The ultimate popular example of this in the world alongside Hideaki Anno would be Taylor Swift, though this is a milder example as she doesn't have as much of a publicized battle with depression or mental illness. Nevertheless, her music is often autobiographical in nature, to the extent that her Hatedom often brands her as someone who rants about her exes using a vicious Breakup Song.
Amy Winehouse wrote Back to Black after a period of depression, heavy drinking and weight loss. Songs such as "Rehab", "Wake Up Alone" and "Love is a Losing Game" were written about real experiences during her break up from Blake Fielder Civil.
George Harrison wrote the song "Wah-Wah" as an open attack to fellow BeatlePaul McCartney after a tense rehearsal where McCartney badgered Harrison into playing just so. A few years later, Harrison wrote "Sue You, Sue Me Blues" lamenting the post-Beatles lawsuits at the time.
Harrison's album Dark Horse was not only made shortly after Pattie Harrison left him for Eric Clapton (he might have forgiven Clapton soon after, but he understandably didn't take things very well at the time), but Harrison's voice was shot after years of touring, leading some critics to nickname the album "Dark Hoarse". As a result, it's an uncharacteristically rough-sounding album, especially the bitter cover of "Bye Bye Love."
How about Brainwashed, the album George recorded when he found out he was dying from cancer? It is considered his best work since All Things Must Pass (itself a classic album).
An interviewer told Dylan how much she "enjoyed" the album... bad word choice. Bob immediately launched into a bitter denunciation of people "enjoying" other people's pain. Dylan's personal life has made it into some tracks since, but never so transparently as Blood on the Tracks.
Frustratingly, his ex-wife Sara successfully received a lion's share of the royalties from those songs, arguing in court that since Dylan wrote those songs about her, she deserved profits from them.
It has been claimed that Self Portrait — a double album mostly of covers which did not receive a very favourable reception — was intentionally recorded to be a complete 180-degree turn from Dylan's previous output (or even intentionally sub-par, depending on who you ask) so as to free Dylan from the 'voice of a generation' label — not to mention the assorted hangers-on, parasites and fawning yesmen that insinuated themselves into his life as a result — that Dylan was becoming increasingly bored, annoyed and claustrophobic with.
Similar to Self-Portrait (although not nearly as poorly-regarded), Nashville Skyline was an attempt by Dylan to actively cast off the 'voice of a generation' label; unlike most Breakdowns, however, and contrary to his previous political folk-rock stylings, Skyline is a warmer, gentler album of country ballads and mostly love songs like "Lay, Lady, Lay".
"Ballad in Plain D" is straightforwardly about his breakup with Suze Rotolo (his early 60s girlfriend who posed with him on the cover of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan), placing the blame on her sister Carla. He later admitted that he felt bad about writing it. One critic compared listening to it to reading someone else's mail.
Adam Duritz of Counting Crows embodies this trope. At one point, he was so depressed that he didn't leave his house for months.
Just listen to the Across a Wire version of Mr. Jones. The original? A song about wanting to be famous. The live version? A song about why you should never want to be famous.
Brian Eno was forced to listen to his environment after a car crash left him bedridden for a few months in 1975, which inspired a new quieter direction. 1978's Ambient 1: Music For Airports – one of the first ambient albums ever – was written to relieve anxious feelings about fatal airplane accidents. (Not so dark as it sounds, as certainly air travel is safer than cars!)
Billy Joel. He has composed (but not performed) only an album (of classical music) since he broke up with Christie Brinkley and only released two songs since their breakup.
His last two albums, Storm Front and (especially) River Of Dreams, are (relatively) darker in tone, a product of his marital troubles and eventual breakup to Christie and to legal hassles with his ex-brother in law (of first wife Elizabeth Weber), who, as his manager, reportedly swindled Joel out of millions of dollars. The Nylon Curtain was a dark album reflecting on the political and economic climate of The '80s, made in the wake of his divorce from Elizabeth and while recovering from a nasty motorcycle accident that damaged his hands.
Nick Drake's reclusiveness, not to mention his severe depression, were defining factors in the songs from Pink Moon.
Of Montreal frontman Kevin Barnes' difficulties with his wife following the birth of their daughter led to the difficult, angsty 2007 albums Hissing Fauna, Are You the Destroyer? and Icons Abstract Thee, where he invented the Alter Ego of Ziggy Stardust Georgie Fruit, whom he now performs as and has let "write" the band's (even more difficult, slightly less angsty) two albums since.
Evanescence's songs "Hello" and "Like You" were inspired by the death of Amy Lee's sister when she was just a child. Evanescence is so far mostly Creator Breakdown of one sort or another. With the sole exception of "Good Enough", a happy-hopeful song.
"Good Enough" is happier and more hopeful than any of their other material, but the lyrics suggest that the singer is waiting for something to "pour real life down" on her, and destroy her happiness.
The other exception to their rule is "Secret Door" which is about "Following my love back through the same secret door" and is mostly happy harp playing, about a good dream Amy had.
Christian soft-rock artist Jana Alayra wrote "Every Minute That I Breathe" after her young daughter died in a car accident. Even on the CD version she sounds like she's two steps away from weeping.
In 1972, Neil Young was experiencing fame from his Harvest album and his song "Heart of Gold." At around that time, his guitarist Danny Whitten (the subject of Young's song "The Needle and the Damage Done") and roadie Bruce Berry died from heroin overdoses. Young followed up the radio-friendly Harvest with what is known as "The Ditch Trilogy" (named after a remark Young made about averting fame by "heading for the ditch"): Three albums that shared a gloomy, pessimistic theme. The first album, Time Fades Away, was a live album released in 1973 consisting of original tracks. The second album, On the Beach was a studio album, continuing the dark themes in the previous album (and being named after a book concerning nuclear war). The third album, Tonight's the Night, was directly about the deaths of Whitten and Berry (with one of the songs written by Whitten). Tonight's the Night was recorded in 1973 after the death of Bruce Berry, but the album was shelved for two years. On the Beach was released on CD twenty years after its initial release in 1974. Time Fades Away, unfortunately, still hasn't been released on CD.
Probably the most famous musical Creator Breakdown of all time: Brian Wilson. Smile, in both The Beach Boys and solo versions, is an incredible suite of music, but there's no way it could have been composed by someone with a stable mind. And the unstable mind prevented the Beach Boys version from being released as it was intended: once The Beatles' Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band came out, Brian Wilson lost motivation. Smile, which Wilson began working on in 1966, was finally released as a solo album in 2004.
The first and most notable breakdown occurred during the production of his ambitious Lifehouse project, which was to be a massive concept album/film/audience participation project, made with the intention of creating the greatest event in music history. The story was set in a dystopian future in which the cities of Earth are so polluted that everyone has to stay inside, and that everyone is hooked up to a massive network which provides entertainment through what is essentially virtual reality. (Sound familiar?) It was going to end with a Universal Chord of pure music being struck and everyone ascending to a higher plane of existence. It broke down because no one else seemed to understand the concept - especially not the other members of the band. The idea had to be scrapped, and a more "conventional" non-concept album was released based on some of the songs. The result of this "failure" was Who's Next, and is considered to be one of (if not THE) best album the Who ever released.
The second breakdown occurred after the release of Quadrophenia, which was not as popular or as well-received at the time as Townshend had hoped it would be. This, in conjunction with his drinking problem, caused him to take a brief break from songwriting before returning two years later with the stripped-down and alarmingly cynical The Who By Numbers.
A third breakdown occurred after the death of Keith Moon and the Who's breakup in 1982 after years running on autopilot. Townshend wrote the contemplative, abstract, synth-heavy solo album "All The Best Cowboys Have Chinese Eyes".
Relient K's 6th album "Forget and Not Slow Down" was majorly influenced by Mathew Theisen's break-up with his fiancée. The tracks "Therapy", written about Matt's time in seculusion mid-break-up, and "This is the End" about wanting to reconcile with said fiancée, are probably the most obvious examples.
Skip Spence, who used to play drums in Jefferson Airplane and guitar in the 1960s psychedelic rock band Moby Grape, is an interesting example of an artist whose Breakdown (very likely from drugs and the resultant mental problems) was displayed on a single album, the songs going from "finely crafted pop" to pure horror. He was later asked to contribute to the first X-Files movie Fight the Future, but the song, called "Land of the Sun", was rejected for being too nightmarish — the writer's voice sounds like a slowed-down death rattle.
One of the best songs from Vicentico, the lead singer from the now defunct Argentinian group Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, was written after his brother died.
She wrote "Me and a Gun", which was based on a brutal rape experience.
Most of the album from the choirgirl hotel was written in the aftermath of a miscarriage, particularly the emotional "Playboy Mommy".
Tori wrote "Toast" after her brother died from his injuries that he got from a car crash.
The song "1000 Oceans" was written after her husband's father died.
Boys for Pele was the result of her breakup with producer Eric Rosse.
Subverted by the band Rancid. After guitarist Tim Armstrong's divorce they produced, not the expected angst-fest, but the rather upbeat album Indestructible, which featured a tribute to The Power of Friendship in the form of the song "Fall Back Down."
Although it also contained "Tropical London" which is about a guy's girlfriend leaving him, despite the fact that he cared for her and did everything he could.
After the fatal drug overdose of a friend, Minor Threat leader Ian McKaye wrote the anti-drug anthem "Straight Edge", which spawned the well-known Straight Edge movement, which was not only anti-drug, but also anti-promiscuity, anti-alcohol, and sometimes, anti-meat. That was not what Ian had in mind when he wrote the song.
By 1970, Sly And The Family Stone was on a nearly two-year hiatus that spawned a stopgap singles compilation. Previously, they played upbeat psychedelic funk and sang about unity and dismantling barriers, being also one of the few multiracial/multigendered bands of The Sixties. The band's successful breakout album, Stand!, had big shoes to fill and the Family Stone was expected to release a follow-up as vibrant and passionate as Stand! Unfortunately, Sly Stone developed drug problems and that, along with the turmoil of Vietnam-era America, was enough for Sly to build his own studio, play most of the instruments himself or with friends (as opposed to all the band members playing on Stand!), and record most of his vocals while lying in bed. The resulting record, There's A Riot Going On, was a dark and depressing record that was somewhat the opposite of Stand!. The record would later be acclaimed as the band's masterpiece.
Singer/songwriter E, leader of the band Eels, wrote Electro-Shock Blues, arguably the band's best album, after the death of his mother from cancer and his sister's subsequent suicide. The album included poetry that his sister had written while in a mental hospital and included songs with titles like "Going to Your Funeral" and "Cancer for the Cure". The last track, however, was an upbeat number about learning to move on with life.
Even before Electroshock Blues, there was "Not Ready Yet", which was about his sister (the same one much of Electroshock Blues itself was about) refusing to leave the house.
The shocking death of his five-year-old son led Eric Clapton to retire from music for a while, then return with a very different sound to his repertoire. In particular, the song "Tears in Heaven" was written about his son.
Before that, Clapton (as part of Derek and The Dominoes) recorded Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs, an album born of the pain that results from being in love with his best friend's wife. The friend was George Harrison, by the way.
Not only that, but after the album, he got Pattie Boyd (the wife in question) to divorce Harrison and marry Clapton. Harrison attended Clapton's wedding and the two stayed the best of friends anyway!
The Queen songs "These Are the Days of Our Lives", "I'm Going Slightly Mad", and "The Show Must Go On" were recorded not long before Freddie Mercury's death of AIDS — all released on an album named "Innuendo".
The entire Innuendo album is widely considered to be Freddie saying his goodbyes. Two of the songs are farewells to his beloved cats.
"The Show Must Go On" was done in a very interesting way. While the other bandmembers were ambivalent, doubting that Mercury could hit the high notes of the song in his condition, Freddie downed a measure of vodka, said "I'll fucking do it, darling!" and nailed the vocal line in one take with no problems. Quite a note to go out on, really.
It also bears mentioning that the song was written by Brian May, most likely his way of coping with his friend and workmate's inevitable death. Freddie is having a Creator Breakdown singing Brian's Creator Breakdown.
For another Brian May Creator Breakdown, there's always "Too Much Love Will Kill You", which is a song about being in love with two people and being unable to choose, and also the pain of losing a loved one. It was performed for the first time at a tribute concert for Freddie Mercury shortly after his death. And contrary to popular belief, it wasn't written about Mercury, but about the breakup of May's marriage.
Nick Cave And The Bad Seeds' album "The Boatman's Call" - an unusually soft and touching album - came out shortly after Cave cleaned himself up of heroin.
