Fear is one of the most powerful emotions. As a result, people have written a wide range of songs about it in one way or another. Sometimes, they write about its corrosive effect on the individual. Other times, they utter their defiance. Whatever the case, songs about fear are worth exploring.
Here are 20 of the best songs about fear ever released:
20. “I’m Afraid of Americans” – David Bowie
Fear can take a wide range of forms. For instance, “I’m Afraid of Americans” isn’t about Americans. Instead, it is about the spread of American culture worldwide, which is bad in David Bowie’s opinion because it narrows the full range of human expression. His sentiment is understandable.
The spread of American culture is happening on an unprecedented scale. However, it is far from being a singular event. Suffice it to say it is no coincidence that a vast number of languages started moving towards extinction with the rise of mass media.
19. “Live Like You Were Dying” – Tim McGraw
People can react in a wide range of ways when faced with the prospect of death. Here, the individual in question reevaluates his priorities before focusing on the things that matter the most to him. Reputedly, the songwriters Tim Nichols and Craig Wiseman penned it based on the reactions of people they knew.
18. “Roll With It” – Oasis
“Roll With It” stresses staying true to oneself. It doesn’t claim that doing so will always work out. Sadly, life just isn’t like that. Still, pretending to be someone else isn’t any more guaranteed to always work out. As such, staying true to oneself will at least save one from the effort of having to put up a constant pretense.
17. “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” – Blue Oyster Cult
Death is one of our oldest fears. Unsurprisingly, we have come up with a wide range of responses. Here, Blue Oyster Cult urges the listener to overcome their fear of death through a couple of points. One would be the acceptance of its inevitability, while the other would be the statement that love outlasts mere physical existence.
Reputedly, the band’s lead guitarist came up with the song when he learned of his irregular heartbeat, which put him in a contemplative mood about his mortality.
16. “Die Another Day” – Madonna
People have been known to interpret Madonna’s “Die Another Day” in various ways. Sometimes, they interpret it as a statement of bloodyminded determination to continue on no matter what gets in the way. Other times, they interpret it as being about the suppression of the ego. Whatever the case, it is well worth a listen.
15. “Basket Case” – Green Day
Many people find mental illness terrifying. The exact reasons vary from individual to individual. Oftentimes, the erosion of the self plays a critical part because we tend to associate ourselves with our minds more than our bodies. Naturally, many artists have written songs about this to come to grips with it.
Green Day’s “Basket Case” is a great example of a song with a viewpoint character who seems to be struggling with mental health issues of some kind.
14. “Battle Cry” – Imagine Dragons
Sometimes, circumstances narrow our choices. As a result, we are no longer able to run from our fears. Instead, we are forced to face them head-on, meaning there is nothing left but for us to show our defiance through whatever means remain to us.
Amusingly, “Battle Cry” is exactly the kind of song one wants for such occasions. Its viewpoint character feels fear. Despite that, he presses on anyways because the time for exploring other possibilities has passed.
Fear gone out of control is a horrible thing. It swallows the metaphorical ground beneath people’s feet, thus making it impossible for them to act decisively by causing them to question everyone and everything. This Black Sabbath song does a great job of communicating that kind of sentiment, still contained but steadily building beneath the surface.
12. “Try” – Colbie Caillat
It is well-known that the fear of social stigma can be as powerful as the fear of physical threats. Sadly, that means people can be driven to do things that make them miserable because of nebulous standards they are scared of failing to meet. “Try” is an attempt at convincing women that they don’t need to put so much effort into conventionally beautifying themselves at the expense of their well-being.
11. “I Won’t Back Down” – Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers
“I Won’t Back Down” doesn’t have the most complicated lyrics ever penned. It doesn’t need them because it is a statement of stubborn determination expressed in musical form. The song remains as memorable as ever.
Ariana Grande released “Breathin’” in 2018. It describes how breathing can help people relieve the symptoms of panic attacks. The song makes more sense when one remembers that a suicide bomber killed 22 people after one of Grande’s concerts in Manchester. It is well-known that she was deeply affected by the incident.
At the time, Grande suspended her tour before flying home to her mother. Later, she revealed that she had developed PTSD because of the incident, which explains much about the release of “Breathin’.”
9. “Enter Sandman” – Metallica
Sleep is one of the most normal human activities. After all, we are supposed to spend about a third of our lives asleep, though whether we manage that is a separate issue.
With that said, it isn’t hard to see why some of us see sleep as a scary prospect. Simply put, it puts us in a very vulnerable position. Furthermore, it represents a massive loss of control. That is before mentioning what happens in our dreaming minds. Some dreams are weird and wonderful.
