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Top 20 MORE Happy Sounding Songs That Are Actually Depressing

Top 20 MORE Happy Sounding Songs That Are Actually Depressing
VOICE OVER: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Andy Hammersmith
Never judge a book by its cover or a song by its sound. For this list, we'll be looking at noteworthy tracks that seem light until you take a closer look at the lyrics. Our countdown of happy-sounding songs that are actually depressing includes “Time Will Crawl”, “Walkin' on the Sun”, “Buddy Holly”, “This Is America”, "Paper Planes", and more!

#20: “Time Will Crawl” (1986)

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David Bowie Continuing his success into the 1980s, David Bowie didn’t stop pushing the envelope as an artist. His single “Time Will Crawl” covers the issues of the mid-decade such as the Chernobyl disaster. As the uncertainty regarding the catastrophic incident swirled, the singer gave his take on these late Cold War period events. He uses visual metaphors to describe the environmental effects of radiation. This includes what the effects of a massive event like that does to the human body, with some references being straight out of a horror film. Bowie uses the pop sounds of the day to explain his complex feelings on the matter. So, maybe think twice about putting this on a pump up playlist.

#19: “Blinding Lights” (2019)

The Weeknd Even though so many people have heard this popular song, few may realize that it has an additional darkness lurking beneath the lyrics. This journey into a chaotic night out offers much more than a pulsating beat and a memorable hook. The singer also mentions that his songwriting alludes to drunk and reckless driving. Putting more edgy subjects at the forefront, the artist explores the pitfalls of partying too hard and having impaired judgment. With an added danger element, “Blinding Lights” takes on a whole new meaning. It is so much more than a catchy and one-off commercial hit.

#18: “Rehab” (2006)

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Amy Winehouse One of Amy Winehouse’s greatest hits came layered with a hard reality. “Rehab” is impossible to listen to now without considering the ultimate outcome of the singer’s life. While there is some discrepancy about the central lyrics, the ultimate meaning of the single comes from her personal struggles. At the very least, listeners can enjoy the song knowing that it helped Winehouse achieve legendary status in the music world. The fearless words are especially vulnerable and a pointed look at dealing with addictive behaviors. With that in mind, all of this happens with a Mark Ronson production to pump up the overall mood.

#17: “Walkin’ on the Sun” (1997)

Smash Mouth Anyone that enjoys Smash Mouth likely knows them for their unbridled rock and pop work. Walkin’ on the Sun” features a funky, psychedelic riff that feels right at home with their best efforts. Little do people know that it has roots in the Rodney King incident from the early 1990s. After being deeply affected by the LA Riots, the group tried to reference the destruction that took place as a result of police brutality. The titular metaphor takes an indirect route to deal with a major event from the decade. Doing so with a multi-genre flair, this big hit also established the inviting sound that set the group apart from their contemporaries.

#16: “Santeria” (1997)

Sublime This ska song helped supplant the Sublime myth following their singer’s death. Although it has an easygoing vibe, “Santeria” features some more disturbing lyrics than expected. Bradley Nowell sings about wanting to find the man that took his girlfriend. Not only does he threaten to shoot the man, he says that he’ll strike his ex-partner. This seems largely contrary to the chilled-out production of the single. Using a reggae influence, the act examines the tale of a scorned lover with gritty details. Nowell’s delivery and the band’s efforts provide a great counterpoint to the heavier content.

#15: “MMMBop” (1997)

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Hanson Known as a highlight of the mid-1990s, Hanson’s single features a lot of gibberish lyrics intermixed with a more serious message. The main theme of the song is about making meaningful connections before growing old and lonely. Coming from a trio of kids, this seems like something truly unexpected. Instead of leaning into the catchier aspects of “MMMBop,” the three brothers include a more realistic philosophy that’s not interested in sugar-coating life. By the end of the first verse, the group wants listeners to reach out to others before it’s too late. This kind of fully-formed idea separates this hit from other pop sounds that are all style and no substance.

