A Non-Exhaustive List Of Depressing Songs

Are you sad? Looking to be? A non-exhaustive list for your listening… pleasure.

Something in the Way, Nirvana

The title of this song (which doubles as the chorus) allegedly describes Cobain’s struggles with depression, i.e. there’s always something in the way of his being happy, feeling better. That sentiment paired with extraordinarily somber vocals makes “Something in the Way” one of Nirvana’s more emotional — and depressing — songs.

Is That All There Is?, Peggy Lee

“Is That All There Is?” articulates three ‘coming of age’ experiences with sheer disappointment and detachment, uniting each event with an awful disillusionment that sort of makes you not want to live anymore. The song’s mid-tempo beat attempts to mask the bleakness of its lyrics, but that dichotomy only serves to depress the listener further. In my experience.

No Surprises, Radiohead

“No Surprises” depicts sadness and disenchantment in a simple, no-frills kind of way. Radiohead has no shortage of depressing songs in their catalog, but “No Surprises” is the one to turn on when you’re feeling overwhelmingly ‘over it.’ And by ‘it,’ I mean life.

It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding), Bob Dylan

A protest song for defeatists, “It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding”) expresses Dylan’s scorn for contemporary (1965) American culture. With lyrics void of optimism, it’s difficult to listen to this song and not feel completely powerless.

Nothing Compares 2 U, Sinead O’Connor

This song so perfectly describes the initial stages of heartbreak: the desperation, the denial, and the sort of pathetic groveling only a heartbroken person is capable of. Makes me want to take Sinead out for ice cream every time I hear it.

Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want, The Smiths

There’s something about quietly begging an unknown entity for something to go right for once that strikes me as equal parts relatable and miserable.

Sometime Around Midnight, Airborne Toxic Event

The ultimate Seeing-The-Ex-Who-Broke-Your-Heart anthem, “Sometime Around Midnight” is an emotional rollercoaster that ultimately leaves you wishing your cart would derail.

Mad World, Gary Jules

This Tears for Fears cover accurately describes loneliness in a crowd without relying on cliché. While it’s not his song, Jules does “Mad World” the justice its haunting lyrics deserve.

Oh Well, Okay, Elliott Smith

“Oh Well, Okay” perfectly captures the mutual isolation that comes along with loving someone who’s suddenly become indifferent toward you. The resolution of the song is both exasperated and pained, likely similar to the relationship it describes.

White Houses, Vanessa Carlton

While it’s the most upbeat song on this list, “White Houses” is its own special brand of sad. Carlton’s story of a particularly eventful summer paints images of youth and regret in the listener’s mind. I feel 5% emptier every time I hear it.

Everybody Hurts, REM

Expected as it is, “Everybody Hurts” makes for a great depressing song because it appeals to very base, overarching emotions that you feel almost idiotic for harboring. The repetitive call to “hold on” is especially chilling when you’re in a dark place.

Brick, Ben Folds Five

“Brick” is just so goddamn sad. Before I knew anything about abortion, I knew that. Based on Folds’ high school girlfriend, the lyrics convey a secretive, confusing, heartbreaking experience that all too many people can relate to. The contrast between Folds’ trademark ‘fun piano guy’ persona and “Brick” adds another grim shade of context to the song.

As I Sat Sadly By Her Side, Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds

No list of depressing songs would be complete without a contribution from Nick Cave, whose lack of faith in humanity is evident in “As I Sat Sadly By Her Side.” If you’ve ever dated a depressed person (or been a depressed person), the air of helplessness and alienation in this song really strikes a chord. TC mark

image – Shutterstock


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  • Christinephl

    Can we get a counterbalance to this list with songs to help lift you out of depression/ winter blues?

    • https://twitter.com/#!/zachyadam Flavors

      I dunno, a lot of times listening to depressing songs makes me feel happy.

    • kbleau

      I think a countercatalog is in order! Let’s get a list of positive, make-you-feel-on-top-of-the-world songs too?

  • spencer lewin

    womp womp womp

  • Zeke

    As dumb as it sounds this is really depressing.

  • Sophia

    I love “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want.” The (500) Days of Summer soundtrack is so golden

  • http://womantribune.com/ Holly

    I would like to add The First Day of Spring by Noah and the Whale. That song has some magical power that can depress you instantly the moment it starts regardless of what kind of mood you are in to begin with.

    • http://twitter.com/dearalabama Melissa Leon

      I was going to nominate “Blue Skies” by Noah and the Whale. Shit tears you up.

      • Anonymous

        that whole album — YES.

  • LazyReader

    Some days I’m convinced my iPod is trying to kill me.

