Top 10 Songs for the End (of the World)

Knowing (2009)

New this week, I'm going to start publishing a top 10 playlist every Monday. Inspired by the movie Knowing (starring Nicolas Cage) that I rented this last weekend, I decided to focus the list on songs about the end of the world. I hope I'm not giving away something about the ending. Anyhow,...

Music about an impending apocalypse is not new, as one entry on this list, Eve of Destruction was originally written in 1965. And there are certainly older themes from every genre. There are psalms and hymnals, classical pieces, even the best recognized ragtime jazz of Louis Armstrong's When the Saints Go Marching In is talking about where Louis wants to be on the day of judgment. It's a much older tune than Mr. Armstrong and some of the lyrics are rather dire. Don't believe me?

And when the moon turns red with blood
And when the moon turns red with blood
Lord, how I want to be in that number
When the moon turns red with blood

Someone go wake up Ozzy Osbourne and tell him his stuff isn't dark enough. What could be more spooky than a blood-red moon?

So certainly we have lots of stuff to choose from here. But I wanted to narrow the field down to more modern rock music. The sound of bold electric guitars were needed for the right atmosphere. I started out thinking I'd be struggling to come up with 10 songs to fit this list, and in the end (as usual) I found it hard to whittle it down. Before I think of any more, here 'tis.

Couldn't start this list out without R.E.M's It's the End of the World As We Know It, which alternatively could be more a comment on the end of the Reagen Era or simply a fun string of nonsense --as opposed to something for Armageddon.

Then, for a more dire flavor I added Nirvana's rendition of David Bowie's The Man Who Sold the World. Not specifically about destruction but mere insanity, it still puts one in the proper mood.

The Doors come next, with their epic The End. Again, this may stray from particularly fiery images and lean towards self-destruction, but we are building up to something here. It goes on meandering for almost 12 minutes so hang on.

Soundgarden makes their first of several appearances here with Black Hole Sun. Ooh, that's more like it.

Could we have put this list up without including Metallica? They could appear multiple times, but I'll just include one of my favorites; Blackened.

Death of Mother Earth
Never a rebirth
Evolution's end
Never will it mend

Whoa, tasty! Who else is now in the mood for barbecue?

London Calling by the Clash is one of those songs I'd only heard more than once because of Guitar Hero.Amazon.com I know, my friends cry in shame at associating with me. Whatever. Apparently, it's about nuclear war --or more appropriately, a "nuclear error". As in, "whoops" with all capital letters. Laugh about it if you want, but my generation grew up believing this was likely.

I could have stopped here with some excellent songs. I almost did. Perhaps we draw a footnote here indicating so and still continue. Soundgarden is back with 4th of July. Then we get Jan & Dean to bring us back to the Eve of Destruction. Metallica also gets another appearance as they Fight Fire with Fire. I tried for a good Faith No More song, and there should be many. But I chose their angry Jizzlobber not so much for the lyrics, but for the cool pipe organ sounds at the end. It's so powerful that someone should be chanting faux Latin in the background.

To round out the list (and end up with 12), Soundgarden returns once more to Blow Up The Outside World while Helloween has an afterthought in Revelation. There's a Bible reference FTW!

If you read this far, I thank you. I also want to thank the participants on a forum thread from 2005 at Rate Your Music, specifically asking for songs about the end of the world.

Incidentally, I thought I'd conclude this ever-so-optimistic list with a reminder that the world will end some day. Regardless of where you stand on the fun and friendly science vs. religion debate, both sides agree that the world will some day be destroyed completely or be uninhabitable by Homo Sapiens. Whether we cause our own end, something cosmic happens and/or something holistic happens, in the literal end it won't matter. My soul is prepared, Dr. Jones, how's yours?

Image Credit: IMDb.com


Also, there's this list of movies about the (near) end of the world: Top 10 Movies where the Earth is (almost) destroyed. My favorite mentioned above did not make the cut. I'll warn you that #1 is not a movie I've ever even heard of.

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Alanis Morissette's You Oughta Know; Sung by a Dude

For a while now, I've been thinking that what we really needed for this song would be a rockin' cover band to have a guy sing it and put an interesting new spin on it. It's the angriest pop-rock song I've ever heard a girl sing so it's a classic. It's also ripe for being made fun of. I would have recommended changing the words around a little to reverse the story. "Does HE speak eloquently, and would you have HIS baby?" and so forth. But this works just as well. Thanks to Chad Y. for posting this video where I'd see it.

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