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10 Songs With Surprise Twists At The End

Rock like M. Night Shyamalan with these 10 tracks that aren’t quite what they seem…

There’s something beautiful about a surprise ending. Those goosebump-inducing moments – when it turns out Bruce Willis is actually dead, Amazing Amy staged her kidnapping, the narrator’s been Tyler Durden the whole time, and Maxim always hated Rebecca – are the stuff of artistic legend. 

But while these twists are difficult enough to pull off in a movie or book, they’re even more tricky in a song. Attaching a narrative to your lyrics is hard already; including one that blows the listener’s mind is Herculean. That said, it has been done. There are a handful of songs that turn their lyrics, or the typical themes present in songs like them, on their heads, providing masterful moments of mouth-covering revelation for the listener.

Here are 10 songs with surprise twists in them. Spoilers ahead, obviously…

Nick Cave – Where The Wild Roses Grow

We should’ve seen it coming. Where The Wild Roses Grow is a melancholy duet with Kylie Minogue from Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ infamous album Murder Ballads. The chorus rings, They call me the Wild Rose / But my name was Eliza Day / Why they call me that, I do not know / For my name was Eliza Day.’ Of course, it’s Nick who bestows Eliza’s nickname upon her in the sweeping final verse of this lush goth song. 

The Offspring – Hammerhead

There are songs with twists, and then there’s Hammerhead. The latter-day Offspring track if filled with brutal military imagery, describing a narrator moving through a warzone with guns blazing. Obviously, this is a track about a soldier trying to manoeuvre through a battle – or is it? The final lines of Hammerhead take things for a sinister turn you might not expect. Definitely read the lyrics while listening to this one.

Alice Cooper – The Awakening

Leave it to Alice Cooper to write the twinkling classic rock song that makes the hair on the back of your neck stand at attention. The Awakening, from his legendary 1975 album Welcome To My Nightmare, comes at the end of the album’s dramatic cycle surrounding Steven, Alice’s alter-ego (or, you know, alter-alter-ego). The track’s protagonist wakes in his basement, and goes through the house trying to find how he got there… and then things get twisted. A jarring final line ties together this shudder-worthy ditty.

Eminem – Stan

This one’s a heartbreaker. Stan, the track which launched the term for being a rabid mega-fan, tells the story of one Eminem obsessive who feels so slighted by his favorite artist that he does the unthinkable. What’s revealed later in the song, though, is that his many letters to Eminem aren’t going unanswered – it just takes the rapper some time to get to them. That revelation, plus Dido’s beautiful chorus (and her appearance in the video), are chilling in the utmost.

NOFX – Lori Meyers

Lori Meyers, off of NOFXs 1994 masterpiece Punk In Drublic, provides a really interesting – and progressive – sort of surprise twist. The song opens with the narrator recognizing a girl he knew from childhood in some porno. Determined to help her escape this dubious industry, the white knight goes out and finds Lori… and that’s when Lori’s verse starts, explaining that she ain’t a damsel in distress. Kim Shattuck of The Muffs provides guest vocals for this unusual tale of how traditional values can go fuck themselves.

Led Zeppelin – Fool In The Rain

Fool In The Rain might be the most carefree song on this list, as its surprise doesn’t involve murder or Satan. The upbeat Zep track is a pining love song from the point of view of a dude waiting for his sweetie. The poor sap gets stuck in a storm and believes he’s been ditched by his true love… that is, until the last line of the final verse, when Robert Plant sings, I’m just a fool waiting on the wrong block.’ We’ve all been there.

Black Sabbath – NIB

On the surface, the lyrics for Sabbaths NIB (rumored to stand for Nativity In Black, but maybe just a reference to Tony Iommi’s finger nubs) are the romantic musings of a cult leader. But the more Ozzy sings, the clearer the narrator’s identity becomes. Finally, the band come right out and say it – it’s the Easter Bunny (nah, come on, you know who it is – this is Black Sabbath, after all). One of the most danceable songs about selling your soul out there.

Green Day – Welcome To Paradise

On this crowd-pleaser from both 1992’s Kerplunk! and 1994’s Dookie, Green Day tell a time-honored story of finding solace in society’s underbelly. The song follows a typical kid who’s moved to the hood, and is trembling with fear at being left alone in the big city. People are dying, life is hell, and then, in the last verse… he loves it! A beautiful revelation for all those who take greater comfort in cracked, spray-painted walls than white picket fences.

Amigo The Devil – Perfect Wife

Murder-folk trailblazer Amigo The Devil is known for his love songs about death and violence, but this one takes the cake. The jaunty country tune is told from the point of view of a man who torments the hell out of his wonderful, talented wife… until she decides to use her talents against him. The way the track plays with rhythm and tone adds an extra bit of oomph to the twist at the end of this good-timey murder anthem.

Black Flag – TV Party

Along with Zeppelin’s Fool In The Rain, Black Flags TV Party is the rare example of a song’s surprise ending being something other than a crushing reveal – though in this case, it’s the ultimate bummer. The entire song centers around Black Flag planning a kickass TV party, complete with beers and all their favorite shows… and then it turns out that Henry Rollins’ TV doesn’t work! Such irony! Angels weep! We’re hurting! Proof that sometimes, a surprise is more effective as a guffaw than a gasp.

Posted on October 12th 2020, 12:00p.m.
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