I know there are times when you need to hear uplifting songs to get you out of your mood of despair. But sometimes you need to hear music that mirrors your pain and depression; sometimes, songs like this will actually make you feel better because you can relate to them in some way or because it makes you feel less alone. Here is a list of ten songs to listen to when you want to wallow in your pain (FYI: For anyone who feels that they can’t take the pain anymore, please visit this site).
Number Ten: “Without You Here” by Finch. “Without You Here” is a song by pop-punk/hardcore band, Finch, off of their 2002 debut album, What It Is to Burn. Along with “Ender,” “Without You Here” is one of the strongest, most emotional songs on the album. Some lyrics from the verses include, “the storm is bad tonight / so how could I awake without you here” and “the storm is letting up / but it won’t die.” These verses lead to a guitar-filled build-up to the heartbreaking chorus: “To her own reflection she says / ‘I will hold on’ / to her own reflection she says / ‘I will be strong.’”
Lead vocalist Nate Barcalow sings this song with so much intensity and emotion that you can’t help but be moved by the lyrics. This is the first of several songs on this list that portray that you don’t have to listen to slow dirges in order to hear something that reflects your pain. I recommend listening to this song on full blast.
Number Nine: “Two Zero Two” by Northstar. “Two Zero Two” is a song by pop-punk band Northstar, off of their 2004 album, Pollyanna (the band has since broken up, but they remain my favorite band in this genre by far). This song is a beautiful, acoustic ballad that seems to be about some form of betrayal in a relationship. The first verse contains lyrics like, “what’s this odd game / that’s all over the airwaves / it’s their loose lips that laid me so sick / with an ear pinned down on your chest.” The chorus seems to describe a woman who’s sleeping around (“Does that dress fit alright / I wanna know why it falls off and on”).
However, the best and most poetic part of this track is in the second verse: “I’m a cabaret / a Champaigncafé / everyone uses to celebrate / but I’m just not ready to rot and dance and laugh / to the sweetest death I ever had / Oh my, you look awful with a mouthful / of sex like drugs / but I just can’t seem / to switch off this machine / that turns ivory into kerosene.” The narrator clearly still has feelings for this person, but because of her actions (and perhaps the rumor-mill of others), he can’t help but feel deceived. The last lyrics in the song seem to describe how the narrator’s been blinded by love before in the pursuit of lust: “And I’ve got glass eyes / that have died so many times / with thighs and sighs that scream I got to get mine.” This is the perfect song for anyone who’s going through a break-up or has been double-crossed by someone they were once close to.
Number Eight: “Make it Rain” by Ed Sheeran. “Make it Rain” is a song originally done by Foy Vance but was covered by Ed Sheeran in 2014. The story goes that Sheeran was touring with Vance at the time, and he posted on his Twitter account his love of Sons of Anarchy; Kurt Sutter supposedly read his post and asked Sheeran to produce a song for season seven. Sheeran chose this Vance song due to the lyrics, which he felt related heavily to the show’s theme; however, I also feel they can apply to someone who’s going through pain or struggle. The first verse contains lyrics like, “When the sins of my father / weigh down in my soul / and the pain of my mother / will not let me go.” Another verse contains lyrics like, “and the seas are full of water / that stops by the shore / just like the riches of grandeur / that never reach the poor.”
The song makes a couple mentions of pain, whether it’s from “fire from the sky” or “tears from the eyes,” while the chorus is simple yet powerful, with the repeated lyrics, “make it rain / make it rain down, Lord.” I’ve listened to several of Sheeran’s songs (mainly in the vein of pop), but this song definitely shows his range and his ability to sing bluesy songs. I picked the Sheeran version, because his vocals are so clear, while at the same time being full of bone-chilling intensity (especially during the chorus). Any of you who have ever been depressed know how much you appreciate when nature’s mood matches your own; sometimes you wish God would “make it rain,” whether you want to watch the rain fall against your window or want to stand out in the storm, allowing the water to cleanse you of your demons.
Number Seven: “Dying in New Brunswick” by Thursday. “Dying in New Brunswick” is a song by pop-punk band Thursday, off of their 1999 debut album, Waiting. While all of the band’s songs can be classified as “emo,” this track, in particular, has always stood out to me as one of the band’s most emotional. The song starts off with the narrator being told sad news from a friend, who desperately wants to leave this town because of the traumatic things that have happened to them, yet this friend also realizes that this town is a part of her, for better or worse.
The main chorus is, “I’m writing you this letter / to let you know I’m not alright / and in this city / the streets are paved with hate / so cry yourself to sleep tonight.” “They say it doesn’t happen that often / but it’s happening right now” and “you stripped away the street signs / and shot out all the stop lights / if you smashed away all the buildings / what would you have left?” are lyrics that seem to describe how a town with apathetic people might as well not even exist and how this apathy can truly damage an individual. I recommend listening to this song if you’ve ever been outcast, gone through something traumatic, or have been a victim of society’s harsh insensitivity.
Number Six: “Wide Awake” (Glee Version). “Wide Awake” is a song originally done by Katy Perry. However, I chose the Glee version as it’s stripped-down, acoustic, more personal and in my opinion, more beautiful. The song was featured in season five and includes the vocals of Jacob Artist, Becca Tobin, Jenna Ushkowitz and Alex Newell (In addition, by having four vocalists, lyrics heard in the background in the original like “it was out of the blue” are clearly emphasized in this version- not to mention without all the pop-music mechanisms, the “Glee” version more accurately matches the song’s theme of hurting). While the song is supposedly about moving forward from a break-up, I feel the lyrics can be interpreted in different ways.
