Saturday, November 24, 2012

27 Songs about the End of the World

The world was suppose to end in 2012.  Disappointed?  Here are twenty-seven songs to cheer you up.

REM – I’m Gonna DJ
According to the lyrics, REM singer Michael Stipe plans on DJing at the end of the world. An admirable goal if there ever was one.

Soundgarden – Black Hole Sun
Disjointed lyrics symbolizing the devil, sex, shame, death and according to everyone the end of the earth is mentioned somewhere in there too. I never liked Soundgarden or this song. I don’t hate Soundgarden and I don’t hate “Black Hole Sun,” but this is a very immature song and the only reason I am convinced it’s about the end of the world is it would follow from the dark themes blatantly brought up in the beginning. I may not love it, but it still counts as a song about the end of the world and it still makes the list.

Muse – Apocalypse Please
The end is coming but Muse is surprisingly hopefully about the whole ordeal. Something will “pull us through” and “change the course of history.” It’s a nice song, not Muse’s best, but a good one, and definitely one of the more optimistic songs on this list.

Josh Ritter – Temptation of Adam
“Temptation of Adam” is the first of many songs about world war three ending everything. Josh Ritter is a great guitarist and light rocker, and he can’t help himself but be romantic and sing about love even when the end of the world is coming. If you have ever heard Josh Ritter before you know what to expect here, it’s another heartfelt, well written, rock ballad, only this one is about the end of the world too.

Metallica – The Four Horsemen
“The Four Horsemen” of the apocalypse, that’s pretty straight forward. Metallica have a lot of songs about death, destruction and dismay, but this was the only song of theirs I could pinpoint as being specifically about the end of the world. Off of their first studio album “Kill ‘Em All,” like many musicians Metallica’s first album was their rawest, and I believe this was the album that focused the most around death, so how fitting their only true end of the world song be there.

Elvis Costello – Waiting for the end of the World
How do you cope with the end of the world? Understandably Elvis Costello would be somber and sad, he would also pray. There should be no surprise the biblical reference and hopeful prayers are a reoccurring theme on this list. If you believe all of that it would make sense to pray to god to save us since he would technically be the cause of the end as well as the beginning. “Dear lord I hope you coming, because you really started something,” there is a couple different ways to interpret that line.

Barry McGuire – Eve of Destruction
Barry McGuire? I thought this song was by the The Turtles, oh they covered it, McGuire wrote it, cool. There is maybe a dozen or more cold war and fear of the reds references in this song. This is the second song about the cold war or world war three ending the earth on this list. McGuire is politically topical in this song, he mentioned the reds in China, the space race, southern racism, and probably a bunch of other important events I am too young and/or ignorant to get. No wonder this song was so popular in the sixties.

Eels – End Times
The end is coming and no one realizes it, except Eels lead man Mark Oliver Everett, and now does Mark take the news? Reflections are made by drawing parallels between the “ends times” and “she is gone now,” how do most people deal with a lover gone, somber sadness and eventual acceptance; “I don’t feel nothing now, not even fear. Now that end times are here.” Very nice, arguably more of a poem then a song, if such a distinction exists.

The Thermals – Here’s Your Future
Arguably a song that is not about the end of the world, “Here’s Your Future” is more about biblical violence, but I cannot escape the feeling that god proclaiming “Here’s Your Future” after laying out the horrors of past biblical destruction wrought by him could imply anything other than the violent end of all things as describe in “Revelations.” The Thermals are a modern punk band, interpret that however you want, but “Here’s Your Future” is a fast hard hitting song that does a good job of depicting god as a bully killing us and torturing us with fear.

The Temper Trap – Soldier On
Best known of their hit song “Sweet Disposition,” not everyone knows Australia’s The Temper Trap have an entire good album in “Conditions.” The world is slowly dying and what we must do is soldier on. This song is awesome for a few reasons; first of all it is a really good song just in general, second the message to tough out the end of the world is just so badass. The Temper Trap is not a loud hard rock band so this message of incredible toughness and resolve is for some reason somewhat unexpected, it’s like stealth badassier, which is not a real word.

Pink Floyd – Two Suns in the Sunset
“Two Suns in the Sunset” is off of Pink Floyd’s twelfth studio “The Final Cut” (1983). The second sun rising in the east is meant to be the explosion of a nuclear bomb the sign of the beginning of the end. This is not the first song about nuclear war destroying everything on this list and it won’t be the last. This is Pink Floyd, the song is great, and if anything I’m surprised they don’t have more songs about the end of the world.

Tom Lehrer – We Will All go Together
Finally a funny song about the end of the world!

Tom Lehrer may have received an AB in Mathematics from Harvard where he lectured for several years but he most likely will be best remember for his witty commentaries about politics through song. Nuclear war is coming, but don’t fret we will all leave this world together like one big happy family. Sure puts things into perspective.

Nena – 99 Luftballoons
“99 Luftballons” is one of the best known popular radio songs that happen to be about the end of the world, and like any pop song with subtext most people don’t know what it’s about. What are the 99 red balloons? If you still have to ask after actually paying attention to the lyrics to this 1982 German pop song than you may be an idiot.

Credence Clearwater Revival – Bad Moon on the Rise
And all these years I thought this song was about werewolves. The appropriate inclusion of this song on the classic horror film “An American Werewolf in London” gave me and others the false impression that CCR front man John Fogerty had written “Bad Moon on the Rise” specifically for the movie, however in an interview with Rolling Stone Magazine John Fogerty explained that the song was inspired by the movie “The Devil and Daniel Webster” in which a hurricane destroys a town. Fogerty thought it would be something if a storm destroyed more than just a town, how about the world. So that settles that, “Bad Moon on the Rise” is about the end of the world.

