From time to time, we all feel obligated to hide our emotions, even when they are eating us up inside. So for those times when we can’t tell the world how we feel, here are ten songs about hiding emotions that will certainly do the trick.
Best Songs About Hiding Emotions
Let’s begin with this classic track by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.
The Tears of a Clown by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
Often the person who seems the most joyful is actually the one who is masking the most pain. In Smokey Robinson and the Miracles’ 1967 #1 hit, “The Tears of a Clown”, a man is forced to put on a brave face for the public while reckoning with heartbreak.
The lyrics of “The Tears of a Clown” tell of man who appears to be joyful and carefree in public, but beneath the surface, he is heartbroken that his lover has left him and cries when he is alone. He compares himself to a clown, suggesting that he may hold himself responsible for bringing joy to others no matter how he is feeling.
When Smokey Robinson sings, “There’s some sad things known to man / But ain’t too much sadder than / The tears of a clown / When there’s no one around,” he puts a bitter image in our minds. No one wants to see someone who is known for their joy and good humor suffering, but realistically, most people are very different in public than they are in private, and this songs reminds us that the people who entertain us and make us laugh have feelings, too.
The infectiously upbeat melody of this song is juxtaposed starkly with the sad lyrics, and that’s intentional. A casual listener could be forgiven for mistaking this for a happy song, but anyone who is paying attention will catch sadder themes lying beneath. The music was written by Stevie Wonder and Hank Crosby, and when Smokey Robinson heard it, it reminded him of a circus. He couldn’t help but think of Pagliacci, the 1892 opera by Ruggero Leoncavallo about a clown who is forced to perform and make people laugh after finding out that his lover has been unfaithful.
Obviously, the story of Pagliacci the clown resonated with Robinson (in fact, the lines referencing Pagliacci in this song also appear in an earlier composition by Robinson, 1964’s “My Smile is Just a Frown (Turned Upside Down)”). One wonders if Robinson was feeling some of the pressures of being a performer himself when he wrote this song.
If you’re seeking memorable songs about hiding behind a mask, especially a metaphorical mask, you’ll definitely want to add “Tears of a Clown” to your playlist.
The Great Pretender by the Platters
The Platters’ 1955 song “The Great Pretender” most likely directly inspired “The Tears of a Clown.” Smokey Robinson’s lyrics even use the phrase “the great pretender” at one point, and considering the potent theme, it’s easy to see why Smokey Robinson still felt the effect of the Platter’s lyrics more than a decade later.
Like “The Tears of a Clown,” “The Great Pretender” also tells the story of man who learns his lover has left him and must hide his grief from the world. To all who meet him, he appears to be his normal, high-spirited self, but he alone knows that it is an act.
Unfortunately, he finds that hiding his emotions seems to make things worse. “Too real is this feeling of make-believe / Too real when I feel what my heart can’t conceal,” sings lead vocalist Tony Williams. The song is driven by the conflict between what is authentic and what is only act, and this conflict only deepens the singer’s crisis.
“The Great Pretender” is made more resonant by the universality of its message. We’ve all had moments when we felt we had to bury our troubles because it wasn’t appropriate to air our grievances in public, and unfortunately, this often does more harm than good.
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You’ve Got to Hide Your Love Away by The Beatles
Love is profoundly personal experience, and often something that defines our identity. Usually, it is something we are proud to share. That’s why it is so painful when we are told that our love for another person is something to be ashamed of. “You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away,” which comes from The Beatles’ 1965 album, Help, describes a man’s feelings of self-consciousness and humiliation as he confronts a world full of hostility toward him and his relationships.
“You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away” was written primarily by John Lennon, who noted that its composition was heavily influenced by Bob Dylan’s music. The folksy, minor-key melody and plaintive vocal style would make “You’ve got Hide Your Love Away” at home among any of Dylan’s early recordings, and in true Dylan-esque fashion, Lennon leaves the song’s message vague and couched in imagery.
The lyrics tell the story of man who is ridiculed by the public and admonished with the words, “Hey! You’ve got to hide your love away!” Lyrics like, “Here I stand, head in hand / Turn my face to wall,” perfectly encapsulate feelings of shame, and there are further hints that the man in the song has experienced some sort of loss or abandonment. Perhaps he has been careless with is privacy and is now paying the price for letting his guard down.