Even more recently subverted in his song "More News From Nowhere", an affectionate and angst-free reminiscence about most of his ex-girlfriends.
Emiliana Torrini's second album Fisherman's Woman was much darker than her first, mostly because her boyfriend had been killed in a car accident.
Luke Haines of The Auteurs had gained commercial success with the band's first album, New Wave, which was about the trials of showbiz, and minor commercial success with the second, Now I'm A Cowboy, which was about rising from the middle classes into the upper classes. Then, while touring for the second album, he became so depressed that he intentionally broke both his ankles jumping off a high wall. While wheelchair-bound, he went on to write the grim After Murder Park. The first single from the album - the unbelievably titled "Unsolved Child Murder" - was planned for release as a Christmas single, and was specifically chosen to proceed the album's March release by several months, an unorthodox move. It was enough for The Auteurs' label to pull the single before its release. The label chose the nearest thing to a "commercial" song from the album, the noisy, angry "Light Aircraft on Fire" to be released in its place, but even that song was far too weird for even the alternative-loving British charts. Needless to say, The Auteurs never charted again, but Haines has remained well loved by critics and his other band, the dark pop trio Black Box Recorder, fared better chart-wise in their short life.
Daniel Johns of Silverchair went through one of these when suffering from anorexia nervosa. During this time, he wrote and recorded songs for Neon Ballroom, arguably their best album. Unlike its post-grunge predecessors, Neon Ballroom featured a full orchestra and an overall "art-ier" sound. "Ana's Song (Open Fire)" is the song that most blatantly deals with anorexia. Now take into consideration he was only 19 at the time.
John Lennon wrote quite a few of these in his time, both during and after The Beatles. However, because he was John Lennon, most of them are still great songs (and some of them among the best things he ever wrote):
"Norwegian Wood" from Rubber Soul is about an one-night-stand that Lennon had, written in a way as to prevent his wife finding out.
Original lyric: "Isn't it good/Knowing she would."
"How Do You Sleep?" from Imagine is a bitter polemic directed at former songwriting partner Paul McCartney, in which he derides pretty much everything McCartney had done up to that point as worthless crap. It was written in response to at least one perceived slight against him on McCartney's album Ram.
McCartney's response was Dear Friend, a plea for reconciliation with Lennon: "Does it really mean so much to you?/Are you afraid, or is it true?". It doesn't really sound like any else he's recorded, being sparse, slow and melancholy (and rather more mature than Lennon's spiteful attacks).
Pretty much every song on his first solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, was written when he was going through Primal therapy. The album was all about him addressing his personal issues—everything from his relationship with his dead mother to the break-up of the Beatles.
Walls and Bridges. Most of the songs on that album appear to deal with the bad patch in John's relationship with Yoko Ono at the time—aka "the lost weekend." "Whatever Gets You through the Night" and "Nobody Loves You (When You're Down and Out)" are dead giveaways.
"Steel and Glass," also from Walls and Bridges, is much like "How Do You Sleep?" only, this time, directed at former business manager Allen Klein, whom Lennon had just filed suit against.
Lennon has stated in interviews that the lyrics of "Help!" were more literal than most people assumed, as well as the seemingly over-the-top suicidal lyrics of "Yer Blues" (he explained that he made them over-the-top so he could dismiss it as a parody in case anybody worried about him being very depressed). This probably applies to lots of his other songs as well.
John in general by 1965-1968 was burned out from fame, went through enormous Writer's Block and was suffering from drug abuse, not helped by his efforts to destroy his ego via LSD. He felt ensnared by his early marriage of convenience to Cynthia and life in the countryside (unfortunately, his relationship to his first son Julian suffered from this), felt envious of his single, swinging bachelor songwriting partner Paul McCartney leading a more active lifestyle in the city, and via his crisis of confidence had loosened his input in the Beatles to see Paul take over. The untimely death of Beatles manager Brian Epstein in particular affected him, professionally and personally, and he felt too scared to branch out from the Beatles/pop star cocoon. It was not until he met Yoko Ono that he began to gain more confidence (though he admitted that perhaps he heavily overcompensated for that towards the end of the band's career). His drug and alcohol abuse sadly did escalate up until the early 1970's, and again with his "lost weekend" period, though.
Paul McCartney also had quite a few songs come out of various breakdowns. Most well known are the songs "The Long and Winding Road" and "Let it Be." They were both written during the time the Beatles were breaking up. "The Long and Winding Road" is generally accepted to be about his relationship with John, lamenting the end of their friendship. In "Let it Be," you can hear how heartbroken Paul is about the whole ordeal just by listening to his vocals, and in the song he is visited by his dead mother who comes to tell him to just let it be. Other breakdowns could be considered after John's death, after the death of his first wife, and during his divorce from his second wife.
Part of Tug Of War, along with Pipes Of Peace, was written and recorded at around the same time period, in the shadow of the death of John Lennon, the breakup of Wings (a result of an at-the-time breakdown of his friendship with Denny Laine), and Paul's 40th birthday arriving in 1982. Many of the songs are reflective and autobiographical, his Lennon tribute "Here Today" in particular.
Speaking of John Lennon, when he was murdered, here are all the songs written for him in his honor:
Empty Garden (Hey, Hey Johnny) by Elton John is a sadder one of his numbers, referencing Lennon's last concert sitting in with Elton in 1974; they made a semi-joking agreement that if Lennon's "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night" (featuring Elton on background vocals and keyboards), and Elton's cover of The Beatles' "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" (featuring Lennon on background vocals and rhythm guitar) both went to Number 1, the reclusive Lennon would have to appear in concert with Elton, which he did. After the show, Lennon would reunite with his at the time estranged wife Yoko Ono, who was unknown to John waiting in the wings watching John perform. Elton still finds it hard to perform the song due to it conjuring up memories of John, and rarely performs it outside of Madison Square Garden as a result.
All Those Years Ago by George Harrison is a standard rock song dedicated to John and everything he did, All those years ago...
The Late Great Johnny Ace by Paul Simon from Simon & Garfunkel, is dedicated at first to Rhythm and Blues Legend Johnny Ace, but slowly becomes about John Lennon over the course of the song.
Murder by David Gilmour.
Paul McCartney's song, Here Today, is similar to Yesterday and Mother Nature's Son, with only one Acoustic Guitar and an Orchestra, and it's him looking back at all the good times (and bad times) he had with Lennon, but that he would always cherish all of them.
David Bowie, Elton John, Roxy Music and Music/Queen also covered Lennon's songs, or dedicated songs to him at live performances around the time of his death.
Queen's "Life Is Real (Song For Lennon)" (from Hot Space) was in tribute to John.
Stevie Nicks' "Edge Of Seventeen" was partially written about Lennon's death.
"So Broken" by Björk. She wrote it after an incident with a very crazy fan, who, among other things, sent her an acid bomb (that got intercepted, thank God).
To some degree, much of Homogenic was influenced by this incident. Recording was supposed to take place at her home in London, UK, but while initial sessions were recorded there, production shifted to Málaga, Spain, in order to maintain privacy from media interest surrounding the aforementioned crazy fan, and in turn brought about many personnel changes and stylistic influences.
Nine Inch Nails are known for this, to say the least. Trent Reznor started to write his first album with politically themed, socially conscious lyrics. That didn't sound genuine, so he went to his journal for lyrics. That's number one. Number two came when he was out touring and his record label was screwing him, trying to get him to record another Pretty Hate Machine. He then wrote Broken, a 30 minute chunk of death. After that, still not having worked through all of those issues, he wrote and recorded The Downward Spiral, an album about a depressed, suicidal man who kills God and THEN himself. After that album was released, his psyche was wounded even further on tour, developing alcoholism, a cocaine addiction, and severe struggles with depression. A brief period of sobriety and subsequent relapse after the death of his grandmother informed The Fragile. Seriously known for this.
Recent albums have shown a change for the better, however. While With Teeth isn't exactly happy, what with being an album about working through withdrawal and all, it's certainly lighter than The Fragile. He finally got to write his socially conscious album with Year Zero, then writing and recording 4 ep's and a full-length album with some friends in the following year.
When The Slip was released, the title in particular made some fans wonder if he hadn't relapsed.
Dir en grey's singer, Kyo, has... Had some rough times. This can easily be noticed by the songs "Taiyou no ao", "Zakuro", "Amber", and "Mushi", to name a few. Taiyou no Ao (Which arguably is their happiest song in terms of tone) is about his girlfriend cheating on him with his best friend. Zakuro shares the same idea as Taiyou No Ao (cheating), but Zakuro has a deeper impact than Taiyou no Ao on the poor guy. He's very visibly . breaking down emotionally as he continues to sing. Amber also the same concept as the other two (cheating), but also expresses his wish to die. Mushi is about the loss of something dear, and he's shown that. The band played it live, because Kyo dedicated it to his friend who had recently died. According to people who saw it, he was unable to continue the song, because of how much pain he was in.
Just listen to The Wall, and watch the companion movie. The entire plot REVOLVES around a creator breakdown, and a rather spectacular one at that.
Not to mention revolving around the death of Pink's father in World War II.
Waters left the band after The Final Cut; the rest of the band carried on without him and released another album ten years later (The Division Bell) believed by many to be about Waters' own Creator Breakdown, the Waters/Gilmour rivalry, and David Gilmour's divorce and remarriage.
Pink Floyd seem to be addicted to this trope. The original frontman, Syd Barrett, recorded two solo albums after he split with the band. The records released give some sense of the difficulty of recording someone in the middle of a breakdown, often with long gaps where Barrett sat staring into space before remembering where he was. It's difficult listening; all the more so because the music itself isn't bad.
As private as they were, Led Zeppelin has quite a few of these. Most well known is "All of my Love," which was written by Robert Plant after his son died of a stomach infection.
Plant made a statement to the effect that his son's death was the result of the band having recorded "In My Time of Dying".
The lyrics of "Ten Years Gone" are an homage to Plant's ex-girlfriend who told him to choose between her, and his music.
"Going to California" is rumored to be about the band's unfulfilled crush on Joni Mitchell— Plant even mutters "Oh Joni!" on the live version included on "How the West Was Won."
The change in the band's music after Physical Graffiti is due to arguably very literal incarnation of this trope—by this time Jimmy Page had so wasted himself on heroin that John Paul Jones took over as the driving creative force.
The quartet chose their iconic name after Keith Moon of The Who told Page that his new band "would go down like a lead balloon." Apparently, they took that as a challenge.
Joni Mitchell: her album Court And Spark is a series of musical pen-portraits of damaged and emotionally paralysed women; the sex-addict, the alcoholic, the prostitute (Raised on Robbery), the music company executive (Free Man In Paris). Opinion is divided into how much of a crisis Mitchell was having at the time.
Sting's third solo album, The Soul Cages, was written as a way to get past an almost-four-year-long writer's block following the sudden death of his parents.
blur's album 13 is a reaction to lead singer Damon Albarn's painful break-up with his long-time girlfriend Justine Frischman, singer of the band Elastica.
"Sweet Song" was written whilst Damon had been looking at a photo of Graham Coxon after the latter had left the band.
As Kurt Cobain felt increasingly guilty of his newfound fame and spiraling deeper into his heroin addiction, his band Nirvana followed up their landmark Nevermind album with In Utero, a darker, less-accessible album that contained the lyric "look on the bright side it's suicide". Kurt Cobain also included the sarcastic lyric "my favorite inside source" in "Rape Me" as a result of an associate being interviewed, as an anonymous inside source, for Vanity Fair's infamous article on his wife Courtney Love's pregnancy.
REM's Michael Stipe tried to get Cobain to do a project with him, mainly hoping that getting him away from Seattle would help him shake his depression. Cobain committed suicide not long before they were supposed to meet. After Cobain's death Stipe wrote the song "Let Me In" about his regrets that he couldn't help him, and included it on Monster.
The Manic Street Preachers album The Holy Bible is almost entirely about Richey Edwards' various problems that led to him going missing (presumed dead) after it was released. Their next album, Everything Must Go, deals with some of their reaction to his disappearance as well as featuring some of the last lyrics he wrote, and one of their newest albums, Journal for Plague Lovers (made up of songs found in Richey's diary), features one track which is practically his suicide note and another about his time in a mental health institute.
It's probably worth noting that the "suicide note" song was sung by Richey's best friend, the bassist Nicky Wire. He is an awful singer, but the sheer amount of emotion in it makes the song a beautiful Tear Jerker.
