I-ye-I-ye-I will always loathe you: the top 10 most depressing songs

You'd expect Whitney Houston's 'I Will Always Love You' to be up there, but Bruce and the Beatles? Introducing the saddest hit parade in pop ...
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There are songs that make you glad to be alive, some that bring a tear to the eye and others that simply make you want to ram your head into the gas oven.

There are songs that make you glad to be alive, some that bring a tear to the eye and others that simply make you want to ram your head into the gas oven.

A unique brand of torture, the 52 most depressing songs in the world, including some by the Beatles, Bruce Springsteen and the Carpenters, have now been collated and published in a book called I Hate Myself and Want to Die, which will be published here in September.

"A depressing song is one that ruins your day when it comes on the radio," says the author Tom Reynolds, a TV producer in Los Angeles. "A lot of them are really mind blowing."

Crucial to Reynolds's definition is that the songs' ability to make you want to jump off a cliff is unintentional. "It's very easy to find a really sick, dark punk song," said Reynolds. "There are these hardcore thrash metal bands singing about necrophilia and mass murder. Those kinds of songs are just laughable. The most depressing songs are the ones where they were trying to be profound and worldly and they just blew it. They had no idea of the damage they were wreaking."

Reynolds had to listen to thousands in the course of his research. "I had to adopt an emotional distancing that homicide detectives have when they investigate a crime scene. I'm not kidding. After you've listened to 50 different versions of 'Send in the Clowns' you just want to put a gun in your mouth and pull the trigger."

He divides the culprits into 10 categories. "I Was a Teenage Car Crash" is devoted to the slew of number one hits in the 1960s about teenagers dying in car smashes, including "Tell Laura I Love Her" by Ricky Valance.

I Hate Myself and Want to Die includes self-pitying songs, usually about unrequited love, such as Janis Ian's "At Seventeen". "It's about her looking back at how crummy it was to be 17. This song probably drove a whole generation of teenage girls to shove their head in a trash compactor."

Celine Dion's "All By Myself" is a perfect example of "Horrifying Remakes of Already Depressing Songs", Reynolds said. "She amped it up to a very scary level.

"These Nineties power ballads have a shameless musical device which I call the brain concussion modulation. In every song there's a point where they violently change keys. There is no musical value to it except to demonstrate their ability to shatter tank armour." Another culprit is Whitney Houston's "I Will Always Love You".

"The Rose" by Bette Midler is included in "I'm Trying to Be Profound and Touching, But Really Suck at It". "The lyrics are 'Some say love it is a river that drowns the tender reed'. Since when did love kill plant life? It's very, very treacly."

Other categories include "She Hates Me, I Hate Her"; "I'm Telling a Story Nobody Wants to Hear"; "I Had No Idea That Song Was So Morbid"; "I Mope, Therefore I Am" and "If I Sing About Drugs People Will Take Me Seriously". The final group, "Perfect Storms", features the all-time most depressing songs where "everything comes together in this enormous maelstrom of just utter gloom and despair".

According to Reynolds, the worst offender is the little-known "The Christmas Shoes" by a Christian group called Newsong. It is about a man who hates Christmas and comes across a small boy who wants to buy some shoes for his dying mother but doesn't have enough money. The man gives it to him and instantly feels better.

"It's based on an apocryphal email. If you believe this song actually happened I've got swampland to sell you," said Reynolds. The song was a number one hit in the US adult contemporary charts in 2000. "A lot of the mainstream public hadn't heard of it and when I played it for people their jaws just hit the ground."

The danger for Reynolds, of course, is that the publicity generated by his book will send "The Christmas Shoes" into the top of the mainstream charts and he'll have nowhere to run.

The gloomy hit list

1 'The Christmas Shoes' by Newsong

2 'The Shortest Story' by Harry Chapin

3 'Honey' by Bobby Goldsboro

4 'Total Eclipse of the Heart' by Bonnie Tyler

5 'Seasons in the Sun' by Terry Jacks

6 'DOA' by Bloodrock

7 'Strange Fruit' by Billie Holiday

8 'Hurt' by Nine Inch Nails

9 'Sister Morphine' by Marianne Faithfull

10 'People Who Died' by the Jim Carroll Band

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