The Top 11 Upbeat Songs With Dark Lyrics

Published: March 14, 2014

Whether they made it to the Top 10 on our music charts, made us dance for decades, or made us laugh, these songs all had one thing in common: they are about disturbing and truly distressing subjects! Yes, as catchy as their tunes might've been and as enchanting as their rhythms might've made them, they are still deep down a representation of some of the darkest and most frightening parts of human existence. Here they are:

  1. 99 Luftballoons/ 99 Red Balloons by Nena

    Who doesn't love this 80's pop beat sensation with a soft opening and ending and a rocking middle? It has a wonderfully catchy melody both in German and English and its pulsing rhythm made it easy to dance to even before it was a remix!

    What the song is really about: two people surviving a nuclear holocaust caused by paranoid governments that think 99 red balloons are enemies attacking them.

    The end of the world and only two survivors that inadvertantly started the mess looking at the ruins of a city at the end of the song? Dark, very dark.

  2. Zydrate Anatomy (by Terrence Zdunich, Paris Hilton, and Alexa Vega)

    Love Opera? Love science fiction and political thrillers? Have all three combined in the musical Repo! The Genetic Opera! The first real composed song, Zydrate Anatomy set the hard-rock tone for this dingy tale about underhanded means of saving and then reposessing lives with organ transplants. These multiple surgeries mean stronger painkillers in the form of 'Zydrate' harvested from human brains and the song is about just that. The melody is hard-pumping and wonderfully written with internal rhyme that is genius and very original!

    What the song is really about: drug addiction, administering the drugs, sex to get drugs, and of course the reality of repossessing organs in this futuristic dystopia. Does it get any darker than that?

  3. Pumped Up Kicks by Foster the People

    Have you heard any other famous pieces of music by 'Foster the People'? That may be widely due to this song. While the melody, including whistling, was as catchy as 'I Fought The Law' and very upbeat with a great rhythm, there is a much darker side.

    What the song is really about: a young man's troubled life and his plans to kill his classmates revelling in watching them run from his shooting. This is a tragic reality for many victims which not only makes this song dark, but extremely controversial as well.

  4. Teeth by Lady Gaga

    Southern style Gospel rhythm presented in a punk rock format? What's not to love especially when it comes to empowering a woman? The melody is wonderfully written and the rhthym is sensual to a very forgivable fault!


    What the song is really about: bondage and sex; as many metaphors as are used, there's no denying that when someone 'loves you with their hands tied' it means there's bondage involved among other things and 'show me your mean' is definitely a reference to rough and tumble love-making. Wow; it might be a personal fetish, but with the Gospel sound it comes off very, very dark!e on this list? What sets it apart?

  5. Christmas at Ground Zero by Wierld Al

    Ah, the carollers are out in their gasmasks and the hazmat suit Santa is on his way! Wierd Al is known for his parody and this almost Chipmunk like song sings about the joys of Yuletide and a few other obvious things as well!

    What the song is really about: Nuclear Holocaust on Christmas Eve and murdering people to survive the event which will create horribly disfigured humans. Does that scream dark or happy holidays?

  6. Death, Death, Death, Devil, Devil, Evil. Evil Songs by Voltaire

    Voltaire is a Neo-Romanticist with a humorous twist that gives his Romani-like music a perfect sound. Using mostly strings with some percussion thrown in, this song is a cheery, folksy romp . . . straight to hell.

    What this song is really about: perhaps the oddly least dark song on the list, this melody is about Voltaire dealing with all of his problems by singing about horrible things until he gets to hell only to find out that while the Devil is his biggest fan, he still has an eternity of torment to go! To find out that your coping mechanism was your doom? That's really dark!

  7. Lovefool by The Cardigans

    "Fool Me" and "Pretend that You Need Me"? This upbeat song danced to in the 90s and beyond (even covered and remixed by Justin Bieber) seemed to romanticize something sinister.

    What the song is really about: this song can be taken in one of two ways and both are disturbing; either she is obsessed with this guy and can't let go emotionally or mentally, or this girl is trying to stay in a codependant and abusive relationship with a man that mistreats herl. Domestic violence has been hinted at in the music world and outright rapped about by artists like Eminem, but this makes it seem perfectly alright to stalk or be stalked as long as you're 'in love'. Wow, love just got very dark!

  8. On MY Way Home/Long, Long Journey by Enya

    There's no doubt that Enya's music is enchanting with its surreal strains and etheral rhythms. The epitome of new Irish music, Enya has developed a style so enchanting that she helped with the soundtrack to the first installment of The Lord of the Rings. On MY Way Home talks about remembering good times and watching a journey skyward unfold. Long Long Journey details night falling on a harbor as a ship leaves for an unknown destination, but the traveller is happy because their heart is going home.

    What the songs are really about: Death. Both of these songs are about the soul making their way to eternity and while they are enchanting and upbeat, it still doesn't take away the dark uncertainty of the afterlife, though they could be musically comparable to 'Thanatopsis' by Bryant.

  9. Brains!/Land of the Dead by Voltaire (for The Grimm Adventures of Billy and Mandy)

    Made to accompany the hilarious and dark cartoon 'The Grimm Adventures of Billy and Mandy' (two children who own the Grim Reaper), these two songs detail some interesting aspects of each episode. Land of the Dead was the opening credits music talking about how much fun it is to live in a land made of skulls and bones with a jacuzzi of dragon's blood and Cerberus for a pet! Brains! however, details a synopsis from a B-rated monster type set-up where a meteor carrying a brain eating alien starts a jazz routine to enslave Billy to gather brains. But the tunes are just so darn catchy and fun!

    What the songs are really about: they are exactly as they are described! Each one simply pertains to an episode and while they are nearly the epitome of dark, they are just plain fun to sing along with or listen to!

  10. Happy Birthday! by Wierd Al

    Unhappy you didn't get that pony for your birthday? Well buck up because Wierld Al has a special song just for you! It's upbeat with a rock rhythm and kickin' guitar and out of control car solo!

    What the song is really about: Poverty, Pollution, Supernova, Nuclear Holocaust; just like Christmas at Ground Zero, Al seems to be preparing people to look on the bright side of the end of civilization. In this song, however, he also adds the current problems of the world including poverty, government corruption, violence, the end of the world when the sun expands, and of course a racist statement to round things out! Sure it's dark, but it's your birthday!!!!

  11. Let it Go (from Disney's 'Frozen') by Idina Menzel

    Catchy music, decently written lyrics, and some interesting visuals got this song an Oscar, but is it really a song about empowerment? While some of the lyrics talk about testing one's limitations and triumphing to some degree, the majority of the lyrics are about something else entirely.

    What the song is really about: Depression and Emotional Breakdown; the character has isolated herself and has no intention of having human contact again. In the psychology world that is one of the worst parts of depression following an emotional breakdown that a person can go through. This is the state where it is hardest to get or receive help because 'the cold doesn't bother them'. This song is quite possibly the second darkest song in general, but personally darkest song on this list!

There are plenty of upbeat songs with great rhythms, melodies, and even catchy lyrics. Sometimes, though, if you step back and look at the lyrics themselves, you'll find materials, subjects, and even issues that are very dark and disturbing. That doesn't mean you can't still enjoy the song, but with some of these tunes (like those that are controversially talking about violence domestically, at schools, or deepening depression) you might want to listen with caution and be careful about young people being exposed to it without you pointing out the good parts of these songs first!