From The Beatles to Radiohead: 10 love songs with a seriously dark side
The love song is one musical trope that we could frankly do without. Creating music simply to achieve a saccharine sigh from the bigwigs of commercial radio is about as close to vomit-inducing as art can get. The only way those songs can get worse is if they’re only masquerading as a love song and, when one scratches the surface, below is a far darker sentiment.
Some artists do this on purpose. They add a fleck of danger, obsession, and toxicity to subvert the very nature of the love song. While these songs are certainly preferable, for the most part, they still fly under the radar as pure love songs to their casual fans. When looking at our list of creepy love songs below, we’re sure you’ll find some surprises.
The songs we’ve got below will have you making sure your part of the sing-a-long is kosher. On the whole, love songs usually sound so sweet that one can forget to analyse the lyrics or the song’s sentiment. In fact, most of the love songs listed below will be featured over Valentine’s Day weekend as part of some chintzy radio production. But if they’d only do a little digging, they’d see that the song being played, is actually far darker than they thought.
Expect to see some big names like The Beatles, Radiohead, Lionel Richie and Smashing Pumpkins all share traditional-sounding love songs with a sinister message. They cover things like stalkers, abusive behaviour, violence and underage fascination all wrapped within the pink-hearted guise of sentimental love songs.
We’re not saying that these songs aren’t good. Most of them on this list we’d find a space for in our own collections. But one must accept the tracks as they were created, not as they’ve been used.
10 creepy love songs:
‘Every Breath You Take’ – Police
“Oh can’t you see you belong to me How my poor heart aches with every step you take Every move you make, every vow you break Every smile you fake, every claim you stake I’ll be watching you”
Okay, let us get this one out of the way. If there’s one love song you were all aware of that was actually pretty creepy then it is Sting and his band Police’s song ‘Every Breath You Take’. The song was championed as a whispering love anthem for a time before the reality of the song’s protagonist set in. Of course, he’s not a lover; instead, he’s a stalker.
Thanks to this knowledge the song has become the ultimate stalker anthem, not that there are many of those around, and changed the perspective of Police forevermore. Yet, for some reason, we’ll guarantee that somewhere this song is being used as a happy couple’s first dance.
‘Ava Adore’ – Smashing Pumpkins
“And I’ll pull your crooked teeth You’ll be perfect just like me You’ll be a lover in my bed And a gun to my head We must never be apart We must never be apart”
Billy Corgan and Smashing Pumpkins have never been far away from the darker side of life, so it makes sense that this love song has a sinister edge to it. While the song speaks of trying to keep a failing relationship together, Corgan’s tone is decidedly malevolent as he tries to correct the wrongs at hand.
While some break-ups can be difficult, within ‘Ava Adore’ Corgan’s advice is to turn the object of his affections into something more similar to himself. Singing, “I’ll pull your crooked teeth, you’ll be perfect just like me,” is one thing but when its followed by the haunting refrain of “we must never be apart,” things get creepy.
‘My Sharona’ – The Knack
“Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind, I always get it up for the touch of the younger kind.”
The latest entry of songs that are actually pretty creepy is ‘My Sharona’ by The Knack. The song has often evaded similar lists thanks to its somewhat incomprehensible lyrics. However, there are some less than pleasant moments when you sit down to read them. To make matters worse, the songs has its origins in truth.
Sharona was a real, 17-year-old, girl who Knack lead singer met when he was 25. It’s enough to make your skin crawl, especially when you consider Fieger’s defence of the track in which he claimed he wrote the song “from the perspective of a 14-year-old boy.”
‘The One I Love’ – R.E.M.
“This one goes out to the one I love This one goes out to the one I’ve left behind A simple prop to occupy my time This one goes out to the one I love”
One thing that must be taken into consideration when discussing the lyrics of Michael Stipe and R.E.M. is that throughout their career, Stipe has never really been one for straightforward narrative-led compositions. Instead, he prefers to provide fragments and tableaux and allow the audience to connect the dots where they see fit.
As such, we’ve connected our own dots and while ‘The One I Love’ starts out with a promising rose-tinted hue, the song soon descends into the darkness as Stipe sings “a simple prop to occupy my time,” before the chorus conjures up images of arson and destruction that made us feel like danger was afoot.
