Dark Music

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Hi! So, it seems I'm incapable of making any songs that aren't, at least in some way, dark. And I'm fine with that! It's my thing, yeah? So this is a thread for anyone else out there who makes darker music - whether it's also "your thing", or whether you just made 1 or 2 dark songs you'd like people to hear. Promote yourself here, evil one! Mwuahahahhahaha! Biggrin

I'm talking gothic, metal, creepy, weird, pure unadulterated evil - whatever you've got! Let the darkness bleed!

Yeah, I find dark is easier to write! Here's one from a past FAWM that I'm pretty proud of,

Burn the Ground

Yup, definitely.
Most of my stuff seems to have a somber edge to it. No happy songs yet this 50/90.

cts's picture

Seems like no one likes to wear the white hat anymore....
...but yes, the darker tunes that come to my mind I'm rather skiddish about sharing. That's just me, though.

@cts, join us on the dark side! (We have pizza!) Biggrin

Seriously, though, I think music is the best way of dealing with the darker emotions and darker side of life in general. Bloodlet the darkness, I say. Smile

I don't do metal but everything I write for the most part is dark or depressing in some way. My most recent 5090 song is the darkest thing I've written in awhile I think. I'm pretty happy with it.


Dark and depressing is easy. Like: dying is easy. Comedy is hard. Yet it's the HappyHappy songs that get people at gigs. The mordant and bitter, well, that's for latenight coffee lounges and bars. No surprise that the 2 collabs I already have up and the two to come are dark and bitter. Hey, even the suppsoedly light Byron Bay has sharks waiting to eat the whale calf...

Yup i have to force the happies out. Im getting better and i find i am able to use more in my performances so i keep working on it. But give me dark anytime.

This year I'm doing a whole set of songs about evil hair killing people. One of them is about a man being dismembered for touching a woman's hair without asking, though I consider that a positive and uplifting song (about keeping your hands to yourself).

Though, I have to admit, when I try to add a musical backing to my stuff, it more often than not turns out creepy. When my kids actually like one of them, they are frequently like, "I like that song, but I'd really like a version without the creepy background music." That's actually what drove me back to acapella after trying my hand at "Not Crapcapella" during FAWM of 2017.

Still, my most depressing song was written a few years back. I found myself unable to move forward with songs, so I went in to a quiet room and sung until the emotions blocking me had been cleared. It didn't take too long. What I wound up with was a short little song about sometimes feeling like a sandwich... taken to a picnic... to watch a lynching. I have to say that most of my songs seem positively chipper in comparison.

Yeah, I have a reputation among my musician friends for turning songs sad (especially cover songs). Although I don't think I've done anything truly dark yet for 50/90, with the possible exception of this one, which is sort of apocalyptic and written from the perspective of a doomsday prophet: http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/song/31176

Going to look up your murderous hair songs right now, @yam655 . . .

Super secret bonus question: Do you make dark music by accident, or on purpose? Because I'm getting the impression that some of you default to dark but would prefer to make lighter music... And I'll admit, I sometimes have "light" moods, myself. Like, wanting to make a super energetic dance hit for all those chemical ravers, yeah? Most of the time, though, I'm happy to make something "dark".

I usually write more dark songs than lighter ones but trying to get into music licensing has forced me to write more happy or neutral songs. However I like to go really dark and twisted every once in a while on purpose. It's a bit of fun for me. This was my last really dark one from FAWM. http://fawm.org/songs/87594/

i am currently in the middle of a song about just this, i try to avoid dark as much as i can. while i try to have a genuine and honest hit in my songs my humour is an antidote/medicine to huge amounts of dark i have that i am very squeamish about revealing. i want to write funny songs that make people laugh or smile and if it gets too revealing of my struggles i really stop it before it gets into songs. like i say i am currently writing a song about this that hopefully will still be humorous and that is the whole point of the song, but trying to dare to touch on some of it. i do have some more "serious" songs but i am always unsure of where they fit in my catalogue/musical persona. so no, i don't like to go dark, just the opposite, i have too much dark enough already and i like to take that dark and try to find/bring some humour to it. i hope to finish my "too dark" song today - it's coming along

EDIT - Not opposed to a bit of gallows humour though, eg this one... http://wobbiewobbit.com/a-z/brown-bread

It's an interesting thread developing here Crazy

While I love some dark humor, I can find some dark drama to be deeply disturbing. It depends a lot on what it is. I just write a song about death, but songs about cruelty or intense human suffering is just not for me. Now I do write things sometimes about my own dark experiences, but that's more for my own therapy. Smile And to answer @cblacks super secret bonus question, I think I default to sad songs, not dark songs. I would love to be able to write happy, yet not cheesy songs with ease, but that just doesn't happen.

