22 Of The Best Songs About The End Of The World

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Music is the perfect avenue to express our fears about things, such as the end of the world or the apocalypse. This subject matter has plagued songwriters to no end, resulting in songs that explore doomsday and Armageddon.

These songs resonate with our deepest fear of the unknown. At the same time, they offer a sense of hope or defiance in the face of impending doom.

But that is still largely unknown. In the meantime, why don’t you enjoy this list of 22 of the best songs about the end of the world?

1. “It’s The End Of The World As We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” By R. E. M.

Nothing says it better about the apocalypse than a song with “the end of the world” in the title. R.E.M.‘s “It’s the End of the World as We Know It (And I Feel Fine)” was released in 1987 from their album Document.

The song’s inspiration came from a dream that lead singer Michael Stipe experienced. The singer observes that the apocalypse “starts with an earthquake,” which seems to be a biblical reference. Despite the grim subject matter, the song encourages resilience in the face of chaos.

The song also references four people whose names have “L.B.” initials: Lenny Bruce, Leonid Brezhnev, Leonard Bernstein, and Lester Bangs. Again, this came from Stipe’s dream, where he was at a party attended by people sharing those initials.

2. “The Final Countdown” By Europe

One of the most successful songs of the rock band Europe is “The Final Countdown.” It was an instant commercial and critical success when it was released in 1986.

Lyrically, it follows the story of people leaving Earth and colonizing a new world because Earth is no more. The lines “We’re leavin’ together, But still it’s farewell” points to the fact that they are saying goodbye to Earth, home for all of their lives.

As they prepare to leave, the singer expresses doubt about whether they’re coming back to Earth. They look forward to a warm welcome in Venus, but he admits they will all miss her (Earth).

3. “Aenima” By Tool

The American rock band Tool is known for their heavy metal sound and unique songwriting style. Both are at play in their 1996 song “Aenima,” which deals with destruction and rebirth. The title is a portmanteau of “anima,” meaning soul, and “enema,” a medical procedure dealing with cleansing.

The song reflects the singer’s lack of hope in humanity, wishing that the end will come as a way to cleanse and reset the world. He is tired of people who care for nothing and no one but themselves. These are the people who put more importance on insignificant things.

The singer proposes ways that the world will end, such as a comet falling from the sky and tidal waves. He views it as “the only way to fix” a dysfunctional world.

4. “Until The End Of The World” By U2

Our next song mentions the “end of the world” based on biblical narratives. The Irish rock band U2 released “Until the End of the World” in 1991 from their album Achtung Baby.

The lyrics revolve around a conversation between Jesus Christ and Judas Iscariot, with references to the Last Supper and the betrayal of Jesus. Judas’ betrayal can be described by the lines: “I took the money, I spiked your drink… I kissed your lips and broke your heart.”

The song’s last line, “You said you’d wait, ‘Til the end of the world,” seems to refer to the Final Judgment. This event from the Christian teachings refers to the day when people’s good and bad deeds will be judged. In essence, it also refers to the Second Coming of Christ or the Apocalypse.

5. “Eve Of Destruction” By Barry McGuire

The protest song “Eve of Destruction” by Barry McGuire was once banned from radio stations due to its anti-government lyrics. The song highlights the political and social issues that put the world on the brink of disaster.

The song explores the themes of injustice, racism, and hypocrisy in the 1960s. The singer laments the violence he sees everywhere and decries the fact that individuals couldn’t vote because they were too young but could carry and use guns.

The standout line in the song, “And you tell me… How you don’t believe,
We’re on the eve of destruction,” expresses the singer’s disbelief that most people turn a blind eye to these pressing matters.

6. “The End” By The Doors

In our next song, “The End” by The Doors, what they refer to is more than an -end-of-the-world narrative. Here, Jim Morrison, who co-wrote the song, talks about personal and societal apocalypse.

Specifically, “the end” is death itself. It also deals with Oedipal relationships which contain themes of killing the father and loving the mother. This idea suggests breaking through barriers of moral codes and law.

Morrison originally aimed for “The End” to be a breakup song. Thus, the first two verses and the chorus focus on this narrative, where he has to disassociate himself from his “beautiful friend.” When he says, “This is the end, my only friend,” it signifies the end of personal worlds.

7. “The Man Comes Around” By Johnny Cash

Up next is Johnny Cash‘s “The Man Comes Around.” This haunting song draws inspiration from the Bible, particularly from the Book of Revelation. The song talks about the end times and foretells of a day when Christ will return to Earth to judge the living and the dead.

As an artist, Johnny Cash often drew upon his Christian faith for inspiration in his music. In the song, he shares with his listeners what will happen when the world ends. There will be “One hundred million angels singin’,” while “Multitudes are marchin’.”