In contrast, others are much more unpleasant, with some being strangely mundane and others being terrifyingly imaginative. As such, it shouldn’t be hard for the listeners of “Enter Sandman” to connect with the ideas expressed therein, even though they are probably well beyond their childhood years.
8. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” – Pat Benatar
A pretense of invincibility isn’t the best way to deal with fear. Most of us understand very well that we are vulnerable, meaning the pretense would be paper-thin at most. Instead, Pat Benatar reminds us of a much better way to deal with fear through this song. Essentially, we acknowledge that life’s blows can knock us down. Despite that, we do our best to get up every time rather than stay down for the count.
7. “Head Above Water” – Avril Lavigne
“Head Above Water” is the title track of Avril Lavigne’s sixth studio album. Its lyrics talk about being dragged beneath the waves, which makes sense considering the song’s title.
Lavigne famously took inspiration from her Lyme disease for the studio album. The latter is caused by tick bites, which spread the bacterium responsible. Initially, it causes rash, fever, headaches, and general tiredness, which aren’t the most distinctive set of symptoms.
Later, it causes worse symptoms, with examples including joint pain, heart palpitations, and facial paralysis. Lavigne had a bad experience. Something that explains much about her subsequent desire to raise awareness and otherwise combat Lyme disease.
Linkin Park started in the mid-1990s. However, it didn’t gradually pave a road upward with studio album after album. Instead, it saw meteoric success with the release of Hybrid Theory in 2000, which became one of the most iconic works of nu-metal.
Some people mocked its songs for being overdramatic. Still, the success of the studio album makes it clear that “Crawling” and its counterparts resonated with many people. As far as they were concerned, the song did a great job of capturing the effects of depression. Sadly, the original version of Linkin Park is no longer around.
The vocalist Chester Bennington took his life in 2017. It hit alt-rock fans hard, particularly since it happened just a short while after Chris Cornell took his life in the same year. Indeed, some people speculate the two incidents were connected because the two musicians were close to one another.
5. “Stayin’ Alive” – Bee Gees
The Bee Gees released “Stayin’ Alive” for Saturday Night Fever in 1977. Since then, the song has more than lived up to its name. It isn’t just one of the Bee Gees’ most famous songs. It is no exaggeration to say that “Stayin’ Alive” is also one of the songs responsible for keeping disco surprisingly vibrant for something at its height almost half a century ago.
It is easy for people to connect with the song’s general themes. Ultimately, we are just doing our best to make our way through this world despite all of the things that it can throw our way.
4. “FEAR” – Kendrick Lamar
Kendrick Lamar wrote “FEAR” based on his experiences. Specifically, the song took inspiration from his fears at four different points in his life. Interested individuals might not be able to connect with every single one of those fears because of different life experiences. Even so, the raw sentiment behind them is all too familiar, thus giving this song much of its emotional punch. “FEAR” sold more than 500,000 copies in the United States. Moreover, the critics didn’t hold back on their praise for good reasons.
3. “Control” – Halsey
“Control” came from Halsey’s debut studio album. Reputedly, it was one of the hardest songs for her to write from an emotional perspective. That makes sense when one realizes that its lyrics describe Halsey’s bipolar disorder, which makes her wonder who exactly is in control of her brain.
For those who could use a refresher, bipolar disorder puts sufferers through mood swings. When they are feeling low, they are effectively suffering from depression. In contrast, when they are feeling high, they can become easily irritated, excessively energetic, and excessively euphoric.
Some people suffer these mood swings rarely. Others can experience them several times in the same year, so it isn’t hard to imagine their disruptive effect.
2. “Three Little Birds” – Bob Marley and the Wailers
Fear isn’t necessarily a logical thing. As a result, it makes sense for the cure to fall into the same camp. Bob Marley’s “Three Little Birds” doesn’t offer any logical reason why everything will turn out well. Despite that, it is remarkably good at reassuring the listener that everything will indeed work out that way.
There is a fair amount of debate about who the titular birds are supposed to represent. Some say they are religious imagery. Others say they are representative of Marley’s three backup singers. There is even a claim that the three birds were three literal birds he saw out of his window one day.
1. “I’m Not Afraid” – Eminem
“I’m Not Afraid” was very much the work of an older, more mature individual. The lyrics see Eminem talking about past mistakes and working through past issues. Moreover, they put a strong emphasis on everyone standing together. Humans are social animals.
It makes sense that we are strongest when we are mutually supporting one another rather than trying to make it through events on our lonesome. Something we would do well to remember in our times of need and other people’s times of need.
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