The Holy Bible is filled with lyrics speaking of sorrow and disgust at both the human condition and at oneself. Multiple songs are semi-autobiographical, speaking about Self-Harm, eating disorders, Dystopia, societal breakdown and suffering. Even the lead singer James Dean Bradfield looked at the lyrics and said "How do you expect me to write music to this, you crazy fucker?" He would later remark that the album was not one you'd play often. Even 20 years after its release, the album is still just as harrowing as it was in 1994, when it came out.
Alanis Morissette started as a sort-of pop princess, but her breakout hit years later, "You Oughta Know" (and it would seem at least one other song on the album, Jagged Little Pill, and apparently "Hands Clean" from Under Rug Swept) was inspired by an old boyfriend, who dumped her for another woman. People are still wondering who that man was. (Dave Coulier of Full House is considered the consensus choice, and he has admitted that at least some of the lyrics hit close to home. Yes, the host of Out Of Control dated, then broke up with, one of the kids from You Can't Do That on Television. Feel that, Canadian Gen-Xers? That's your childhood, howling in pain.)
"Alanis Morissette, she's our latest pride and joy She used to sing about high school dances and chasing after boys Now she is fed up and as angry as can be She's got one hand in her pocket, and the other's on guard for thee"
Morissette attributes her experimentation with blunt, emotionally transparent lyrics and grittier instrumentation in Jagged Little Pill to an incident in Los Angeles when she was robbed at knifepoint. The ordeal left her with intense anxiety and frequent panic attacks. Glen Ballard, a songwriter and producer she met in LA (who would go on to produce Jagged Little Pill) encouraged her to channel her strong emotions into her songwriting when therapy and hospitalization did not help.
Carly Simon's song "You're So Vain" also was written after a really nasty break-up. In her case, it's said the man was Warren Beatty; Carly Simon says that she is never going to tell. (Although The Telegraph obituary of William Donaldson raises the possibility that it was him, since almost everything in the song fits him.)
Not entirely: At one point, Carly Simon put up the honor of telling one person who the song was about in a charity auction. The winner was sworn to secrecy, but was allowed to give one clue: The person who the song was about's name had the letter "e" in it — meaning Donaldson was not the person.)
However, his full name was Charles William Donaldson
Then again, the lyrics of the song make it pretty hard to let anyone say "This song is about me!" without looking like a fool.
"You're so vain You probably think this song is about you You're so vain I'll bet you think this song is about you Don't you? Don't you?"
Another rumoured subject of the song is The Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger...who sings backup vocals on the chorus from the second time onward. That could mean it's not him, or it could mean that it is him and he's in on the joke.
In 2010, Carly Simon said a David is involved - but not record producer David Geffen.
Which isn't a particularly helpful bit of Word Of God considering that Geffen is gay.
Although he didn't come out until the late 1980s and had had relationships with women during the 1970s. So yeah...
Just about every note on the two Joy Division albums is a serious autobiographical downer from Ian Curtis. And "Love Will Tear Us Apart" wasn't even on those albums.
"Twenty Four Hours" followed by "The Eternal" (on Side B of Closer, the band's last studio album proper) seem like suicide notes set to music, but they're hardly the only ones Ian wrote and performed.
The demo to "In A Lonely Place", which suspiciously cuts out just before the "hangman" verse in the New Order version, is this trope distilled to purity.
Gloria Estefan's song "Coming Out of the Dark" was about her struggles with her rehab from the wreck that nearly left her paralyzed from the neck down.
Teddy Pendergrass' "In My Time" was a reflection of his life after the car crash that left him a paraplegic.
Let us not forget No Doubt's Tragic Kingdom; many of its songs deal with Gwen Stefani's break-up with the Tony Kanal, the band's bassist.
Heck, Stefani worked this shtick for quite a while. ND's following three albums all largely deal with her insecurities about future relationships, or lack thereof.
Let's also not forget that the "Don't Speak" video partly focused on the annoyance that Kanal, Dumont, and Young felt about being overshadowed by Stefani.
This happened to Type O Negative twice: First was 1999's World Coming Down, which came after having gone Lighter and Softer for the last two albums - they even refuse to perform anything from that album live because it reminds frontman Peter Steele of the worst part of his life; the second one was made after him being imprisoned for narcotics possession and going through rehab, in a display of the band's trademark sardonic sense of humour it was called Dead Again.
Now rather sadly ironic, considering Peter Steele died of heart failure.
Australian singer Sia wrote the song "Breathe Me" after the death of her boyfriend, and much of her albums Colour The Small One and Healing Is Difficult were inspired by the same. The introspective song was used as the final musical track to be played in the HBO series Six Feet Under.
The Crowded House album Time On Earth was written in tribute to drummer Paul Hester who had recently committed suicide.
Parodied in the Beautiful South song "Song For Whoever", in which a songwriter gleefully describes how the songs he writes based on the various relationships he's had with his girlfriends — good or bad — bring in piles of cash for him ("Deep, so deep / The number one I hope reap / Depends upon the tears you weep / So cry, lover, cry!").
Redeemer and Fuse by Beth Kinderman, not quite a breakdown, but she was definitely angry at someone.
Parodied by "Weird Al" Yankovic in the song "Since You've Been Gone". The entire song is about how horrible his life has been since the break up, but ends with the line "I feel almost as bad as I did when you were still here".
And a straight example by him: "One More Minute", which features lyrics such as "I'd rather spend eternity eating shards of broken glass / than spend one more minute with you". The video includes Al ripping up a picture that allegedly shows his most recent ex-girlfriend at the time. He admitted in the liner notes to his boxed set, Permanent Record, that it was written to get over a bad break-up.
Parodied in the song "Ohne Dich (Without You") by the German A Cappella band Wise Guys, in which the singer details all his attempts to destroy himself and has the refrain end in "Because life is beautiful... without you".
The mournful singing by The Drifters that made "Under the Boardwalk" a soul classic was completely genuine: the night before the band was scheduled to record the song, singer Rudy Lewis died from a fatal heroin overdose. They still had to go back to the studio and record the next day, so they quickly hired former Drifters vocalist Johnny Moore to replace the deceased Lewis.
After most of her band died in a plane crash, Reba McEntire recorded an album appropriately titled For My Broken Heart to work through her grief.
Eminem had a lot of these. His first 2 major studio albums (and his earlier Slim Shady EP as well) are likely results of Creator Breakdown, which occurred soon after the failure of his noticeably milder and more optimistic debut LP, Infinite. The song "Kim", written while his marriage to her was falling apart, is a hateful and disturbing song where the narrator sadistically and maniacally rants to, pleads with, and ultimately kills, his terrified wife (the controversial Black Comedy track 97 Bonnie and Clyde, which was released earlier, is actually the "sequel" to "Kim"). A live performance of the song caused the real Kim to attempt suicide. Interestingly, they both tried to reconcile years after the song was released.
This happened yet again with 2009's Relapse and 2010's Recovery, which were triggered by Eminem's recovery from a full-blown relapse which began in 2005. The first album, whilst containing a good dose of his vitriolic tirades and bizarre comedy, has a track called "Deja Vu". The track is a rather stark description of his relapse and the effect it had, notably apparently collapsing in his bathroom and his apparent case of pneumonia actually being related to methadone use. Also related is the song "Beautiful", which is a melancholic track where Eminem reflects on his depression and his increasing doubt over if he can still cut it as a rapper.
Encore could fall under this as well. Apparently, it was recorded as he began his addiction, which is probably why the album is noticeably less well-received than his others.
After losing his infamous lawsuit against Mike Joyce over The Smiths royalties, Morrissey recorded the song "Sorrow Will Come In the End," bemoaning the lawsuit. The song was cut from the UK release of Maladjusted for fear of legal action. That lawsuit, and not the supposed rift between Morrissey and guitarist Johnny Marr, is perhaps the main reason why a Smiths reunion is highly unlikely.
Johnny Cash had a few of these. "Ring of Fire"', his most successful song, is about the songwriter's feelings about Cash himself. "Chicken In Black" is a pretty straightforward shot at his recording label of the time. Many people view his cover of "Hurt" as feelings towards his life as a whole as he neared the end.
Beck's Sea Change was written in response to a break-up, and oh my does it ever show.
The style—unusually straightforward, for Beck—owes a lot to Nick Drake. Particularly noticeable on "Round the Bend" (which may have been intended as a Shout-Out). But if you're going to write a stripped-down album of sad songs, you might as well borrow from the best.
Gustav Mahler's Sixth Symphony is called the 'Tragic' because it is the only one of his symphonies to end on a downer mood. It was written at a pretty difficult time in his life: his wife Alma had cheated on him (for the first time), his eldest daughter had died, his health problems were getting worse (eventually leading to a diagnosis of heart disease), and he was catching a lot of flak from the Viennese newspapers for being Jewish. So, yeah.
Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky is another. Having run away from Antonina Miliukova, a crazy wife he only married to prove his (non-existent) heterosexuality, he had a nervous breakdown due to said crazy wife, and been sentenced to suicide (!) by a jury of his peers at his alma mater in censure of his homosexual activity, the last movement of his last (6th) symphony is... well, a little bit of a downer.
And there's another theory that he purposely drank or swam in cholera-infected water because he was distraught that the object of his affection did not return his attention. Or that it was a bid to get his attention, and backfired when he actually contracted cholera. Point being, he was a very depressed man.
Much of Franz Schubert's early music has a sunny, cheerful disposition. By the end of his prematurely short life, following the failure of his operas and his contraction of syphilis, he was composing things like Winterreise.
Hector Berlioz's then-unrequited love for actress Harriet Smithson led him to write Symphonie fantastique. In it, the Author Avatar smokes a whole lot of opium and has quite an interesting dream. In the third movement, the protagonist finds himself in the countryside; eventually his beloved's theme is heard in the distance but never answered to. In the next movement, he finds himself being lead to the gibbet, for he appears to have killed the beloved in a fit of rage. But wait, her theme is heard in the crowd! Too late; his head is cut off and bounces away, followed by the exultations of the crowd. In the final movement, he's in Hell.
It gets better in the end - the actress heard the symphony and ended up marrying him.
But it wasn't a happy marriage. Oh, well.
Czech composer Bedrich Smetana wrote his most famous symphonic work ("Ma Vlast"), the string quartet From My Life, and three operas after he went deaf (the finale of the string quartet features a sustained high E in the first violin to represent the ringing in Smetana's ears as his hearing deteriorated). At the same time, he was dealing with his own declining health and an increasingly loveless marriage.
Earlier, he wrote his Piano Trio in G minor after the deaths of his two young daughters.
Norwegian composer Eivind Groven had a serious breakdown after the death of his brother, a fellow performer on the Hardanger Fiddle. The result was a great work based on a story on the Black Death, in six movements, with choir and orchestra. Probably something of the most haunting music he ever wrote.
Skillet's song "Open Wounds" is based on frontman John Cooper's angry relationship with his father after his mother died of cancer. They later made up, however.
Metallica's critically panned album, St. Anger, suffered from major Creator Breakdown during its production, as shown in the documentary Some Kind of Monster.
Though they have stopped playing the songs, the entire band agrees that St. Anger was a way to exorcise their inner demons and keep the band going. Lars once said, "Without St. Anger there would be no Death Magnetic."
"Fade to Black", from 1984's Ride the Lightning, was written after the band's equipment were stolen in Boston, including James Hetfield's prized Marshall amplifier.
James Taylor's "Fire and Rain" was initially the focus of a rumor that it was written in response to his band's secretly arranging for Taylor's girlfriend to visit him on tour, only for her plane to crash, based on the lines "Suzanne, the plans they made put an end to you" and "Sweet dreams and flying machines in pieces on the ground." In fact, Suzanne was his friend from rehab, who committed suicide shortly after his release. The song still qualifies.
It was also inspired by the breakup of his band, The Flying Machine.
Carlo Gesualdo's style and subject matter for his madrigals changed drastically after he caught his wife and her lover in the act and brutally murdered both of them.
