We all go through tough times in life, and sometimes, it can get really sad and lonely. Luckily, there are songs about depression that can motivate us to push past our loneliness and anxiety, helping us cope with reality and eventually heal from our trauma.
Songs About Depression to Help You Heal
Let’s begin with the song “Fake Happy” by the band Paramore.
Fake Happy by Paramore
We all wear masks. In every walk of life, whether it’s at our job or simply meet a new person, we all “put on a show” for other people. We hide our true feelings and emotions in an effort to conform to polite society.
But Fake Happy by Paramore goes beyond that. This is a song about intentionally hiding your sadness and depression. This song deals with the “happiness mask” that some people put on and wear throughout the day.
This is a song dedicated to those that give the big, toothy grin to their co-workers or are always amenable to their friends—but deep down, they are dying inside. They are monumentally sad and lonely.
See, I’m gonna draw my lipstick wider than my mouth
And if the lights are low, they’ll never see me frown
With lyrics like these, we realize that depression is only part of the problem. Because when you pretend and hide your real emotions—when you mask who you truly are in order to conform to polite society for fear of other people’s judgments—you delay getting the help you need to turn your life around.
Clown by Emeli Sandé
Let’s stick with the concept of conformity for this track by the great Emeli Sandé. Clown is probably one of her bigger hits to date, and with its excellent lyrics and various deeper meanings, it’s not hard to understand why.
On the surface, Emeli is singing about the music industry. She’s talking having to conform to the standards of what record executives (and perhaps, to some degree, music fans) want her to be, as well as the moral sacrifices she must make to achieve the fame and success she desires.
It’s a sad, depressing song, because Sandé realizes that she’ll have to compromise her integrity in order to “play ball” in the music industry. If the phrase “selling out” had a theme song, it would be Clown by Sandé.
Now, granted, with the success of things like YouTube and social media, it’s never been easier to find success (or have success find you) in regards to the entertainment industry. But Clown came out in 2012, where the industry gatekeepers had an absolute stranglehold on who got to enter—and who didn’t.
And, even though ten years have passed, if you think this isn’t still going on, you’re fooling yourself.
On a much deeper level, with Sandé being a black woman, you can’t help but see parallels between being the typical clown that society is very familiar with—and a blackface minstrel clown-like figure. As noted in this Ferris State University piece, various caricatures of African Americans “were designed to be laughed at, reducing black people to buffoons.”
I’d argue that Sandé’s race gives this song an added dimension and weight to it (and a far darker element to it) than if Clown had been a hit song by Adele or Billie Eilish.
When you think of songs about depression, I don’t necessarily think this is top of mind for a lot of people. It’s not a track when Emeli is genuinely depressed per se, but she’s certainly down and out emotionally and very upset at the “game” that she’s forced to play.
This is a fantastic song by an artist that deserves even more success and popularity than she already has.
Everything I Wanted by Billie Eilish
This song is about a dream where someone took their own life, and to their astonishment, no one else in the dream cared about this person’s passing.
The overarching message Eilish gives is that no matter what, their brother will always be there for her, even in her darkest hour and vice versa. In fact, they both sing together in unison, “as long as I’m here, no one can hurt you; don’t wanna lie here, but you could learn to. If I could change the way that you see yourself, you wouldn’t wonder why you’re here; they don’t deserve you.”
This chorus reflects several phrases their brother has shared with them, and it serves as a pensive lullaby to soothe the weariest of souls.
“Everything I Wanted” moves me very deeply for very personal reasons. I first heard this song when my sister showed it me after I won a 10-year long battle with depression.
Eilish accurately describes how depression feels like trying to “scream but my head was underwater,” something I once described to a therapist before this song was released, and she, in surprised, agreed with me.
I really love the message of this track, but whenever I listen to it, it makes me cry because I didn’t have the relationship with my sister that Billie has with their brother. Little did I know, my sister would purposely try to plunge me back into a depressive state, and I would have to fight to get above the surface of the murky water of my mind once more.
