Soundtrack for a mental breakdown

So you’re planning a mental collapse – a descent into paranoia, debilitating depression, substance abuse, what have you – and you want to get the music right. What’s on your playlist?

In Harvey Danger’s “Flagpole Sitta”, the narrator wants to “publish 'zines and rage against machines”, and grouses that “only stupid people are breeding”, but he ends up with visions in which he contemplates the “rottenness and evil” in himself and has his arms and legs amputated. He cries, “I’m not sick, but I’m not well, and I’m so hot 'cuz I’m in hell”, and “Paranoia, paranoia, everyone’s coming to get me!” He’s coming apart at the seams. If you’re not on edge, the video will get you closer:

Awolnation’s “SAIL” has unsettling lyrics, including “maybe I should cry for help. Maybe I should kill myself.” But it’s mostly the music that gets my brain squirming. The mix of the plinky piano, strained vocals, and distorted bass line just makes the whole song seem off kilter. The narrator is clearly not all together.

I don’t entirely understand what’s going on in “Pretty Pimpin” by Kurt Vile, but anyone who doesn’t recognize his own face in the mirror and sees himself as some “stupid fool blocking the bathroom sink” is dealing with some shit. Feeling like you’re “brushing some stranger’s teeth” instead of your own is not a good sign. I’m no psychiatrist, but if you’re viewing yourself from a third person perspective, and not reliably recognizing your own face, it’s probably time to seek professional help. Something ain’t right with this guy.

And, finally, “Hate Me” by Blue October is less a song of mental unraveling than one of overwhelming guilt, but I think it belongs here. The narrator tells his mother, “I have to block out thoughts of you so I don’t lose my head. They’re crawling like a cockroach leaving babies in my bed.” Which is a bit of an unsettling image. He goes on to describe the “nervous bleeding in [his] brain.” The whole song is his begging his mother to start hating him and put him out of her life so she can reclaim her own life after all he put her through in his addiction. The narrator is sober now, and relatively mentally stable, but he’s facing the overwhelming guilt of all he’s done. That’s… not cheerful.

What are your go-to songs that are either about people at the end of their rope, or should be used in a movie when a character comes undone?

Is Pink Floyd too obvious? “The Final Cut” is Roger Waters at his… best?

How could you miss the pretty much definitive one?

SAIL appears to be the official anthem of wingsuit proximity flying, e.g.

It’s one thing to write lyrics that convey mental problems. To sing a crazy sad song about ones koo-koo-ness. But it’s a whole other dimension when sheer liquid madness is revealed through a lone piano.

In less than 90 seconds.

Everyone knows the third movement of this sonata, it’s Chopin’s iconic funeral march. Neat-o, right? But after the funeral’s over and all the toys are put away insanity swallows all.

Chopin Piano Sonata No. 2, op.35 4. Finale: Presto

By the end at 1:25 you can see that playing the damned thing has liquefied this guys soul.

pretty much the whole of “The Wall” would suffice

A few that come to mind:

*Haven’t slept in a while
Lost the dread to dream
I blocked it out
But I still remember everything
(All I see is me at nineteen
Silencing the voices within me)

You’re hopeless
You’ll never be enough
You’re crazy
You are
You are

A monster
O can’t you see
You play it
Some one put a curse on me*
She is we - Monster - Lyrics

(The lyrics shown on the screen aren’t really accurate.)

Herman’s Hermit’s complete discography seems the obvious answer.

Shostakovich : Cello Concerto n°1 21:27 is THAT moment when you finally snap…

and spend the rest of your life listening to the nightmare-made-music that is Scriabin : Piano Sonata n°6, with its “pure dread” motif that first appears between 0:32 and 0:36.

Or perhaps Ligeti’s Requiem. The whole piece actually, but especially the third movement.

Can’t go wrong with this Adam Sandler ditty. Pity it’s so short.

The best thing to do with depression is to turn it into hate. For everyone. That’s never gone south. :wink:

You may as well get ready for your future: THE CRAMPS-live at Napa State Mental Hospital.

“We’re The Cramps and we are from New York City. And we drove 3,000 miles to play for you people…and somebody told me you people are crazy… but I’m not so sure about that. You seem to be alright to me”

Tom Paxton’s Now That I’ve Taken My Life is an absolute gem.

“Stone Cold Crazy” either Queen’s or Metallica’s version.

Girl Anachronism by the Dresden Dolls seems like a good fit.

I held the blade in trembling hands, prepared to make it…but
…I never had the nerve to make the final…cut.
I vote for Suicidal Tendencies Institutionalized.

How about Suicide is Painless, with the lyrics?

We Ride” by SYL seems like an excellent choice. Brutal, punishing music, with lyrics that do not match at all:

I love the responses so far. I just have a minute to post a couple quick replies, but please keep 'em coming.

Brilliant and unsettling. I hadn’t been thinking of classical pieces, but this and the others posted so far are great.


I actually don’t know many of their songs, but based on what I do, I think you’ve hit on a good answer there.

Can’t go wrong with Garbage. Much of their classic album Version 2.0 could be considered on-topic, but especially:

“I Think I’m Paranoid”
“When I Grow Up”
“The Trick Is to Keep Breathing”