The Cure is one of the most iconic gothic rock bands of all time, with a catalog that transcends traditional goth motifs and readily embraces both the light and the dark, the hope and the despair. Though these Hall of Fame legends have been gracing the stage for over 40 years, the best Cure songs continue to leave us spellbound. It’s impossible to list all of their most essential anthems, but the following are a few of our favorites—not just for their infectious melodies but also for the stories behind them.
1. Boys Don't Cry - Single, 1979
This is where it all started. Robert Smith was 18 years old and hadn't yet released his debut album Three Imaginary Boys. While it didn't even hit the Hot 100 at the time, this pop-style song later hit No. 22 on the U.K. singles chart when it was re-released in 1986 and continues to be a timeless classic.
In Boys Don't Cry, the singer is torn between the heartbreak he feels for the girl he’s lost and the societal expectations that males are tough and unaffected by emotions, captured by Smith's inspired intonations of the repeated phrase "boys don't cry.” While choking back tears, the singer tragically plays cool rather than humbling himself and trying to win her back:
Though Smith is speaking from his own experience as a male in a society that places strict expectations on masculinity, you don’t have to be a guy to identify with the core message. On a broader level, this song serves as a reminder of the tragic consequences of holding on to one’s pride.
2. A Forest - Seventeen Seconds, 1980
A Forest was the biggest hit of The Cure's second studio album Seventeen Seconds—which they cut in an astonishing seven days. If Smith's tracks can be aptly described as cinematic, The Forest is the kind of atmospheric soundtrack that goth fans can imagine accompanying any black-and-white horror film from the early 20th century.
In a 2004 interview, Smith told Rolling Stone Magazine that The Cure's label chief Chris Parry encouraged him to make a more radio-friendly version than the six-minute epic the band had recorded. Fortunately for us, Smith stayed true to the sound he imagined in his head and A Forest became The Cure's first real hit in England.
The meaning behind this haunting masterpiece is almost as elusive as the "girl" in the lyrics:
While the interpretation of this masterpiece is not 100% clear-cut, the spine-chilling Cure song might be talking about the elusive nature of love or the experience of being madly in love with someone who doesn't love you in return. Or perhaps it's about the endless search for "proverbial love"—being in love with love itself and ultimately realizing that the real person you're with is not the romantic image you had in your mind.
Whichever meaning it is, it's hard not to get caught up in the dark forest scenery and spectacular instrumentals. The dark forest aesthetic is certainly one of our favorites and one we’ve encapsulated in our Forest Witch Unisex T-Shirt, Dark Forest Woven Top, Dark Forest Brushed Cardigan, and Dark Forest Split Skirt.
3. The Love Cats - Japanese Whispers, 1983
This colorful and frisky number featured in The Cure's 1983 album Japanese Whispers and marked the band's transition from a dark goth band to a pop group with broad appeal. Case in point, The Love Cats was the first Cure song to reach the U.K. top 10.
According to some sources, Smith may have been on LSD when he wrote the lyrics, which could explain a little of the color and vivid imagination. But the message of the song shines through:
This song is often understood as a protest, The Cure’s rejection of being typecast as a single genre when it comes to musicality. "Let's go and throw all the songs we know... Into the sea." The Cure has come to define trad gothic music and fashion, but their style is ever-changing and always fresh.
Oh, and talking of things we love, it's hard to go past Smith's pawing and preening action on stage, which shows his talent as a frontman. If you enjoy a little Love Cats pawing action in front of the mirror at home, our Cat Ears are your ideal style companions.
4. A Night Like This - The Head on the Door, 1985
A Night Like This is more rock than goth or pop and features the kind of searing sax solo we've become accustomed to from 80s bands in general. While this song didn't get The Cure on American radio, Smashing Pumpkins released a cover version on the B-side of Bullet With Butterfly Wings, keeping the flame alive.
The singer has lost his love and is finally realizing that it's really over and she's not coming back. The line "your trust - the most gorgeously stupid thing I ever cut in the world" is a perfect expression of break-up regret and a piercing reminder to come through for those we love.
While you simply sit in awe of the haunting sadness and depth of this tragic song, our moon-inspired pieces, including our Bat Moon-Phase Kimono and Spellbound Moon Hoodie can wrap you in a night of your own.
5. Just Like Heaven - Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, 1987
Robert Smith's wife Mary Poole inspired many of his greatest songs from the time they started dating. She still remains his muse more than 30 years after their marriage in 1988. Just Like Heaven was inspired by a trip the couple took to Beachy Head in England when Mary was still his girlfriend and became The Cure's first Top 40 hit in America. It has been described as "one of their most perfect pop songs."
After a spectacular goth-rock intro with wave-crashing drums, shooting star synthesizers, electric riffing, a rumbling bass guitar undercurrent, and acoustic guitars, Smith sings:
Smith himself once related that Just Like Heaven is about "hyperventilating-kissing and fainting to the floor" and the opening line was inspired by childhood memories of performing magic tricks and later mastering a seduction trick (we can only wonder what it was).
If you haven’t seen the Just Like Heaven music video, you have to check it out. Not only is it one of the best rock videos of the ‘80s, but it showcases Robert Smith at peak charisma. While goth culture is often associated with ostentatious apparel, Smith exudes flawless rock-star energy in a simple black button-down shirt—a classic look that you can recapture with pieces like our Skull Button Cardigan and Bat Collar Top.
There are a lot more Cure songs that we'd like to cover here. However, we'll limit ourselves to some honorable mentions:
- The Same Deep Water as You - This epically long song is about a love affair that appears to be hopelessly doomed.
- Fascination Street - This song is about Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Fascination Streetis known for its amazing rumbling bass line.
- Let's Go to Bed - The blatantly obvious lyrics coupled with a cheesy synth riff make a spoof of pop songs, which all seem to basically be saying (ad nauseam): "Please go to bed with me."
- Pictures of You - This song was written after Smith found pictures of his wife Mary Poole when cleaning up after a house fire. In a Music Box TV interview in 1989, Smith explained: "It's about the idea you hold about someone. [...] The idea you hold of someone isn't really what that person is like."
- Friday I’m in Love - This is proof that Smith doesn't just write gloomy songs. Friday I’m in Love captures the "Friday feeling" at its best.
The Cure Lives On
Robert Smith and his companions are best known for their role in setting gothic fashion trends and creating timeless music, but in the goth community—and among those who appreciate the musicality of 1980s rock—Smith continues to be a style icon and an inspiration for exploring the many facets of life.
While The Cure’s incredible instrumentals and layers of textured sound are impressive in their own right, looking deeper into the lyrics reveals a depth of insight and poetic expression that resonates with the strongest emotions of the human soul. And if you've got some time, sit down and re-listen to the hits we've written about, from beginning to end. You’ll see these songs in a whole new light.