#14: “More Than a Feeling” (1976)

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Boston Along with being a 1970s classic, “More Than a Feeling” endures as a timeless triumph. The lyrical content describes someone’s life after parting with a woman named Marianne. When analyzing it, the track could be about mourning someone or a relationship. Either way, the song explores the more complicated struggle of being unable to forget someone. This becomes like an obsession for the singer as they contemplate existence without their former lover. Thinking of her after hearing an important song, the narrator feels a deep sadness and nostalgia throughout. Boston’s tremendous vocal abilities and rock instrumentation only make this all the more effective.

#13: “Copacabana” (1978)

Barry Manilow Barry Manilow made a career out of various show tunes and soft rock hits. “Copacabana” might be his most notable, featuring some classic storytelling and a lively production. But this narrative has a much darker twist lurking inside than usual. The dancer Lola is caught in a love triangle between bartender Tony and the evil Rico. Following the violent death of Tony, the show girl turns to alcohol to heal her pain. The singer doesn’t let this awful turn change the cheery sound. Rather than wrapping up this track with a happy ending, Manilow closes out this cautionary tale without providing any easy answers.

#12: “Ain’t It Fun” (2014)

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Paramore Hayley Williams confronts universal fears in this Grammy-winning hit. Paramore went through major personnel changes prior to the recording, along with aspirations to change up their sound. Williams also cites a significant move across the country as an inspiration for lyrics about embracing serious life changes. As the song progresses, audiences come to the bitter sweet realization that growing up comes with hard decisions and feelings of loneliness. The singer’s powerful vocals don’t get enough credit for selling this as a multi-faceted piece of work. All the while, the band keeps the energy elevated throughout a fun-sounding number.

#11: “Buddy Holly” (1994)

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Weezer One of Weezer’s earliest hits, “Buddy Holly” is full of fun references and rocking guitars. The song also brings up something of a sore subject for Rivers Cuomo. Taking a cue from his own life, the singer alludes to a time that his friends poked fun at him and his girlfriend. The couple was singled out in particular because of Cuomo’s partner being Asian. Through a fantastic melody and happy sound, this alternative anthem chooses to celebrate their relationship. It tries to keep optimism alive in the face of an unaccepting outside world. The singer takes an otherwise negative interaction and turns it into an empowering statement.

#10: “Holiday” (2005)

Green Day On their hit album “American Idiot,” Green Day offered up a strong backlash against the Bush administration of the 2000s. “Holiday” is one single that critiques certain controversial policies. Throwing shade at unnecessary scare tactics, the group doesn’t take lightly to the politicians of the day or the people who mindlessly watch them takeover. They also use an amazing riff and drum part to elevate the material even further. Unafraid to sing his heart out, Billie Joe Armstrong has rarely been as furious as he is on this particular track. Helping to sell the greater album’s thesis, the song never lets up in its hard-driving march toward the end.

#9: “Style” (2015)

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Taylor Swift While some of her earlier work examines fairytale romances, Taylor Swift’s recent efforts take a darker look at love. “Style” is one such song that takes a mature glimpse at adult relationships. The singer delves into two lovers that can’t seem to escape each other’s orbit. Even with both parties potentially cheating, the messy couple find themselves in each other’s arms over and over. The supremely catchy track satisfies Swifties of all kinds for its multi-layered look into humanity. On the eclectic “1989” album, this single holds its own as a formidable mix of compelling music and lyrics.

#8: “Bitter Sweet Symphony” (1997)

The Verve Sampling an orchestral version of a Rolling Stones song, “Bitter Sweet Symphony” is a track full of emotional highs and lows. The Verve single has a triumphant sound throughout that’s hypnotic to say the least. Once the verse starts, the lyrics slowly reveal a more pessimistic view of the world. The singer says that life is about working for money and struggling to get by as you go. Describing the eternal quest to break the mold, singer Richard Ashcroft dishes out his own interpretation of the daily grind. In the end, the compelling production keeps audiences coming back for a moving piece.

