It’s Valentine’s Day. A day for lovers to shower each other with Hallmark gift cards, dead floral arrangements, and candy-coated affection. What a depressing holiday to endure when you’re single. That’s why, this V-Day, instead of the mushy, gooey love songs you’re forced to endure in a relationship, we decided to put together a list of 25 of the most depressing songs for the lovelorn.
#1) Elliott Smith – Needle in the Hay
Elliott Smith was a troubled soul. Battling with addiction to drugs and alcohol, while suffering from depression, Smith often used these as topics for his music. “Needle in the Hay” was the first single from his self-titled sophomore album in 1995. It uses heroin as a metaphor for dependency and attachment.
#2) Nico – “These Days”
The song which deals with loss and regret was originally written by Jackson Browne when he was just 16-years-old. It was first recorded, however, by German singer-songwriter Nico, on her debut album, Chelsea Girl (1967). The song was later recorded by Gregg Allman in 1973 and made a startling appearance during a scene in the Wes Anderson film, The Royal Tenenbaums (2001).
#3) Megadeth – “À Tout le Monde”
Meaning in French, “to all the world,” the song is a somber one that has been at the center of controversy for more than two decades. The Megadeth music video banned from MTV and has been criticised for glorifying the idea of suicide.
In 2006, an active shooter incident at Dawson College indicated that the man responsible for the attack had mentioned the song on his website the day before. In a performance, shortly following the attack, lead singer Dave Mustaine said, “The guy who went to Dawson College and shot everyone, it’s terrible. Aside from the fact that what he did was wrong, we have a relationship with Montreal, and that really pissed us off.”
#4) Duran Duran – “Ordinary World”
Written by lead singer Simon Le Bon, the track was the first song released on Duran Duran‘s 1993 Wedding Album, about struggling with the loss of a childhood friend and trying to find his way to lead a normal life. The song peaked at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts that year. Le Bon later performed the ballad to his friend David Miles, with Luciano Pavarotti, one of The Three Tenors.
#5) Broken Social Scene – “Anthems for a Seventeen Year Old Girl”
Canadian indie rock collective Broken Social Scene wrote the haunting ambient vocal track on their first commercially successful album, You Forgot it in People (2002). The song is simplistic and catchy, and though you may find yourself humming along, has a very melancholic tone.
#6) Kanye West – “FML”
Kanye West is pretty familiar with “heartbreaks.” This song from his 2016 album, The Life of Pablo, is definitely one of the more depressing things to put on. The Weeknd joins him by singing, “I wish I would go ahead and fuck my life up. Can’t let them get to me,” a message about picking up the pieces and trying to bounce back from a disastrous, life-changing situation.
#7) Warren Zevon – “Carmelita”
Warren Zevon wrote the song about the lifestyle of a heroin junky in 1972 when it was recorded by Canadian singer Murray McLauchlan. The song speaks about a man addicted to smack, who is unable to score without a “welfare check” and can’t get high because the clinic has cut off his access to methadone.
The song was later covered by Linda Ronstadt, Dwight Yokum, the Counting Crows, Social Distortion, Widespread Panic, and G.G. Allin, the infamous punk rocker who ironically died of a drug overdose, and was featured in the Showtime series Californication.
#8) Band of Horses – “No One’s Gonna Love You”
The powerfully emotional track “No One’s Gonna Love You” by Band of Horses was recorded in 2007 for the folk-rock group’s Grammy Award-winning album Cease to Begin. Ben Bridwell sings the chorus, giving a solemn promise to an unrequited love that no one will love them as much as him.
#9) Arctic Monkeys – “Do I Wanna Know?”
Arctic Monkeys came out with a slew of hits over the years, but the Grammy-nominated track, “Do I Wanna Know?” was the only one to ever top the Billboard Hot 100 charts. It’s also their most depressing. The song is a plea to unrequited love, which asks whether or not its worth it to bother asking their significant other about where they have been and what they have been doing.
#10) Screaming Trees – “Nearly Lost You”
This classic ’90s alt-rock anthem by Screaming Trees was a mainstream hit when it first came out. But the song, itself, is not a happy one. It speaks of having almost lost the person he loves and how thankful he is that this person is still with him. How depressing is that?
#11) Boosie Badazz – “She Don’t Love Me”
Boosie and Chris Brown linked up in 2014 on this track from his sixth studio album, Touch Down 2 Cause Hell, which was overwhelmingly successful. The one song that seems to stand out though is this R&B-tinged rap track about looking for love and coming up short.
#12) Depeche Mode – “Somebody”
The ’80s new wave classic by Depeche Mode talks about looking for that special someone and the struggle of finding someone to “share my innermost thoughts,” and “know my intimate details.” The track first appeared on the group’s album, Some Great Reward (1984), and has been covered by a great many musicians.
