When you first listen to a song, it's not always immediately clear what the song is about. While there are plenty of songs with secretly dark meanings, those meanings can escape even the most astute listener. Songs about suicide are usually even harder to place. These songs appear in all genres, from country and rap to metal and punk, and they're so unexpected. Few would've guessed that Van Halen's catchy "Jump" is about a man encouraging someone to jump to their death off of a high building. Even fewer people would guess that "Waltzing Matilda" is really about a sheep thief who kills himself to avoid arrest.Sometimes music fans fail to notice a song's meaning because the backstory isn't clear from the lyrics. Other times, the song is so upbeat that the lyrics produce cognitive dissonance. Sometimes, you've heard a song so many times that it becomes easy to gloss over the dark lyrics.
Keep reading to find out what other secret suicide songs are out there and take note of the truly surprising ones.
If the title didn't make it clear enough, though, this list discusses suicide so please use your best judgment when deciding whether or not to keep reading.
While R.E.M.'s "Everybody Hurts" is undeniably a song about depression and difficult life circumstances, some people might have focused more on the general feelings of melancholy and less on the specific subject of suicide. Unlike many of the songs on this list, "Everybody Hurts" is actually aimed at a suicidal listener, telling them that:
When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
The song was actually used in a press release to promote British crisis hotline The Samaritans, which was being underutilized by young men with suicidal urges.
#29 on The Best 90s Music Videos
"The Kids Aren't Alright" by The Offspring is a grim song even without the part about suicide. A group of kids with bright promising futures don't live up to their potential and instead lead hollow half-lives. It's a song about disillusionment and hopelessness but it's also about suicide.
The lyrics before the last chorus describe the sad adult lives of the former neighborhood kids:
Jamie had a chance, well she really did Instead she dropped out and had a couple of kids Mark still lives at home cause he's got no job He just plays guitar and smokes a lot of pot Jay committed suicide. Brandon OD'd and died.
It's easy to overlook Jay's outcome in the litany of despair but one of the song's characters does indeed commit suicide. His friends might not be far behind given the bleak nature of this Offspring song.
Pearl Jam's "Jeremy" is about a student who lashes out and attacks his classmates after being bullied in school and ignored by his parents. In the song, Jeremy bites a staff member and punches a classmate but the largest emphasis is placed on the fact that he finally did something; he finally "spoke in class today."
You can't tell from the lyrics but the song is based on two real events, one of which is the suicide of 16-year-old Jeremy Delle who shot himself in front of his English teacher and 30 classmates in 1991.
The song also draws inspiration from band member Eddie Vedder's middle school classmate who shot up an Oceanography classroom.
If you're not listening carefully, "Today" by Smashing Pumpkins could easily sound like a feel-good song about living in the present and embracing the current moment. Lyrics like the first few seem to support this message:
Today is the greatest
Day I've ever known
Can't live for tomorrow
Tomorrow's much too long
Once you get further into the song, however, it becomes clear that while today might be the greatest day, it's not great because the narrator is seizing the moment and living life to the fullest. Indeed, today is the day because he finally decides to end his unhappy life. The more descriptive lyrics make this fact more clear:
I wanted more
Than life could ever grant me
Bored by the chore
Of saving face
Can't wait for tomorrow
I might not have that long
I'll tear my heart out
Before I get out
This narrator is ready to "tear [his] heart out."