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If you’re a music lover, you’ll know that music can make you feel all sorts of emotions. Yet for me, the strongest emotion I feel when listening to music is a kind of melancholy, depressing feeling. Some of you may wonder why you’d want to listen to music that’s depressing and feel this way intentionally, and all I can say to you is that I don’t know. Those of you who do know though, will hopefully find the list below beautiful, in one way or another.
It’s a collection of 10 of the most beautiful, yet depressing and in a way haunting songs that I’ve ever listened to. If you’re asking “what are some depressing songs?” this is for you. There’s a wide selection of genres, so you’re sure to find something. Check out the songs, and please leave a comment with what your favourite hauntingly beautiful yet depressing song is in the comments box at the end of the article. Enjoy – and try not to get too upset!
Maxence Cyrin – Where Is My Mind (Pixies Cover)
The song that inspired me to write this article. Originally a Pixies song, which was made famous as the ending music to the hit movie Fight Club, Maxence Cyrin has transformed it into a haunting piano melody that takes you to the highest highs and the lowest lows.
It’s the kind of song where the sorrow simply seeps through, yet the beauty gets stronger throughout the track. Remarkably depressing, but yet uplifting too.
New Order – Elegia
Elegia is a song that simply can’t be described with mere words alone. It’s a strange song for a group like New Order – Wikipedia says about the song, “Unusually for New Order, it is an instrumental and a waltz.”
Although alone the song is a masterpiece, there’s a certain video that uses it as the music. Described as the best short film of all time, watch it below. It’s around five minutes long, but they are five minutes you won’t ever regret using. It seems to describe the capitalist society we’ve created perfectly. I won’t explain it here (perhaps in another article), but be sure to give it a watch.
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah
How could I not mention this song? Originally written by Leonard Cohen, Jeff Buckley covered it to create what is arguably the most haunting song of all time. You can just feel the emotion and, in a sense, the pain that Jeff Buckley put into singing this song. The song grows and grows in passion and emotion, then breaks – it’s simply incredible.
Immortal Technique – Dance With The Devil
A slightly different genre to the rest here – hip-hop artist Immortal Technique uses the melody of Love Story and through his lyrics tells a story that will haunt you forever. The main song goes on for around 7 minutes, which although long by today’s standards, doesn’t feel like it.
Radiohead – Bullet Proof…I Wish I Was
I could have listed 10 Radiohead songs and not even touched the sides here, but I’ve gone for one of their earlier songs on the album ‘The Bends’. Frontman Thom Yorke seems to be a serial depression sufferer and channels much of this into this song, which is a soft, wailing beauty.
Boards of Canada – Peacock Tail
Electro duo Boards of Canada are known for producing brilliant music, but this has to be my all-time favourite. Lyrics just aren’t needed, as the song is completely instrumental with some mixed-up voices/sounds contained within.
The whole album is supposedly from the viewpoint of a person who has taken LSD by a campfire and is going through a trip, seeing life, the universe and everything flash before their eyes. Listen to this song and you’ll understand what I mean – it’s uplifting, yet strangely unnerving.
Elliott Smith – Between The Bars
I don’t know too much about Elliott Smith, aside from the fact that he died in suspicious circumstances, possibly suicide, and was depressed for much of his life. You can read his sorrowful story here.
Between The Bars perhaps captures what Elliott Smith felt his whole life.
Kodaline – All I Want
Kodaline, a relatively new band, released this song in 2013. A true lost love song, the video captures everything contained within the song remarkably well, as if they were meant to be together. Be sure to watch the video as well as listening to the song.
Hans Zimmer – Time (Inception Soundtrack)
Hans Zimmer is a well-known composer who has created soundtracks for many huge movies, including Batman and Inception. This piece, from a moving scene in Inception, is incredible on its own, and serves to remind us all that not one of us is immune to the passage of time, and that it’s running out constantly.
It’s also been used by other artists, such as spoken word musician Ragz-CV, to chilling effect. Here he talks about how we’ve become trapped in our digital lives, and the background of Hans Zimmers piece fits perfectly.
Coldplay – We Never Change
I’d really rather list the whole of Coldplays’ album Parachutes here, but this song is perhaps the saddest. Even if you have preconceived notions of Coldplay and their recent pop music albums, Parachutes still remains one of the most beautiful and haunting albums of all time.
When writing this article I discovered that it’s hard to describe songs like these in words – they simply need to be listened to. I believe these are some of the most depressing songs - I hope you enjoyed them, and perhaps found a few you’ll listen to for years to come.
APerson on April 03, 2020:
I kinda expected “Hanging tree” to be on the list
George on February 21, 2019:
How about “Bother” by Stone Sour? Love the haunting guitar- sounds so lonely. Should make your list IMHO
Eric on November 09, 2018:
Amazing and beautiful list of songs. Thanks for sharing.
EliteNoMad on September 30, 2018:
Dance with the devil is actually not an original music. That music comes from 1970 movie “The Love Story” composed by Francis Lai. The original is much more haunting and beautiful. I don’t remember the song name but just type “Love Story 1970 theme song” and you’ll find it. Amazing list. Loved it. For me “The Hallelujah” is the best :)
Firebird on August 29, 2017:
Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot, the theme to THE GOOD The BAD AND HE UGLY
Peter D on August 09, 2017:
I personally love Hurt as done by Johnny Cash. It's just filled with all the pain that man had ever felt.
Pierre on December 26, 2016:
For me, Deepening Snow by Sammi Smith (her best interpretation along with Help Me Through The Night, in my view) has few peers!
zeke on November 21, 2016:
The big ship?
The disintegration loops?
Potterhead on November 09, 2016:
Between the bars is the best.
MelinMumbai on October 25, 2016:
The most haunting love song I have ever heard https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Luirzce0UF8 Hope there's someone, by Anthony and the Johnsons
Steven J. on June 28, 2015:
I haven't even finished going through the list yet, but I must say that I was already blown away. The song Elegia and the short film that you linked to with it just brings through so much emotion that I can't even describe it. I love it.
Sandi S on May 07, 2015:
I agree that Hallelujah is an amazing song, it's my guilty favorite, imho, Jon Bon Jovi's rendition blows this one away. The acoustic, as well as with Bon Jovi (entire band) seriously choke me up every single time I hear it. Great list!