Everyone gets paranoid from time to time. Sometimes you end up in the dark area of Youtube at 1:30AM and need to make sure the doors are locked. Or you’re sitting at home watching a movie when a thud makes you get up and search until you find it. It’s a normal feeling; some even say a little paranoia is good – it keeps you on your toes. But what happens when things go too far? It can turn into an unhealthy obsession, always checking over your shoulder. Or sometimes, there may actually be somebody behind you, watching your every move. These songs are for those times when you’re feeling on edge, thinking you’re being followed or watched. As some of these songs prove, you may not be alone.
“Who Can It Be Now?” – Men at Work
Sometimes there’s no greater dread than hearing an unexpected knock at the door. Is it the mail carrier? Or is it a kidnapper coming to take you away? That’s what Men at Work are wondering on this track. Collin Hay is paranoid and maybe a little agoraphobic as he sings about not leaving the house and feeling safest in his home. It’s a little weird, but who hasn’t pretended like they weren’t home when the doorbell rang? But then you start to question the singer as he assures us there’s nothing wrong with his state of mind and even worries that “the men” will come to take him away. The song doesn’t make you feel any better about being paranoid, but at least it has that killer sax riff.
“Somebody’s Watching Me” – Rockwell
This is the greatest and most ridiculous song dedicated to paranoia. Rockwell sings about coming home after a hard day and living in fear he’s not alone. He drops references to Psycho and The Twilight Zone while looking over his shoulder to see if he’s being watched (like that old Bugs Bunny joke). Though the singer is most likely being paranoid, we’ve all felt like there was something in the closet watching us in bed. Or even someone behind us as we sit in front of our computers…never mind. The song is cheesy, but what saves it is Michael Jackson’s hook. It proves that Jackson can make the most horrible songs sound good.
“Don’t Stand So Close to Me” – The Police
While the song could easily be used to describe how you’re feeling on the train during rush hour, the song is about an inappropriate student-teacher relationship. Sting croons about a teacher fretting over a student crush and what the consequences are if it gets out of hand. Of course, things do go further leading up to a confrontation with the rest of the staff near the end of the song. Oddly enough, Sting was an English teacher but he denies the song is autobiographical. The Police seem pretty paranoid and creepy as a later entry on the list will show.
“Paranoid and Aroused” – Korn
It’s all in the title. This song explores someone fighting off their demons and constantly feeling on edge, thinking the demons are going to win in the end. This person descends further into madness, medication being no help until they’re at the point of breaking and losing control. Though the title may make you think there’s something sexual happening while freaking out, there’s nothing of the sort. It’s more that the person can’t let their guard down for one second for fear something is out to get them.
“Paranoid” – Black Sabbath
What would later be known as one of Black Sabbath’s best songs, “Paranoid” is about a guy whose – well you get the idea. Ozzy waxes about not feeling emotions like love, happiness, and joy properly prompting him to think something is wrong with him. There’s nothing he can do except live with his fate. Notably, the guitar riff frantically races along representing the nervous energy of this poor guy. Though it’s one of the breakout tracks from the band’s second album of the same name, Geezer Butler has described it as a throwaway track; something to fill up three minutes. If you had to have a soundtrack for your paranoia, this wouldn’t be a bad song to have.
“I Think I’m Paranoid” – Garbage
One of Garbage’s biggest hits finds Shirley Manson not really sure who she is. She begs to be bent, molded and manipulated just to please someone or something. So what is she paranoid over? There are different theories ranging from wanting to please a guy to drugs. According to Butch Vig, the song has more to do with the music business than about someone who is actually paranoid, but the lyrics are still applicable. It’s probably the first song you thought of when you opened the playlist.
“Every Breath You Take” – The Police
This is one of the most misinterpreted songs in music history. Many believe it’s simply a love song; someone yearning for their loved one and not wanting to be lonely. Some have even gone as far as to make it their wedding song. Truth is, the song is from the perspective of a possessive ex-lover who cannot get over the person they lost. Keep that in mind the next time you hear the opening verse: “Every breath you take/every move you make/every bond you break/every step you take/I’ll be watching you.: Yes, this person is a stalker. It’s unsettling especially when you watch the video, which features Sting staring eerily at the camera. And people still couldn’t see this wasn’t a love song? Seems like The Police have some issues to work through.
“Obsession” – Animotion
This 80s one hit wonder seems like one of those oddly weird love songs that populated the decade. If you only pay attention to the opening verse, it seems like it’s about someone who wants someone else so badly they’re willing to do anything. A little weird, but not unheard of. It’s not until the second verse where things get unsettling: “I need you I need you/By sun or candlelight/You protest/You want to leave/Stay/Oh, there’s no alternative.” At this point, someone is being held hostage. Guess they were serious about the collecting and capture you line they sing before the hook. It’s one of those “Gotcha!” songs. You’re happily singing it without realizing it’s creepy as hell.
“Follow You” – Night Riots
This is another one of those “Gotcha” songs I mentioned earlier. The song is super catchy and Travis Hawley’s voice is so seductive you almost don’t realize how disturbing the song is: “I will follow you home/’Cause I know where you live/You’ll never be alone/’Cause I know where you live.” No matter how sweet it may sound when you’re hearing it, the song is about being a stalker. This guy doesn’t know the girl in question (“I saw your face inside the newspaper”) and proceeds to watch her undress because he’s convinced he’s in love. There’s nothing sweet and adorable about stalking someone no matter how good Hawley sounds while singing about it. It’s one of those songs that makes you stop and go “what the fuck is happening here?”
“Paranoid Android” – Radiohead
From the seemingly batshit lyrics to the constant sonic shifts, this song is paranoia incarnate. It begins softly with Thom Yorke whispering “please stop this noise/I’m trying to get some rest” already making his discomfort clear. It wastes no time getting weird with the next line “from all the unborn chicken voices in my head.” Right away we know something is not sitting well with this person. It continues in this fragile style until the bridge where gritty guitars take over as if to show this person’s breakdown. It’s haunting, yet beautiful all at once. Yorke was inspired to write the song after a nightmarish scenario in an LA bar. It’s claustrophobic, gritty, and intense and may just make you look over your shoulder when you hear it.
“I’m Afraid of Everyone” – The National
This song is a heartbreaking looking at paranoia and anxiety. It looks at someone trying to continue life in a normal fashion when everything around them is falling apart. Singer Matt Berninger croons “With my kid on my shoulders I try/Not to hurt anybody I like/But I don’t have the drugs to sort it out” showing the person on the verge of a breakdown. The music starts out fragile, like the person’s state of mind, and continually gets more stark and aggressive towards the end. Berninger ends with the line “Little voices swallowing my soul” hinting that the person has lost their battle with anxiety. It’s a haunting portrayal showing how serious the problem can get.
“One Way or Another” – Blondie
What starts out sounding like a playful is actually a disturbing account of being followed. Inspired by Debbie Harry’s ex-boyfriend, who stalked her after their broke up, the song is about someone hell bent on possessing someone. Harry sings about following them downtown, driving by their house, and stalking them through the mall. The song gets eerier as Harry grows instant on tracking down this person to the point where it sounds like she wants to harm them: “Lead you to the supermarket checkout/Some specials and rat food, get lost in the crowd.” The punk nature and Harry’s seductive vocals can’t hide how creepy this song is. And to think I used to sing this as a kid.
Which song puts you on edge? Which ode to paranoia did I forget? Let me know in the comments!