The lost art of “Sinister” Pop.

Trends come and go in music. I lament that all the new music today sounds the same, knowing full well that my father was saying the same thing when I was growing up and blasting “noise”. While I mostly identify as a rock and metal fan, I always have had a slew of pop numbers I really liked. On a long drive home from work today I worked up a playlist to listen to, and it occurred to me that much of what I loved back then (or maybe it was just my mood today?) had a moody, almost sinister vibe. Ok, maybe not all of these songs are sinister, but at least a little melancholy.

I’m including YouTube links for songs you aren’t familiar with. None of these are my channel nor am I affiliated with them.

First up, Romeo Void. “Never Say Never” is a great example of a dark, seedy vibe. Mechanical sounding guitars lurch forward like a steampunk contraption, while the chorus of “I might like you better if we slept together” was about as blatant a lyric as you were going to find back then. Deborah Iyall channels Siouxie Sioux on the bridge without being derivative . This still sounds modern and edgy today.

Next up is Peter Murphy. His post Bauhaus song “Cuts you Up” is an atmospheric masterpiece of pop. His baritone voice compliments the cello perfectly, and the lyrics paint a picture of personal pain without spelling out a specific scenario. Videos of the eighties seemed to go one of two ways, ridiculous and stupid, or just plain cool. This video happens to be the latter.

Don Henley’s “Building the Perfect Beast” was a huge, huge album. Easily my favorite off of this is “Sunset Grill”. It paints a picture of idle regulars of a forlorn bar. They are aware on some level of a wasted life, but shrug it off with the same logic that brought them here in the first place. Pino Palladino provides the haunting fretless bass that completes this masterpiece.

Some others that I have always admired are listed below.

Alan Parson Project: Eye in the Sky. Perhaps the single saddest lyric ever written, ” The sun in your eyes, makes some of your lies worth believing “.

The Pretenders: Time the Avenger. This guitar riff will grab you by the collar and pull you down the street.

The Police: Synchronicity II. This is as sinister as the boys ever got, and it’s glorious.

The Motels: Suddenly last Summer. Moody and plaintive, with a keyboard breakdown that sounds like the deconstruction of a minor scale on a molecular level.

Paul Young: Come Back and Stay. Young’s raspy, soulful voice is so emotive, and this is another example of bassist Pino Palladino ‘s brilliant bass playing.

What are some of the “darker” pop songs you remember?

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