Music

Feeling Blue? This Playlist of Sad Songs Might Help

It's okay to give in to the blues sometimes.
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During times of sorrow and heartbreak, many of us turn to sad songs to indulge our pain and suffering. Since the days of our ancestors discovering how a lonely trumpet or violin solo caressed the heart and stirred the emotions, to pop stars of today making a career out of rehashing tired old love ditties, we’ve always drunk from the well of sappy, sentimental love tunes and have rarely ever been satiated.

I was one of those who believed people who wallowed in self-pity while listening nonstop to songs of despair just needed a good kick in the you-know-where. I used to think that emotional stability is a choice, and that the most levelheaded people choose to live a bright, positive existence. My accompanying soundtrack then was composed of songs that were light, inspiring, fun. These were in my feel-good playlist, songs that left me rejuvenated and happy every time I heard them. I left the dark, brooding, depressing songs to the so-called “emo” crowd, whose ranks never seemed to diminish. (On the contrary, they just seemed to swell and multiply).

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In recent years, however, I’ve found myself in the unfamiliar situation of anguish and loss. During one of these “episodes,” I found myself packing my bags and going on an impromptu trip to Baguio to clear my head. On that long, six-hour bus ride, I first discovered how important it was to pack not just the essentials like clothing to warm the body, but music to feed my soul. I listened to The Perishers’ “Let There Be Morning,” Dashboard Confessional’s “Swiss Army Romance,” Elliot Smith’s “Figure 8” and Badly Drawn Boy’s “The Hour of Bewilderbeast.” As anyone familiar with these artists will tell you, these albums don’t exactly scream out sunshine and bunny rabbits.

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Somehow, instead of pushing me deeper into the abyss, the songs actually helped. I wasn’t dancing and getting crazy, but the fact that there was someone else out there who could relate—a complete stranger who felt the same emotions I was feeling—and then put those emotions to words and music so eloquently and so beautifully, helped me realize that it can get better. It was okay to wallow in those feelings for a while—revel in them even—because then you know you’re human.

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Eventually, in my case at least, the depression gave way to catharsis. The reasons why I felt miserable and sad in the first place may have still been there, but there was a calm and a resolve that I was able to reach, thanks in part to those songs.

These days, I still find myself in the same predicament every so often, as I’m sure many people out there experience from time to time. Perhaps it’s due to a loss in the family, a particularly nasty break-up, a horrible spat with a best friend, or something else that you just can’t quite put a finger on. It’s always something or another. No matter how other people say it can’t be as bad as other people have it, that’s hardly reassuring. We feel this way because it happens to us. The emotions are personal, and that’s as raw as it’s going to get.

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Sad songs as therapy

When those emotions hit me, I do what I did before: I turn to the sad songs. A sampling:

“Your Ex-Lover is Dead” by Stars 

“Winter” by Joshua Radin 

“Orange Sky” by Alexi Murdoch,

“The Sad Waltzes of Pietro Crespi” by Owen,

“Take A Bow” by Greg Lasswell (not the one by Madonna or Rihanna),

“It Means Nothing” by Stereophonics,

“Weekends” by The Perishers,

“Heartbeats” by Jose Gonzalez,

“World Spins Madly On” by The Weepies,

“New Slang” by The Shins,

"Gravity" by Embrace

"Message in the Sand" by A Silent Film

"Carissa" by Sun Kil Moon

"A Fond Farewell" by Elliott Smith

"Two-Headed Boy" by Neutral Milk Hotel

"To Be Alone With You" by Sufjan Stevens

"Casimir Pulaski Day" by Sufjan Stevens

"Keep Yourself Warm" by Frightened Rabbit

"About Today" by The National

"The Funeral" by Band of Horses

"Pacing the Cage" by Bruce Cockburn

And all the songs in Damien Rice’s “O” and “9,” Kings of Convenience’s “Quiet Is The New Loud,” and Jeff Buckley’s “Grace.”

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These songs may have “kill-me-now” written all over them, but for me, whatever gets you through the gloom, that’s what should be booming out of your speakers.

(Then of course, there's the so-called Suicide Song, but maybe that's a bit too much). 

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Paul John Caña
Associate Editor, Esquire Philippines
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