Are you convinced that all pop songs are about love, sex, money and… sex? Well think again – some of the world’s greatest artists have a dark side and aren’t afraid of getting in touch with it. It’s Halloween and if you’ve had enough of listening to Ghostbusters’ theme song or stuffing your face with E133-laced candy, then take a trip down the real gloomy lane with 5 songs about murder.
‘Stan’ is the third single featured on The Marshall Mathers LP released in 2002. It tells the tale of an obsessed fan who sends tons of raving fan mail to Slim Shady (Eminem’s alter-ego). When Slim fails to reply to his letters, Stan goes haywire and records an audiotape of him driving off a bridge with his heavily pregnant girlfriend (played by Dido who features in the video and song) held captive in the trunk of the car. In the meantime, Slim had actually started writing a reply-letter to Stan. Ironic and bleak as f***.
The legendary 1973 reggae hit seems pretty straightforward; it’s about a man who “shot the Sheriff but he didn’t shoot the deputy”. The narrator claims to have acted in self-defense against the sheriff, but according to Marley’s former girlfriend Esther Anderson, the song has nothing to do with justice or politics. Anderson claims the lyrics are actually about Marley being opposed to her use of birth control pills at the time, and the sheriff was the doctor prescribing them.
This apparently uplifting golden oldie and one of the greatest songs of all time is actually a song about death. Underneath the epic harmonies and karaoke friendly lyrics that get drunk people at parties swaying arm in arm, is a song about a young man who snuffs someone by putting a bullet through his head. Still feel like chanting “nothing really matters”?
The song ‘John Wayne Gacy, Jr’ appears in Sufjan Steven’s album Illinois, a concept album, which describes Illinois from a historical, cultural and personal point of view. So why write a song about America’s most notorious serial killer who raped and strangled 33 teenage boys between 1972-78? Gacy’s heinous method of hiding the corpses under the floorboards of his home while functioning ‘normally’ in society even attending neighborhood events dressed as a clown has inspired authors like Stephen King who published his horror novel IT in 1986. The answer is Gacy, Jr was from Illinois and Stevens wanted to highlight America’s morbid fascination withserial killers (the US produces 85% of the world’s mass murderers). However, the songwriter does not portray Gacy as the gruesome clown. Instead Stevens subtly relates to Gacy. Of course he doesn’t forgive or justify his actions but finds elements that make him humanly relatable to the killer. Creepy, but also makes the point of looking beyond the monstrous figure to understand the human being.
If you grew up in England, you will have heard about the Moors Murders. Between 1963-1965 a pair of horrendous British serial killers, Ian Brady and Myra Hindley, murdered five children aged between 10-17 and buried their bodies on Saddleworth Moor in Northern England. Brady’s apparent lack of remorse and his reluctance to collaborate and point police towards their graves make him one of the most hated criminals in England. The Smithswho originate from Manchester paid honorable tribute to the children who would only have been a few years older than Morrissey at the time.