I'm weird. I am a really positive person. I write songs to make people laugh most of the time. Actually, I've written a couple of sad or bittersweet songs this year, which is unusual for me. However, I have a really twisted sense of humor. I love dark things. Sweeney Todd is one of my favorite musicals of all time. I wanted to be Mrs. Lovett when I was in high school (not play her... be her). So I write a lot of dark songs that are cheerful. People keep trying to peg me as a kid song writer. The one song I wrote that's covered by a bunch of people was about a bunch of rubber ducks that get lost at sea after a pirate attack (there's a music video if anyone's interested). Everyone thinks it's a kid song. Everyone dies except for one sailor and all the ducks but one are never found again. Totally a kid's song, right? And someone once asked me to write a sequel to that. I was like "Sure. It could be about a pauper sailor with PTSD who sits in the corner of the pub quietly whispering comforting words to a half eaten rubber duck. That'd be swell!"

I think many of us are circling round the thought that the world itself is often a negative place, and that most people (it seems) can't help but express that negativity - whether on purpose or not, and whether with negative intent or not. Like, negativity is almost inevitable, maybe?

So I'd then have to ask: If negativity is "normal" in modern culture, then at what point could I (or someone else) say, "Oh, yeah, I write dark songs"? Like, how do we cross over from general insidious negativity into "Oh, yeah, this is dark"?

Sorry. Feeling a bit philosophical this morning. Smile

i posted the song i was talking about earlier... Too Morrissey (NSFW) http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/song/31884

Negativity is a state of mind. It's a way of experiencing the world. The world is neither a negative nor a positive place. That's just us. However, the world is full of pain, loss and violence. Of course it is. It's also full of joy, mystery, and beauty. I've seen people who who dying express more joy and vitality than the richest and most powerful of men. It's not that they don't experience the bad stuff. It's that they value the good stuff so much that they refuse to waste any of it. I think that it is absolutely fine to embrace and express the harsher parts of our experiences. It can help us appreciate the wonderful parts of life more. Just don't get stuck in the darkness to a point that you can't see the light anymore.

I always pull my lyrics from the seedy underbelly of my shadow side. Even if the vocals or music sounds cheerful, there are bloody existential demons lurking behind those chords. Having said that, here's a song that has very happy lyrics but the music drips with evil delight. https://soundcloud.com/peterarvidsonjams/elk-trails

Music 2

@katpiercemusic Some of this depends on what you consider to be music "for kids."

I'm like, "my kid's need a bedtime song" so...
- A song about baby hippos going to sleep and dreaming of destroying human civilization. ("They know where you live. They know where you sleep. And, they want to see you dead.") It ends with, basically, "Baby hippo, I hope your dream comes true." My kids enjoyed it to the point of giggling madly the first time I sang it. I re-sang it while visiting the closest zoo containing hippos.
- A song about the extinction of the Dodo birds being caused by failing to go to sleep at bedtime. Of course, they all die. This is also a favorite.

Then you have my non-bedtime songs:
- A song about bringing a friend to meet your pet dragon, they freak out and scream, waking the dragon which hunts them down and eats them. The kids love it.
- A song about stuffed cannibals. I credit this song for the reason my son wanted a stuffed scorpion for Christmas last year.

It is important to remember that the Andrew Lang versions of the fairy tales -- which many people consider "too dark" for many a modern young mind -- were edited to be for children by the Langs. Those are the kid-friendly edits of the time. (For instance, he does not mention the name of the fairy who is riding the dragon that eats the first suitor in The White Cat -- her name was Violent.)

Kids like a certain amount of death and violence in their stories and songs. There are rules to follow, of course, but thinking in terms of fairy tales makes it easy enough.