Soundtrack 2 My Life by Kid Cudi
A lot of people talk about hip hop music in the wrong way.
Sure, the rap that gets massive radio play or tops the Spotify charts is fun, mindless entertainment. But the art form of rap is so impressive because it can morph into whatever you want it to be. And, if you want it to be a potent, soul bearing record, that’s exactly what it can do—and do so very effectively.
That’s what we have here in Soundtrack 2 My Life by Kid Cudi. This song plays out like a raw diary entry, as it chronicles Cudi’s life and helps explain his struggles with sadness and depression.
So now I’m in the cut, alcohol in the wound
My heart’s an open sore that I hope heals soon
I live in a cocoon opposite of Cancún
Where it is never sunny, the dark side of the moon
So it’s more than right I try and shed some light on a man
Not many people of this planet understand, fam
This is a song that talks about the pressures of living life as a man, as well as dealing with fame and celebrity. For someone like Cudi, it can be a little too much to bear.
Sometimes, you end up trying to fake your happiness, which can certainly lead to a further downward spiral.
I am happy, that’s just the saddest lie.
Unfortunately, I think far too many people in life can relate to that lyric.
Easier To Run by Linkin Park
Although the late singer, Chester Bennington, and singer/rapper, Mike Shinoda, are approaching this powerful song from different lived experiences, the core message of “Easier To Run” is the same: it’s easier to run away from our demons than face them.
Shinoda says this track is namely about escapism, a practice in which most, if not all, of us engage in to get away from the complexities of our individual lives. There are many factors that can cause this behavior; for example, Bennington mentions that he is sometimes reminded of the “darkness of [his] past” which brings forth memories and emotions he’s resentful for ever having.
Although his past is out of his control, he tries to maintain a false sense of control by running away “than face all this pain here all alone.” They both recite all the things they wish they could do to change the past than have themselves change, so their present experience could be just a bit more bearable, but unfortunately, life is not that simple.
They both would rather be numb, which may feel good temporarily, but going through our emotions is the only way out of the darkness in our hearts.
Still by Ben Folds
To everyone who has had to stand strong in the face of a difficult experience, this song is for you. The very first lyric of “Still” hit me like a ton of bricks: “I must give the impression that I have the answers for everything; you were so disappointed to see me unravel so easily.”
So many of us have had to be a rock for other people, but the whole time we were made of paper. While people may think it’s easy to adjust to difficult situations, they truly don’t know our stories unless they have lived it themselves.
Ben Folds protests this notion by singing, “’it’s only change’…only everything I know,” yet he understands that change is the only constant in life, and he needs to live a life where he can be himself. Thus, the ironic title of “Still” reflects that no matter how much someone is resistant to change, “even the things that seem still are…still…changing.”
PERFEKT DARK by Lorn
Lorn is known for his dark and methodical melodic instrumentals, and “Perfect Dark” is no exception to this rule. Although Lorn released this track a couple of years ago, he recently debuted a music video that haunts my soul to this day.
The video shows a man who is alone in every scene, first smoking in his apartment, then you see him hyping himself up in the bathroom; next, you see him walking the streets of his city in winter gear at night, and you realize he’s on a journey; not just a physical journey, but a journey in his mind as well.
Where is he going?
The snowy forests, then the mountains, and you wonder how long he’s been walking and if he will ever reach his destination. All the while, the deep and looming bass and drums are swarming your eardrums and making your heart drop along with the beat.
A poignantly ethereal melody rises from the deep sound singing, “a splinter in your mind had called the dark…wanting it all to fall apart.” Then, the man, now standing atop a mountain, lifts his arms, surrendering to the beautiful sunset…and allows himself to fall.
In the final scene, you see his empty apartment where he was once smoking, the window slightly ajar. And you have the epiphany that the “splinter” in question is depression.
