The 90s were a darker time than people sometimes realize, especially when it comes to music. Grunge was the order of the day, and we had plenty of idols who didn’t live to see the next decade.
Even in the thick of it, though, you might not have realized how very dark these 14 songs actually are.
Consider this your content and/or trigger warning!
14. Matchbox 20, “3 AM”
“She says it’s all gonna end and it might as well be my fault. And she only sleeps when it’s raining. And she screams, and her voice is straining.”
Written by Rob Thomas as a boy living with his mother while she fought cancer.
13. Sarah McLachlan, “Angel”
“In the arms of the angel, fly away from here. From this dark, cold, hotel room, and the endlessness that you fear. You are pulled from the wreckage of your silent reverie. You’re in the arms of the angel. May you find some comfort here.”
About checking into a hotel to take heroin.
12. Fool’s Garden, “Lemon Tree”
“I’d like to go out takin’ a shower, but there’s a heavy cloud inside my head. I feel so tired, put myself into bed. Well, nothing ever happens and I wonder.”
11. Nada Surf, “Popular”
“Being attractive is the most important thing there is, if you want to catch the biggest fish in your pond. You have to be as attractive as possible. Make sure to keep your hair spotless and clean.”
About striving for perfection. Much of the lyrics were lifted from the 1964 book, Penny’s Guide to Teen-Age Charm and Popularity.
10. Cherry Poppin’ Daddies, “Brown Derby Jump”
“She was a woman of mystery and what she wanted I could not see. A three-year trip on the dragon, ’til the clinic had to get me clean.”
In case you missed it, this one is all a
9. Filter, “Hey Man, Nice Shot”
“They think that your early ending was all wrong. For the most part they’re right. But look how they all got strong. That’s why I say hey man, nice shot.”
About Pennsylvania state treasurer R. Budd Dwyer who shot himself with a .357 Magnum during a televised press conference the day he was to be sentenced to a lengthy prison stay for bribery.
8. Hanson, “Yearbook”
“It says ‘picture unavailable’ right here. More than sad, but makes me mad to know somebody knows. There’s a lying in your silence. Tell me, where did Johnny go?”
About the deliberate silence surrounding the sudden death of a school student.
7. Butthole Surfers, “Pepper”
“Pauly caught a bullet, but it only hit his leg. Well it should have been a better shot and got him in the head.”
This song is a list of how teens get offed.
6. Sarah McLachlan, “Possession”
“And I would be the one to hold you down. Kiss you so hard I’ll take your breath away. And after, I’d wipe away the tears. Just close your eyes dear.”
Lyrics lifted from letters she received from one of her stalkers.
5. Neutral Milk Hotel, “Holland 1945”
“The only girl I’ve ever loved was born with roses in her eyes. But then they buried her alive one evening in 1945 with just her sister at her side. And only weeks before the guns all came and rained on everyone.”
This song is a more straightforward, but still dark and disturbing in spite of its upbeat tempo.
4. The Cranberries, “The Icicle Melts”
“There’s a place for the baby that died and there’s a time for the mother who cried. And she will hold him in her arms sometime ’cause nine months is too long, too long, too long.”
Based on the horrific murder of toddler James Bulger, but may also be about abortion.
3. Stone Temple Pilots, “Interstate Love Song”
“Waiting on a Sunday afternoon for what I read between the lines. Your lies. Feelin’ like a hand in rusted shame. So do you laugh at those who cry?”
About the lies a drug addict tells.
2. Sloan, “The Lines You Amend”
“Said you’d found a way to end it peacefully. I remember finding shoes near the lake under a tree. And I’m sittin’ on the shore, I thought I saw your charm float by. It doesn’t matter now, ’cause all you wanted to do was die.”
It may sound cheerful, but it’s about suicide.
1. The Wallflowers, “One Headlight”
“I seen the sun comin’ up at the funeral at dawn. The long broken arm of human law. Now it always seemed such a waste, she always had a pretty face. So I wondered how she hung around this place.”