Mike Portnoy of Dream Theater has a habit of this. His first song for Dream Theater, "A Change of Seasons", dealt with the cycle of life in relation to the death of his mother. "The Mirror" off of Awake was about how alcoholism was slowly ruining his life. "Burning My Soul" and "Just Let Me Breathe" from the album Falling into Infinity were rants about the music industry loaded with Take Thats against his band's current and former producers, Kurt Cobain, MTV, and others. Then he started writing a now completed series of songs about his experience in Alcoholics Anonymous. The AA series spanned nearly seven years and five songs starting with "The Glass Prison" from Dream Theater's 2002 album Six Degrees of Inner Turbulence and concluding with "The Shattered Fortress" from their 2009 album Black Clouds and Silver Linings. All albums from 2002 to 2009 had one part of the series. From Train of Thought (2003) was "This Dying Soul", followed up by "The Root of All Evil" from Octavarium (2005) and "Repentance" from Systematic Chaos (2007). Each of the five songs were broken down into two to three sections named after each step of Alcoholics Anonymous. "Honor Thy Father" off of Train of Thought is a big Take That to his stepfather. For Octavarium he wrote "Never Enough", where he vented about nagging, ungrateful fans. The song "The Best of Times" from Black Clouds and Silver Linings was a tribute to his real father Howard who sadly passed away before the aforementioned album was completed. Someone needs a hug...
The single most productive Creator Breakdown event was probably original keyboardist Kevin Moore's decision to leave the band and start a solo career, which inspired not only Moore's lyrics in "6:00" and "Space-Dye Vest", but a bitter response from Portnoy in the unreleased "Raise the Knife".
Singer James LaBrie provided a few examples of this as well; "Disappear" and "Vacant" are both written by him, the former inspired by observing young lovers and imagining their actions if/when one passes on, the latter about his daughter mysteriously falling into a coma death. Along with "Space-Dye Vest", they're three of the most depressing, and downright creepy, songs the band has produced.
Because True Art Is Angsty, and because he tries to be optimistic, Paul McCartney is most likely to produce critically accepted work when he's in the middle of a personal crisis. His most critically accepted solo album, Wings' Band On The Run, was recorded during a disastrous trip to Nigeria: Creative Differences left the band with only three members; it was the rainy season; the studio was barely usable at first; and he and Linda got careless, tried to walk to their lodgings on their own, and then got mugged at knifepoint. Near the end, he passed out from what may have been a heart attack...
Run Devil Run, the album McCartney recorded as a response to Linda's death, got some of the best reviews of his solo career.
Chaos and Creation in the Backyard, also widely critically acclaimed, was written during the midst of the break-up of his marriage to and bitter divorce from Heather Mills. It's not a happy album.
Marvin Gaye's 1978 double LP Here, My Dear was famous for its themes of lost love and estrangement, and was widely panned by critics and fans upon its initial release for being too bleak and uncommercial compared with his previous work. It is commonly believed that it was either suggested by Gaye's lawyer or mandated as part of the divorce settlement that he use half the royalties from his next album to pay her alimony, and that Gaye originally intended to make an intentionally bad album to spite her, but after working on some of the songs he had a change of heart and decided to make a serious, confessional effort at chronicling his feelings about the breakup instead. The part about her alimony being dependant on the success of the album and him consequently deciding to make a bad album to spite her isn't true, but the songs are unquestionably about the turmoil in his life around the period. Gaye did admit that, since it was likely that any money he earned from the record would go towards alimony anyway (although it was never a condition of the divorce), he initially didn't have a lot of enthusiasm for the project for understandable reasons, but decided that he owed it to his listeners and himself make an honest effort.
There is an element of spite in the title, however; Gaye did comment that although he would have to pay alimony to his ex-wife through the album, he would consequently make an album filled with things that she wouldn't want anyone to hear.
Kanye West's album 808s and Heartbreak is a result of his mother's death as well as an obviously bitter breakup with his fiancée, that mostly features him singing (albeit with pitch corrector Auto-Tune) instead of rapping.
My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy is largely centered around him feeling as though the world made him out to be a monster at the tail of 2009 plus breaking up with Amber Rose.
Yeezus is an exploration of the themes and life challenges that brought him to the point of melding his signature sound with a new one. "Blood on the Leaves", specifically, has him recount his failed relationships, using the backing beat from Nina Simone's cover of "Strange Fruit" (itself a song referencing lynching). Likewise, "New Slaves" is his rant against people who've become addicted to commercialism and fakeness.
Giuseppe Verdi's operaLa Traviata was influenced by what he endured from society while having an affair with the soprano who most inspired him artistically. Verdi also went through Creator Breakdown earlier after the failure of Un giorno di regno because his wife and children had passed at the time.
Lily Allen's second album, It's Not Me, It's You has a darker, more serious tone to it than her cheery alternative/ska/pop debut Alright Still. This could well be inspired by her recent personal tragedies, most notable of which are her suffering a miscarriage, her relationship with the child's father (Ed Simons of The Chemical Brothers) ending, and the death of her grandmother.
Emilie Autumn's song "Gothic Lolita" from the album Opheliac is about a girl angrily saying the man who molested her as a child should be "killed by an army of little girls", and was at least in part inspired by her being abused by a teacher as a child (Emilie herself admitted the song was hard to record). Quite a few of her other songs on that album seem to refer either to that event or some nasty breakup, although "Gothic Lolita" is the only one that's been confirmed.
The entire darker tone of Opheliac in comparison to Enchant is due to a creator break down after she had been put into a mental institution at some point in between the making of the two albums and also was what caused her to write her semi autobiographical book, The Asylum (For Wayward Victorian girls).
The Opheliac album was done to stop her from hurting herself again and ended up being one of the best things to happen to her.
Although one may be tempted to put nearly all of Korn's work here due to the fact that most of the songs are about Jonathan Davis's life in some way, probably the truest case of Creator Breakdown (where the song becomes more intensely personal than it was intended to be) is in the song "Daddy", where the singer literally does break down and starts yelling and crying during the final minutes of the song as the rest of the band plays on uncomfortably. While some of this was undoubtedly embellished in final production (including a motherly voice that appears later on), it seems to be mostly real. Like many of the musical examples on this page, this song is considered by many fans to be quite powerful due to its intense emotional vulnerability.
Some may argue that the two songs on Korn's self-titled eighth album that insult their former guitarist Brian "Head" Welch — who abruptly quit the band, converted to evangelical Christianity, and talked a bit of trash about them himself before eventually calming down — are a decidedly more negative case of Creator Breakdown.
And on the other manipulator, you have "Pretty," a song based on an actual case Davis dealt with while working in a coroner's office. For sensitivity's sake: It's about a toddler who was raped and killed by her father. It's one of their best songs... but apparently, Davis still can't perform it live.
Word Of God says "Can't Be Tamed", the song as well as much of the album, concerns getting rid of relationships and situations that might hold you back. "Bottom Of The Ocean" uses the goldfish as a metaphor for getting over losses by letting go, by "burying" your grief deep in your heart where no one will find them, and moving on.
"I Miss You", from her first solo album, Meet Miley Cyrus, is a tribute to Cyrus' grandfather, Ron Cyrus, who Miley was very close to, and who would pass away in 2006.
Breakout, her second album and first non-affiliated with Hannah Montanaalbum is filled with her pain over the break up with the aforementioned Jonas Brother. Can't Be Tamed is rather upbeat in comparison!
"Wrecking Ball", if you can get past the silly cheesecake video the studio demanded she make to cash in on her controversial image at the time, is actually a damned good break-up pain anthem. Fan speculation runs rampant as to exactly who it's about, but if you watch the director's cut of the video that just focuses on a close-up of her face, she visibly breaks down crying partway through the song, upset enough to screw up her lip-synching, which actually just makes the emotion of the visual that much more powerful and leaves you wondering just who hurt her THAT badly. Watch it here.
Though she didn't actually write the song so it's more of the performance.
The entirety of The Mountain Goats album The Sunset Tree, written solely by John Darnielle, can be considered an example of Creator Breakdown. The album is about dealing with his grief after his abusive step-father passed away. The songs are a narrative weaving in and out of his life, during the abuse and the after-effects. Including some songs explicitly dealing with incidents of the abuse. There's drug and alcohol-abuse once he's a teenager, suicide, mental illness and general instability. Finally, there's the song "Pale Green Things" dealing with his learning of his death.
The Smashing Pumpkins' "Today" was written while lead singer Billy Corgan was seriously contemplating suicide. Much, if not all, of Siamese Dream's guitar parts (lead and bass), the album "Today "is featured on, was recorded by Corgan himself; the stress of his perfectionist attitude melded with the pressure he felt to create a top-selling album, and is a major reason for the tumult in the band's relations with each other (not to mention then-drummer Jimmy Chamberlin's tendency to disappear for days while scoring) during those days. Virgin Records wasn't especially thrilled by the times, either (Siamese Dream was finally released to the order of something like $250K over-budget).
Nearly all of Scott Weiland's career has involved Creator Breakdown of some sort. With all the albums he's done except for STP's Core and Velvet Revolver's Libertad, he was battling drug addiction or going through marital problems. And Libertad was written after his brother's death, so it isn't free of Creator Breakdown either.
Alice in Chains. Full-stop. Everything after Facelift was written as a result of either Layne's heroin addiction or Jerry's severe depression and alcoholism.
Anthony Kiedis of the Red Hot Chili Peppers wrote the lyrics to "Under the Bridge", easily one of his best songs, about how he was realizing that his sobriety was making him feel distanced from his band mates, and in disgust over some of the things he had done in the past to get drugs (it's named "Under the Bridge" for a reason). He has also written songs about Hillel Slovak's death from heroin overdose and absence from Kiedis's life, including the songs "Knock Me Down" and "My Lovely Man".
For that matter, the album One Hot Minute is lyrically very negative and has moments of being heavier musically as well. The band haven't played any songs from the album live since Dave Navarro left, due to John Frusciante not having listened to it, as well as Kiedis feeling uncomfortable revisiting this period.
John Frusciante's albums Niandra Lades And Usually Just A T-Shirt and Smile From The Streets You Hold were released whilst he was in the throes of heroin addiction. Not all the songs were recorded then, but those that were really show. He openly admitted to releasing Smile... for drug money and has not reissued the album since. Contrary to most creator breakdowns he doesn't regret his past.
"Go Your Own Way", in particular, is pretty much the whole band writing take thats to each other. And let's not even start on the live version of "Silver Springs".
Fleetwood Mac's original frontman, Peter Green, started out playing melancholic but polite British blues. A few years later, his last songs with the band were paranoid horrorshows about God and Satan being out to get him, after which he grew his fingernails, gave away all his guitars, refused to accept any more royalty checks, and went to work as a gravedigger.
Much of Supertramp's work can be interpreted as Rick Davies and Roger Hodgson taking shots at each other.
Inverted by Sarah McLachlan, who started writing happier music after the birth of her daughter; most obvious in the case of Afterglow.
Another amusing fact about Sarah McLachlan is that her music is cited as stopping a suicidal case of Creator Breakdown in Darryl "D.M.C" McDaniels of Run-D.M.C.. As noted, Sarah's music up until her return from baby making isn't exactly the music you'd think of listening to when depressed. Case in point? The song "Angel" whose beauty struck a cord with him. It was written in reaction to several famous cases of heroin overdose. It's just one of those bizarre things that make up Reality Is Unrealistic.
Because Elton John typically writes melodies around already-composed lyrics by Bernie Taupin, his albums tend to reflect Taupin's mood at the time rather than his own, and sometimes the contrast between the two is quite notable. (Although Lyrical Dissonanceis a favorite device of his, too.)
In 1976, Elton was at his commercial and creative peak while Taupin was struggling with creative exhaustion and a failed marriage; thus Elton's album of that period, Blue Moves, was the bleakest, gloomiest record he ever made.
In 1988, Elton was struggling with substance abuse problems, a lawsuit against the tabloid media in England over unfounded rumors, and a failed marriage of his own, as well as the realization that he was not bisexual at all, he was just plain gay; however, because Taupin was in a good place, Elton's album Reg Strikes Back was a considerably upbeat and happy work.
"This Train Don't Stop There Anymore" is a rather sombre reflection over Elton's life and career, including some rather cynical takes on his musical output and his drug use.
Made In England from 1995 also shows this contrast: Bernie wrote the lyrics in between hospital visits as he held vigil over his father, who was dying of cancer at the time (hence the mentioning of his father and "cancer sleeps" in the album's first single, "Believe"). Many of the lyrics he penned for the album were reflective and often confessional or defiant, apart from a few exceptions. Elton, meanwhile, though prone to his share of tantrums as seen in the Tantrums & Tiaras biography, was on a personal upswing in many ways, having recovered from substance abuse, promiscuity and bulimia five years before, found his true love in boyfriend David Furnish, and won an Best Song Oscar for "Can You Feel The Love Tonight" from The Lion King.
Matthew Good's album Hospital Music is a fine example of this trope. He wrote it in the aftermath of not only the messy divorce of his cheating, gold-digging wife; but a string of hospital visits (thus the name) which resulted in two revelations: 1. That he was killing himself with the excessive amount of pills he was taking, 2. That he was bipolar. It could be said that with the latter revelation, his career from Audio of Being onward was a long stretch of this trope.
