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Depressing songs can sometimes be quite comforting for listeners as the lyrical content and mood of the song can help them feel better in their current situation. For some, they’re a great way to connect with an artist through common struggles and life experiences.
For this article, I’m going to dive into the ten most depressing songs over the last few decades.
1. The Eternal by Joy Division
This record does a great job of encapsulating dread and the weight of sadness and depression. “The Eternal” brings dragging percussion and vocals, along with panning ethereal synths and sound effects from start to finish.
Great for introspection, the sound selection for the track’s production is spot on and has a unique structure. The song induces feelings of anxiety and dread in some areas and bounces between calm yet frantic dynamics.
2. Kettering by The Antlers
With airy vocals sprinkled throughout, along with calming production value, “Kettering” is a beautiful soundscape that captures emotion well. This record quickly became a fan favorite from their album Hospice that’ll stand the test of time.
For a majority of the track, it’s pretty calm, allowing you to get lost in your thoughts, yet surprises you with a frantic build-up that can shock the system in a way. Although there isn’t a ton of percussion in the song, the melodies still carry extremely well and continuously pique the ear’s interest.
3. Disintegration by The Cure
I’m personally a fan of songs like “Disintegration” as they offer contrasting emotions. This song carries a fairly pop-inspired drum kit with decent energy, but the lyrical content and melody choices bring the mood down a bit more.
I feel this is one of the most depressing songs based on the lyrical content, and the vocals do a great job of emitting pain. Depression is expressed in many ways, and I feel this record from The Cure has a unique take on it.
4. Asleep by The Smiths
Aside from the beautiful production, “Asleep” has timeless qualities that listeners will love for decades to come. The vocals speak on a few sensitive topics, and although you can interpret it differently, I feel the song speaks on death and suicide in particular.
Many avid listeners consider this to be one of the most depressing songs from The Smiths, but the track has resonated with many listeners and helped those struggling get through their hard times. It’s an excellent song to listen to alone and just be with yourself.
5. How To Disappear Completely by Radiohead
Radiohead is full of versatility, and this record is a great example of their range in music. The song has winding synth pads, keeps a slow tempo, and will quickly tug at your heartstrings.
Sometimes feel invisible or feel like they want to disappear, and the lyrical content reflects these emotions. “How to Disappear Completely” is one of their best slow songs and is full of dynamic emotion.
6. Nutshell by Alice In Chains
This song hits home for many, and Alice In Chains has always been great at storytelling. It’s an excellent record to put on some headphones and just stare at the ceiling and lose track of time.
You’ll also find elements from their production style with reverberated and spacey guitar solos to accompany the acoustic melody. Overall, the band did a great job of emulating the depression and sadness that many people struggle with.
7. Jesus Christ by Brand New
Speaking on a complex topic, the song “Jesus Christ” speaks on death and what awaits us all in the afterlife. Moreover, I feel the lyrics depict the way many people feel towards our modern lives and how the world can be such a dark place.
The song’s melodies may be fairly somber, but they also offer feelings of hope. Brand New shows that even though the world is a dark place, everyone will reach a happier and more peaceful state someday.
8. Elephant by Jason Isbell
I would consider “Elephant” to be one of the most depressing songs on this list as Jason does an impeccable job at creating a work of art. His storytelling in this record is very touching, and it almost feels like you can feel the pain in his voice.
It seems the lyrics speak on losing a loved one to cancer and how hard it is to deal with the slow burn of that disease. Although the melodies in the songs are just as beautiful, his lyrics really have a way of keeping 100% of your attention.
9. Needle in the Hay by Elliott Smith
Elliott’s whispered vocals sound like an internal monologue on “Needle in the Hay,” and the freestyle melodies give the song an organic feel. The production of the record sounds like a friend is sharing a new song with some friends in an intimate setting.
The vibe of the track helps you get lost in your thoughts, and it hits even better with headphones due to how the song is mixed. I personally enjoy this song because of its natural feel, with minimal layers and a primary focus on the vocals allowing you to really tune in without too much distraction.
10. True Love Waits by Radiohead
Another classic from Radiohead, “True Love Waits,” is full of emotion, and the song really lets each note sink in. My favorite is the effects on the main guitar melody as they pan and ripple perfectly with just the perfect amount of reverb, delay, and panning.
Behind the clear vocals and continuous guitar plucks, there are many supporting melodies in the background that fall lightly over the rest of the song. For the most part, the lyrics are pretty repetitive, but the production value of the record does an excellent job of filling that extra space.
Alex is a man of many talents. He’s been playing music since he was young, and has been the main content writer at Tone Start for the past few years. Alex loves to play around with different styles of music and enjoys listening to anything from country to classical.