Downer Ending/Music

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search


  • See Rock Opera Plot for examples of a subtrope.
  • Lady Gaga ended her Born This Way album with "The Edge of Glory", which was written about the death of her grandfather.
  • The video for Junior Kickstart by The Go! Team. Where's a power pellet when you need one!? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F Mt LB Xl MZ-s
  • The video for Luv Deluxe by Cinnamon Chasers has THREE of them. All of them shot from the main character's point of view. The point of divergence is when the main character and love interest are about to pay a restaurant bill:
    • She tears up the check, gets the main character involved in pickpocketing, but they end up getting arrested.
    • He tears up the check, acts like a real jerkass to everyone, including the love interest, resulting in the love interest seducing him one night and stabbing him.
    • He pays for the check, things start off well, but we later learn that the love interest is just plain crazy. He tries to leave her only to get shot by her. She throws the gun on the ground, allowing the main character to shoot her too. His last sight is of her body next to his before the video fades to black.
  • Pink Floyd's last album of the Roger Waters era (or Roger Waters' first solo album), The Final Cut, ends with the song "Two Suns in the Sunset". One sun is the sun. The other 'sun' is a mushroom cloud. However, the soulful sax fade-out turns it from a wrist-slitting downer into a lingering melancholy.
    • Speaking of Pink Floyd, the band itself had a Downer Ending. By the end of its recording Career, one member was partially insane, one member had run off with as many music rights as possible and remember all this while listening to the last ever song made by the band, "High Hopes".
  • On the topic of mushroom clouds, Follow The Sun by Bedouin Soundclash is about two survivors of a nuclear explosion. It closes their Light The Horizon album.
  • Tom Waits's "Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneanopolis" is an unnamed woman telling the reader of the card, a man named Charlie, how she's turned her life around by getting married and quit using drugs and that's she's finally happy. However, at the end of the card, she reveals she was lying about having a husband (and presumably everything else) and needs money to pay a lawyer since she's in jail.
  • Queensrÿche's Operation: Mindcrime ends with Sister Mary killing herself(?), and Nikki on trial for murder and insane.
  • "Open your eyes Nicholas." "AHH-" * static*
  • Nirvana had two clear depressing album closers ("Something In The Way" and "All Apologies") and a borderline example ("Sifting" - though the mainstream reissue ends with one which is called "Downer" but it's not a Downer Ending).
  • Kate Bush usually ends her albums with a negative song. Notable examples are:
    • The Kick Inside - the title track. Brother-Sister Incest + Driven to Suicide = Tear Jerker
    • Never for Ever - "Breathing", a song about a fetus wanting to stay alive during a nuclear fallout.
    • The Dreaming - "Get Out of My House", a song based on The Shining, which according to Allmusic is "Part ghost story, part nervous breakdown, part rage in the face of violation."
  • "One". Much of Metallica's stuff is depressing, but this one takes the cake.
    • Or, to put it in an easier to understand way: It's a musical retelling of Johnny Got His Gun (which has already been mentioned in EXTREME detail in the book section, so just read that to see exactly why it's so sad).
  • The story of the album The Downward Spiral by Nine Inch Nails ends with the protagonist's suicide, according to Wild Mass Guessing.
  • Barry Manilow's Copacabana. The plot? Lola's a showgirl at the titular nightclub and falls in love with Tony the barmaker...only for Rico to make advances on her, pressing Tony's Berserk Button. Cue a huge fight that ends in Rico shooting Tony and skip thirty years ahead to show Lola a wasted alcoholic.
  • Opeth's album Still Life is about a medieval atheist, exiled from his community, returning for his love who has become a nun. It doesn't end well for either of them.
  • Puff the Magic Dragon is somewhat of a minor example, but it does end with Puff going into his cave, lonely and abandoned by his only friend.
    • My guitar-playing rabbi wrote a ending verse where the friend's daughter comes to play with Puff after her father tells her about the times he had with the dragon.
  • Green Green Grass of Home tells the story about a man returning home after a long period and meeting everyone he knows, only to wake up in prison about to face the executioner.
  • Tell Laura I Love Her by Ray Peterson tells the story of a fatal automobile race.
  • "Last Kiss" by J Frank Wilson and the Cavaliers (famously Covered Up by Pearl Jam) is about the last moments with a girlfriend after an automobile accident.
  • "Teen Angel by Mark Dinning.
  • "Leader of the Pack" by the Shangri-Las ends with the guy dying in a motorcycle accident.
  • "Dead Man's Curve" by Jan and Dean about an appearantly fatal drag race.
    • It actually has the character describing the scene to an ER doctor, so not a deadly crash.
    • The guy in the jag wasn't so lucky, it seems.
      • It's sad when you consider that Jan had a near fatal crash in real life, and never fully recovered.
  • averted in Running Bear becuse both Running Bear and White Dove get to meet in the afterlife.
  • 99 Luftballons / 99 Red Balloons has the protagonists launching 99 balloons and this triggers nuclear war.
  • The Vocaloid song Daughter of Evil certainly doesn't seem like one at first - a young, selfish Princess has her servant, her twin brother, kill a love rival out of jealousy, only to have the girl's fiance retaliate by leading a rebellion against her, and eventually executing her. Then you listen to its companion song, Servant of Evil...
  • Led Zeppelin's "Gallow's Pole." As much as the man tries to bribe the executioner with letting him live—giving him riches and letting him have sex with his sister—he still swings.
    • Also, any compilation albums of theirs that finish with "All My Love".
      • Probably why the original album ends with "I'm Gonna Crawl".
  • The Beatles's "Eleanor Rigby" is depressing all the way through, as it's about lonely people in the world who never meet up and end their loneliness. The titular character "dies in a church and was buried along with her name. Nobody came."
  • Eminem's "Stan", in which Eminem realises at the end that the Stalker with a Crush who has been writing him obsessive fan letters is the guy he saw on the news who killed both himself and his pregnant girlfriend.
  • A particularly notorious example was Michael Jackson's music video/short film "Black or White", based on the hit single of the same name. It was shown on three basic cable channels simultaneously one night in the fall of 1991, so it was guaranteed to garner a huge audience with many children watching. The video, which included (among other things) African tribesmen, fur-capped Russian dancers, the Statue of Liberty, and Macaulay Culkin performing a rap, seemingly concluded with a young black woman (who, in montage, had just been transformed into a variety of different people of various skin colors and body types, as well as of both sexes) miming to the end of the song. But then the camera cuts away to reveal that the girl is actually an actress in the studio where the video is being filmed, and pans away until it is following a black leopard as it stalks its way out of the studio and into the dark and rainy night. Once outside, the leopard transforms into Michael Jackson and begins to compulsively perform a dance that becomes more and more unnerving as it goes along, with a great deal of crotch-grabbing. Suddenly he begins smashing a car, shop windows, etc., screaming all the while. As this orgy of godlike destruction concludes, Michael's screams are mixed with the roars of his leopard alter ego. He finally rips off half his clothes and collapses into the rain-slicked street, whereupon he transforms back into the leopard, snarls, and stalks away. And then in a particularly egregious case of Mood Whiplash, the scene cuts to an animated living room, where it is revealed that Bart Simpson has been watching the entire time. His father bursts in and orders Bart to turn off the TV, prompting Bart to retort with one of his trademark wisecracks. Needless to say, this video left many in its television audience confused, traumatized, and angered. Jackson was forced to issue a public apology for the incident and the video was recut so that it ended just before the "black leopard" sequence. Later, the full-length version reappeared with CGI effects superimposing racist graffiti on the objects he smashed to provide justification for his rage.
  • "Strange Kind of Woman" by Deep Purple; guy tries to seduce a high class call girl and eventually succeeds...only for her to die not long after they wed.
  • Avril Lavigne has a song called "My Happy Ending" where she sings about how the "ending" of her relationship was one of these.
Cquote1.svg

