Not that I really pay that much attention to what songs are charting these days, but my impression is that (with the possible exception of some mewling coming from Hot Topic-vended black hairdye abusers) the lyrics’ general ethos is overwhelmingly affirmative…by which I mean, my sex is good, my beats are good, my shit is good, my dancing is good, etc.
Regardless, I don’t think there’s all that much that’s just plain a big ol’ depressing downer (except if quality is considered – but that’s a separate argument). Contrast this with the late sixties and early seventies – oh yes, you could chart with a miserably depressing set of lyrics then.
Here are a few examples, because, you know, it’s pouring rain outside and the temperature’s dropped like thirty degrees in the last day or so.
Perhaps the all-time champion in boohooism is Gilbert O’Sullivan’s “Alone Again (Naturally)” – made even worse by its unnaturally chipper melody. But just how sunny is a song about attempted suicide, being abandoned at the altar, feeling abandoned by a god you no longer believe in, a dead father, and a grieving wife who dies of a broken heart?
Okay, so maybe something a bit more humorous? Like, say, the Bee Gees – with “I Started a Joke.” That should be good for a, uh, laugh. No? (Not unless you look closely at some of the more belabored lyrics.) Really, say what you will, this one’s got a wonderfully mournful melody, delivered with appropriate achingness.
Jonathan King (who, according to him, wrote nearly every British hit for a decade, when he wasn’t busy seducing teenage boys) scored a major hit with the (intentionally) Dylanesque lyric to “Everyone’s Gone to the Moon.” The images may be absurd in places, but the music and tune convey a real melancholy.
King also wrote the rather more obscure (to us Yanks, anyway) track “It’s Good News Week!” recorded by four British Royal Air Force lads (!) under the name Hedgehoppers Anonymous (I gather “hedgehopper” is some sort of pilot slang). At last, a title that promises cheer and happy, smiling faces!
Or not (naturally).