The Friday NihiList

Have you ever noticed that certain songs make you want to kill yourself?  I’m not talking about sad love songs – we all enjoy those bittersweet ballads, especially when we are experiencing a break-up.  They’re what I refer to as musical therapy – a way to lick your wounds, have a good cry , and remind yourself that he or she doesn’t deserve your love, dammit.

What I’m talking about are the songs that are so morose and depressing, you are left to wonder – what kind of twisted soul would inflict this lyrical despair on the human race?  Who exactly did they write it for?  Is it for the annoying individual that suffers from excessive optimism and perkiness and needs to be brought down a few notches?  Is it for the sulky teenager who needs corroboration that the world is indeed a horrible place?   We may never know the truth, but I do know what songs make me want to curl up into a fetal position in a dark corner, or at least crack open a pint of Ben & Jerry’s to ease the pain.

Green, Green Grass of Home – written by Claude “Curly” Putnam Jr. and made a worldwide hit by Tom Jones in 1966.  This one is sneaky.  It starts out as a feel good song about a man returning to his hometown, where his lady love and the rest of the townsfolk are all there to greet him.  At least that’s what the unsuspecting listener is led to believe…until the man awakens from a dream and realizes he is in prison – and it’s the day of his execution.  WTF Curly?

The Christmas Shoes –written by Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom and recorded by the Christian group NewSong in 2000.  It became a major hit on both the country and adult contemporary charts and, as if that wasn’t punishment enough, it was later the basis for both a novel and a made-for-TV movie.   It’s about a young boy who ventures out before Christmas to purchase a new pair of shoes for his dying mother, because, according to the songs’ schmaltzy verse, Daddy says there’s not much time and I want her to look beautiful if Mama meets Jesus tonight. Cue gag reflex.  But what really bugs me about this song is the store cashier.  After an eternity spent watching the poor kid count out his pennies, this prick actually tells the kid – gee, sorry, but you don’t have enough money to buy your dying mother a gift for Christmas.  Seriously?  And to add insult to injury, the narrator, who for some reason stands there chewing his gum like an idiot throughout the entire video, actually feels like he’s done something special by kicking in the difference so the kid can get the dang shoes.  Big deal. Unless they were Jimmy Choos, it’s not worth bragging about.

If I Die Young – written and recorded by The Band Perry in 2010.  Just the title alone proves my point, doesn’t it?  Who writes a song about a young girl dying?  It’s also extremely confusing.  Does she want to be buried in white satin?  Laid down on a bed of roses? Or sunk in the river at dawn?  I don’t think it’s possible to do all three, and frankly the sunk in the river at dawn option might get someone arrested.

Ode To Billy Joe – written and recorded by Bobbie Gentry in 1967 based on the film of the same name.  This is basically a story about a man’s suicide and a brother and sister being told about it at the dinner table by their completely indifferent parents .  I deduced that this is all taking place in a Deliverance kind of setting because Dad says things like “Well, Billie Joe never had a lick o’ sense; pass the biscuits, please,” and then mentions that there are “five more acres in the lower forty I got to plow.”   The sister, who is the narrator, was apparently spotted with Billy Joe throwing something off the Talahatchie Bridge right before he jumped, leaving the listener to speculate what that something was. I’m guessing it was some really good moonshine, and Einstein jumped in after it.

Heart Shaped Box – written by Kurt Cobain and recorded by Nirvana in 1992.  This song has some of the darkest lyrics I’ve ever heard.  She eyes me like a Pisces when I am weak, I’ve been locked inside your heart-shaped box for weeks, I’ve been drawn into your magnet tar-pit trap, I wish I could eat your cancer when you turn blackMeat-eating orchids forgive no one just yet, Cut myself on angel’s hair and baby’s breath, Broken hymen of your highness I’m left back, Throw down your umbilical noose so I can climb right back.  I always assumed he was talking about Courtney Love (it seemed a pretty apt description of her), but apparently Cobain said it was inspired by documentaries about kids with cancer.  “Anytime I think about it, it makes me sadder than anything I can think of,” he told biographer Michael Azerrad.  So I guess he wrote a song about it so we can all be incredibly sad together.

Brick – written and performed by Ben Folds Five in 1997.  Ben Folds wrote the verses and the band’s drummer Darren Jessee wrote the chorus.  Folds said it was written about his girlfriend’s abortion in high school, which is  a depressing topic for a song.  However I think the chorus makes it sound like it’s about the girlfriend.  She’s a brick and I’m drowning slowly – dude, break up with her then.  You’ll be doing her a favor – when it comes to relationships, no one wants to be referred to as The Ball and Chain, The Thorn in My Side, or especially The Brick.

13 Horses – written and released by Alexander Rybak in 2009.  You may not have heard of this one before, but if so, your luck ends today, thank-you very much.  It’s about 13 horses who are left swimming in the sea after their ship sinks.  The men on board are rescued, but the horses are abandoned.  The song wails on in excruciating detail about how they drown one by one, and by the time Ryback sings the verse about the last three horses, it sounds like he’s ready for a straight jacket.  Rybak won the 2009 Eurovision song contest by a landslide for another song that he composed.  By the sound of 13 Horses, he came down from that high pretty damn fast.

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