And the bonus question for @cblack: "Do you make dark music by accident, or on purpose?" Yes, and yes.

Where do you put a song with words like, "You unearthed my heart like a coffin." It's an upbeat love song, but wrapped in darker metaphor. My "love songs" from FAWM 2018 had a whole album full of love songs based on Titular titles. Nobody dies. They're actually love songs. But, you know, a little dark.

If I try to add an instrumental backing the chances of it getting dark go way up, even if that wasn't my original goal. Though it might be related -- in part -- to my favoring slower tempos. Acapella is full of slower tempos, to the point where they get much slower than mine, but people are used to happy songs being more than 90 BPM, and 90 is my go-to rate.

How dark does dark get? The darker the better because it allows us license to give voice to things too terrifying to consider in real life. Several years ago I wrote a murder ballad from the perspective of looking through the killer's eyes. It ended up being both incredibly satisfying and extremly disturbing, and I enjoyed every minute of it.


I guess it kinda depends on your audience as to whether or not they consider your song to be "dark".

Picture a rabbit and an eagle. Write the song about their meeting in the meadow. If you write it from the rabbit's perspective it is a dark, painful, tragic lyric. If you write it from the eagle's perspective it was simply a successful dinner.

"from the eagle's perspective it was simply a successful dinner"!!! Love it! ...Yes well, [@John Staples] I have been known to rise from the table with a happy sigh after a meal of roast lamb. The sheep clearly rose with me. Now that's dark!

Interesting thread. Here are a few facts and a few opinions from me. 1. I am a very optimistic and up beat person.
2. I find writing on the darker side much easier. 3. My audiences always prefer music on the lighter side. 4. I play a lot of neutral stories as well which are really neither happy or sad they are how it is. Ive never really tried to analyse why i like darker in songs maybe it is my ying and yang i write opposite to my real life person. From audience perspective (i am talking live here) i think many see songs as escapism and like happy endings. I also find i can get away with different things with audiences based on the instrument i use. Guitar anything, keyboards sadder, ukulele happy, banjo happy just as example but i digress . I like johns views above and often dark is interpretation but sometimes dark is just dark there is no positive spin.


This is my darkest yet for a dark moment.
Up until then I had been pretty positive. I knew it wouldn't last.

I think much of our culture's fascination with darker things ties in with fiction. Basically, you can't have fiction without a conflict of some sort. That is, the protagonist has to overcome an obstacle to get a reward. That's the most basic thing about 99.999% of fiction (at least in English-speaking culture - I don't know about other languages, but expect it's much the same). Now, this obstacle doesn't need to be dark in itself. A children's picture book could have a monkey looking for a lost balloon, for example. But the basic premise of Person + Obstacle tends to lend itself more to the darker side of life, I think. I mean, obstacles are necessary in darker things, but not really necessary in lighter things...

Anyway, that ramble is just to say that I think our culture is focused on the darker side of life a bit more than we really need to be, but that it comes from a genuine desire for storytelling. As far as music is concerned, I think it takes its emotive elements from storytelling, whether there are words in the song or not. Doesn't have to be dark, but dark is certainly easily accomplished.

Not sure what my point is... Just felt like exploring the idea. (And in fact, that'd make an excellent thesis topic for a creative writing student! If I ever go back to uni, I might nab that basic concept - an exploration of why it's more difficult to write something happy. Hmm...)

@coolparadiso on live audiences preferring good-times and not dark stuff: it's true, or at least in Oz it is. It's why I'm really pleased when I can crank out a genuinely up-beat happy song eg Raining on the Dog and Me. My limited live audiences accept a lot of dark, though, if it's disguised as Flying Tadpole-isms, where they can laugh at the protagonist of the song but also secretly feel happier because it's him and not them--empathising while laughing. Instrumentals though are something else. A lot of quite dark stuff is accepted as relaxation. The Dead March from Saul isn't recommended, though...

Yes, good times, bad times, dark times... Music 2 Crazy Another very interesting thread.

I never went out to feel miserable and have a bad time. Not intentionally. That might have been the end result, but it was never my goal.

In the past, sometimes I couldn't get over a bad mood. Light and happy music annoyed me. I'd put something on to help me push through the mood, Express how I'm feeling, but maybe stronger.

