Top 10 Songs For The End Of The World As We Know It (And You're Scared Shitless)
Cover Photo: YouTube
Let's face it. We live in a world where the odds of witnessing a nuclear attack within our lifetimes not only seems possible with each passing day but also assuredly more probable. Don't feel too lucky though in the invent that a nuclear war doesn't happen (which frankly at this point would be some kind of miracle). We always have our irreversible fucking of the planet to fall back on just in case. And if both of the above don't come to pass there’s always good ole' global instability, famine, drought, the fact all the bees are just dying for no damn reason, and the possibility of death by an asteroid, to keep us occupied.
Point is, that the end could, unless those of us in power wake the fuck up and soon, be near. That's the bad news. The good news is that at least we can assure that you don’t go out like some punk on your final days listening to whatever garbage is popular by then. Assuming your luck, it's very likely some schlock involving Adam Levine.
1) “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It” - REM
Let's just go ahead and get the obvious one out of the way first. It is a bit on the nose, admittedly. And every single annoying frat boy around you will begin quoting the chorus. But it is a catchy tune, and REM does check the boxes of “charmingly optimistic” while at the same time being terrifyingly nonchalant. In other words, it’s the perfect Armageddon song for the post-irony generation when starting down Armageddon.
Most Appropriate Setting: Buying everyone drinks on karaoke night at the local dive upon finding out through Facebook that nukes have been launched.
Most Appropriate Lyric: "Wire in a fire, represent the seven games/And a government for hire and a combat site/ Left her, wasn't coming in a hurry/With the Furies breathing down your neck."
2) “When The Levee Breaks” - Covered by Led Zeppelin - By Kansas Joe and Mississippi Minnie
Granted, the lyrical content really is the sort of thing that's married to a specific kind of an end of the world scenario. Asteroids, nuclear winter, and Zika virus outbreaks simply won’t cut it here. Death by water or bust as the saying probably goes somewhere. Added bonus points if you can manage to be somewhere in the south when it goes down. Jimmy Page's bluesy fills and slide guitar all but demand some proper accompanying scenery.
Most Appropriate Setting: Glaring at the storm clouds on the horizon as you come to the bitter conclusion that having your government care about you and surviving natural disasters, it's a lot harder when you're poor.
Most Appropriate Lyric: "Crying won't help you/Praying won't do you no good/No, crying won't help you/Praying won't do you no good/When the levee breaks Mama, you got to move."
3) “Rust In Peace/Polaris” - Megadeth
Now we're really getting into your big boy apocalypses. R.E.M were merely content to rattle off a bunch of vague lines about earthquakes, snakes, population overflow, and Leonard Bernstein, and how all of the above would come together to lead to the end of the world (presumably, especially Leonard Bernstein). “When The Levee Breaks” all death by drowning aside, is ultimately a passive tune about mother nature killing us through a combination of lots of water and man’s hubris. But in “Rust In Peace” we finally get to a vivid description of an apocalypse of the man-made variety. As far as the end of the world songs go, you can’t do much better than Megadeth. Angry lyrics? Check. Screaming thrash metal guitars? More Check. That outrage upon the realization that government ineptitude would doom us all with nuclear war and in the end and you’re just an inconsequential pawn? Check Plus.
Most Appropriate Setting: Reserved best for the beginning of an actual nuclear war. Failing that though, accompanying your nihilistic musings by the dumpster on your smoke break while harboring an intense distrust of all the authority figures in your life.
Most Appropriate Lyric: “I spread disease like a dog/Discharge my payload a mile high
Rotten egg air of death wrestles your nostrils/Launch the Polaris, the end doesn't scare us
When will this cease/The warheads will all rust in peace!"
4) The Doors - “The End”
A tune immortalized from being used in the opening for the 1979 film, Apocalypse Now. If this is all you can remember about that movie you’re forgiven. It was a long movie.
“The End” is one of those doomsday tunes that seems at first to fit appropriately on the nose. It begins promisingly enough with Jim Morrison wailing on about how “This is the end/my only friend the end." Followed by some solid doomsday-esque imagery, accompanied by a fitting psychedelic guitar refrain. Then things take a left turn into the deeply uncomfortable and Oedipal as Morrison launches into a bunch of weird ramblings about seven-inch snakes, blue buses, and killing his dad to have sex with his mother. Yeah, it’s a weirder song then you remembered.
Most Appropriate Setting: Invading another country but then feeling really bad about it. That or doing acid and then feeling really bad about it.
Most Appropriate Lyric: “Of our elaborate plans, the end/ Of everything that stands, the end/No safety or surprise, the end/ I'll never look into your eyes again.”
5) The Clash - “London Calling”
Not the first song that comes to mind when you’re thinking overtly apocalyptic songs. If anything, "London Calling" is usually the go-to song for when a director really wants to make sure you know you’re in London. In “London Calling," the Clash have a bouncy song about some bleak end of days shit. Wheat growing thin, global warming, floods, the economy going down the tubes, etc. Why yes, this song was written in 1979 and not in 2017. Which if you think about it too long, is depressing as all hell.