‘Hello’ – Lionel Richie
“‘Cause I wonder where you are, and I wonder what you do Are you somewhere feeling lonely, or is someone loving you? Tell me how to win your heart, for I haven’t got a clue But let me start by saying I love you”
It may well be the creepy music video that has seen Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’ enter our list, the one that puts Richie as a skulking music teacher who endlessly follows a poor blind girl around campus. But, when you reduce it down, the song quite literally tells the exact same story.
It’s not exactly a fairytale either. It’s a story about an older teacher following his blind student and saying “I Love You” before it’s appropriate. It’s a song that may make your mum smile but will likely leave everyone else with a cold shudder.
‘Run For Your Life’ – The Beatles
“Well I’d rather see you dead, little girl Than to be with another man You better keep your head, little girl Or I won’t know where I am You better run for your life if you can, little girl Hide your head in the sand little girl Catch you with another man That’s the end little girl”
When people point out the less than pleasant side of John Lennon that many Beatles fans refuse to acknowledge, chances are this song, ‘Run For Your Life’ will be mentioned. Of course, owing to the incendiary lyrics above, Lennon’s viewpoint on women has always been caustic, to say the least. An admitted abuser, something he tried to rectify in later life, songs like this only add credence to the claim.
Of course, Lennon was largely parodying Elvis Presley here, but that matters little. The song is still violently charged despite being framed as a love song of sorts. It’s not the image one associates with the Fab Four but is still a vital piece of their iconography, unwanted or otherwise.
‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ – Death Cab For Cutie
“How I wish you could see the potential, the potential of you and me. It’s like a book elegantly bound but, in a language that you can’t read. Just yet. You gotta spend some time, Love. You gotta spend some time with me. And I know that you’ll find, love. I will possess your heart”
If a love song, or in your general life, anyone ever claims to want to possess either you or a part of you, let us be the first to wave our serious big red flags. Frontman Ben Gibbard may even wince a little when he has to sing this one from the indie darlings Death Cab For Cutie.
‘I Will Possess Your Heart’ is just as creepy as it sounds and thanks to it dragging on for over eight minutes, it’s quite tiresome too. It almost evokes the feeling of longing but more accurately reminds us of that person we always try to hopelessly avoid.
‘All I Need’ – Radiohead
“I’m a moth who just wants to share your light I’m just an insect trying to get out of the night I only stick with you because there are no others You are all I need, you’re all I need I’m in the middle your picture lying in the reeds”
Most of Radiohead’s songs are secretly disguised as something else so when you learn that their apparent love song ‘All I Need’ actually has a far darker side, it doesn’t come as much of a surprise. However, even reading the lyrics above it’s easy to get lulled into a false sense of security.
Instead, it is all in the song’s delivery that the real darkness of the piece comes to the fore. The lyrics seem to become more and more obsessed as each line is sung and with Yorke’s laconic delivery, it feels like the knife is slowly twisting into our backs with every sequential note.
‘Dancing With Myself’ – Billy Idol
“On the floor of Tokyo or down in London town to go With the record selection and the mirror’s reflection I’m dancing with myself When there’s no-one else in sight in the crowded lonely night Well I wait so long for my love vibration and I’m dancing with myself”
If this was an intentional ode to masturbation, then we will shake Billy Idol’s (left) hand. The former Generation X man delivered one of the eighties timeless anthems with ‘Dancing With Myself’, and it’s a song all about self-love the old fashioned way.
Once you move past the track’s somewhat unfavourable context, it’s a real earworm. It bounces and grooves better than most punk jams and there’s more than a degree of shimmer to proceedings that will leave most people extremely confused by the song’s origination.
‘Kiss With A Fist’ – Florence + The Machine
“My black eye casts no shadow, your red eye sees no pain Your slaps don’t stick, your kicks don’t hit, so we remain the same Blood sticks and sweat drips, break the lock if it don’t fit A kick in the teeth is good for some, a kiss with a fist is better than none”
Violent relationships aren’t often the cause for indie-pop tunes, but it seems Florence Welch does a great job of channelling one within ‘A Kiss With A Fist’. The song even goes one further to suggest that staying within an abusive relationship is better than not being in one, or at least that’s how such a relationship can make somebody feel.
Of course, Welch has never advocated for such compliance and instead has always championed the oppressed, but it still doesn’t remove the dark edge of this otherwise colourful tune.