"All this time you were pretending
So much for my happy ending"

Cquote2.svg
  • Finnis Schlager example: Yksinäinen ("Lonely"). The song name in itself is somewhat of a Spoiler Title, but the listener might still be unpleasantly surprised. The song is about someone who leaves their home village to try their luck in the world and find happiness. After a few verses of the world generally pissing in in their face, they return home, realising the only true happiness for them is their true love who they left behind years ago. They finally arrive—and cannot find their love—only a grave.
  • Everytime by Britney Spears finishing off her In The Zone record
  • As The Footsteps Die Out Forever by Streetlight Manifesto opens with a young mother waiting for her children to arrive home from school before their weekend, a dispassionate doctor calls her and tells her that she has only weeks to live. The news shocks her so much that she spends the rest of her life nearly catatonic, and her son imagines it's because she's trying to distance herself and make her death less painful. Her son spends his time trying to provoke her to smile, react, anything, before her unnamed disease takes her from him forever. The final lines are a slower repeat of the chorus, with her (or his imagination) telling him to leave her behind and live his life.
  • "Rock Collecting" by Pond is a nine minute song that plods at a snail's pace. The song is about a person who commits suicide by building a wall around himself, the final verse details about how he will simply decompose and disappear into the earth.
  • Iron Maiden's albums have a tendency for this:
    • The Number of the Beast finishes with "Hallowed Be Thy Name", about a man on death row.
    • The closing songs of both Piece of Mind ("To Tame A Land") and Brave New World ("The Thin Line Between Love and Hate") end with a very unhappy sounding final part. (if you ignore Nicko's Studio Chatter in the latter)
    • The last line of "Alexander The Great" (the final track on Somewhere in Time) is "He died of fever in Babylon".
    • Seventh Son of a Seventh Son is a Concept Album based on Orson Scott Card's book 7th Son. The final track, "Only the Good Die Young", is about the devastation of a town from a disaster, and Lucifer planning to cancel the rest of mankind.
    • Virtual XI ends with "Como Estais Amigos", about the Falklands War. It even sounds depressing.
    • The Final Frontier ends with "When the Wild Wind Blows", about a couple who commits suicide mistaking an earthquake for the start of a nuclear war. This could also be played for dark comedy, as it is based off a darkly comedic graphic novel When the Wind Blows.
  • Garbage also likes to end their albums with a really depressing song (so far: "Milk", "You Look So Fine", "So Like a Rose", "Happy Home" and "Beloved Freak").
  • "Big League" by Tom Cochrane. A little boy wants to grow up to be a famous hockey player and get out of the small town he lives in. His father tells everyone how his boy's going to play in the big league someday. The boy works hard on his game and gets a scholarship and school on a "big US team" when he's 18. Then he's out driving with his girlfriend and he gets killed in a car accident.
  • W by Van der Graaf Generator. The whole song's pretty down- a recurring line being "you're twice as unhappy as you've ever been before"- but the last line takes the cake. "At six o'clock you realize you're dead."
  • All Systems Go by Krypteria is an energetic, motivational song about overcoming one's fears and hesitations, boldly stepping up to the challenge, and seizing your moment of glory, yet ends with the BSOD line:
Cquote1.svg

