Top 20 Most Depressing Hits of the '90s
So it's official. The '90s really was the most depressing time for music.
According to a report by the British Psychological Society, researchers analysing pop hits over the period of 1965-2009 found that "songs recorded in minor-mode has increased". They also say that "the proportion of slow tempo hits" reached "a peak in the '90s". It's a result that immediately got us wondering: what could they be?
First off: it would be rose-tinted cop out to say these are the most depressing songs because they're bad. They're not. They're nearly all earnest as hell, but beyond the dubious distinction of being "hits" (in that they charted), these songs (mostly) represent a time that was in hard comedown from the inane musical excesses of the '80s. They represent a shift in the pop music landscape - one that had "real" artists replacing the manufactured pop giants of the day. Authenticity became the buzzword, and what better way to suggest your authenticity than to moan, right? (Yes, a couple of these artists were at the slick apex of commercial megastardom, but the fact that during this time their HIT was a weepy makes perfect sense in this context.)
A couple of rules to our list. The track in question had to be officially released as a single. The song had to be a "hit" in so far as it made it into the Top 100 charts in the acts home country, if not be a full-blown worldwide Number One. The '90s were a serious decade OK, so let's be po-faced about this.
Followed by ten songs that just missed the cut, here's our Most Depressing Hits of the '90s.
10. 'No Surprises' - Radiohead
Released: January, 1998
Supposedly 'No Surprises' was written in 1996 while Radiohead were on tour with R.E.M.. Makes sense. The most sing-song, melodic moment on OK Computer is (with the possible exception of 'Climbing Up The Walls' and 'Exit Music (For A Film)' - unfortunately for us neither were singles) also its most unnerving.
"You look so tired and unhappy / Bring down the government" remains possibly Thom Yorke's greatest doom-inducing non sequitur.
YouTube comment: if anything; a tiny bit underrated. They def. have more talent than nirvana that's for sure, as much as i like their music... i like pie too. - dannymoney02220
9. 'Foolish Games' - Jewel
Released: July 1997
Man, videos in the '90s were really bad. In this one, the proto-Adele, Jewel, appears to be wearing a lot of lip gloss…all over her face. And is caught inside an icy Instagram-matrix wobbling about the backlot of Red Hot Chili Pepper's 'Give It Away' video. Maybe.
'Foolish Games' is so leaden it's hard to believe it was ever single. There's nothing official about the line in its Wikipedia page that says: "The song details one's frustration and agony of knowing that one's lover does not care about them as much as they care for him," but it does strike as being perfectly applicable to every love song ever. Which this rain-soaked melodramatic coffee shop pencil-case-full-of-tears brow-furrower eventually collapses under.
YouTube comment: because she thinks its crazy to stand in the rain with your coat off is exactly why the relationship doesn't work, she must have been too boring for him. - PhnxOnAcid
8. 'Jeremy' - Pearl Jam
The band's mega-ballad 'Black' would be the most obvious contender from Pearl Jam's debut record Ten but—at the band's insistence—it was never officially released as a single.
Ancient B-Sides 'Yellow Ledbetter' and 'Footsteps' have more starkness to them, but it was the relentlessly bleak subject matter at the core of 'Jeremy' that both confirmed the band as angst-icons and would surely never allow it to succeed as a single today. A 5 minute+ song about a kid killing himself in front of his classmates—featuring cover art of a toddler playing with a handgun—would not trouble the outer reaches of the Billboard 100 in the '10s.
YouTube comment: Gingers are scary - mentosmenno
7. Losing My Religion - R.E.M.Released: February, 1991
We could have said 'Everybody Hurts' here. But that song's inherent cheesiness and eventual hopeful outro doesn't quite hold up to the insistent UNKNOWN misery that Michael Stipe is maybe/maybe not banging on about. 'Losing My Religion' also sums up what made R.E.M. so elusively great for a while: a bunch of traditional instruments backing a non-traditional singer making no sense, but together evoking something unnervingly important that no one can ever really define. Including Michael Stipe.
YouTube comment: The look on the bloke's fac when he fingers that angel's wound.... - Everista
6. 'Black Hole Sun' - Soundgarden
Released: May 1994
Soundgarden's biggest (only?) hit was a misnomer for the band. Probably the most boring and pedestrian song on the band's otherwise often great Superunknown, 'Black Hole Sun' featured the cheery hook 'Black hole sun / won't you come / and wash away the pain'.
For a band who's strengths lay in their telekinetic rhythm section and the banshee wail of Chris Cornell over complex drop-D riffage, 'Black Hole Sun' stood out like a overlong, snoozy, dated, thumb.
YouTube: This song makes me cry cause it brings me back childhood memories .Wish i can go back in time i hate this generation - Thaliat96
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