In his most recent newsletter, radio consultant Sean Ross asked for nominations for the most depressing hit song of all time.
It began with a discussion with a program director about a song that tested well, but happened to be incredibly depressing. In Thursday’s ROR, we’ll revisit some of radio’s biggest downers. And we’ll look at whether radio can still find love with a hopeless lyric in the tempo-loving PPM era. And we’re taking your nominations for most depressing hit song now.
This got me thinking: What are the most depressing alt-rock songs of all time? Specifically, what songs from the alt-rock canon can (1) kill any good buzz; and (2) provide the perfect soundtrack to your sad, depressed state? Let me begin with this top ten most depressing alternative rock songs:
1. The Smiths, “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want”
If someone has been able to express self-pity and whininess better than this song, I haven’t heard it. How many kids have sobbed along with this song in their bedroom?
2. Joy Division, “Atmosphere”
A personal favourite. Best heard in the dark with a glass of alcohol and with the knives safely locked away.
3. Nine Inch Nails, “Something I Can Never Have”
Equal parts anger and heartbreak. I can’t hear this song without thinking about all the kids who must have cut themselves while mouthing the words.
4. Johnny Cash, “Hurt”
Speaking of cutting, have you seen the video? Impossibly, the Man in Black makes this NIN song even bleaker.
5. The Cure, “One Hundred Years”
Pornography is the Cure’s darkest record. What more can you say with an album that opens with the line “It doesn’t matter if we all die?”
6. Gary Jules, “Mad World”
The Tears for Fears original was dreary enough, but slowing it down into something nearly suicidal was sheer genius.
7. Radiohead, “How to Disappear Completely”
There are many sad and lonely Radiohead tracks to choose from, but this one will kill any postivie thoughts you might still harbour.
8. Lou Reed and John Cale, “Open House”
Their 1990 album Songs for Drella was one long elegy/eulogy for Andy Warhol, their former patron. The whole record is a downer but this particular track somehow resonates with me.
9. Jeff Buckley, “Hallelujah”
It’s sad because he’s dead. Did you know that before he drowned in the Mississippi River, he was singing Led Zeppelin’s “Whole Lotta Live” as he waded in?
10. Depeche Mode, “Somebody”
Lonely, sad and slightly whiney. Now let’s analyze why my wife and I chose this as one of the first dance songs as our wedding.
What else have you got?