It's always nice to see bands taking risks and changing up their styles from time to time, but sometimes, bands that we like for their fun / goofy / ridiculous / upbeat music will release a song that's so randomly, unexpectedly dark, that it's a little confusing? Here's a tribute to this weird, wonderful phenomenon:
1. The Offspring - "The Kids Aren't Alright"
Jay committed suicide
Brandon OD'd and died
What the hell is going on
The cruelest dream, reality
One year after the song "Pretty Fly (For a White Guy)" and two years after the album Ixnay on the Hombre (complete with dormroom-caliber pot poster album art), the wacky alterna-pop yellers The Offspring suddenly released "The Kids Aren't Alright," a song that's more or less about how all different kinds of kids are totally doomed, including not one but TWO deaths in the same verse.
Needless to say, it's maybe a little heavy coming from the band that rose to fame with the chorus "Ohhhhwaaayooooo yeaaahhh yeahhh, ohhhhhhh yeahhhh, YEAHHH-ahh!"
Consider your thesis statement REBUTTED, The Who! Yes, by the band that famously yelled "My frieeeend has a girlfriend man he hates that bitch!"
2. TLC - "Waterfalls"
Little precious has a natural obsession
For temptation but he just can't see
She gives him loving that his body can't handle
But all he can say is "Baby, it's good to me."
One day he goes and takes a glimpse in the mirror
But he doesn't recognize his own face
His health is fading and he doesn't know why
Three letters took him to his final resting place
A couple years after "Hat 2 da Back" and one of the 90s-est images ever made, and a couple years before "No Scrubs" and "Silly Ho", TLC released their iconic signature song "Waterfalls", which shot to #1 on the charts in 1995 faster than anyone could stop and realize it was a song about AIDS, drugs, and kids getting shot, ALL IN ONE! Like an appetizer sampler platter of sad shit!
It's still a legitimately great song, but it's extremely weird to rewatch the girls dancing as CGI'd invisible "Hollow Man" specters in front of a waterfall while singing about a guy dying from HIV. Though it actually aged better than the movie Philadelphia.
ALSO: There's one shot in the music video of the guy holding a condom and his woman pushing it away, implying that she was trying to give him HIV, or something? What the hell, song? Are you the R&B remix of the movie Kids?
3. Hanson - "Yearbook"
Where did Johnny go?
It says, "Picture unavailable" right here
More than sad, it makes me mad to know somebody knows
There's a lying in your silence. Tell me where did Johnny go?
Poor Katie, she won't even speak his name
None of us will ever be the same
It's quiet in the halls, but I hear echoing off the walls.
The rumors of Johnny's mystery
There's certainly no rule against the middle school children who wrote "MMMBop" (and later spun it into the hit microbrew "MMMHops") attempting some more serious subject matter, but no more than 4 tracks away from the aforementioned happy nonsense tune on the same album was "Yearbook", a song about a classmate mysteriously disappearing and his empty yearbook photo causing everyone anguish.
This is dark for two reasons:
1) They never explain where Johnny did go. Is he dead? Kidnapped? Switched schools and causing all sorts of unnecessary pain to his inquisitive classmates?
2) They couldn't just find another picture of the friggin' dead kid to throw in the yearbook? Why have his name there at all, then? It's ONLY there to be sad and chilling. Might as well just put a skull logo with a big question mark on it instead.
4. Blink-182 - "Adam's Song"
I never thought I'd die alone
Another six months I'll be unknown
Give all my things to all my friends
You'll never step foot in my room again
You'll close it off, board it up
Remember the time that I spilled the cup
Of apple juice in the hall
Please tell mom this is not her fault
Blink is a pretty hard band to dislike, and I certainly commend any fun pop-punk band for taking a stab at more substantial subject matter, but there's something weirdly unsettling about a touching teenage suicide warning smack in the middle of an album called Enema of the State, with a picture of a sexy nurse strapping on a glove to perform an enema (presumably on the state. A sexy enema? Regular enema? This is unclear.)
It's still nowhere NEAR as dark as the extremely harrowing "Family Reunion".
5. Britney Spears - "Everytime"
I may have made it rain
Please forgive me
My weakness caused you pain
And this song is my sorry
This 2003 Britney song is pretty standardly-sad lyrically, but the music video features Britney -- deep into a failing relationship and constantly hounded by the press -- eventually drowning herself to death while her guilty spouse cries over her body. Then a baby gets born in the hospital, so it's like, cyclical or some shit. (That's a total ripoff of Live - "Lightning Crashes"! I KEEP SAYING Live is the most influential band of all time, man...)
