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Weekend Earworms: Happy Songs With Dark Lyrics

An estimated 98% of us experience earworms. Despite the annoying times that we can’t get a chorus or a hook of an overplayed pop song out of our heads, getting a really good earworm stuck can be one of the best things ever.

We here at Nerdist are dead-set on bringing you those types of songs, if only for the weekend. We’ll be scouring the internet for the best earworms we can shove into your meaty brains!

As I mentioned in last week’s earworms I’ll be tapping into the musical preferences of other folk and this week I spun the totally made up wheel in my head and the needle landed on the one… the only… Mr. Kyle Anderson! (queue the Arsenio Hall fist pumps) I dare not begin with the whole “If you dont know Kyle” rigmarole because as our resident film critic and weekend editor, there’s no doubt you’ve read something that he wrote or at least edited. [Editor’s Note: Like this!] Not a reader? Well then why’d you just read that? You may have seen Kyle hosting Awesomely Bad Movies which is now exclusively on or in his report from London on Kingsman: The Secret Service. Kyle basically does it all, spinning many a plate and doing so with style.

Pictured: Kyle Anderson & his style

Kyle suggested a ton of great older stuff and one tune in particular struck my earholes in such a way it got me thinking about a certain type of song that pops up every few years. Songs that have a energetic sound but a deeper and sometimes sadder or messed up meaning behind them in the lyrics. Having such a song suggested by someone who’s job it is to dig through to the deeper meanings of movies and critique them, it’s kind of suiting that Kyle suggested….

The Ides Of March – Vehicle

What a classic, right?! We’ve all heard this 1970 track by Ides Of March at some point whether on the radio, in a movie, or even in a commercial. However tiny, there’s a grain of this song deep in everyone’s minds. A powerful classic rock song with enough swagger that holds up even today with none of the divisiveness you may get with your Neil Diamonds or Bon Jovis (Is Bon Jovi already plural? Like Fungi?) However, as fun as the song sounds, the lyrics tell quite a disturbing tale:

“Hey well, I’m the friendly stranger in the black sedan/ Won’t you hop inside my car? I got pictures, got candy, I’m a lovable man And I can take you to the nearest star.”

Right? RIGHT!? The song’s only verse paints quite a different picture changing the song from a confident bravado-producing rock hit to a cringe-inducing confession to Chris Hansen. The lyrics are now stuck with me forever.
Fun fact that no one asked for: I am obsessed with song lyrics. I want to be able to know every single word to any song I like and sing along if need be. This quirk may have started with my older brothers telling me that they would think I was cool and hang out with me if I learned the words for Snow’s “Informer” – which is a VERY terrible song that I still absolutely love – within a week. I taped it off the radio, learned the words and reported back to my brothers. They, unsurprisingly, made fun of me relentlessly because they hadn’t expected me to complete the task nor did they even intend to hang out with me. The joke’s on them, though, because I’ve loved learning lyrics ever since and I got to call them mean ol jerks on a popular website. TAKE THAT, probably mis-remembered mild childhood trauma.

With the awful lyrics of “Vehicle” stuck in my head this week, my mind went straight to two of my favorite happy songs with terrible lyrical stories. Which leads us to…

Smokey Robinson & The Miracles – Tears Of A Clown

What can I say about this song that the last 40 years of adoration hasn’t already? Is there a better metaphor for dealing with the loss of a special someone than the way Smokey lays it out? I think not. Anyone having gone through a rough breakup can understand his need to hide his pain from the public and act like nothing is wrong.

“But don’t let my glad expression, Give you the wrong impression. Really I’m sad, oh sadder than sad. You’re gone and I’m hurting so bad. Like a clown I pretend to be glad.
Now 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.”

Maybe that’s what makes this song stick in my head the way it does. The upbeat music counters the lyrics so perfectly that it captures what it’s like to go through the dumped end of a breakup. Speaking of breakups, the “Dumper” side of things got me thinking of an old standby and one of the earwormiest songs ever…

Paul Simon – You Can Call Me Al

Now, I know Simon has refuted the idea that this song is about a man going through a midlife crisis, but knowing that still doesn’t make the song exactly happy. The lyrics, even without the super sad back story most believe, paint a picture of problem avoidance and some substantial regret after some self reflection and the best damn bass line ever written and consequently reversed. But I suppose if we’re talking poppy songs with sad and messed up lyrics, I have to bring out the nuclear option. I apologize profusely for…

The Cardigans – Lovefool

This bit of ’90s Swedish ultra-pop took over our collective minds as the dulcet tones of lead singer Nina Persson literally begged us to love her in one of the saddest stories masquerading as a hit single.

“Reason will not reach a solution, I will end up lost in confusion. I don’t care if you really care as long as you don’t go”

The entire song is the desperate plea for an ex to come back and never leave, despite understanding that the ex most certainly couldn’t give a flying fart about her. The fact that this song was often played as a love song may just be the most baffling thing about it and ranks it up among Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely” in the list of songs misguided people put on mixes for their sweeties. No need to Google it, “Isn’t She lovely” is about Stevie’s daughter, not your fiance. I’ll wait here while you take it off your wedding playlist.

So let’s recap. Happy sounding songs with messed up lyrics? Check. Probably clickbaited you into this article with Chevy Chase or Nina Persson? Call my brothers jerks for something I’m probably not remembering correctly from over 20 years ago? Check. Got to use the term “flying fart” and “Dumper” in an article I’ll be paid for? Check! Alright, I think we’re set here.

Of course there are more happy sounding sad songs so share your favorites in the comments below!

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