Sometimes when all feels bleak and hopeless, a good song that talks about these themes can feel like a comfort. It certainly applies to me: by listening to songs with bleak lyrics, I feel a catharsis that makes me feel like I’m not alone in my struggles which helps me push through the day and come out the other end a little happier.
Gloomy lyrics are one of the most appealing aspects of music to me, so I have quite a catalog of tracks in this category. Here are 10 of the best songs about feeling hopeless.
1. Blow Away – Staind
Album: 14 Shades Of Grey
Staind are heroes of hopelessness in their own right. Their grungy, introspective lyrics catapulted them into the limelight, especially in the iconic “It’s Been A While” and “Outside”.
“Blow Away” is a heavily underrated track by the American outfit, and it’s the perfect track for some cathartic release. It’s a song all about going through life and all its ups and downs, focusing more on the latter.
2. Black Hole Sun – Soundgarden
“Black Hole Sun” is pinned as one of the songs that brought grunge to the forefront of the 90s music scene alongside the immovable Nirvana. Chris Cornell’s bleak, morose lyrics and the psychedelic-inspired guitar tones of “Black Hole Sun” help paint a picture of the band’s mindset at the time.
Cornell even stated that bleak lyrics made him feel better when he was writing them, further suggesting that catharsis is the way to go when we’re feeling helpless.
3. Reflection – Tool
You might question my choice with Tool’s “Reflection”, and I wouldn’t blame you. However, between the bleak instrumentals and harrowing, self-deprecating lyrics, there is a song that screams ‘hopelessness’. Its hypnotic bass lines add to the confusing textures this song possesses while Maynard explores his ego.
While the track is on the whole rather negative, there is a glimmer of hope in the lyrics as Maynard sings of the possibility of change and evolution.
4. Anytime – Snail Mail
When it comes to pessimism and hopelessness, indie rock has you covered. Snail Mail is the solo project of Lindsey Jordan, who at just 23 has quite an impressive catalog. 2018’s Lush seems to mainly focus on lost love, with “Anytime” closing the record in a melancholic manner.
From the lyrics, the song seems to sing of loving someone unconditionally, even though the feelings aren’t reciprocated. A true tearjerker, only aided by Jordan’s beautiful voice and guitar work.
5. Creep – Radiohead
Album: Pablo Honey
Radiohead pinned the ultimate outcast track in the haunting “Creep”. While it may ultimately be about loving someone but not feeling good enough, its lyrics and overall atmosphere emphasize loneliness and isolation over anything else in my eyes.
These feelings are only amplified when the song reaches its explosive chorus and all its grunge-ridden glory.
6. No Rain – Blind Melon
On the surface, this might initially seem like one of the most upbeat songs on the list. Its carefree instrumentals and Shannon Hoon’s catchy vocals paint a summery picture before you take a look into the lyrics.
The song is, in fact, about loneliness and depression. It was written by bassist Brad Smith when he fell into a depressive episode and was initially writing the song from his girlfriend’s perspective.
7. How It Ends – DeVotchKa
Album: How It Ends
I find there to be something incredibly powerful and uplifting in this rather bleak track from DeVotchKa. It sings of the futility of our choices when we know what the outcome will be (good or bad), but I find that uplifting for us as humans must try.
To live is to learn and to learn is to fail; we must be open to success as much as failure and vulnerability. The gentle synth push and the strings sections of this track bring a glimmer of hope to me when I hear it.
8. Waves – The Dear Hunter
Album: Act IV: Rebirth In Reprise
Building on the idea DeVotchKa presented us is the beautifully composed “Waves” by The Dear Hunter. Their uplifting instrumentals that fuse light rock with pop sing of the troubles and tribulations we face in life, but with a serene burst of optimism through them.
The constant referral to ‘the lighthouse’ in this song, to me, suggests that light is always present at the end of our troubles. We need only push through them to come out the other end stronger.
9. I’d Love To Change The World – Ten Years After
Album: A Space In Time
“I’d Love To Change The World” is a curious scope into the problems of the late 60s and early 70s. As the song suggests, overpopulation, war, and pollution were but a few of the world’s problems.
In a rock n’ roll yet rather melancholic fashion, Ten Years After’s centerpiece Alvin Lee suggested that this song was a way of telling the world he’d love it to change, but he has no idea what to do to change it. I think that’s a pretty hopeless statement, but one many of us share and understand.
10. A Map, A String, A Light – Yvette Young
Album: Acoustics EP
There’s something so warming and inviting about dark Americana and math rock, and that’s perfectly encapsulated in “A Map, A String, A Light” by Yvette Young. Young is also the frontwoman for Covet, a math rock outfit well worth a listen.
Young sings of troubles and loneliness in this touching track, but the warm instrumentals and her serene voice can help you forget all your worries and reach a place of comfort.
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.