The line “The virgins are all trimming their wicks” refers to the Parable of the Ten Virgins, which can be found in Matthew 25:1-13. “Trimming the wicks” means keeping the lamp burning in anticipation of someone’s arrival. This refers to the Second Coming of Christ.

8. “Black Hole Sun” By Soundgarden

The lead singer of Soundgarden, Chris Cornell, says that there is no lyrical idea behind “Black Hole Sun.” But that’s the thing with songs. Listeners can assign their own interpretation of them.

As we all know, the sun is considered the giver of life. The lyrics of “Black Hole Sun” suggest that the sun is collapsing in on itself. It will become a black hole that brings about the ultimate destruction of all life on Earth.

On the other hand, the title can also be a metaphor for a destructive force that consumes everything. It either leaves nothing or brings about change.

9. “Radioactive” By Imagine Dragons

The empowering song “Radioactive” by the American pop-rock band Imagine Dragons came out in 2012 and peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song explores apocalyptic themes and undergoing significant change.

The song opens with the line “I’m waking up to ash and dust,” which suggests the aftermath of a disaster. It could be about war, loss of freedom, or control of the masses. In this context, the song leaves a sense of impending doom.

Beyond the literal meaning, “Radioactive” can also be about awakening. It’s choosing to break free from old ways and seeing the world with fresh eyes.

10. “1999” By Prince

What would you rather do when the end of the world comes? For Prince, he’s going to party like it’s “1999.” Released in 1982 during the Cold War, the song reflects people’s fears about a possible nuclear war and explores various prophecies related to the end times.

In the lyrics, the singer couldn’t care less if it was the end of the world. He observes that “the sky was all purple,” and there’s chaos everywhere. He thinks it’s judgment day when he “woke up this mornin’.”

Nevertheless, he’s not going to let it ruin the mood for him. Even if the apocalypse comes in 2000, he’s going to live his life the way he wants to. He will party like it’s still 1999, a time when people are not bothered by end-of-the-world issues.

11. “2012 (It Ain’t The End)” By Jay Sean Ft. Nicki Minaj

There was widespread speculation that the world would end in 2012. The single “2012 (It Ain’t the End)” by Jay Sean featuring Nicki Minaj capitalizes on this craze. It turns out it was really a craze, but it made the song one of the most-streamed about this topic.

In the lyrics, the singers encourage listeners to live life to the fullest. The line “We gonna party like Party like, like it’s the end of the world” aligns with this idea. The concept of the end of the world works as a metaphorical backdrop for Jay Sean to share a message of positivity and celebration.

The song also depicts the fleeting moments in life. Days go by so fast right before our eyes. And so the singers propose to enjoy life and “make tonight go down in history.” And should the world really ends, then they have no regrets for they lived their lives the way they want to.

12. “Five Years” By David Bowie

Imagine if the world is about to end soon. There are a lot of things that could happen before then. David Bowie explores those ideas in “Five Years,” a narrative about the world ending in five years’ time.

The lyrics describe the collective panic and societal breakdown that occur following an announcement of the world’s impending doom. The song focuses on how ordinary people react to their reality.

Just as expected, a lot of people are desperate and confused as they realize their own mortality with the imminent end of the world. Some, however, resort to showing love and understanding.

13. “If The World Was Ending” By JP Saxe And Julia Michaels

In the heart-wrenching song “If the World Was Ending,” JP Saxe and Julia Michaels explore the themes of love, loss, and longing. The song uses the end of the world as a metaphor to show the dynamics of a fractured relationship.

In the lyrics, we find that it’s been a while since these two people have broken up and gone their separate ways. But would they come back together should the world wind down to its end?

Despite knowing that the other person isn’t “down for forever,” the singer still hopes that he’d come and reconnect with her. And if the world is about to end, she wants to spend the remaining hours of her life holding him tight and knowing he still cares.

14. “In The Year 2525” By Zager And Evans

Released in 1969, Zager and Evans‘s “In the Year 2525” is one of the top songs about the end of the world. Written by Rick Evans in just ten minutes, this song stayed at number one on the Billboard Hot 100 for six weeks.

Presenting a dystopian view of the future, the song explores the consequences of human’s overreliance on technology. It suggests that if we continue this trend, we might be facing our own destruction in a few years’ time.

The song paints a picture of a sad world where nature is gone, individuality is lost, and we are disconnected from each other. The singer plays with the idea that by the year 7510, God might bring down judgment day.

15. “Idioteque” By Radiohead

Our next song on the list is Radiohead‘s “Idioteque.” This was released in 2000 from their album Kid A and depicts an impending apocalypse.

From the lyrics, we see a world on the brink of disaster. This is brought about by environmental changes and global warming. In fact, the line that says “Ice age coming” suggests that a world disaster will bring us into a new Ice Age.

