Why Do We Love Sad Songs So Much?
“Sad songs are nature's onions.” This silly quote from Mr. Show with Bob and David doesn't mean much on the surface, but the general joke of the sketch (among others) is that every song nominated for the fictional "Teardrop Awards" is a sad, sad song that appeals to listeners with perilous plights and tales of disease and death. It's on point because we all adore sad songs.
Hell, the whole emo movement was based on sad-sack songs written by depressed teenagers (or capitalizing adults with dollar signs in their eyes) to appeal to other depressed teenagers. Through music, we connect with each other and our emotions, happy or sad. But when we're not depressed, why do we still love sad songs?
I noticed this phenomena in my own life when I received an email about the upcoming album Suicide Songs by an English band called MONEY. Their debut record, The Shadow of Heaven, came out in 2013, but it flew by me. Their newest single, “I'll Be the Night,” from Suicide Songs is a sad, sad song. Checking it out, I was immediately struck by how appropriate the album title is. This is desperate, cloying music, written in darkness and shrouded in the clothing of deep depression.
I've struggled with depression often in my life, and have always took solace in music. I was one of those teenage emo kids, and I idolize Morrissey as a writer and a human being. I'm the veritable poster child for manic depressive musical tendencies. My happy place is Genesis and Phil Collins. My dark place is metal and Brand New and Morrissey. But time takes away so much pain. I haven't been in that dark place in a long time.
It often makes it hard to appreciate some of the music I used to love. Morrissey and the Smiths are just jangly enough to survive the culling of my depressing music. Brand New and Robert Smith haven't fared so well, falling out of my general playlist for the most part.
Yet I was captivated by “I'll Be the Night.” The songwriting is superb and the sound just rips away at your heart. MONEY struck a chord with me immediately. I found myself wanting to listen to this song over and over again, regardless of my own emotional state.
I am not sad. I'm actually in a great place. But sometimes a sad song can say so much regardless of your own personal state in life. Even removed from my own dark periods at the moment, I can tap into that emotion again and feel what MONEY was feeling when they wrote this “suicide song.” I may not feel it now, but I know how it feels, so I still relate to it. That's the only reason I can understand why we enjoy sad songs no matter the time of year, no matter how we feel at the moment, and no matter what musical genre we appreciate the most. We remember, we feel, and we appreciate.
MONEY's new album may not be all this sad; we'll all find out when Suicide Songs drops on January 29. But something about well written sad songs can be so transcendent. “I'll Be the Night” is one, and it makes me excited for their new record, no matter how I feel in general.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter Our daily newsletter delivers quick clicks to keep you in the know
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Houston, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.