The Polyphonic Spree's very existence is the result of frontman Tim DeLaughter's desire to do something positive after the death of Wes Berggren, the guitarist for his previous band, Tripping Daisy. Most of the surviving Tripping Daisy members are in the Spree, too.
Rapper Royce Da 5'9's Death Is Certain album was recorded during a period of depression following a falling out with Eminem and a decline in commercial success after his deal with Columbia Records fell through.
Bruce Springsteen hit a depression somewhere in 1981-1982. He sat in an empty house, recorded the demo tapes of what was to become The E Street Band's next album on just guitar, harmonica and vocals, and then desperately tried to rearrange the songs for the band. When that didn't work, it was suggested to just release the demo as an album. The result, Nebraska, is one of the bleakest albums of the decade. And one of the best as well.
A few years later, his album Tunnel of Love was so bleak on the subject of love and relationships that a lot of critics speculated that Springsteen's marriage might be in trouble. A few weeks after the album was released, he announced he was getting divorced.
"The Last Carnival" is a beautiful and melancholy song that Springsteen wrote after E Street Band member Danny Federici died of cancer.
The song "Art of Life" by X Japan was composed by drummer/pianist/bandleader Yoshiki as he recovered from a physical and mental breakdown referred to as "neurocirculatory asthenia" attributed to his intensity in performance and his emotional pain.
"Without You" is a song written to late guitarist hide by Yoshiki, and "Jade," the band's newest song, is rumored to either be the same, or to be the "other half" of the conversation began by "Without You," being hide talking back to Yoshiki.
Underground rapper Cage built his career out of breakdowns. His 2005 album, Hell's Winter, focused mostly on him finally coming to proper terms with his issues.
Japanese pop superstar Ayumi Hamasaki owes part of her success to writing all of her lyrics herself, something uncommon in the Japanese star system, and you could say she has built her career around a Creator Breakdown. With some exceptions, the main themes of her music are how her father abandoned her when she was a little child and she mostly can't remember him, her mother had several jobs in order to support them and thus they barely saw each other and had an aloof and cold relationship, and she was discriminated against and bullied during her childhood and teens for this unwholesome background (for Japanese standards of the time). If her lyrics are something to go by, this made her into a lonely and borderline depressive person permanently starved for affection because of her extremely poor people skills. And in her happy love songs, she has a marked tendency to bring up death. This, of course, is mainly set to aggressively cheerful pop and pop-rock melodies, with perfunctory techno remixes.
Special note goes to the year when a good friend died (possibly by suicide), she lost all remaining hearing in her left ear, and she broke up with her boyfriend of 8 years. The subsequent album, GUILTY, is notably dark (even for Ayu) and focuses on death themes. The album is dedicated to the friend that died, and the final song is written about her.
Nightwish's evolution as a band nicely exhibits this. While their earlier albums do contain darker songs, these are usually balanced out with lighter, fantasy- oriented material. However, their fourth album contained songs that were nearly all about depression, death, escape and unrequited love/obsession. In the documentary End of Innocence the band members remark on this and how it was such a departure from their earlier material. The band's keyboardist, who writes most of their songs, acknowledges that it stemmed from going through a very dark period of his life and dealing with a love affair gone wrong. The next album continued the theme of despair. Their most recent album, after firing their lead singer and replacing her, is also their angriest (and most transparently about her and her husband).
Speaking of which, in Tarja's solo album My Winter Storm, there are a couple of poorly disguised Take Thats at Nightwish, with Had Enough (almost certainly a resentful song about her sacking) being the most transparent.
The Poet and The Pendulum is apparently about Tuomas' (the keyboardist) struggle with depression.
Rather present in Keith Urban's work. His second American album, Golden Road, was released after he got out of rehab. It was considered much stronger than his previous album, and lyrics like "It sure feels good to finally feel the way I do" (from lead-off single "Somebody Like You") show a happier man. Be Here and Love, Pain & the whole crazy thing showed a mostly positive Urban, although tracks like "Tonight I Wanna Cry" (where he addresses his drinking problem head-on) showed the demons creeping back in. After going back into rehab and then marrying Nicole Kidman, his next albums have returned to happy, often up-tempo songs about being in love.
The final song on Golden Road, "You're Not My God", is Urban directly addressing his demons and overcoming them ("You almost had me six feet down but I'm still breathing air"). Then, after a length of silence, the number breaks into another ditty titled "One Chord Song", which is more upbeat and carefree, possibly symbolizing Urban trying to focus on the happier things.
Country Music singer Gary Allan lost his wife to suicide in 2005. While Allan's previous albums always had a variety of upbeat love songs, ranging from "Right Where I Need to Be" to "Nothing On but the Radio," his next album, Tough All Over, is almost entirely devoid of any sort of happiness. The first single from this album was a cover of Vertical Horizon's "Best I Ever Had." Other songs from the album include "Life Ain't Always Beautiful," "I Just Got Back From Hell," and the blatantly auto-biographical and aptly-titled "Putting My Misery On Display." He cut off Tough All Over after only two singles because he wanted to move on, but given that the next albums in the series are Living Hard, Get Off on the Pain, and Set You Free, it seems that maybe hasn't moved on after all...
Radiohead seem to have mastered this. "My Iron Lung" was written to express discomfort at the overblown success of "Creep". Then the Kid A and Amnesiac duology was influenced by Thom Yorke's writers' block and nervous breakdown, which contributed to the rather disjointed feel of the albums. He resorted to pulling random words out of a hat at one point.
Starflyer 59's second album, Gold was written in the aftermath of several dissolved friendships, and the departure of the rest of the band forced Jason Martin to record almost everything by himself. Add to this Jason's own high expectations for himself, and the result was a barely-averted nervous breakdown and an album that sounds like a soundtrack of the same. Fans initially hated the album, then they inexplicably warmed up to it and declared it Starflyer's best album ever.
A sub-genre of black metal has emerged in recent years called suicidal/depressiveBlack Metal, practiced by artists such as Xasthur, Shining and countless others, which (in theory at least; see the entry on emo and alternative rock at the top of this folder) absolutely runs on this trope.
It's worth noting that much of the inspiration for this subgenre comes from Per Yngve Ohlin, AKA Dead. Dead was bullied frequently as a child, and that along with a skating accident making him temporarily dead, made his entire career one large breakdown. When Dead joined Mayhem, the band gained a lot of attention for Dead's onstage acts of self-mutilation and even suicide attempts. It didn't help that guitarist Euronymous actively encouraged the breakdown, bullying Dead in hopes that it would drive him to even more extreme performances. Ultimately, Dead offed himself in 1991 by hacking up his wrists with a hunting knife and shooting himself in the head with a 12-gauge. Photos of his body were taken by Euronymous, and were used as the cover to the 1995 LP Dawn of the Black Hearts, a holy grail for S/DBM bands.
Malice Mizer departed from their previous romantic aesthetic and launched headlong into a gothic sense of style after their drummer, Kami, dying of an aneurism just after the lead singer, Gackt, left the group without warning. Their music also managed to get even darker than before, culminating in their album Bara no Seidou.
Beast of Blood, which was released on the one-year anniversary of Kami's death, in addition to being one of the darkest songs Malice Mizer has ever composed, contains a hidden track called Bara no Souretsu (Funeral of Roses), which was composed by the late drummer.
The last song released before the group went on indefinite hiatus, Garnet, is Klaha (the vocalist) speaking to a traveler, telling them to keep searching until they find the place where they truly belong. Following the hiatus, each member of the band (except the bassist) went on to form his own independent music project.
David Bowie's tenth album, Station to Station, was created while he was in the middle of a massive cocaine addiction — so bad that he's stated he remembers practically nothing of the recording process. It's also considered one of his best albums. A couple of songs from the classic "Berlin Trilogy" (Low, "Heroes", and Lodger), such as "Beauty and the Beast" and "Always Crashing in the Same Car", have been interpreted as being about his struggles to clean himself up during that time period. Prior to his recovery, he weighed as little as ninety pounds and was refrigerating his urine because he thought the government would steal it.
Andy Partridge claims to have written "Your Dictionary" (S-L-A-P / Is that how you spell kiss in your dictionary / C-O-L-D / Pronounced as care / S-H-I-T / Is that how you spelt me in your dictionary / Four-eyed fool / You led 'round everywhere?), which appears on the XTC album Apple Venus, in spite of himself:
I tried and tried NOT to write a divorce song, I really did, you have to believe me. The last thing I wanted was to come over as a grieved cattle bum crying into his beer in the bar of heartbreak motel. Or even worse, as Phil Collins. I mean, divorce is so... middle-aged and crap...Trouble was, the internal stale steam kept building, the pus kept expanding inside my head. I needed a safety valve, maybe if I just put all the hurt in one song.
XTC's "I Bought Myself a Liarbird" was such a blatant attack on their former manager that they faced legal action over it, and part of the settlement was that the band couldn't talk about the song publicly.
Speaking of Phil Collins and his divorce: he recorded his first solo album, Face Value, while breaking up with his first wife. His feelings of anger and sorrow are reflected in the album, particularly in the song "In The Air Tonight", and tend to show up as a recurring theme in the songs he writes (Collins has had two subsequent marriages and divorces).
Max: I self-medicate with drugs and alcohol to treat my extreme social anxiety.
And then came the self-titled album, which was recorded after he got married to the lead singer of Eisley and more or less converted to Christianity. It's arguably their best and definitely their catchiest and most positive. The songs go from being full of Wangst to full of irony and much cheerier self-deprecation. Even "Death for My Birthday" ends on an upbeat note. Say Anything may be one of the only bands that improved after finding God.
Voltaire's album Boo Hoo was written after he and a girlfriend of his (for about 12 years) broke up. The album is mainly comprised of songs about break ups and other stories of bad relationships.
In spite of being a rather private person, Siouxsie Sioux of Siouxsie and the Banshees has been working out her issues in song since she began writing them. "Make Up to Break Up," the earliest Banshees song with which she's credited, is quite obviously about her use of cosmetics to hide her perceived facial flaws. As the band was crumbling 20 years later, she wrote "Stargazer" and "Forever," the latter of which is a melancholy tune that starkly contrasts the love songs "O Baby" and "The Lonely One." After Sioux and Severin decided to disband the Banshees, "New Skin" was written.
Siouxsie's solo debut, Mantaray, is practically defined by this trope, as it deals with starting one's life over at 50 post-divorce and without the musical support system she'd had for so many years. The first two songs written, "Into A Swan" and "Loveless," were supposedly written with the intent of selling them to another artist (Sugababes were referenced in at least one article), but they're so personal one can't help but wonder why.
In his solo career, Lou Reed didn't like the fact that the glammy, David Bowie-produced Transformer was received so much better than the raw, emotional Berlin. When he rewrote glitzed-out versions the songs from Berlin and some of the VU songs, including the famously inaccessible White Light/White Heat, and wound up with hits, and wrote a new album in the vein of Transformer, and that was a hit, he really lost it and put out the radio-unfriendly instrumental double-LP Metal Machine Music, which the record company nearly put out with a label reading "CONTAINS NO MUSIC." And that's why you don't know any Lou Reed songs written after 1975.
Reed actually said that, despite writing songs about it, he didn't use heroin that much in The Sixties or The '70s, although this may be a case of historical revisionism on his part; he is on record as having preferred amphetamines, about which he wrote the song "White Light/White Heat", among others. In any case, Reed was horrified when people would tell him they shot up to "Heroin", which would contribute to his being hesitant to play the song despite it being one of his best known numbers.
John Cale had a lot of ups and downs psychologically in the seventies. Fear started showing his mental side, and Helen of Troy in 1975 had a photo of him in a straitjacket on the front cover. By the time he recorded Sabotage in 1979 he was heavily addicted to alcohol, cocaine and heroin (and amphetamines) and he degenerated into madness in his live performances of the '80s (which he later described as being 'shambolic'). But he cleaned up and did Fragments in '91.
Mike Oldfield apparently wrote one of the more serene parts of side B of Tubular Bells to try and give his head a quiet place to be. Most of his earlier work (up to Incantations) was also composed on a background of unsorted personal demons, and his autobiography makes it quite clear where and how the gears shifted. Though he was basically a happier man: My music had been turbocharged, it was nuclear powered because of my paranoia, but now my inspiration had gone. (Changeling, Oldfield, Virgin Books 2007).