The line “Who’s in a bunker? Who’s in a bunker?” further depict people seeking shelter in underground bunkers, with women and children coming in first.

16. “The End Of The World” By Skeeter Davis

Here is a song with “the end of the world” in the lyrics. Skeeter Davis‘ “The End of the World” is a hauntingly beautiful song that captures the feelings of despair, grief, and heartbreak following a breakup.

Despite the title, the song does not refer to the literal end of the world. Rather, the lyrics speak of the singer’s world coming to an end after his relationship ends. This is expressed in a metaphorical way to show the depth of his pain and despair.

A breakup can feel devastating on a personal level. In essence, it feels like the end of the world when a person you love is no longer a part of your life.

17. “Goodbye Blue Sky” By Pink Floyd

Up next is Pink Floyd‘s “Goodbye Blue Sky,” one of the standout tracks from their seminal album, The Wall. While the song does not directly reference the end of the world, it paints an apocalyptic picture through its exploration of warfare and destruction.

The song reflects the devastating impact of air raids during World War II. The title addresses the loss of peace and innocence, replaced by terror and chaos. The blue sky, which symbolizes peace and normalcy, is now littered with warplanes that hint at a nuclear fallout or a post-apocalyptic scenario.

The second verse of the song refers to the mental scars that the war left. The war has ended, “but the pain lingers on.” It suggests that even the small things can trigger painful memories.

18. “Four Horsemen” By Metallica

The 1983 single “Four Horsemen” by Metallica is a biblical reference. The track was composed by Dave Mustaine, the band’s former guitarist, but was later reworked and recorded by Metallica for their debut album Kill ‘Em All.

The song itself talks about the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse as described in the Bible. These four horsemen stand for war, famine, conquest, and death and signal widespread destruction.

But in Metallica’s song, the four horsemen represent famine, time, pestilence, and death. It talks about their arrival and the impending apocalypse. We can say that the song is a commentary on the destructive forces that could bring the world to its send.

19. “Doomsday Clock” By The Smashing Pumpkins

Another song that explores the themes of societal collapse and apocalypse is “Doomsday Clock” by The Smashing Pumpkins. The titular clock refers to the one that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists uses to count down to a global catastrophe.

The first lines of the song attest to this impending doom: “Is everyone afraid? Is everyone ashamed? They’re running towards their holes to find out, Apocalyptic means are lost among our dead.” This is a commentary on the state of the world, where society is on the verge of collapse.

All in all, the song uses the imagery of a doomsday clock to comment on societal issues that include fear and transformation or change.

20. “Planet Earth” By Duran Duran

The rock song “Planet Earth” was released in 1981 by the British band Duran Duran. At its core, the song explores the uncertainty of being alive on Earth.

This theme works with the backdrop of space and the search for extraterrestrial intelligence (SETI). The lyric “only came outside to watch the nightfall with the rain” refers to radio telescopes used in SETI research. This indicates a sense of isolation and longing for connection, whether terrestrial or extraterrestrial.

In addition, the line “there’s no sign of life” hints toward an apocalypse, suggesting that the singer is the sole survivor. This lends the song a melancholic undertone, which reflects on the state of the world.

21. “London Calling” By The Clash

The apocalyptic song “London Calling” by the English rock band The Clash is up next on the list. The song explores various ways that the world could end, such as starvation and war.

The title refers to the BBC broadcasts used during World War II, providing the necessary backdrop to show the global crisis. The song reflects the chaos that ensued at the time.

Lyrics-wise, the song is brimming with references to dire situations. One such example is seen in the line, “The ice age is coming, the sun’s zooming in.” This is a consequence of global warming and environmental decay. Another example is how people hide underground while children seek shelter in cupboards.

22. “Bad Moon Rising” By Creedence Clearwater Revival

To end our list today, we leave you with “Bad Moon Rising” By Creedence Clearwater Revival. Written by lead vocalist John Fogerty, he explores the themes of doom and ominous events in this song.

“Bad moon rising” is a metaphor for a bad omen. Or a warning. The lyrics are filled with references to major disasters such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and lightning. The singer warns the listeners to stay in their homes as this is a bad day, and troubles are bound to happen.

Perhaps the standout lines in the song are “I know the end is comin’ soon” and “Hope you are quite prepared to die.” There’s nothing as straightforward as these lyrics to show that impending doom is near.

Summing Up Our List Of End Of The World Songs

Truly, matters involving the end of the world can be worrisome. However, it is not our aim to cause anxiety with our subject matter today.

Rather, we want to show the universal fascination with apocalypse and doomsday and what musicians think of it in the literal and metaphorical sense.

At the same time, we want to put focus on our mortality and the fragility of life as we know it. Let’s live our lives as if it’s the end of the world.

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Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.