Exactly what Lennon had in mind when he wrote the song is best left to speculation. Some believe it may have been a reaction to the pressures of celebrity and his struggles to keep his personal life private, while others believe he may have written the song for The Beatles’ manager, Brian Epstein. Epstein was a gay man living in England before homosexuality was decriminalized, and Lennon and Epstein were good friends, so it’s not unlikely that “You’ve got to Hide Your Love Away” was a gesture of sympathy for the gay community.
In any case, the song is a poignant indictment of the ways in which social pressures can conflict with one’s emotional life. So if you’re looking for songs about hiding who you are, definitely give this song a listen.
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Teardrops On My Guitar by Taylor Swift
As difficult as it can be to keep our love secret from the world, it can be just as painful to keep it from the object of our affections. Taylor Swift’s “Teardrops on my Guitar” is all about having to conceal feelings from an unrequited love.
“Teardrops on my Guitar” tells of a woman’s longing for someone who only sees her as a friend. She pines for him from a distance and listens to him describe his happiness with another woman. All the while, he has no idea how much her yearning for him eats her up inside. “Drew looks at me / I fake a smile so he won’t see,” sings Swift. The main theme of this song seems to be the scope and intensity of her longing for someone she can’t have, and the fact that she has to do it alone makes it even harder.
Most of the time, when we are emotionally consumed with something, it makes us feel better to share it, but in this woman’s case it’s not really appropriate since letting Drew know how she feels will likely only lead to more embarrassment for both of them. However, Taylor Swift is famous for her ability to speak from the heart and write deeply personal lyrics, and this song is no exception.
She has said that “Teardrops on my Guitar” was based on a true story from her high school days, and if that’s true, it seems likely that act of writing this song was her way of releasing the feelings that haunted her. Songwriters like Swift, who use their lyrics as a form of confessional, teach us an important lesson about music: it’s often a way of expressing the things we cannot say and getting through to the people we can’t talk to.
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My Eyes Adored You by Frankie Valli
Here’s another classic song about loving someone from a distance. Here we have Frankie Valli’s 1975 soul hit “My Eyes Adored You,” in which someone comes to regret his choice to hide his feelings from the object of his affection.
“My Eyes Adored You” is about a man who admires a young woman from afar and never makes his feelings known to her. They meet as school children, but soon go their separate ways, and the man in the song never stops thinking about her and wondering what might have happened between them if he had been able to tell her how he felt. “Though I never laid a hand on you / My eyes adored you,” Valli laments, letting the world know what he could never tell her himself.
“My Eyes Adored You” is a sad song, and it reminds us of the potential dangers of hiding our feelings. Sure, telling someone how you feel might be embarrassing, but then again, it might be the best choice you ever make, and you’ll never know if you don’t take the chance.
Voices Carry by ‘Til Tuesday
Some people like to keep emotions private by nature, but oftentimes when we hide them, it’s because we’re afraid of being judged by those around us. New wave band ‘Til Tuesday had a hit in 1985 with “Voices Carry”, and it’s all about being pressured to keep your feelings to yourself.
In “Voices Carry,” a woman sings about the communication breakdown between herself and her lover. She wants to express herself, but he tells her she should be ashamed of displays of emotions. More than anything, he seems concerned about what others will think. When she tries to tell him how she feels, he scolds her, “Hush, hush, keep it down now, voices carry.”
“Voices Carry” is about a subtly abusive relationship between two young people. The woman in the song tries her best to conform to her partner’s demands because she loves him and wants to make him happy, but he sees her feelings as inconvenient and embarrassing. Still, there’s something cathartic in singing a song about being told to shut up.
This is the song that gave singer-songwriter Aimee Mann her start, and her talent as a vocalist is already evident. There’s a lot of desperation (and yes, emotion) in her voice as she performs this song, and she seems to sing for everyone who has ever been told their feelings are shameful.
If you’re seeking memorable songs about hiding your true self, you’ll definitely want to throw on the “Voices Carry” LP onto your turntable and enjoy the song’s emotional ride.
Don’t Cry Out Loud by Melissa Manchester
The idea of hiding your feelings usually has a negative connotation, but it can actually be quite empowering to master your emotions and keep them from getting the better of you. In “Don’t Cry Out Loud,” by Melissa Manchester, a young woman finds strength in hiding her feelings.