Most Appropriate Setting: Sipping tea while being so oppressively, stoically British. This is can be accompanied by openly musing about whether or not you’ll be able to afford bread next year.
Most Appropriate Lyric: “The ice age is coming/ the sun's zoomin' in/ Engines stop running/ the wheat is growin' thin/A nuclear error, but I have no fear/ Cause London is drowning/I, I live by the river.”
6) Johann Johannsson - “Sun’s Gone Dim”
Johann Johannsson does not get nearly enough mainstream praise as he deserves. The Icelandic composer has been hard at work churning out solo albums since 2002, and composing film and TV scores since '87.
His piece, "Sun's Gone Dim" might be the bleakest arrangement he's ever put together. Lyrically, it's nothing to write home about. It's a song that only has four simple verses about love being lost that repeat themselves for seven minutes. What escalates this from what could have been just some cringy, "14-year-old getting dumped" schlock of a breakup song, to a full-blown fitting song for the end of the world is the gorgeous instrumental. As an eerie, tinny voice repeats the refrain, "The sun's gone dim" the moody, electric arrangement brings this song from haunting, to melancholic, to finally deeply unsettling. Not bad for a song that's only 16-words long.
Most Appropriate Setting: Watching the sun black out of the sky just as you find out your partner wants a divorce and wants to take the kids to with them.
Most Appropriate Lyric: "The sun's gone dim/And the sky's turned black."
7) Tom Waits - “God’s Away On Business”
If you're not familiar with the work of Tom Waits, try if you will and imagine the most grizzled sounding voice you've ever heard, belonging to the most world-weary looking man you've ever met. Wait's Cookie monster-esque growls are the first thing that hit you, but it's his truly bleak lyrics that are the money maker here. On "God's Away On Business," Waits sounds equal parts delightful and nihilistic as he paints a dreary picture of the world as a sinking ship without a captain. There is an official music video for the song. But this list has gotten pretty damn depressing to write so far, so instead let's just go with this version for some much-needed levity.
Most Appropriate Setting: Feeling like seven drinks in at last call is exactly the right time to begin discussing geopolitics with a stranger.
Most Appropriate Lyric: "There's a leak, there's a leak, in the boiler room/The poor, the lame, the blind/Who are the ones that we kept in charge?/Killers, thieves, and lawyers."
8) Johnny Cash - “The Man Comes Around”
So far we've covered nature killing us and devised new ways to kill ourselves via lots of explosions. But no list of apocalyptic scenarios can be complete without leaving a smidgen of wiggle room open for the classic "Religion was right!" flavor of doomsday. In this case, strictly of the Judeo-Christian variety, I'm afraid. While Johnny Cash's "When The Man Comes Around" doesn't quite elicit the same sort of excitement as say, battling hordes of frost giants alongside Thor on Ragnarok, his haunting first-person account of someone witnessing the biblical second coming followed by Armageddon is the perfect mix of captivating and haunting.
Most Appropriate Setting: Sitting next to your never-opened copy of the bible while throwing back a Budweiser in front of your TV, that's currently blaring increasingly depressing news.
Most Appropriate Lyric: "Hear the trumpets, hear the pipers/One hundred million angels singing/ Multitudes are marching to the big kettledrum? Voices calling, voices crying."
9) Peter Gabriel - “Here Comes The Flood”
For those playing at home yes, this is technically the second flood-themed song on the list. Kind of a cheat pick, if I'm being honest. Peter Gabriel's "Here Comes The Flood," essentially combines the death by flooding imagery of "When The Levee Breaks" with the biblical trappings of "When The Man Comes Around." But it more then earns a spot on this list for being a damn beautiful song. And if you're going to go out on some sort of Noah's Ark cliche, you can't go wrong going out with anything featuring a piano melody this good.
Most Appropriate Setting: Stuck on the shoreline watching some breaded jackass sail away with the world's last boat to be with all his animal friends, just because you laughed at his stupid beard that one time.
Most Appropriate Lyric: "When the flood calls, you have no home/you have no walls In the thunder crash/you're a thousand minds, within a flash/Don't be afraid to cry at what you see/ The actors gone, there's only you and me."
10) Vera Lynn - “We’ll Meet Again”
"We'll Meet Again" holds the honor of being both the oldest song on this list and also the only song on this list that was never meant to be interpreted as depressing. Written in 1939 and made famous by Vera Lynn and holy shit did you know she was still alive?
"We'll Meet Again" was meant to be an optimistic tune about how soldiers departing for the western front in World War II would eventually return back to their lovers after beating back those nasty Nazis in a couple of weeks tops. In hindsight, it was probably incredibly optimistic. But that's not the reason it makes the list. This is, "Please try and enjoy the rest of your day. Make the most of it."
Most Appropriate Setting: Staring wistfully at a black and white photo of your lover while you hold it up to the light and remember the good ol' days, which for some reason are also in black and white even though it's 2017 and you're in your 30s.
Most Appropriate Lyric: "We'll meet again/Don't know where/Don't know when/But I know we'll meet again some sunny day/Keep smiling through/Just like you always do /Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away."