Les Claypool from Primus has said that the reason the album Pork Soda was so much darker than the earlier albums was because the band had just gotten off a long tour, and they were all in a bad mood.
Marilyn Manson's 2007 album Eat Me, Drink Me was written when the bandleader Marilyn Manson was going through a period of severe depression. In an odd twist, however, Eat Me, Drink Me is actually lighter and more mainstream than the band's usual output. The album expresses the themes of his depression largely brought on from his divorce and the latter half of the album shifting towards a more romantic side, written towards his girlfriend, who then left him, resulting in yet another period of depression and the 2009 album The High End of Low.
To be honest, though, much like his mentor, Trent Reznor, all of Manson's work has been one really long breakdown. It could be traced back to when he witnessed his grandfather in his basement (you do not want to know), was molested by a neighbor kid who was three years older than him, his dog was murdered by the kid and he was deathly afraid of the end of the world and Hell due to his Christian school. Portrait Of An American Family already shows his disgust with society and his drug problems. Smells Like Children was forced on him by the producers, and it shows. Antichrist Superstar was one part his life, one part Twiggy's life, one part drugs (they co-wrote almost all of it, and were either high or days without sleep while writing it, on purpose). Mechanical Animals was him trying to break away from Trent's influence, and was influenced by him getting less addicted to drugs and beginning to feel emotions for the first time in about a decade and trying to cope with it. Holy Wood (In The Shadow Of The Valley Of Death) was written a little bit after Columbine, which really affected him emotionally, and caused a split between him and his closest friend, bandmate and occasional sexual partner, Twiggy Ramirez that caused Twiggy to leave until 2008 or 2009. The Golden Age of Grotesque was written after Manson had finished his magnum opus (the last three albums) and lost his best friend, so he was searching for something new. Eat Me, Drink Me was not only the aforementioned problems, but also, his dream of a film about Lewis Carroll, one of his idols, starring, written and directed by him, had just been shut down. The High End of Low is one part him falling apart once more, but it is also him healing. The last track, 15, was written on his birthday and was recovering from his depression that spawned Into The Fire (written that Christmas). Also, he had just gotten Twiggy back, which was pretty much like a double amputee regaining his limbs, as well as getting super powers. Born Villain is the first time he's written an album while pretty much not deeply depressed and/or suicidal, which explains the experimental sound of it.
Def Leppard's "White Lightning" is about guitarist Steve Clark's death from an overdose of booze and prescription drugs.
SLANG features songs called "All I Want Is Everything" (Word Of God states it's about a man dying of AIDS) and "Where Does Love Go When It Dies", Joe Elliott was going through a divorce at the time....
Melissa Etheridge's song This Is Not Goodbye was written and recorded after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.
In a weird twist on the trope, Jewel's hit song "You Were Meant For Me" was written by her ex-boyfriend, Steve Poltz of The Rugburns, to deal with his grief over her breaking up with him. Apparently, there weren't too many hard feelings in the wake of the breakup — Poltz appears as Jewel's love interest in the music video.
Australian band The Whitlams have had a turbulent history, including the suicides of two of the three original members. Some of their songs reflect this, including Charlie No. 3, written a fortnight after the death of Stevie Plunder, and The Curse Stops Here, following Andy Lewis's death.
Slipknot's 'Snuff', from their All Hope is Gone album, is one of their slowest, ballad-ish songs, and it was inspired by one of singer Corey Taylor's failed romances. He only talked about the matter once, and said something along the lines of 'I thought she felt the same way and she really let me down'. 'It goes from a sad 'I still press your letters to my lips/and cherish them in parts of me that savor every kiss' to a pissed off 'You couldn't hate enough to love/ Is that supposed to be enough?'. The short film which Corey stars illustrates this.
Singer/Songwriter Patrick Wolf fell victim to this trope, but things got better: he suffered from a horrible break-up during his tour for The Magic Position. He first quit music altogether, then decided otherwise and was set to write a double album of woe entitled "Battle", and then - in his words - "fell rather spectacularly in love". What did this mean for his breakdown album? It was split in two, with the first album reflecting his 'woe' period. Said album can only be described as 'Happy Emo' - what should be 40 minutes of self-pity based on the lyrics, but is actually quite uplifting and otherwise not fitting to a breakdown album. The second album, Lupercalia, is bright and beautiful and everything you'd expect from someone so in love and so happy.
After pop singer Rihanna was assaulted by her then boyfriend Chris Brown, she released Rated R, a pretty dark (for pop at least) album with songs patterned after themes commonly found in R-rated films. The lead single was "Russian Roulette", a song about jumping into a potentionally dangerous relationship.
Chris Brown had a few songs about the incident on his album Graffiti, specifically "Crawl," which is about trying to rebuild trust in a broken relationship.
It's clear something happened to the songwriter of Del Amitri in the writing of "Change Everything". Every single song is about unrequited love or a disastrous affair, and most are about the former resulting in the latter.
Usher's Raymond Vs. Raymond was inspired both by his acrimonious divorce (heard most noticably in the song "Papers") and his feeling that he'd lost his spot as a musical sex symbol.
His album Confessions was about his break-up with Chilli from TLC (though he claims that neither of those albums are about his personal life).
Songs Not To Get Married To and Last Stop: Crappytown are about James Dewees of Reggie & The Full Effect and two life-altering experiences. The first album is about his divorce from his wife Megan, and the second is about his experiences in rehab. The first album listed is perhaps his strongest work, because while he's depressed about his divorce (It's clear he still loves his now ex-wife), he still makes good to throw in at least a couple joke tracks like his three previous albums, and the songs have some of his best songwriting. The latter, however, is confusing and somewhat of a mess, and far heavier than anything he'd released before.
Kelly Clarkson's song "Behind These Hazel Eyes" off her Breakaway album was originally written about a person staying true to herself in the world of showbiz. After Kelly's boyfriend at the time David Hodges (formerly of Evanescence) left her to marry an ex-girlfriend Kelly changed it into a bitter breakup song. The video of the song reflects Kelly's anger at her boyfriend's nuptials. "Never Again" a song from her third album My December also is about the same ex-boyfriend.
And "Because of You" was about the breakup of her parents.
Christina Aguilera 's songs "Oh Mother" (off Back To Basics), and "I'm OK" (off Stripped) talk about her abuse as a very young child.
A great deal of Warren Zevon's songs are reflecting things that were personal to him. They still work out brilliantly on most occasions because they're well-written and emotive, and of course, he somewhat mocked the whole idea in a handful of songs due to his sense of humour.
His songs get a lot more personal on his final album, The Wind, since he wrote and recorded it when he was diagnosed with terminal cancer. There's still some of his humor in there, especially in the lyrics of "Disorder in the House", but it's a lot bleaker. When he recorded "Knockin' on Heaven's Door" for the album, everyone else in the studio was supposedly reduced to tears.
P!nk'sFunhouse album was produced after her separation from Carey Hart. Subject songs include "Please Don't Leave Me", "It's All Your Fault", and the title track, which involves burning down their former "fun house" that is now "full of evil clowns". In a funny subversion, Hart appeared in the video for "So What", the lead single from that album, which helped lead to them reconciling. They've since had a child together and P!nk's next album, fittingly enough, was entitled The Truth About Love.
In probably a creepier occasion of this trope, the band Slint had a pretty crazy thing happen during the recording of Spiderland. Reportedly two of the members had to be admitted to a mental hospital due to extreme depression. Apparently the band members were all in stable mental health before recording began, so either it's a coincidence or the dark, brooding sound of Spiderland was driving them insane.
Arcade Fire recorded Funeral just after the deaths of two of the members' grandparents.
One can't help but feel sorry for Jason Pierce of Spiritualized. It's happened not once, not twice, but THREE times since the band's existence:
It happened on the first album Laser Guided Melodies in 1992 just after Jason Pierce's previous band Spacemen 3 broke up due to a feud between Pierce and Peter Kember. However, the album itself is comparatively light on the depressive breakdown and musically upbeat, sounding more excited about the new beginning than mopey.
It happened during the recording of the third album, Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space when Jason's girlfriend at the time and keyboardist Kate Radley had an affair with Richard Ashcroft, the lead singer for The Verve (who she later married). This caused Jason to start heavy drug abuse and write more complex arrangements (as if they weren't complex and spacey enough as it is), while still balancing the depressive tendencies with upbeat material.
Then it happened again during the recording of the latest album Songs in A & E. Pierce's weak immune system caused him to get a really bad case of pneumonia. It took him 3 years to recover and was on the brink of death while recording. Luckily he survived, but it doesn't help that Jason literally watched some of his fellow patients die in the hospital that he stayed in. OUCH!
And to make it worse, some of the bleaker tracks were recorded before he got pneumonia.
Neutral Milk Hotel's Jeff Magnum had a famous breakdown with his obsession over Anne Frank during the recording of In The Aeroplane Over The Sea. While the album is considered a classic, the fact that you can feel Magnum's obsession getting stronger and stronger throughout each track. Apparently after the album he just got worse. This may have been one of the reasons why they ended up splitting.
The breakdown is often thought to have been caused by Neutral Milk Hotel's rising fame (and Mangum's difficulty coping with that) too, though.
Then again, there's a strong undercurrent of emotional turmoil in most of Mangum's music. "Three Peaches", for example, is about a friend's suicide attempt (she succeeded the second time), while "Sailing Through" is... harrowing.
Jeff Buckley was also pretty famous for this, often writing songs just after major breakups and what may have been bipolar lows.
Rufus Wainwright recorded All Days Are Nights: Songs For Lulu while his mother was dying of cancer. His previous albums, known for lush full orchestrations, are not anywhere near as depressing as this. All it is is Rufus singing with piano, nothing more. Somehow the result is a Tear Jerker.
Subversion: The notoriously difficult band Current 93 released an album, Sleep Has His House, after the death of David Tibet's father. It's downright calming, down to the twenty-four-minute long ambient drone song.
The My Chemical Romance song "Sleep" features recordings of Gerard Way recounting the nightmares he had out of concern for his brother, who was suicidal at the time.
After his girlfriend left him to join a cult, then being haunted by nightmares of her drowning, Nevermore's main songwriter and vocalist Warrel Dane wrote Dreaming Neon Black, with some of his best lyrical and vocal work. It's bleak, heartwrenching, and considered one of their best albums.
By the time 1986 rolled around, Jeff Lynne realized that he was growing disillusioned with Electric Light Orchestra and wanted to pursue other projects. The result was the album Balance of Power, which was filled with upbeat-sounding songs about awful relationships, which were metaphors for Jeff's thoughts on the band. Shortly after the album was released, ELO disbanded.
Panda Bear (aka Noah Lennox) recorded the very mournful sounding album "Young Prayer" while his father was dying in a hospital. He later wrote "Brother Sport" which was used on Animal Collective's Merriweather Post Pavilion for his brother after their father died, but is much more light in tone.
The cynical air of Jethro Tull's Minstrel in the Gallery is often thought to be related to main songwriter Ian Anderson's recent divorce.
Anna-Varney Cantodea has made her entire career out of this trope. Most of her songs are both depressing and/or profound and autobiographical.
Country singer and songwriter Taylor Swift admitted that all her self-written songs were inspired by real life experiences, saying that "If you listen to my albums, it's like reading my diary". Then tag the fact that almost all of her songs were about relationships with people (both friendly and romantic) with whom she parted ways.
Her song "You Belong With Me'' was inspired by her feelings of sympathy over a male friend being yelled at over the phone by his girlfriend.
Wire, in spite of their generally detached approach to lyrics, are not immune to this. At all. The periods from the sessions for 154 through Document And Eyewitness (1979-1980) and from their first reformation through The Ideal Copy (1984-1987) both exhibit this in spades, with the latter perhaps taking the cake for shear volume of misfortune and misery (Graham Lewis' ugly break-up, Colin Newman's divorce and hepatitis).
Pam Tillis's All of This Love was a considerably downbeat album compared to her previous works. It includes the last song she wrote with Bob DiPiero, whom she would later divorce: "It's Lonely Out There", which expresses both parties' feelings about each other.
This is obvious in the works of songwriter Dennis Linde. After years of happy, almost obsessive love songs (e.g. "Burning Love" by Elvis Presley, "I'm Gonna Get You" by Eddy Raven, etc.) his material starts turning dark with Sammy Kershaw's "Queen of My Double Wide Trailer", about a man who gets angry at another man for taking his girl, and then he (the first man) takes her back. Over time, the love songs made way for much darker tales of love lost, such as "Night Is Fallin' in My Heart" by Diamond Rio. After a very Take That-ish song to corporate Nashville in Joe Diffie's "Down in a Ditch", almost no Linde songs were recorded until the Dixie Chicks cut "Goodbye Earl", a rather nasty revenge song on the same Earl from "Queen of My Double Wide Trailer". Once again, no other Linde songs appeared anywhere until Alan Jackson recorded "Talkin' Song Repair Blues", another Take That to Nashville.