WWE – Armageddon Theme
Who could get forget promos with the Undertaker proclaiming himself the “angel of darkness and reaper of wayward souls,” or Triple H promising to stain New York City with Mick Foley’s blood? Ah the good old days of professional wrestling when the pretenses of it being real were replaced with overtop impossible characters and situations. Wrestlers have been predicting the end times since Wresltemania five when Hulk Hogan declared that when he and the Machoman Randy Savage battled the earth was going to open up and devour the audience and presumably the rest of the earth would be destroyed when the mega powers explode. As comical as wrestling has become there was something charming about the old Armageddon pay per views and how they advertised it as if the world would actually end because two strong men were going to wrestle, but what really sold those trailers was the song they used often called “The End.” I could not find any information about who wrote the song so I do not know who to credit, but whoever did write and perform this song was clearly influenced by The Doors, and their song “The End.” The voice sounds a little like Jim Morrison, the atmosphere of the song is forbidding and dark, and even the lyrics seem like something that would have fit in with the rest of The Doors end times song. Despite being created under very different circumstances the WWE Armageddon Theme has always sent chills down my spine.

Alan & Lande – Judgement Day
What happens when Symphony X guitarist Russell Alan and Gamma Ray/Masterplan lead singer Jorn Lande collaborate? We get great metal of course. To this day “Judgement Day” appears to be Alan & Lande’s biggest hit, and rightfully so, out of all the songs I have heard by the duo this is definitely my favorite. Once again we hear biblical references in this song and a sense of knowing what is to come. The message of this song seems to suggest that waking up surprised to find judgement day may be more of a consequence of misdeeds or lost spiritual awareness. All in all “Judgement Day” by Alan & Lande is a great song.

Morrisey – Everyday is like Sunday
I could argue that this song is not about the end of the world since it is set in a post apocalyptic setting, which would imply that the earth still exists and so does some remnants of humanity. However I would be probably be splitting hairs if I did that, and besides like I could resist putting this song on the list. World War Three has come and gone but here in the seaside town they forgot to bomb people linger on. Morrisey brings the severe sadness that is emo to the Armageddon in this song, and I suppose if there were ever a time to be morbidly sad it would be the end times, it is an appropriate fit and the end result is a very good song.

Prince – 1999
No Prince’s “1999” is not a pop cliché it is actually a meaningful song. People who actually bothered to listen to the lyrics of “1999” will quickly identify the song as one that is about the end of the world. The lyrics explicating state that the world with end in the year 2000, so we might as well make the best of it till then and party like it’s....

REM – It’s the End of the World as we Know it
Perhaps the most famous end times song ever recorded. REM struck gold when they wrote “It’s the End of the World as we Know it,” a humorously fun and infections song accepting/celebrating the end of the world, as far as we know it anyway.

Black Sabbath – War Pigs
The war pigs in question are those pesky politicians that start wars and send men off to die, but when the ultimate war unfolds and we began the end of days what will god think of them? War Pigs is something of a combination of end of world themes insofar that there is a huge war destroying mankind and also the apocalypse foreseen in revelations. Just when you think the war couldn't possible get any worse the fucking four horse men show up.

Black Sabbath – Electric Funeral
Ozzy predicts if the four horsemen don’t get us first the nuclear bombs will. Like so many songs earlier on this list the end of the world comes in the form of nuclear war, but this song is the most “metal.”

The Rolling Stones – Gimmie Shelter
Not exactly a song about the end of the world since the song is about surviving in a post apocalyptic world, however as stated earlier for “Every Day is like Sunday” that’s close enough. This song would have made the top five since it maybe the best song on this list but since it is not explicitly about the end of the world it only gets sixth. On an additional side note this song always reminds me of Mad Max.

Johnny Cash – When the Man Comes Around
Revelations again. Johnny Cash is a badass and I like his method narrating, very matter of fact. I also like Cash’s word choice is referring to god as “the man,” as if god is more like some kind of badass alpha male/top hierarchy corporate political champion, and when he comes around... we’re fucked. When god comes to clean this mess up, he’s going to be pissed. It’s a fun story and a great song.

Zager and Evans – In the Year 2525
In the 2525, if man is still alive, and if woman can survive, they may find....

And so on we count the years while foretelling the strangeness of millenniums past, until everything is dead.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

Prism – Armageddon
Out of all the upbeat songs about the end of world Prism’s “Armageddon” has to be the best. A unusual and truly unique song that wins the hearts of all who have ever heard it.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

The Doors – The End
The ultimate end of the world song, The Doors “The End.” Not only is this song simply fantastic in quality and in poetry but it captures every possible interpretation and reaction to the end, not just the end of the earth, or the end of humanity, this is the end of everything.

A song this high on the list deserves special attention, it gets a full review:

David Bowie – Five Years
This is the greatest song about the end of the world ever written, David Bowie “Five Years.” Like The Doors “The End,” Bowie’s “Five Years” means a lot to me. This is a song I have been listening to with perked interest and deep love for the better half of my life. There are so many memories attached to songs like “The End” and “Five Years” they mean more to me than just amazing songs about the end times, these songs even transcend the greatness of the historical and cultural impact on music, they are totems of our culture and species. The fear of death, the original conflict, the original antagonist, the endless battle between life and death sang to us by arguably the greatest song writer ever capturing all our fears and predictable reactions in one perfect song. “Five Years” is the greatest end of the world song.

Way back in May of 2007 I reviewed “Five Years,” and it shows just how much things have changed, in my writing, in my life and in me. That was five years ago....

- Colin Kelly

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