10 Upbeat Rock Songs With Darker Meanings

You'll never sing Born in the USA the same way again.

bruce springsteen born in the usa

Everybody has those go to songs that are instant good-vibe inducers. Upbeat melodies, catchy choruses and infectious dance hooks. Half the time who even bothers listening to what the lyrics are actually stating? It's all about how the music makes you feel right, right?

Harmless enough, but sometimes artists will use the technique of misdirection, with joyous and instantly pleasing sounds contrasted with subject matters that don't necessarily fit the tone of the music they're set to.

Sometimes, this can do a job of conveying the meaning of a song in a metaphorical sense, adding a degree of irony and humour to a track. Other times, it can just be a confusing mixture of miscellaneous lyrics and references that only leaves a listener confused.

These songs range from tracks that juxtapose conflicting tones of expression, deal with surprisingly serious subject matters, or contain lyrics that just seem so utterly at odds with the music they're set to, it's a wonder you were ever able to feel joy at the track.

The phrase "never judge a book by its cover" perfectly sums up these seemingly upbeat songs that contain darker undertones hidden within their lyrics.

10. Time To Pretend - MGMT (2008)

This noughties take on psychedelic space rock was a favourite on the indie scene, back when plimsoles, vibrant skinny jeans and people straightening their fringes, was the ultimate sign of rebellion.

The world of MGMT was the lighthearted, carefree side of alternative rock, the place you would turn when you needed a break from the introspective tracks of Arcade Fire, or the hectic and rebellious energy of The Libertines or early Arctic Monkeys.

But the synth-pop infused track Time To Pretend spoke of something darker then the melody would imply.

MGMT wrote the song whilst still at college, and the lyrics were a troubling exploration into the state of youth culture at that time, idolising the hedonistic and romanticised ideas of the often short-lived lifestyles of musicians.

The lyrics detailed the imagined life trajectory of the two band mates, after becoming successful rock stars. With references to forgetting friends and loved ones, shooting heroin, cocaine binges, a string of supermodel wives, followed by the classic rock star death, choking on vomit...

The song's heavy subject matter was eloquently disguised in the carefree and spacey synth melodies, that resulted in it becoming one of the defining youth-culture anthems of the late 2000s.


Before engrossing myself in the written word, I spent several years in the TV and film industry. During this time I became proficient at picking things up, moving things and putting things down again.