Darkest Hour by Sevdaliza
We as a people need to address the inevitable depression and overwhelming feelings of displacement and dissociation marginalized groups of women face in their daily lives. “Darkest Hour” is a tribute to women all over the world in this melancholic yet invigorating track.
Though Sevdaliza admits that we are in our darkest hour of human existence as women, she refuses to give up the battle we all fight to secure a better future for humanity.
My most favorite lyric is “It’s a perfect world; I’m the perfect girl. You’re the nightmare, and I’m the dream.” This line is so incredibly powerful because Sevdaliza is reimagining a future where societies honor the immense love and power of humanity’s creators: women.
In the music video for “Darkest Hour,” the artists feature women from all walks of life, whether they be mothers, models, nonbinary, trans, dancers, creatives, sisters, we are all important and worthy of love, peace, joy, comfort, and hope.
Everything In Its Right Place by Radiohead
Radiohead’s “Everything in its Right Place” was one of the first songs to help me realize I was depressed; honestly the fact that I knew each Radiohead album nearly by heart was the real giveaway.
Fueled by a steady dulled bass drum beat that portrays the constant anxious beating of our hearts, this track explores the simple complexities of the mind of someone in a depressive state. We long for the need to control, wanting everything in its right place; we often wake up “sucking on a lemon” (i.e., our faces twisted in a grimace), dreading the day ahead, and we often view the world in black and white, reflecting that “there are two colors in my head.”
But the distortion in our minds often turn to various shades of grey as the song points out that it feels like we’re going mad with these overwhelming experiences. There are many aspects of this song that I adore, however, I will only use one example as we will be here all day if I point out everything.
In the beginning, you hear a distorted repetition of “Kid A” which is the title of the album this track appears on; Kid A is an ambiguous title of what Thom Yorke imagines to be the first human clone, but more than that, it is a title for introverts, such as Yorke himself, who are often tasked with interacting with the world as if we are extroverts. It’s an exhausting way to live, and often plunges us into depression; Yorke is lamenting about how he felt touring for the band’s previous album and his words resonate with millions of us.
On Melancholy Hill by Gorillaz
The extremely popular Gorillaz is well-known for singing about the modern-day dystopia of consumeristic societies. The singer, Damon Albarn’s, lyrics shed light on an individual who seems to have everything he wants, yet all of those material possessions simply aren’t enough.
He craves love and connection, so he waits on Melancholy Hill next to a plastic tree where “you can’t get what you want, but you can get me.” It seems the consumerism of the world he lives in has made everything fake except for the very real longing in his heart.
This somber, yet seemingly upbeat song is filled with hope for a better life, even if we are surrounded by inauthentic material things and personalities. Many of us will be waiting on that hill possibly “looking on the day of another dream.”
After You Cry by THE ANXIETY
Dynamic Duo, WILLOW and Tyler Cole, collaborated to create THE ANXIETY, in which their first album whisks us away on the most anxious musical adventure of our lives, that simmers down, with a beautiful finale called “After You Cry.”
To all my anxious people out there, this song gives you the space to release all the emotions within you, in hopes that you feel much better afterwards. THE ANXIETY seems to sit next to us and asks us a series of questions such as “If you’re lonely, would you call me? Are you seeing anything about what we’ve been through at all?”
It’s like a love letter to ourselves deep within us who are still hurting, reassuring us that we can get in touch with both of ourselves and our loved ones “later right after you cry.” The intense music break gives us an opportunity to scream, cry, dance, and let everything out; don’t be ashamed, you’ll feel lighter after you cry.
If you’re looking for songs about anxiety, well, you’ve certainly found it right here.
Self Care by Mac Miller
In my darkest times in my life, I listened to mostly Linkin Park and Radiohead to help me through depression; therefore, when the beloved late Mac Miller was in his prime, I was too afraid to listen to his music, for fear of plunging back into depression.
Years after his passing, I was blown away when I heard Self Care for the first time: I was in a high moment in my depression journey, and it reminded me that depression is a lifelong trip with ups and downs.
