Songs that sound happy but are actually dark

The Cyrkle’s “Red Rubber Ball”(written by Paul Simon) is such a happy sounding song with a nice beat. However, when you listen to the lyrics, it is obvious that Simon was a very bitter man.

Ouch. I would mention The Police’s “Every breath you take” but it’s just misunderstood by people playing it at weddings. It doesn’t sound happy to me.

It’s the end of the world as we know it…

And I feel fiiiiine!

Jack and Diane

You Are My Sunshine.

I dreamed I held you in my arms
But when I awoke, dear,
I was mistaken
So I hung my head and cried.

There’s a lot of good, old-timey songs like that. I don’t know if “Awful, Dreadful Snake” qualifies. Maybe it isn’t upbeat enough, but a lot of old bluegrass music does that.

At least half of Elvis Costello’s and Nick Lowe’s early stuff; the entire first Housemartins album.

The songs to Buffy’s Once More With Feeling was composed with this concept in mind, it seems like.

Bobby Darin’s “Artificial Flowers” is probably the most depressing upbeat song I’ve ever heard. Or vice versa. It’s about an orphan girl who earns what money she can by making artificial flowers and selling them to rich people, until she dies from the cold weather in her tenement. It’s a bouncy tune.

Semi-Charmed Life by Third Eye Blind

Perfect Day by Lou Reed

Golden Brown by the Stranglers

Both about heroin addiction.

Love Me Dead by Ludo

Bad Moon Rising, by Creedence Clearwater Revival

Alone Again, Naturally. I remembered it as a hippy, dippy sorta Herman Hermitish poppy tune. And then one day out of the blue I heard it when I was an adult. Holy cow, what a fucked up song!

The Barenaked Ladies usually have a very lighthearted tone to their songs regardless of subject matter. The song “The Old Apartment” is about a guy who goes back to where he and his girlfriend used to live but someone else lives there now, and ends up breaking in (note, new occupant is apparently not home) and criticizing the changes made from when they used to live there.

Sugar’s “A Good Idea” sounds kind of sexy and fun in how the singer (Bob Mould) delivers it, and the plot starts out that way - the guy in the song says to a girl that they should go to the river, lay in the water, have fun, and she says “That’s a good idea.” Well, by the next verse, their fooling around turns dark:

He doesn’t really vary the delivery of the verses that much, and if you just concentrate on the sultry start and the upbeat “That’s a good idea, she/he said” choruses, you might miss what happened.

Springsteen’s Born in the USA - chorus sounds like a jingoistic rally song (enough that Reagan’s team wanted it for his reelection campaign).

“From A Distance” which basically ends by saying “It sucks down here and God doesn’t notice or give a shit about the problems on the planet.”

And not just “You are my sunshine,” but the entire “Oh Brother Where Art Thou” soundtrack.

Even “One week” is a song about a couple fighting but they’re both too proud to apologize.

LOADS of Springsteen songs come to mind. How about “Glory Days,” which is really about miserable people who are getting old, and who spend all of their time drinking and reminiscing about their lost youth?

Jona Lewie - Stop The Cavalry. It’s about a soldier stuck in a neverending war. Dub a dub a dum dum

I was singing in the shower once with my wife in the bathroom and she accused me of making up the final verse of “Puff the Magic Dragon”. Having only ever heard the refrain, she assumed (and this seems fairly common) that it was just some light, folksy children’s song.