The Saddest Songs I Know

Happy Sunday!  Please allow me to bum you out.  I get to thinking about the weirdest things sometimes, and today, it’s all about sad songs.  Well, let me preface that by explaining that I wrote a bit of flash fiction a few weeks ago based on a song I wrote called Plastic Smiles.  A friend of mine emailed me soon after that post and said it was the saddest song he had ever read (I have never played it for him).  I then explained that I could think of several songs that were far sadder than Plastic Smiles, and I have been thinking about it ever since.

I compiled a list of roughly 13 songs that hit me personally every time I hear them.  Some are old, some are new, and some are very old.  Since it is Sunday and I don’t want you all moping about on the last day of the weekend (even if I am working all day), I will narrow it down to only five.

These five are songs that make me well up with tears, or make me feel like I’ve been beaten up, every time I hear them.  They also happen to be five of the most beautiful songs I know.  There is something to be said about the connection between sadness and beautiful melodies.  I guess Elton John was right: Sad songs do say so much.

I have intentionally left out a few of the more commercially known songs like REM’s Everybody Hurts, Nirvana’s All Apologies, and Nine Inch Nails’ Hurt.  Well, that last one was hard for me to explain, since Johnny Cash’s version is so much more painful than the original.  I didn’t want to deal with that, so I am skipping it.

Anyway here we go:

5)  Soundgarden – Blow Up the Outside World

Well, this was a pretty big hit for Soundgarden in 1996, and it still gets radio play.  It is a heart-breaker, plain and simple.  The poor guy just wants a peaceful existence with the one he loves, but she turns him away, and he becomes sullen and tries to talk her into staying, even though he knows that she wont.

I’ve given everything I need, I’d give you everything I own

I’d give in if it could at least be ours alone

I’ve given everything I could, to blow it to hell and gone

Burrow down in and blow up the outside  world

When he sings “I’d give in if it could at least be ours alone”, my heart just shatters.

4) Pink Floyd – Your Possible Pasts

Most people do not know this one due to it being on the largely forgotten album, The Final Cut.  It was the last album with Roger Waters, and it still gets mixed reviews from the fans.  Your Possible Pasts is about a man who has gone to war, and returns to a wife who has lost all love for him.  He is still carrying the war around with him, and is now lost without his love.

Do you remember me? How we used to be?
Do you think we should be closer?

That chorus just kills me, and the pain in Roger Waters’ voice fills my own heart with a deep sorrow.

3) Grateful Dead – China Doll

It is hard for me to associate the Grateful Dead with anything but pure joy, but the truth is that this song is terribly sad.  Immediately after a person commits suicide, he or she holds a conversation with God.

Yesterday I begged you before I hit the ground

All I leave behind me is only what I found

In the end, the person tries to convince God to take him or her in anyway.  The soul is not permanently damaged, only “fractured” and “nervous”.

“Take up your china doll
it’s only fractured – just a little nervous from the fall”

Pretty heavy stuff for a bunch of hippies.

2) The Cure – Bare

This one always tears me up.  On the surface, it seems to be another break-up song for which The Cure are so famous, but it has always made me think that Robert Smith was speaking to his fans, rather than a lover.  He seems to be saying that The Cure will finally hang it up after this album and tour, and that he is terribly sad about finally saying goodbye, (he is notorious for threatening to quit after each album, and they are still touring to this day).  He may even be singing to a band member (Simon?).  Whomever he is singing to, it always breaks my heart, and I always feel punched in the gut when I hear it.  As gorgeous as this song is, I rarely listen to it because it stirs so much inside of me.

We should let it all go
It never stays the same
So why does it hurt me like this
When you say that I’ve changed?
When you say that I’ve aged?
Say I’m afraid

And then…

So if you’ve got nothing left to say
Just say goodbye
Turn your face away
And say goodbye
You know we’ve reached the end
You just don’t know why
And you know we can’t pretend
After all this time

Maybe I am only projecting my own emotional baggage to this one song.  I do have some personal history with this particular album.
1) Elliott Smith – Strung Out Again
And finally, my beloved Elliott Smith, because, of course!
Seriously though, this is the saddest song I know.  The self-deprecation and awareness of someone losing control of his drug habit is too heart-wrenching to not break my heart.
I know my place, hate my face
Holy crap!  He hates his own face.  How can it get any sadder than that?
I have written about this song before in my review of his posthumous album, From a Basement on the Hill, but I have to mention it again in the context of the saddest songs I know.  Sure some may find other songs that they feel is sadder than this, but I’m not buying it.
Waving at my lost reflection again
But the tide’s coming in
And I’m strung out again
Breaks my heart to think that anyone could ever go through that.
So, there you go.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll post my five happiest songs ever.  Happy Sunday!

8 Comments

Filed under Music Reviews

8 responses to “The Saddest Songs I Know

  1. I’m trying to think of the saddest songs I can think of, and while we are of a different generation, You got me to thinking. These are not in any order:

    Mickey Newburys “Lovers,” & “San Francisco Mable Joy”
    Don Gibson’s, “I Can”t Stop Loving You”
    George Jones’, “He Stopped Loving Her Today”
    Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller’s, “Is That All There Is?”

    That’s five from me and thanks for getting me to thinking!

  2. You’re right, they’re all really sad, 🙂 I’d add Jimmy Eat World’s “Hear You Me”, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9pQo9OQlIB8 Now you have to do the happy post to cheer me up. 😉

  3. Pingback: Canadian Indie, pt. 2 | It's a Blog About Nothing

  4. Pingback: Wednesday Morning Earworm – “Independence Day”, by Elliott Smith | It's a Blog About Nothing

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