Halftime Leisure

The Weekly List: Sonic Dissonance

March 19, 2019

One of my favorite types of music to listen to is a happy-sounding song that actually tackles a much sadder subject matter. These versatile songs are the type of music that you could listen to no matter what your mood is. So, here is a playlist with eight ecstatic-sounding songs that can devastate you upon closer listen. Proceed with caution.


1. “Hard Times” by Paramore

The continued success of Paramore has seen the group’s sound become more and more pop-oriented. But their angst-filled lyrics have gone nowhere. The tropical sounding xylophone intro and danceable guitar riff would not feel out of place on a Caribbean cruise, but Hayley Williams’ cries that she’s “gotta get to rock bottom” could not be any more distraught.

2. “Nobody” by Mitski

If there is any statement that Mitski has made with “Nobody,” it’s that disco is not dead. The song’s stomping beat could get even the most stubborn wallflower dancing, but if you pay attention to the lyrics for a single solitary second you are guaranteed to start sobbing.

3. “Spaceman” by The Killers

Seemingly a joke-song about an alien encounter, the punchline lyrics and fun 80s-synth sound in “Spaceman” hide a much darker meaning, with interpretations ranging from a cautionary tale on the dark side of fame to a survived suicide attempt.

4. “Everything Now” by Arcade Fire

This song’s disco sound could easily be mistaken for ABBA, yet beneath the cheery facade is a deep disillusionment with today’s consumerist culture. “Everything Now” comes from an album criticizing behemoth corporations à la Amazon, so it should make sense that this song sounds like a hyped up commercial jingle. The song’s repeated cries of “Everything now! Everything now!” only sound more and more sarcastic as the song goes on.

5. “Supercut” by Lorde

One of the highlights from her 2017 masterpiece Melodrama, “Supercut” is a propulsive song, with a pounding beat and glittering synth riffs. Lorde practically commands you to put this song on blast, “in your car, the radio up.” The poppier sound that Lorde went with contrasts with the poignant topic she chooses to tackle: the way that people idealize relationships as soon as they are out of them.

6. “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac

A staple on absolutely any road trip playlist, “Go Your Own Way” chronicles Lindsey Buckingham’s account of Fleetwood Mac’s internal implosion. At the time this song was written, the band was in the middle of a catastrophically messy situation, but their inner turmoil resulted in one of the best albums of the 20th century, Rumors (1977).

7. “Oh no!” by Marina and the Diamonds

As anyone who has owned Just Dance 4 would know, “Oh no!” is one of the biggest bangers of all time. “Oh no!” is a shiny pop song about being superficially happy. Marina truly sums up the dual nature of the song with the line “I feel like I’m the worst / so I always act like I’m the best.”

8. “Float On” by Modest Mouse

An incredibly upbeat song about how we will ultimately all be okay, even if we feel troubled today. The sarcastic nature of this song is only clear when you listen to the rest of this band’s discography. Considering that every other song Isaac Brock has ever written has been about how he feels doomed to failure, I just do not see him singing this with a single shred of sincerity. Even the title of the album, Good News for People Who Love Bad News (2004), puts the subtext right into the foreground.

Anna Savo-Matthews
is an Assistant Leisure Editor and resident Frog and Toad lookalike. She is a senior in the college studying sociology and ethics and is a proud mother of a eight-year-old cactus.

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