“Red Right Hand” by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds (1994)
On looks alone, Nick Cave deserves consideration for Hell’s soundtrack; the man could slap on a pair of horns and reign there, the Bad Seeds in tow. But “Red Right Hand” cements his place on that list with a tolling bell, rumbling bass and wicked organ conjuring a devilish tone that would keep all souls lost. With Cave ominously crooning the gothic lyrics “You’re a microscopic cog/ In his catastrophic plan/ Designed and directed by his red right hand” the song is wholly sinister. In the Lake of Fire’s eternal waiting room, “Red Right Hand” would make monstrous Muzak. - Josh Goller
“The Sign” by Ace of Base (1994)
In the annals of blithely upbeat Swedish pop, Ace of Base is luckily not a major fixture. The group’s pint-sized legacy, however, does little for the way this bland, but infectiously clever, 1994 paint by numbers pop ditty grounds patience thin – especially under the repeat plays that life in Hell, or in the 1990’s, implies. Its keyboard-preset beat and clonky synth accompaniment telegraphing simplistic, sugary vocals that stick to idle minds like IKEA meatball sauce, on the lyrical front the situation isn’t any less bleak, or tacky: for all its you might say positive (I say annoyingly self-actualized) message and semi-meaningless but nice sounding truisms – “Life is demanding/ Without understanding,” it’s studio-slick glossy and repetitive as all get-out. “Is enough enough?” Sure, whatever you say. Sign me up for an Inner Circle residency, an eternity of celibacy and 150 magazine subscriptions, I don’t care. Just turn this shit off. - Joe Clinkenbeard
“L’Apocalypse Des Animaux” by Vangelis (1973)
It’s human to fantasize about the end of the day, the end of your work week, the public transit ride. It’s also human to imagine the end of all things, and music has a powerful way of confirming self-generated images of falling buildings, wild animals in the streets, houses on fire and red skies. My top pick for accompaniment to the Antichrist’s arrival on Earth is Greek composer Vangelis’ “L’Apocalypse Des Animaux.” The ambient, smeared sound of an orchestra and washes of total noise were originally recorded for a documentary about the animal kingdom, but would curiously fit any apocalyptic milieu. The first time I heard this precursor to visual drone music was on January 18th, 2011 when San Francisco’s 90.3 FM KUSF DJ Ryan Howard (DJ Schmeejay) played “Création Du Monde” while the station was being shut down. At 9:50 that Tuesday morning, Howard announced that the station was being shut down, and while Vangelis’ ten minute delicate burner was still playing, the transmitter for 90.3 was shut off. This was the sound of the apocalypse – for authentic community radio at least. - Sky Madden
“I Gotta Feeling” by the Black Eyed Peas (2009)
I don’t think the Black Eyed Peas are the worst band in the world, but you can’t convince me that “I Gotta Feeling” wouldn’t be a fitting soundtrack for Hell. First of all, I imagine Hell to be a kind of dance club. Now, I love dancing, but clubs can have a uniquely nightmarish potential, and there’s definitely something devilish and (wonderfully) sinister about pop music’s appeal. Moreover, almost nothing is more annoying than not being able to get a catchy song out of your head. And it’s undeniable that Satan has a sense of humor, so what could be more awful and mocking than a song with the lyric “I gotta feeling that tonight’s gonna be a good night,” when the fires of Hell are burning you alive over the course of one, eternity-long night of total darkness? There’s also something beautifully ironic about the fact that the Peas shout out “l’chaim” (the Hebrew phrase meaning “to life”) on the song, as if to say “abandon all hope” and to remind you that your religion, whatever it is, means nothing here. The song’s catchiness, however, is just irresistible enough to make you complicit in your own everlasting damnation. – Trevor Link
MIDI Versions of Popular Songs
My humble guide could only shake her head,
acknowledging the futile irony:
a hellsent writer wishing she were dead.
Cruel damnation, can your soundtrack be
the blips, the bleeps, computers’ stinking shit,
of lub-dub, wah-wah, screeeeeech, cacophony?
In life I could, but dead I can’t avoid it.
They play the sounds most apt to drive me wild
I’ll spend eternity getting annoyed at–
Of saddest cell phone rings, the bastard child:
Popular songs turned into MIDI files. -Katie Bolton