box (in a different tune other than that annoying “Pop Goes The Weasel” bit).
The party animal has also admitted that the album on which the song appears, I Get Wet, was majorly inspired (pun intended) by his love for “intense, major-key” music. So, yes, a song about killing on an album that’s inspired by intense, major-key music would come out sounding like Ready To Die.
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