Eclectic Sad Songs
There are hundreds of words to describe sadness. Although they describe the same general sensation, there is a world of difference between the connotations of, say, “glum”, “joyless”, and “sad.” Similarly, many songs try to describe or embody different aspects the archetype of sadness. Either way, it’s important for us to be able to explore and express these feelings. According to Psychology Today, “as humans we need the full range of our emotions to be in working order in order to be able to respond appropriately to our own needs and those of others.” Although it’s a common misconception that listening to sad music when you’re sad makes you even more upset, according to WJCT News, several studies have found just the opposite; typically, listening to somber music will help improve a sad person’s mood, especially if they’re depressed. Below you’ll find a variety of sad songs prompted by unique situations, in which each artist gives their individual take on its role in life and the world.
Cathedral by Jade Bird (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zOCHqB5JMBk)
A soothing, and peaceful folk type song about a marriage that the singer knew would fall apart. With powerful religious motifs, the song is an outlet for frustration and an expression of the significance of the relationships we hold dearest to our hearts. Bird combines a Dolly Parton-esque style with a deeper and more poignant meaning.
Desperado by Johnny Cash (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5WDD4rCNe4s)
Cash’s cover of Desperado seems to give the song a new meaning because of his deep and soulful voice. The singer aches for someone to come home instead of wearily spending his life wandering the earth for fulfillment. Many can relate both to the sensation of missing someone who is misguided, and the sensation of being misguided themselves.
Sedated by Hozier (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5_JUReD3QoE)
Comparing love to a drug is nothing new. But, Hozier takes a unique perspective by describing the physical demise with which a couple yearns for each other for emotional stability, akin to an addicting poison. “You and I nursing on a poison that never stung, our teeth and lungs are lined with the scum of it… we are deaf, we are numb, free and young but we can feel none of it.” In mentioning teeth and lungs lined with scum he evokes a sense of disgust from the audience, and intensifies the allusion to a poison love alike to a dangerous drug. He also mentions the hypocrisy of the whole situation, with how the desperation of love negates the sense of youth and freedom they should be enjoying at this moment.
Listen before i go by Billie Eilish (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P4z1O3miesI)
Billie Eilish describes her parting wishes as to the world before she dies. Her gentle voice and melancholy piano allude to a nighttime lullaby, as if she’s singing herself to sleep. In true Eilish fashion, there are well placed moments of intense bass and the occasional thunderstorm audio effect. Easily one of the crown jewels of her new album, “When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?”, the song pays homage to our desire as humans to give up and seek peacefulness and serenity instead of fighting for survival.
Strawberry Fields Forever by The Beatles(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HtUH9z_Oey8)
A true classic, “Strawberry Fields” describes the peace in burying oneself in an imaginary utopia, the Strawberry Fields, where real life and problems are blatantly ignored for the harmonious illusion of perfection.
Supermarket Flowers by Ed Sheeran (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Mk0F6mLKik)
Sheeran touches a vulnerable place by describing the everyday actions after a loved one has passed away, like throwing out old tea and packing up a photo album. The singer misses his late mother and reminisces on the memories they’ve had, but celebrates that she’s at home in heaven. A particular tear-jerker, this song resonates with anybody who has lost a loved one.
Meet Me in the Hallway by Harry Styles (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvZMygu99uE)
There’s something about the combination of lyrics and instrumental beat in this song that alludes to a secret and transitory experience. Harry Styles describes a lingering hope that his relationship will work out, but begs for morphine in a hope to relieve the pain of hope that refuses to fade.
Privilege by The Weeknd (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JcVDXHeD59c)
Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd, expresses his desire for his relationship and break up to remain in the past, where it belongs. In a poignant expression of his sorrow following the breakup, and nod to “The Matrix”, he details taking red pills to combat his “blues”.
BLUE by Zayn (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ahQ3q9G8Oqk)
Zayn describes his need for somebody to “love him blue”, AKA until he’s dead and blue. He describes an idyllic love that alludes to a heavenly afterlife. The gentle piano and Zayn’s calm, soothing voice describing a holy and serene setting, “in the clouds, where the angels sing,” instantly evokes a tranquil feeling in the audience.
Landslide by Fleetwood Mac (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WM7-PYtXtJM)
Fleetwood Mac compares spending time with a significant other to climbing a mountain in the dedication and perseverance that both take, as well as the courage required to turn around and give up on everything you’ve worked so hard for. The singer realizes that the relationship wasn’t for her, and she has to cut her losses and let go of it although she invested so much time and emotion.
Piano Man by Billy Joel (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gxEPV4kolz0)
This song is ironic in its cheerful expression of loneliness. The singer describes several lonely men at a bar who beg a piano man to sing them a song that evokes better memories so they can feel alright. Although this song is bittersweet, its vivid and celebratory style end this playlist on a happy and energetic note.
Between all the unique hues of melancholy each song evokes, there is something for everyone in this playlist. Feeling sad is part of being human, and as studies show, embracing that feeling when necessary can ironically lead to happiness. Music is a healthy, versatile, and entertaining outlet for any less than enjoyable emotions.