    • Samantha

      I know what you mean. Some days mine decides to play nothing but Eliott Smith when on shuffle!

  • http://www.vview.co.za/ Glenn Kisela

    This lists lacks credibility. No depressing song list is complete without a Coldplay feature! :P

    • http://omgstephlol.tumblr.com Stephanie Georgopulos

      Honorable Mention: The Scientist

      • http://www.vview.co.za/ Glenn Kisela

        Haha thank you, AMAZING song!

    • Tash Daly

      You are absolutely right, surely Warning Sign was a running contender!? 

  • ryan chang

    i only allow myself to cry to ‘everybody hurts’ while burning two tall candles in the dark, in my room, in my underwear.

  • Domino

    ohmygod, i’m  totally wallowing in self-pity over here.

  • Thalia

    sia: breath me. 

    10 seconds of it and I’m cryin

  • kbleau

    Excellent list of depressing music. Personal additions for people to discover…
    Kate Nash – Nicest Thing
    Bon Iver – I Can’t Make You Love Me (Bonnie Raitt cover)Broken Toy Airplanes – Nine Crimes (Damien Rice cover)
    Cecilia Bartoli – Vivaldi: Sposa Son Disprezzata (Sopranos soundtrack)Regina Spektor – Hero (500 Days of Summer soundtrack)Strange Fruit – Billie HolidayFray – HundredAdele- First Love

  • creole

    This is the best depressing songs list I think I’ve ever come across. I also have like 80% of these songs on my iPod so yay me.

    Coulda added “Needle In The Hay” though. That makes me wanna shave my nonexistent beard and slit my wrists in the bathroom while lamenting the fact that my adopted sister will never be mine.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=9383035 Scott Muska

    I’m going to retire to the corner now and listen to ‘Sometime Around Midnight’ on repeat 18 times and sob incessantly.

  • k.

    Great list!  But while “No Surprises” is a very depressing song, but when I’m down I actually prefer listening to “Let Down”, which is IMO just as depressing.  Gotta love Radiohead.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    bleak catalog

  • creole

    I also just realized that there’s no Nina Simone on this list. What gives?

  • Tobethegreatest

    in addition to these, tearjerkers may include: “back of your head” &  “in this hole” by cat power. “fairest of the seasons” by nico. “never is a promise” by fiona apple.  “terrible angels” & “by your side” by cocorosie.  “polyester bride – live” by liz phair. “conversation 16” and “sorrow” by the national aren’t bad either. “ten women” by bright eyes and neva dinova’s “dances fantastic” will always cut me to the bone too.

  • http://twitter.com/AmyBarkham Amy Barkham

    “It’s Alright ma, I’m only bleeding” is a heartbreaking masterpiece.  LONG LIVE DYLAN. 

  • My selections...

    Girls – Hellhole Ratrace
    The Cribs – Another Number

  • Juniper

    Thank-you for introducing me to Airborne Toxic Event!

  • Jack Rolow

    Pretty awesome list. I was wondering if I was the only one who wallowed in self-pity with music. (I actually have a playlist called “shit’s melancholy”. I listen to it when it is. A lot.)

    Anyway, on the off chance anyone reads this, more people should know about Jay Jay Pistolet. He expresses heartbreak and longing in such a poetic way that it hurts, sometimes. “Friend, We Weren’t Even Lovers” and “Happy Birthday You” are especially good!

  • Anonymous

    you are the moon by the hush sound aka my sad times soundtrack 

    • beatrice

      oh my gosh, when I saw the title of this article, that song immediately came to mind.

  • Anonymous

    thanks stephanie, this is what i needed today (not being sarcastic).

    may i add 

    pale blue eyes  – the velvet underground
    jeff buckley’s version of hallelujah
    anything from bon iver’s first album

    • Chelsea

      “The Wolves (Act I and II)” was my late father’s favorite Bon Iver song (or possibly the only one he knew, but either way, he loved it.) When I hear it now, my lip starts quivering at the first note. By the time the lyrics start, I am sobbing. Then the chorus…oh, God, the chorus…I might as well be in the fetal position, on the floor, bawling my eyes out. Just thinking about the song has brought tears to my eyes.

  • Anonymous

    at the risk of embarrassing myself, also

    third eye blind – deep inside of you   and the final 3-4 tracks on their self titled record

    • http://thefirstchurchofmutterhals.blogspot.com/ mutterhals

      I remember riding around in my friend’s car in high school listening to that album.

  • The Mapy

    “Dance With The Devil” by Immortal Technique has some pretty heavy lyrics. But, by far, the saddest song I have ever heard is “Good Morning, Captain” by Slint. That song is bleaker than anything Morrissey could ever think of doing.

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