The Dixie Chicks had a massive creator breakdown in 2003 when they decided to mock the Bush Administration at a London concert. The result was the band being hated by nearly every country music fan and suddenly loved by everyone else. This affected the music on the Chicks' 2006 follow up to be much darker than fans were expecting.
Devin Townsend wrote the album "Infinity" while his breakdown was in full swing, after recording his past two albums on a continuous basis; recording the heavy, proggy "Ocean Machine" during the day and the balls-out and furious industrial metal classic "City" at night. Immediately afterwards, the combination of his overworking and drug use caused him to have a nervous breakdown. He decided to commit himself to a mental hospital for a few days, though he was soon discharged. Immediately afterwards he recorded the album, which is probably the most multitracked and "out-there" effort that he has recorded, with some influences from musical theatre.
311 is usually known for their positive, upbeat lyrics. However, 1999's Soundsystem includes songs (particularly "Flowing") with lyrics reflecting the self-doubt and lack of direction that singer Nick Hexum was dealing with at the time.
Lady Gaga's second album The Fame Monster was written due to her fears she began to face on her way to fame. Some notable tracks would be "Speechless" and "Dance In The Dark". "Speechless" was written when her father needed heart surgery to save his life but refused to get it (he had had a heart condition all his life). She said it was her plea to her father to have the surgery. She also performed it recently in dedication to her grandfather who had just died. It is notable that her live performances of this song are extremely emotional (with her even becoming teary-eyed). "Dance In The Dark" is about the insecurities she faces every day.
Bat For Lashes's second album Two Suns was heavily inspired by her move to New York for her boyfriend at the time. She developed an alternate persona named Pearl who was her direct foil. The sadness and alienation Natasha felt during her time in New York is reflected on many of the tracks. The song Siren Song in particular is the most emotional track on the album with Pearl lamenting that she cannot love another person without using them. The album itself uses the theme of duality.
Kylie Minogue is normally known for extremely upbeat songs but her ballad 'Flower' was written after she was recovering from cancer. No More Rain is also about her return to the stage. Cosmic is a personal ballad of her feelings at the time.
Impossible Princess would count as this too as it's extremely personal and intimate compared to the rest of her other work.
Matchbox 20's song "3 A.M". was all about Rob Thomas dealing with his mother's bout with cancer.
"Back on the Chain Gang" deals with Chrissie Hynde's feelings over two founding Pretenders members having overdosed a year apart from each other. Notably, Selena's Spanish-language version changes the title (to "Fotos y Recuerdas", "Photographs and Memories"), and dispenses with the song's angrier aspects.
Eddie Money's song "No Control" is about his near-death from an overdose.
Several songs on beautifulgarbage seem to reflect Shirley Manson's recently having gone through a divorce. Notably, "Till the Day I Die" details the disintegration of the relationship, while "Cup of Coffee" deals with the aftermath.
Jimi Hendrix's former girlfriend Monika Dannemann wrote the lyrics for Scorpions' "We'll Burn the Sky", about being distraught over a deceased love.
A lot of the songs on soul songstress Phyllis Hyman's last album, "I refuse to be lonely", deal with overcoming depression, which she was struggling with for many years. It is her most personal album, featuring six songs co-written by her - more songs than she wrote during her entire career. She committed suicide four months before the album's release.
Ween, a band known for the sense of humor they incorporate into their music, created the album Quebec while Gene Ween (the singer) was battling with substance abuse while going through a divorce. It shows. This album is nowhere near lighthearted, and most of the musical and lyrical wackiness that Ween is known for is absent.
Adele's 2008 debut album 19 was inspired after she went through a devastating breakup with a boyfriend who caused her to become a heavy drinker. While little information has been revealed as to what anguish the ex-boyfriend caused, she revealed in 2011 that he contacted her shortly after she became famous to demand a cut of the profits from the album. Many of the songs on 19 seemingly reflect this relationship, as they are focused on resentment upon an unseen person.
Her second album 21 is largely full of songs about the breakdown of a relationship. The song "Someone Like You" describes her finding out that the man in question has married someone else since their relationship ended.
Screamin Jay Hawkins was discovered while having an alcohol and love-induced breakdown on a club stage, singing "I Put A Spell On You." When he tried to record it in a studio, the person who originally loved the song said it wasn't sounding angsty enough. Jay had him bring in a case of liquor, got completely smashed, and recorded the album version that you can hear today (including the sex sounds at the end, which pretty much ensured it wouldn't get aired on the radio). Funnily enough, the woman he was singing about heard the song and did date the artist.
Fictional example: Lemonade Mouth bassist Mohini (Naomi Scott), after breaking up with her boyfriend Scott, sings the rather angry "She's So Gone".
Subverted by Mike Skinner of English rap group The Streets, who wrote "Never Went To Church" in response to the death of his father. It's a pure Tear Jerker, but it ends on an ultimately optimistic note about remembering the good times and moving onwards.
The album it's taken from, The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living is about Skinner's drug addiction. Even though songs like "When You Wasn't Famous" are somewhat light-hearted, the opening track "Prangin' Out" is pretty harrowing.
After the success of Pulp's Different Class, frontman Jarvis Cocker developed a cocaine addiction and suffered a nervous breakdown while recording their follow-up This Is Hardcore. The result is a much darker sound, with lyrics focusing on said breakdown, drugs and fame.
Much of Paul Simon's output in the 1980s was influenced by his separation and eventual divorce from Carrie Fisher. She said she was particularly hurt by lyrics like "My heart is allergic to the woman I love."
Delta Goodrem's Mistaken Identity album was inspired by her cancer ordeal and relationship upheaval in 2003 and 2004, and is, among fans, considered her best work. She did it in about 6 months with a vision behind it: the sad circumstances and awareness of her own mortality in the middle of 2003.
The Veronicas have a track called "In Another Life" which is about a very personal situation to Jess (a long term relationship came to a complicated end), so when she's heard crying in the track it's real, not faked.
"Cold" is Lisa's song about an abusive relationship she had with a guy who she recently broke up with. She does the Spoken Word in Music parts of this song, similar to the way Jess did the verses in "In Another Life".
Marillion: Dare we mention gloomy existentialist Scottish rockers Marillion, who married great musical competence with some of the most depressing Scottish themes of death, wholesale slaughter and destruction since Culloden, Margaret Thatcher, and Trainspotting? Script For A Jester's Tear, an ocean of self-pitying Goth depression, kick-started it. Then there was Misplaced Childhood, a long elegy for a dead love affair. Things got no better with subsequent albums. Clutching At Straws was autobiographical, charting the descent of lead singer Derek "Fish" Dick into alcohol-related complications. At one point a lugubrious Scottish doctor does a voice over with "If you maintain this lifestyle, you will not reach thirty". This was not fictional. "Fish" really was drinking himself to death at the time.
Lauryn Hill's debut album, The Miseducation Of Lauryn Hill discusses motherhood, her time in The Fugees, and her relationship with Wyclef Jean. Many of the songs, in fact, were suspected to be direct attacks on Wyclef Jean and Pras, such as "Lost Ones," "Superstar," "Ex-Factor" and "Forgive Them Father". "To Zion" discusses her first pregnancy and how people told her to have an abortion so that she wouldn't ruin her career, but she believed that her family should come first in her life.
Space suffered a communal Creator Breakdown in 1997. Jamie Murphy had a nervous breakdown. Tommy Scott lost his voice for two months and was stalked by a crazed fan in America. Franny Griffiths had various health problems. Yorkie's mother died. Poor communication nearly broke up the band whilst touring Asia. Andy Parle, the quiet one of the band, grew increasingly unhappy and left at the end of the year because he couldn't cope with the pressures of fame and constant touring. Tin Planet and 'Avenging Angels', the latter about the deaths of the band's loved ones, were the result.
David Draiman, the vocalist for the metal/rock band Disturbed cites this as the reason behind the single "Inside The Fire" from the album Indestructible. When he was in his teens an obsessive ex-girlfriend killed herself over him and he was having recurring nightmares about it. "Inside The Fire" was his 'catharsis'. Incidentally, it's also one of their most popular songs ever and has earned Draiman himself near godlike respect from the band's fans.
Britney Spears and her What Could Have Been album "The Original Doll" would have been an example of this trope if it had been released. She was clearly had some very significant problems and they were spoken of in the Mona Lisa (Demo) and her sample of the song Rebellion. The release of this could have averted the breakdown she had. She often mentioned a lack of trust in her family and those close to her outside of her fledgling family.
She personally went through a personal break down and had deep emotional/trust issues in late 2006 to early 2008. She mostly averts this with her releases and tries to keep a separation between her music and her personal feelings/lives/creations.
Her cancelled album "Shock Your Mind" was supposed to be this too. Till her recording company stepped in for the first time to "adjust" the idea behind the album to her Self-Titled Album "Britney".
Let's not forget about "Lucky". Released in 2000, the song tells the story of a girl who is a worldwide superstar, but feels lonely and as if no one understands her. The song also never offers a resolution to the issue, ending with the lyrics "Why do these tears come at night?". Could it be that Britney was trying to tell us something? Or could it be that she was just worried about what might happen (and what ultimately DID happen) if she let all the negativity get to her? Either way, given her very public breakdown in 2007, the song is a bit too prophetic for comfort.
Florence + the Machine's albums "Lungs" and "Ceremonials" both have come from the lead singer breaking up with the same person twice. Right before the start of recording of each album. This explains some of the morbidity in these works and the lack of a real love song in the albums so far.
"No Light, No Light" and "Hurricane Drunk" are songs which deal with the direct issues of and the circumstances following the break ups.
Eddie Vedder of Pearl Jam had a strange version of this. After Kurt Cobain died, he basically took all the press that Kurt was getting before he Ate His Gun in the face like a ton of bricks. The result of this sudden media attention and almost ire at times, due to his activism and out-spoken-ness, was Vitalogy. A album that was a complete subversion of what they had been making at the time, non-commercial and almost anti-radio at times. It's safe to say that the already broken Vedder, was on the verge of being completely shattered due to the media weight - and afterwards even tried to alienate the fanbase by refusing to work with Ticketmaster and rereleasing even less commercial albums such as No Code.
He and the rest of the band also suffered from this after a tragedy at the 2000 Roskilde Festival, where nine fans were trampled to death during Pearl Jam's concert. The band even considered breaking up, and a few songs in the following album Riot Act deal with this, such as "I Am Mine", "Love Boat Captain" ("lost nine friends we'll never know, two years ago today"note in concerts Vedder likes to change for the number of years passed since 2000) and "Arc", which is Eddie moaning nine times.
Much of Diamanda Galás' work is dedicated to people with AIDS, especially her 1980s "Masque Of The Red Death" cycle. This is mostly in part to her brother being diagnosed with AIDS early in the epidemic's appearance (he died in 1986, before the cycle could be completed). Her album "The Singer" features a picture of her hands, which are tattooed with the words "We Are All HIV+." Her album "Vena Cava" is told from the point of view of someone losing their mind while dying from the disease.
Barenaked Ladies wrote the song "Brian Wilson," from their first album, about someone going through such a breakdown and comparing it to the one Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys went through. They namechecked several major influences and signs of Wilson's breakdown in the song (including the album Smiley Smile and his one-time psychiatrist Dr. Landy). In a meta turn, years later, Brian Wilson did a cover of "Brian Wilson" (a clip of which is available on his live album Live At The Roxy Theatre).
Vanessa Amorosi has two, "Somewhere In The Real World" about breaking up with a guy who didn't want what she wanted and parts of "Hazardous" are about a guy who cheated on her. (Sleep With That, Blow Me Away)
Michael Nesmith (formerly of The Monkees) has several. "The Naked Persimmon (The Only Thing I Believe Is True)" and "Hollywood" both chronicle his negative experiences in show business. "Nine Times Blue" is supposedly an apology song to his then-wife, Phyllis (Nesmith had not only cheated on her, but had fathered a son with his long-time mistress, Nurit Wilde).
From her second album "A Little More Personal(Raw) Lindsay Lohan has "Confessions Of A Broken Heart (Daughter To Father) which was about her parents divorce and her deep resentment towards her father over his abusive attitude towards her.