In the music video, I was hooked when Miller found himself in a casket that, instead of trying to kick his way out of his grave, he kicked off his shoes and had a smoke. His lyrics exhibit his methods of self-care by self-medicating, and how it’s gotten him through his darkest times.
He knows he still has a long way to go but realizes “I got all the time in the world, so for now I’m just chillin’,” for “it’s a beautiful feeling in oblivion.” Oblivion in this sense is a state of dissociation, often induced by substances, or trauma; he just wants to get inebriated and float in darkness in a while before he returns to the real world.
I’m Just Gonna Exist by Mindchatter
Mindchatter’s profound lyrics teaches us how overstimulation often leads us to depression. In our pursuit of having everything we want, we often lose ourselves, or become lost in the static of our mind.
“Six days a week, abuse my brain for beats; my best friend is my sleep, that don’t come cheap,” he sings, overwhelmed by the pressing need to achieve something beyond himself. While this is a viable pursuit, pushing oneself too hard can result in burnout.
After all, Mindchatter says, “If you really loved yourself, you could just sit at home and watch TV.” As the music builds up, anxiously reflecting Mindchatter’s state of mind, he demands over and over what is the “difference between ambition and insecurity.”
In the end, the singer resolves to just exist, because “it’s no longer cool to be rich,” and just living one’s own life to the fullest is more than enough.
Willow by Young & Sick
I became acquainted by Young & Sick’s “Willow” after I left the city to stay in my rural hometown in the countryside. I always loved being surrounded by nature, as it was a potent remedy for my debilitating sadness; and I needed this remedy more than anything when I moved back home.
“Willow” helped to ground me during this heavy moment in my life, and it’s bound to help you too. “Take a little time to see the color,” singer, Nick van Hofwegen, persuades us to experience the beauty all around us. “Taste this water; look at the sunset, not in the mirror.
Forget the bills and run through the river.” He asks us to rekindle our relationship with our inner child because that is where our everlasting happiness lies; even if it seems hard at first, he begs us to just “save a little time for me.” “Me” in this lyric is none other than us, for we have the power to show ourselves the love we deserve, so we can overcome our greatest struggles.
Can’t Go Back by Kojey Radical
I would like to remain true to both my nature and culture by ending a period of grief with a celebration! Singer, rapper, dancer, fashion model, and influencer, Kojey Radical’s, “Can’t Go Back” pays homage to his past self for overcoming deep depression. Though it wasn’t easy, as he talks about the horrors he’s seen throughout his life, such as losing his friends to falling outs, drugs, and violent oppression.
He feared he would have the same fate, but his destiny had something much greater in store for himself. With festive passion, he encourages us to keep going because he knows that the light at the end of the depression tunnel is far sweeter; therefore, he’s made the decision that “I can’t go back! [To] feelin’ like I wanna die; feelin’ like I’ll never fly!”
Though this journey is not for the faint of heart, we all have it in us to succeed. Even when it hurts and we want to quit, Radical asks us “you say you want it foreal, then why’re you running foreal?”
So, pat yourself on the back because congratulations, you’ve made it this far! There is no one true timeline for each of us, so go through life at your own pace. Radical even says that he thought he’d be in a much better place at 21, but was wrong, yet he still overcame his depression.
If you love art and dancing, I strongly recommend this music video. After you feel rejuvenated by Radical and his talented colleagues, the amazing quote at the end will give you the strength to keep going: “Strong are those who have known defeat, known suffering, struggle and loss…and still find a way to dance in the darkness,” a slightly reprised quote from the illustrious psychiatrist, Elisabeth Kubler-Ross.
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Depression may be a tough opponent to handle, but we can overcome it, even if it has overstayed its welcome. I hope these songs about depression helped you to trudge through the murky depths of your emotions, and slowly rise into the beautiful and brave phoenix that you are!
They sure helped me in my darkest times.