“Don’t Cry Out Loud” was written by Peter Allen and Carole Bayer Sager and became a hit for American singer Melissa Manchester in 1978. It takes the form of a pop ballad that tell the story of Baby, a young woman who decides to put her sorrow aside and follow her dreams. She joins a circus and finds love, but grieves when the circus is finally torn down.
However, in the chorus she learns to “keep it inside” and “learn how to hide your feelings.” This song sees the ability to hide your feelings and keep going when things get tough as strength. The circus serves as a metaphor for the both hope and loss, and Baby’s choice to keep the faith and reach for her dreams in spite her grief reveals her resilience as a person.
Beneath the Manchester’s inspiring vocal performance, there is a sadness in the song. The world isn’t kind to Baby, and she suffers a lot. It’s unfortunate that the world often sees emotional struggling as a sign of weakness, but we aren’t meant to pity Baby. We’re supposed to admire her for her inner strength.
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I’m Fine by Daisy the Great
Sometimes talking about our feelings makes us feel better, but other times we just want to keep them to ourselves and be left alone. “I’m Fine,” by American pop duo Daisy the Great, describes the kind of foul mood we all find ourselves caught up in from time to time.
This cheery little number is sung from the point of view of a woman who is having a simply terrible day. From the moment she wakes up, she feels lousy and her day keeps getting worse. She addresses a well-meaning friend who encourages her to talk about her feelings and wants to cheer her up, but she knows he can’t help, so all she can say to him is “I’m fine.” She just isn’t in the mood to share how she’s feeling, and frankly, we’ve all been there.
“I’m Fine” has a deceptively sunny melody. The catchy close harmonies don’t exactly evoke the negative emotions described in this song, but that makes sense since the woman in the song wants us to pretend everything is all right. When she says “I’m fine,” she doesn’t care whether or not we believe her, she just wants to be allowed to lie for now.
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Upside Down Frown by They Might Be Giants
Some people are just naturally unexpressive and not very comfortable showing their emotions openly. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it can cause some misunderstandings in relationships. In “Upside Down Frown” by They Might Be Giants, a man clears up some emotional confusion with his partner.
This song is about a man who, by his own admission, isn’t very good at expressing his emotion. When his lover tells him she has “some very excellent news” to share with him, he explains that his reaction may not be what she expects: he might not seem to react at all.
“Believe me when I say / I’m with you in my private way,” he promises here, assuring her that just because he doesn’t express much emotions doesn’t mean he doesn’t sympathize with her or share her feelings. “It’s only that my frown is upside down,” he sings, suggesting that though his reactions may seem subdued or inappropriate, his emotions are no less potent.
This song is a simple reminder that everyone expresses emotions differently. For some, emotions are sacred and vulnerable—and should be kept private. Those who don’t readily share their feelings might seem cold, but they can be just emotionally colorful and empathetic as any of us.
There’s also a certain sweetness to this song. The man in the song cares about his partner. He understand what she needs empathy and wants to give it to her. The fact that he is trying so hard to reassure her gives the song its purpose.
Hide My Emotion by Keep for Cheap
The truth is, no matter how you choose to express yourself, you have to come to terms with your feelings sooner or later. Trying to hide your emotion completely is ultimately futile. American indie folk-rock band Keep for Cheap ponders this idea in their 2022 song, “Hide My Emotion.”
In “Hide My Emotion,” a woman tries her best to bury her emotions, only to find them emerging even stronger and more overpowering. “I can’t hide from it no more,” she laments, admitting “Scared straight of what I’m feeling / There’s yearning, retreating, and returning.” Other lyrics suggest she might be succumbing to her affections for another person, and despite her best efforts to deny her feelings, she is at last bearing her heart to them.
The slow, country-like rhythm of this song evokes a feeling of resignation. The woman in the song is finally coming to accept her feelings, and this bittersweet for her because although it might have been what she really wanted all along, it also means admitting defeat. Keep for Cheap offers some important truths about human nature in this song: we often try to hide our emotions even from ourselves, and those are the hardest secrets to keep.
Sometimes hiding emotions is necessary, but it isn’t always healthy. It’s usually best to confront our feelings and share them with others, and what better way is there to do that than through song? In fact, the irony in each of these songs about hiding emotions is that all of them convey very strong emotion. Fortunately, we always have music to help us get in touch with our feelings!