#7: “This Is America” (2018)

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Childish Gambino As his alter ego Childish Gambino, Donald Glover tackles the issues facing America with a satirical edge. The catchy hook sometimes makes you forget about the track’s serious subject matter. Enticing audiences with an engaging beat, Glover blends together a crowd-pleasing sound with references to violence in the United States. The accompanying music video helps to describe the artist’s vision of a country in crisis. Allusions to racial tensions, police brutality, and gun deaths just scratch the surface of this elaborate project. The entire package comes together in a memorable piece of recent hip-hop history.

#6: “Mamma Mia” (1975)

ABBA Throughout the 1970s, ABBA were known as some of the best makers of pop music. This didn’t mean that they couldn’t sneak in more complicated lyrics into their efforts. In one of their most notable tracks, the group sings about a volatile relationship. When it seems like the two are over, they end up getting back together again. It’s a much more nuanced take on a romantic story with possible references to them being in something of a toxic partnership. All throughout the tune, the musicians populate the single with compelling rhythm and guitar parts.

#5: “No Rain” (1992)

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Blind Melon Blind Melon were a momentary sensation for their hit “No Rain” in the early 1990s. Shannon Hoon sings over this psychedelic throwback. If you listen closely, you’ll notice that she delivers words that are more depressing upon closer inspection. Hoon mentions feelings of emptiness that hang over people that sleep most of the day. In a brave look at mental illness, the track features a lot more than trippy guitars and fun grooves. Bassist Brad Smith was responsible for the basic concept from his own experience being around depression and personally living with it. Through their bright instrumentation, the band conceals more complex emotions in their biggest single.

#4: “Paper Planes” (2008)

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M.I.A. Achieving international stardom in the late 2000s, M.I.A. received major commercial and critical attention for “Paper Planes.” Her collaboration with artists like Diplo features everything from gunshots to a killer sample courtesy of The Clash. It also takes an inspired look at the immigrant experience, with a satirical view of the working-class perspective. The lyrics play around with stereotypes about violent crime, utilizing sound effects that create a visceral experience. This in-your-face attitude pushes back against xenophobia with a dynamic production. Often called one of the best songs of its decade, this single lives on for its expert construction and the performer’s unique vision.

#3: “Drops of Jupiter” (2001)

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Train Most of Train’s songs have a positive vibe, giving the band a general appeal for the likes of pop radio. “Drops of Jupiter” is one of their big hits with their trademark production style, blending rock and pop elements with a much deeper story. Pat Monahan said that this single was inspired by his mother’s battle with cancer. In listening to the track much closer, audiences can hear a message about making the most of life while you can. The orchestral arrangement helps sell an inspirational tone despite these words. Ultimately, Monahan speaks about more of a hopeful message in the face of uncertainty.

#2: “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” (1969)

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The Beatles Among the darkest Beatles songs of them all, “Maxwell’s Silver Hammer” doesn’t sound horrifying on the surface. The musical arrangement from “Abbey Road” resembles something that you might sing along to in grade school. If you look closer at the lyrics, you’ll find something much more sinister at the track’s core. Paul McCartney sings about a sadistic man that uses a hammer to dispatch with his victims. With that in mind, the accompanying noises of the tool hitting an anvil feel especially eerie. Leave it to this legendary band to give a brutal murderer a whimsical soundtrack.

#1: “Born in the U.S.A.” (1984)

Bruce Springsteen Bruce Springsteen makes no bones about being a voice for the working class and downtrodden in America. Focusing on veterans’ issues, “Born in the U.S.A.” has been misinterpreted over the years because of its upbeat energy and bold title. Conservatives have used the song as a patriotic rallying cry, not realizing that Springsteen is being critical of the US with his lyrics. It specifically takes a look at a story about soldiers coming back from war only to face financial struggles. Drawing a line in the sand, the artist describes the inability for the government to provide adequate care for its own heroes.

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