But then also Britney wakes up in the bath at the end of the video, so maybe she doesn't die? But also maybe the baby wasn't born, then? Was it a dream? Was the baby part of the dream? Is the Earth now +1 human or even?
6. Weird Al - "Melanie"
You weren't impressed when I tattooed your name across my forehead
You wouldn't listen when I promised to be true
I couldn't stand it so I jumped out from the sixteenth story window
Right above you
Now I may be dead but I still love you
Yes, Weird Al, he of "Lasagna," "Addicted to Spuds," "Foil," etc, does have an underlying dark streak in some of his songs -- his James Taylor parody "Good Old Days" and the subtle sadness of the failed actor in "Skipper Dan" are both far cries from proclaiming a love for veggies -- but no song is darker than 1988's "Melanie," an unexpectedly disturbing tale of a stalker spying on a woman who never knows he exists then ultimately killing himself. On the same album as "Fat".
Yeesh. More like, FEARED Al. Because of those fearful lyrics. Eh, actually "Weird" Al is still probably more accurate. No need to rename yourself, Al, if you're reading this. But man, what a weirdly dark song.
7. The Beach Boys - "Student Demonstration Time"
America was stunned on May 4, 1970
When rally turned to riot up at Kent State University
They said the students scared the Guard
Though the troops were battle dressed
Four martyrs earned a new degree
The Bachelor of Bullets
The Beach Boys are absolutely one of my favorite bands and have many non-goofy legitimately sad and touching love songs, but they rarely got "political", until 1971, when Mike Love (aka "The Crappy Beach Boy") decided to write "Student Demonstration Time", a woeful attempt at an ultra-political anthem that attempts to cover student protests, Vietnam, and racial injustice, all in one really doofy-sounding fake blues song with a bunch of sirens.
This song once again proves that while everyone THOUGHT Brian Wilson was the true genius in the band, everyone was also definitely correct for believing that.
8. Primus - "Bob"
I had a friend that took a belt, took a belt and hung himself
Hung himself in the doorway of the apartment where he lived
His woman and his little bro came home from the grocery store
Only to find him dangling in the apartment where he lived
Primus, the semi-novelty bass-heavy metal band that brought us the South Park theme (among other fun absurd tunes) released an album called Pork Soda in 1993 that I bought as a little child because I thought the album cover was funny and I loved the video for "Mister Krinkle" where a dude in a pig mask plays a standing bass.
In the middle of that album, out of nowhere, is a song called "Bob" about a guy hanging himself with a belt. VERY fun song to come across when you're in grade school listening to your first-ever CD player.
For the record, the first track on that album is called "Pork Chop's Little Ditty" and the last song is called "Hail Santa". And in the middle is the belt suicide song. Thanks for that, guys!
9. Phil Collins - "Another Day In Paradise"
She calls out to the man on the street
'Sir, can you help me?
It's cold and I've nowhere to sleep,
Is there somewhere you can tell me?'
He walks on, doesn't look back
He pretends he can't hear her
Starts to whistle as he crosses the street
Seems embarrassed to be there
Much in the style of Bruce Hornsby's "The Way It Is", Phil Collins had a hit in 1989 with "Another Day In Paradise", apparently during some weird late-80s boom of hit pop songs about vague badness in the world (though neither song could compare to Lionel Richie's 1988 smash, "People Are Being Mean To Homeless People And That Is Bad, I Believe").
Phil Collins did record a number of sad ballads and an even more political anti-war song called "That's Just The Way It Is" (seriously, no relation to "The Way It Is"), but really, it's hard to take anyone's issue-heavy songs seriously after they've done "Sussudio". Or anything seriously in the world ever, really, after the existence of "Sussudio". Sorry, all world problems.
10. OK Go - "Return"
Now its years since your body went flat and even memories of that
are all think and dull, all gravel and glass. But who needs them
now -- displaced they're easily more safe --
the worst of it now: I can't remember your face.
WHOA, what the hell? Like, I respect that OK Go doesn't just want to be known as the "dancing on treadmills" band, but also, it's a little tough to sift through a song about forgetting what a dead loved one looked like when you're also still completely picturing them as the "dancing on treadmills" band.
I guess there's no way to meet us halfway and have the band still sing sad songs while standing on, say, slow-moving treadmills? Not even dancing, just like, standing there somberly? And the treadmills are a little sad looking. There's like, fake Halloween-store cobwebs on them. This is probably not a good idea so we can end this here.
Other shockingly serious songs by goofy bands? Leave 'em in the comments!