You might receive what you want and still end up with nothing

Cquote2.svg
  • One of the strangest downer endings in music is in Queen's song 39. The lyrics are cryptic and do not open easily, but it is a bittersweet introduction into relativistic physics. Queen's "39" is a description of interstellar travel with time-dilation effects. (It helps to have an astrophysicist as your lead guitarist.) The protagonist is a prospector who has volunteered to an interstellar space expedition seeking new habitable planets around the Milky Seas (read: Milky Way, the galaxy) and he returns back home. His spaceship has moved with a speed near the speed of light, and while the voyage has lasted only one year in the spaceship time, hundred years has gone at Earth, and all the protagonists's friends and relatives have passed away. He meets his great-granddaughter, telling though so many years have gone/I'm but older than a year/your mother's eyes, in your eyes/cry to me. He then contemplates that all his life is still ahead, but he feels he is out of that world and there is nobody there for him anymore.
  • There is a whole genre of rock music known as Dead Teen Songs, which are dedicated to death. Either the protagonist, or someone close to him or her, dies in those songs.
  • The Ultimate Musical Downer Ending must be the Finnish remake of Uriah Heep Lady in Black named Nainen tummissa (Woman in Black). The Lady is actually the Angel of Death coming to visit the protagonist. It Gets Worse: The protagonist falls in love with her and asks for a kiss, but she yields, telling him that his time has not yet come. The protagonist cannot find any happiness or consolation in this world anymore, as he has fallen in love with the Angel of Death, and he loves only the Death, waiting her to come.
  • Better Man by Pearl Jam is about Domestic Abuse. The woman leaves by the end of the song, but "she'll be back again". She seems doomed to repeat the Cycle Of Abuse.
  • Although Steven Wilson has stated that the fate of the teenage protagonist in Porcupine Tree's Concept Album Fear of a Blank Planet is open to listener interpretation, the increasingly desperate lyrics as the album progresses and bleak mood of "Sleep Together", the album's final song, strongly imply that he is Driven to Suicide.
  • King Diamond's albums all have downer endings, but The Puppet Master is exceedingly dark. A young couple is kidnapped and turned into living puppets. The main character's loved one is sent away to Germany and, after embarrassing the eponymous villain at a show, the main character is sold to a shop and nailed to a wall. The album ends 18 years later with the main character still nailed the wall, aware the entire time, wishing to see his loved one last time and vowing to at least see her in the afterlife.
  • "Xanadu" by Rush, where the narrator searches for the secret of immortality once held in Kubla Khan's pleasure dome. He finds it and achieves immortality, but at the price of never leaving the dome, where he desperately waits for the world to come to an end.
  • The final song on The Zombie EP by The Devil Wears Prada (the band, not the movie) is about a man who lost his wife to the zombies, and now has to face the undead alone. While the entire album could be considered a downer (it is about the Zombie Apocalypse), this song, which features lyrics like "I have watched the world die/All I know now is regret" tops them all.
  • The music video for Weird Al's "Party In The CIA" ends with Al's character getting captured by enemies of the agency, tortured, and then killed (although he does Die Laughing).
  • The song "Up The Junction" by Squeeze starts as a love story, with the singer meeting a girl, falling in love, then they have a daughter. Then, with no warning, it changes to "and now she (the daughter) 's two years older, her mother's with a soldier" and a lament on how the singers drinking caused the breakdown of his life.
  • The Mamas And The Papas. Is there anything about their lives post break-up that isn't either depressing or horrifying?
  • "Gay Pirates" by Cosmo Jarvis. They both get murdered.
  • Harry Chapin seemed to like these. Most notably, in "Cat's in The Cradle," the narrator, who never had time to do things with his son, because he was always so busy, finally has time to be with his son, but his son doesn't have time to be with him because he grew up just like his father.
  • Most Sonata Arctica songs. With some huge Lyrical Dissonance to boot.