Here is the first verse: “I’m wide awake / yeah, I was in the dark / I was falling hard / with an open heart / how did I read the stars so wrong / and now it’s clear to me / that everything you see / ain’t always what it seems / I’m wide awake / I was dreaming for so long.” The chorus is the following: “I wish I knew then / what I know now / wouldn’t dive in / wouldn’t bow down / gravity hurts / you made it so sweet / til’ I woke up / on the concrete.” And lastly, the chorus: “Falling from cloud nine / Crashing from the high / I’m letting go tonight.” Although the song describes the narrator’s recovery (“I am born again / out of the lion’s den”), I feel this song could be applied to someone who is or has felt suicidal. Being “wide awake” suggests both lack of sleep, and moreover, facing one’s own reality, no matter how harsh it is. We’ve all been there- lying in bed at night, thinking about our relationships, our lives and our fate. Although I’m not a mainstream pop-artist fan by any means, I give props to Perry for co-writing a song that’s more on the dark side.
Number Five: “Terrible Love” by The National. “Terrible Love” is a song by The National, off of their highly praised 2010 album, High Violet. The song begins with the lyrics, “It’s a terrible love that I’m walking with spiders / it’s quiet company,” followed by, “I can’t fall asleep / without a little help / it takes awhile / to settle down / my ship of hopes / wait til’ the past leaks out.” The most powerful, emotional line of the song, however, is “it takes an ocean not to break.” This song can definitely be interpreted many ways, but personally I feel like “walking with spiders” represents a quality of social anxiety in the narrator.
Due to his circumstances, he mentally and physically can only take “quiet company,” and paying close attention to a small insect, especially one that most people fear, reflects how small he feels and even how repulsed he is with himself. Not being able to sleep without help suggests he’s on medication while hope eludes him due to something that happened in the past. It takes something as vast and powerful as an ocean for him “not to break,” suggesting that the possible help he’s been given has done less than nothing. This entire album got me through some tough times; I recommend checking it out if you want to fully indulge your pain.
Number Four: “Hanging High” by Lykke Li. “Hanging High” is a track by Swedish songstress Lykke Li, off of her 2008 album, Youth Novels. Although many may interpret the lyrics to this song as the narrator inflicting physical pain on herself (“these razors cutting sharp”), I feel the song could also be about emotional or psychological pain. Lyrics like “I’m hanging on a thread that’s bound to drop” and “leaves me with an ever bleeding scar” reflect the anguish the narrator is in.
However, from the chorus we also get the sense that she’s almost numb to this pain: “Oh, I’m hanging high / Oh, won’t you let me down / Back where I started at / you know I’m a little lost / and when it hurts the most / I push a little more.” Perhaps the most telling verse is, “like rain on open skies / don’t know the reason why / but I’ll always choose the black in front of white.” The title itself could be translated as literally trying to hang oneself, while it could also be ironic that she chose the word “high” when the song describes her feeling so low. This is a great song to listen to on headphones when you’re in your own world of sorrow.
Number Three: “King of Pain” by The Police. “King of Pain” is a song by The Police, off of their 1983 album, Synchronicity. This is one of the most universal, spiritual songs about pain I’ve ever heard; the imagery used is just amazing. The lyrics begin with, “There’s a little black spot on the sun today / it’s the same old thing as yesterday.” The song goes on with the narrator paralleling his soul with “a fossil that’s trapped in a high cliff wall,” “a dead salmon frozen in a waterfall,” “a blue whale beached by a springtide’s ebb” and “a butterfly trapped in a spider’s web” (among others).
The chorus is the following: “I have stood here before inside the pouring rain / with the world turning circles running round my brain / I guess I’m always hoping that you’ll end this reign / But it’s my destiny to be the king of pain.” Essentially, the narrator feels like no matter what he does to change his life or circumstances, he will always be the “king of pain” (If you like this song, try listening to Alanis Morissette’s unplugged version).
Number Two: “World So Cold” by Mudvayne. “World So Cold” is a song by Mudvayne, off of their 2002 album, The End of All Things to Come. As you can see by the title, this song is anti-society, and the lyrics go on to describe this feeling further: “When passion’s lost / and all the trust is gone / way too far, for way too long / children crying, cast out and neglected / only in a world so cold…/…why does everyone feel like my enemy / don’t want any part of depression or darkness / I’ve had enough, sick and tired / bring the sun, or I’m gone.”
The lyrics also say “fever inside the storm” and “keep your thorns” before the narrator talks about turning and running away from the “sticks and stones” and “f***ing head games.” The most vehement part of the song, however, is when the narrator says he’s “flying away” from “the circumstances of a world so cold.” While this song may come off as a frenzy of heavy-rock sometimes, at its core it’s a ballad about forcing yourself to change your own circumstances when it becomes clear that the world is far from leaving the grasp of chaos.
Number One: “Asleep” by The Smiths. For a list of songs about pain, of course I had to include something by The Smiths. “Asleep” is a song by The Smiths, off of their 1987 album, Louder Than Bombs (the song was also made popular by the book and film, The Perks of Being a Wallflower). While many have speculated this song to be about suicide, which it just might be, it could also be about someone with an illness or deformity that wants to die in order to achieve true peace and end suffering. The song opens up with lyrics like, “sing me to sleep / I’m tired and I want to go to bed / sing me to sleep / and then leave me alone.” It’s easy to say this song is about suicide due to the following lyrics, “don’t try to wake me in the morning / cause I will be gone / don’t feel bad for me / I want you to know / deep in the cell of my heart / I will feel so glad to go.”
The narrator indeed believes that in death, comes peace and freedom from loneliness: “There is another world / there is a better world / well, there must be.” By putting this song on this list, I don’t want you to have thoughts about ending your life; rather, I want you to understand that there are others out there, like you, who are in pain- and perhaps this “better world” will come to you through the blooming of a flower or a glimpse of the sunrise. It’s clear that just as much as children, adults need lullabies at night, too.