Five Songs Much Darker Than You Remember

Black Sabbath
Black Sabbath
Photo by Groovehouse

"Darkness" is a term that doesn't always go over so well among mainstream audiences. For those of us into more experimental works of art or just inherently more extreme forms of music like metal, it comes with those genres' very nature. But in pop literature, film and music? Darkness is practically a bad word.

The darkest kind of film you'll get in the mainstream is The Dark Knight, and the darkest kind of music you might hear is angsty 94.5 The Buzz BS. But when it comes to real darkness made by mainstream artists? It often ends up on the cutting-room floor in favor of light brushstrokes.

5. Metallica, "Enter Sandman" All things considered, a child having nightmares about the monster in his or her closet isn't really that metal of a subject. I mean, you've got that, and then you've got Slayer on the opposite side of the tracks singing songs about Dr. Mengele. That makes bad dreams like pretty juvenile.

That was just because Metallica wanted to market themselves better, though. You don't make a sports anthem out of sudden infant death syndrome, the song's original subject. It was at the suggestion of producer Bob Rock that they tone it down a little bit and go with something a bit lighter.

4. Garth Brooks, "The Thunder Rolls" This track became massive, and deals with a pretty standard country-music subject: a cheatin' man and the lonesome woman waiting at home for him. What the song was missing was the ultimate revenge, as covered in the last verse, but ultimately excised outside of live performances.

In this cut final verse, the woman grabs her gun, ready to take her husband down when he finally returns from his affair. It completely transforms her from being a weak cuckold to a strong, vengeful woman, but was a bit too dark for commercial radio.

3. Michael Jackson, "They Don't Care About Us" In the '90s, Michael Jackson took on a much edgier attitude, including adding "bad words" to his music and taking on serious social ills in his songs. Some attributed this to his relative unpopularity in the mainstream media due to his 1993 trial for child molestation, and a certain bitterness that had overtaken him about it.

Whatever the reason, the King of Pop crossed the line on this track, releasing it with the lyrics "sue me, Jew me," and "kick me, kike me" in it. It was intended to be another example within the song of abuse against minorities, a sort of commentary on the mistreatment of Jewish people in our society. Instead, it went over as an offensive, anti-Semitic statement on Michael's part rather than commentary, and he was forced to edit the song for all future releases.

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2. Black Sabbath, "Snowblind" Black Sabbath's heavy, heavy drug use in the '70s was no secret to anyone, and songs like "Sweet Leaf" dramatically glorified it. "Snowblind" was obviously the same sort of tribute, this time to cocaine, but the record label wasn't exactly comfortable with the band's openness about that.

In the original version, Ozzy would scream "cocaine" after every line. In the final release, this is reduced to a barely audible whisper, so as to at least make the subject matter slightly more vague. In the end, Ozzy kept yelling the word in live performances as it was meant to be.

1. Prince, "Batdance" "Batdance" became a breakout club hit from Prince's 1989 Batman soundtrack, and I have to admit, it's a great track. That guitar solo alone is badass enough that I wouldn't want the album without that song. However, "Batdance" is just a cobbled-together remix of sorts of existing Prince riffs and ideas -- because he never meant to include it at all.

In fact, the Batman soundtrack was supposed to end with one of the darkest songs Prince ever wrote, an outtake called "Dance With the Devil." When Tim Burton heard it, he told Prince to take it off and replace it with something more upbeat. Hence, the existence of "Batdance." "Dance with the Devil" has never been released officially thanks to this decision, although it's floating around on the Internet.


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