Avenged Sevenfold's Nightmare was virtually complete at the time that James "The Rev" Sullivan died in late 2009; all the music was written, it just needed to be recorded and mixed. While the music remained largely untouched, most of the lyrics were rewritten to reflect on his passing.
Mark Kozelek of Sun Kil Moon and Red House Painters has had several creator breakdowns throughout his musical career. It'd be easier to cronicle the three releases where he didn't suffer this trope. This would be on Ghosts Of The Lost Highway, Songs For A Blue Guitar, and Old Ramon. Whenever he's not depressed, Kozelek's music sounds very laid-back and more rock oriented. Depress him and you get either extremely slow depressing songs with sinister sounding atmospheres or you get very dark sounding borderline nightmare fuel traditional folk.
During the recording of the early demo tapes through Rollercoaster/Bridge sessions, Kozelek was struggling with massive mental depression, loneliness, and suicidal thoughts.
Kozelek cited the death of a one-time muse of his as the inspiration for the stark sounds appearing on April.
Sparklehorse's Mark Linkous suffered from this more than any man should have to, nearly dying of drug overdose and then, many years later, actuallydying due to suicide.
Robert Wyatt of Soft Machine wrote an album called Rock Bottom after a series of troubles in his life - but insists that a drunken accident at a house party in 1973 that left him paralysed from the waist down didn't influence the music at all.
The songs on the second Weezer album, Pinkerton, are about lead singer Rivers Cuomo's various troubles after the release of his first album, such as his guilty feelings as a result of using his rock star status to take advantage of women.
After the initially negative reception of Pinkerton, Rivers apparently locked himself in his home and painted all his walls black. Rather than releasing another emotional album to express Rivers's feelings, the next album to be released was the, for the most part sterile, Green Album.
Jamey Johnson released his debut album on BNA Records in 2005, but due to a corporate restructuring, the label dropped him after only two singles, the second of which got no promotion and failed to chart. After a divorce, he became a Reclusive Artist and developed a drug and alcohol addiction, even though Trace Adkins, Joe Nichols, and George Strait had all recorded some of his songs. Once he cleaned himself up, he moved to Mercury Records and began recording albums that have received extremely high critical acclaim for their "outlaw" influences.
When they're not political, Ministry songs are likely some sort of breakdown from singer Al Jourgensen. His heroin addiction inspired the songs "Just One Fix," "Step," and "Piss," as well as a cover of Amy Winehouse's "Rehab." Their song "Ghouldiggers" is one long Author Tract about the music industry.
The band's 1982 album Under The Big Black Sun was at least somewhat influenced by the death of Exene Cervenka's sister Mirielle in a car accident: While it doesn't sound much darker than a typical X album, "Riding With Mary", "Come Back To Me", and the title track all directly dealt with losing a loved one. Even the one Cover Song, Al Dubin and Joe Burke's "Dancing With Tears In My Eyes", is pretty mournful lyrically.
Three years later, Cervenka and singer/bassist John Doe divorced. Meanwhile, Billy Zoom decided to leave the band, but stuck around for one more album, Ain't Love Grand. With lyrics about breakups and lost love and a slick, radio friendly production, this album is considered a misstep by fans and the group themselves. Cervenka herself has admitted, "We shouldn't have made a record that year."
Thankfully, this story has a fairly happy ending: Doe and Cervenka remain friends, Zoom rejoined in 1998, and the band continues to play live.
"Art is Dead" by Bo Burnham. Especially jarring since Bo is usually a comedy artist.
I must be psychotic, I must be demented, to think that I'm worthy of all this attention, of all of this money you worked really hard for. I slept in late while you worked at the drug store. My drug's attention, I am an addict, but I get paid to indulge in my habit.
Faith Assembly's appropriately named Descent into Madness, his darkest and most depressing album yet, was written while Mark was struggling with various physical, mental, economic, and social adversities.
The Fall Out Boy album "From Under the Cork Tree" featured lyrics that were written right before and right after bassist and lyricist Pete Wentz's suicide attempt. "7 Minutes (Atavan Halen)" is the only song explicitly stated to be about the attempt, but some hints of it also show up in the other songs, like the entirety of the song "Dance, Dance", and "I Slept with Someone from Fall Out Boy and All I Got was this Stupid Song Written About Me", which opens with the line: "I found the cure to growing older." (the cure to growing older is dying young)
Black Sabbath started experiencing breakdowns in the mid-70s. The first one was their drug abuse, grueling schedule and general managerial issues resulting in Tony Iommi getting writer's block. The first song he managed to write was "Sabbath Bloody Sabbath," which deals with ideas of being lied to, abandoned and betrayed and wanting to see those people burn and not caring if you live or die. The second big breakdown was when they recorded their next album, Sabotage. During the recording the band was dealing with mountains of legal issues due to being conned by their management. The album has a very aggressive sound and the closing song, "The Writ," is essentially Ozzy raging against their former management with a minimalist backing track.
The image on the trope's page is a parody of Phil Ochs' 1969 album Rehearsals for Retirement. Ochs was a leftist Singer Songwriter famous for his protest songs, and he was deeply depressed by the events of 1968 (the assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the police riot in Chicago, and the election of Richard Nixon). The album depicts Ochs' own tombstone, which stated that he died in "Chicago, Illinois, 1968"
The Great Southern Trendkill by Pantera was recorded during a time of tension within the band. Frontman Philip Anselmo had started distancing himself from his bandmates and was using heroin to deal with his chronic back pain. The tension between between Anselmo and the rest of the band was so bad that he recorded in a separate studio from them. The result is the darkest, hardest album in the band's discography, swinging between rage(War Nerve, Sandlasted Skin), despair(Floods, Suicide Note Pt. 1), and a combination of the two (Suicide Note Pt. 2).
The best-known and probably the most controversial single The Boomtown Rats ever released, "I Don't Like Mondays", was written a few days after the Cleveland Elementary School Shooting. Lead singer Bob Geldof was being interviewed for US television when the report came into the studio and ended up with a front-row seat as events unfolded. He ended up writing the song as a way to put his uncomprehending horror and revulsion into words.
The tone of portions of Ashley Tisdale's Guilty Pleasure album, while still being musically upbeat and catchy teen pop, is filled with breakup songs like "It's Alright, It's OK" and "Me Without You", confessional songs like "What If" and topical, angsty songs like "How Do You Love Someone?", reflecting Ashley's then-recent breakup with dancer boyfriend Jared Murillo. Many other songs, interestingly enough, show a (relatively) playfully Hotter and Sexier side to her ("Hair"; "Crank It Up").
Patrick Cowley's third and final album, Mind Warp, was produced while he was dying of AIDS, and its title and content reflect his increasingly distorted perception of reality.
The Fairport Convention album Liege and Lief was recorded while the band was still reeling from a car accident that killed original drummer Martin Lamble and injured several of the other members.
Elvis Presley tended to record mostly country weepies during his final years, with several biographies blaming his divorce from Priscilla, and his fading health, for the change in tone.
Bad Religion frontman Greg Graffin reflects this on his first solo studio album American Lesion, having dealt with his first divorce and losing long-time best friend Brett Gurewitz over contractual disputes. As such, the lyrical content is much less snarky, metaphor-oriented like Bad Religion, and more fragile and direct.
Rush went through a really harsh period of creator breakdown in the late 1990s when drummer and lyricist Neil Peart's wife and daughter died suddenly. The band broke up and Peart spent some time working through his grief by taking a motorcycle journey across North America. Years passed, and Peart returned to his lifelong buddies and former bandmates to get the band back together. Their return album, Vapor Trails, is almost absurdly darker than what they were putting out before the band broke up, peppered not only with extensive meditations on Peart's own sadness, but dark-toned musings about the end of the world and the legacy of the September 11th terrorist attacks. This set the tone for the band through their next two studio albums, Snakes and Arrows and Clockwork Angels, both of which are strongly influenced by a kind of fatalistic existentialism and militant atheism driven by cynicism about the modern world. Critics generally agree that Vapor Trails was a little rough (especially the mix) as the band is finding their footing again after over half a decade of being broken up, but Snakes and Arrows is better and Clockwork Angels is even better still, signaling that the boys are back on form.
A good chunk of Jackson Browne's The Pretender was him working through the suicide of his first wife, Phyllis.
Sheryl Crow's The Globe Sessions is an intensely personal and introspective album written while she was suffering from severe depression and the aftermath of a catastrophically imploded relationship. "My Favorite Mistake" about a philandering ex-boyfriend (rumoured to be Eric Clapton) is a prime example.
Did you know, could you tell, You were the only one... That I ever loved. Now everything's so wrong. Did you see me walking by? Did it ever make you cry? You're my favorite mistake...
Josh Homme went through this during the time between Era Vulgaris and ...Like Clockwork. In 2010, he contracted major depression thanks to a leg injury that left him hospitalized for about four months. To make matters worse, the surgery performed on his leg was seriously botched, resulting in his heart stopping for a few minutes before he was revived through a defibrillator. Needless to say, this experience informs a good percentage of the lyrics on ...Like Clockwork.
Peter Gabriel's 1992 album, Us (the followup to So) was something of a Concept Album exploring communication and relationships between people. Between So and Us, he had divorced his first wife Jill Moore, entered a relationship with and broke up with actress Rosanna Arquette, and saw his relationship with his eldest daughter Anna-Marie deteriorate (they would reconcile later on). The followup album, Up, released in 2001, dealt with death and mortality; Peter's father died during the making of the album, and he was haunted by the experience of not being able to communicate with his daughters who were living in New York City during the attacks on 9/11.
Virtually all of Lord Mantis's output can best be summed up as "Charlie Fell is a goddamn wreck". He's been very, very open about his serious drug problems and even admitted that music has been the only thing that has kept him from going off the deep end and winding up dead or in prison; that, coupled with no small amount of sexual confusion, has all showed up very prominently in his music, which is basically a Creator Breakdown spanning an entire career that manifests as venomous self-loathing and seething misanthropy.
Garth Brooks' fictional alter ego Chris Gaines, from In The Life Of Chris Gaines, had a few of these in his career. His debut solo album Straight Jacket was released following the death of a band member from his former band Crush. Fornucopia came about following the death of his father from cancer. And Apostle came about from having survived an automobile accident and going through reconstructive surgery.
Imagine Dragons frontman Dan Reynolds admittedly experienced depression while writing the songs for Smoke + Mirrors, which shows in the tracks' disillusioned and apologetic tones.
Adam Gontier went through a bad painkiller addiction that became the basis of most of the lyrics on One-X.
Back in 1969, Dory Previn went through a humiliating divorce after her husband left her for Mia Farrow, and ended up so depressed that she was institutionalized and underwent electroconvulsive therapy. Afterwards, she began writing more introspective songs... and also the scathing "Beware of Young Girls", which was aimed squarely at Farrow.
Badfinger's 1975 album Head First was written in the shadow of the peak of band's legal and financial crises, a result of corrupt management and legal entanglements with their then-label, Warner Bros. Records; the album had been shelved until 2000 as $100,000 was found missing from a Badfinger escrow account. The band had already seen guitarist Joey Molland leave (to be replaced by keyboardist/vocalist Bob Jackson), and three of the album's songs dealt with their money/management woes quite blatantly. Not long after, vocalist/guitarist/songwriter Pete Ham would hang himself in the basement of his house, effectly putting an end to the band until 1977's Airwaves album.
The as-of-yet untitled upcoming album from After the Burial has shades of this, as a combination of extreme stress, drug usage, longstanding emotional problems, and general frustration caused Justin Lowe to have a very public psychotic breakdown in June of 2015 when he made a lengthy, rambling, and largely incoherent post on Facebook about how he had left the band due to a supposed conspiracy between his bandmates, Sumerian Records, and most of his friends and family to ruin him. He was in the care of his family but apparently managed to run away; his unoccupied car was found in a parking lot on the Minnesota side of the St. Croix River, and on July 21, 2015, a hiker found a body that was later identified to be his, serving as a heartbreaking conclusion to a very sad saga.
B52s. In 1985, guitarist Ricky Wilson was dying from AIDS and decided to confide it to Keith Strickland and no one else. Late that year, he died. Wilson's sister Cindy didn't find out he had AIDS until about three days before he died. Let's say that no one took Ricky's death well....
Trance producer RAM's first full length artist album "Forever Love", and its lead single "RAMelia: Tribute to Amelia" (a truly heartwrenchingGrief Song), was made with (in his own words) the whirlwind of emotions he went through when his beloved wife Amelia passed away.