#13) Velvet Underground – “Pale Blue Eyes”
Written by Lou Reed in 1969, the song was actually dedicated to an unrequited lover who was married to another man at the time. It is an ode about pining for someone thought to be out of one’s league, which has been covered many times over the last four decades, by artists such as Patti Smith, The Kills, Hole, and Counting Crows, just to name a few.
#14) R.E.M. – “I’ll Take the Rain”
The song was released as the third and final single from R.E.M.‘s 2001 album Reveal. It talks about “the road less traveled” and choosing the guarantee of rain over the slight possibility of sunshine. The music video, directed by David Weir, follows the adventure of a crown-wearing dog and a living wooden cart as they explore an uncharted island. The video is actually less depressing than the song itself.
#15) Yeah Yeah Yeahs – “Maps”
Lead singer Karen O sings about her past relationship with Liars frontman Angus Andrew on this bittersweet song from the Yeah Yeah Yeah‘s 2003 debut album, Fever To Tell.
#16) Fleetwood Mac – “Landslide”
Stevie Nicks penned the 1975 classic rock ballad by Fleetwood Mac, which tells a story about love and life, through metaphors of a snow-capped mountain avalanche as it “falls to the ground.” The song was later repopularized by the melancholic ’90s band, The Smashing Pumpkins.
#17) Placebo – “Special K”
The song compares the lead singer’s love affair to Ketamine, an addictive club drug that works as a disassociative, giving users an out-of-body experience. However, as depressing as the thought may be, according to lead singer Brian Molko, it wasn’t really about drugs at all.
“It’s about suicide rates going up on public holidays: Valentine’s Day, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve. All the lonely people get extremely depressed,” Molko said in an interview back in 2001. “It can be quite a dark period if you find yourself alone. Especially with birthdays for me, it always reminds me of all the things that were crap about my childhood, so I don’t like them. It’s that kind of vibe in the song. It’s a song about desperation. It’s making the link between special days being spent with people that you love and if they’re not there, or if you don’t have anybody, it’s kind of a dark time.”
#18) Elton John – “Your Song”
Elton John composed the ambiguous love ballad with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin in 1970, for his self-titled studio album. However, at the time it was written, he had not yet come out of the closet, which is why Taupin avoided using gendered pronouns.
The song is dedicated to an unrequited lover, which is what makes it so depressing. It has also been covered by Three Dog Night, Ellie Goulding, Lady Gaga, and Billy Joel.
#19) Modest Mouse – “Bankrupt on Selling”
Before achieving mainstream acclaim with their hit single “Float On” in 2004, Modest Mouse released three full-length studio albums. Their second album, The Lonesome Crowded West (1997), has been revered as a breakthrough for the band who were still virtually unknown at the time.
The song speaks about consumerism and how big businesses can morally bankrupt the people who work for them.
#20) The Verve Pipe – “Freshman”
The sleeper hit, “Freshman,” was originally released in 1992, and then re-released in 1996. The Verve Pipe‘s trademark song speaks of young love and the consequences.
The song is rather depressing for more than just it’s sound. The lyrics touch on a variety of traumatic events, including abortion and suicide.
#21) The James Gang – “Ashes the Rain and I”
Before joining The Eagles, guitarist Joe Walsh performed with The James Gang. The track, written and composed by Walsh, is a forlorn and contemplative song on the rain. It was later sampled on the Fatboy Slim hit, “Right Here, Right Now” featuring Angela Bassett.
#22) Coldplay – “Fix You”
Coldplay lead singer Chris Martin wrote this song initially to comfort his wife, Gwenyth Paltrow when her father passed away. However, the song speaks to trying to help a person when they’re at their lowest and coming up short.
#23) Demi Lovato – “Skyscraper”
The song was originally written by written by Toby Gad, Lindy Robbins, Kerli Kõiv and produced by Gad, based on a photo of the apocalypse. Demi Lovato re-recorded the track after completing drug rehabilitation, which she felt was a “symbolic” gesture. Although somber and slow, the song is actually one of strength and resolution.
#24) The Fray – “How To Save A Life”
The Grammy Award-winning single by The Fray was written by the band’s lead singer Isaac Slade’s experience at a shelter for troubled teens. While it is not directly about drugs, Slade told USA Today, “one of the kids I was paired up with was a musician. Here I was, a protected suburbanite, and he was just 17 and had all these problems. And no one could write a manual on how to save him.”
#25) Third Eye Blind – “Jumper”
Tough song to end on. Third Eye Blind lead singer Stephan Jenkins told Vulture in 2009, that the song was actually written: “about a friend who’s gay, jumping off a bridge and killing themselves.” The song tries to convey positivity to all those facing depression, to leave the past behind and focus on the future. In addition to prevention, the song was also to raise awareness, which it did nearly 20 years before Logic would write “1-800-273-8255” featuring Alessia Cara and Khalid.