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
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