My writing reflects that. When I'm feeling good, I'm typically doing something I enjoy. When I'm feeling bad, I write. Maybe that's an over-simplification, but it seems to be my pattern.

@cblack I'm exploring a concept of story that uses reaching for emotional needs instead of centering on conflict. At the beginning of a story there needs to be a strong emotional need present. The first part of the first act of a book, there's a strong emotional need for adaptation. Square peg, round hole, and something needs to change. How that's reflected in the story may vary, and whether the character never felt like they belonged, something about them changed, or something about their environment changed is irrelevant. In a standard novel there's five broad emotional needs, and you can see them in smaller circles for a series, for a book, for a section of a book, and then for individual chapters.

The thing is, though, that a lot of concepts of story work for novel-length pieces, but fracture and fall apart as the word count shrinks. It'll be a theory of story that works for novels, but folks will say, "oh, short stories are totally different." My concept of story works for 140 character "twitfics". There needs to be an emotional need present and some sort of change to it, but the super-short pieces of fiction work with your expectations to leverage what is already in your head. You feel the change because you could auto-fill the emotional transition based upon what little was present.

Anyway, I leverage my weird concept of story in my songs a lot. It's simple enough I can improvise with it. (Some theories of story are seriously over complicated.)

As to why our culture is sort of obsessed with darker art... Most folks are familiar with the concept of "tortured artist." We had a thread all about disemboweling ourselves for our music. Some people drink alcohol before they write songs...

We don't hear about the high quality output of the "joyful artist." While people do heal themselves through their music, we have no thread about it -- like people are embarrassed that music may make them happier. Nor do we hear people talk about always playing with their dog before they write their music to get in the right frame of mind...

While some folks may like to consume happy songs as escapism, it would appear that some folks are uncomfortable putting themselves in a joyous headspace long enough to write happier songs. People like a happy idea, so long as they don't actually have to feel the happiness.

I am in love with the darkness and it loves me too -q kkkk The ones I've made for this challenge are specially grim in my opinion

Most of the songs from this concept album are dark, to be honest. If I could single out a few, they would be "You Make Me Want to Bang My Head in the Wall One Million Times!", "Domestic Disturbance", "Seems Quiet in Here" and "Feelinglikegraduallyrunningoutofpreciousvaluabletime".

In addition to that, this is probably the most dark of all of my songs:

@yam655 Mmm, I'd agree that many theories of storytelling are unnecessarily complicated. But at the end of the day, even a simple theory such as yours presupposes conflict. It's just that you're focusing on an emotional need - so, an internal conflict rather than an external one. Personally, I'd love to find someone who can write a book that is a pleasure to read and which has no conflict whatsoever... But I'm not holding my breath on that one.

I do have to wonder, though... If human social evolution had been different, would I be moaning about the lack of dark stories instead? Probably impossible to know...

As for being afraid to feel the happiness... Yeah, I can understand that. There's something so much more vulnerable about being happy, compared to being sad or angry. I mean, look at popular fiction yet again - the people who handle the conflicts the best are usually the ones who were already suffering in some way. I can't really think of a conflict being resolved by someone who was (and stayed) happy... So I think there's a strong subconscious association between "coming out on top" and "being upset in some way" that makes happiness seem extra vulnerable.

I don't know... I'm just spitballing here. Smile

@cblack, I'm thinking of writing a short story without any main character outside of a house, and not personifying the house. So the house is just there, being a house, and is still the main character. The question is can I create a story with those constraints? The emotions and the emotional transition needs to occur in the mind of the reader -- they don't need to happen to any character in the story.

just saw this thread, and have just posted a song which is both slightly beatle-esque, and rather dark (which i know sounds like a bit of a contradiction)... at least the subject matter, as i imagined it, is kind of dark- then again not sure how the listener will feel, but .. anyway, here it is... http://fiftyninety.fawmers.org/song/33983

@yam655 Sounds interesting! And that's a good point - that the emotional transition only needs to happen in the reader/listener, rather than "in" the story itself... I hadn't considered that. Smile It'd be difficult to pull off, I bet, but it could be the start of a new way of telling stories! (Or maybe that's too hopeful? :P )

My other half @Chandra83 is all about the darkness...