Why Sad Songs Mean The Most To Me!
If I were to bring out a ballpark figure, I’d say that 90% of my favorite songs are sad, or negative in some way. That’s not a reflection on me as a person! I’m probably one of the happiest and smiliest people you’ll meet, but I don’t think I’m alone on this one. Country music was borne out of hard times and heartbreak, serving the needs of the forgetten, underappreciated and non-privileged working class of America, and coming into its own during times such as The Great Depression. For me, part of the appeal of country music is its dedication to being just about the most depressing, most lonesome music you can find.
Sad music tells you that you are not alone in how you’re feeling. Sad music indulges you and helps you cry, making yourself feel better. Sad music puts you in the frame of mind that allows you to dwell on the problems in your life and your own inner heartbreak, which you would otherwise ignore and suck it up for the outside world. Sad music makes us more thoughtful human beings.
I’ve also found that sad lyrics are some of the most beautiful around. Negative emotions are almost always complex, and the lyrics which reflect that are the most observant yet poetic and artistic that I have yet to come across. While simplicity in music is welcomed, as a big fan of language, I love the way it can be used to delve into the very heart of emotions, to both convey and understand them in equal parts.
But sadness isn’t the only negative emotion. Angry songs can provide you with the confidence to stand up for what it right, and allow you to rent your frustrations. For women, angry songs about sexism and poor treatment can give them the strength to rise above it, in addition to producing feisty, sassy songs that on another level are tons of fun.
Even hope is a negative emotion. It is, ultimately, dissatisfaction leading to pondering the possibilities of a life lived without that dissatisfaction. When you say “I hope”, you are wishing for something better than what currently exists. But some hope is more determined than others. Often it is frail and a desperate attempt to outlive the dissatisfaction without it deepening into depression; this is a key characteristic of country songs.
Take the Pistol Annies latest record, ‘Annie Up’. Songs like ‘Unhappily Married’ and ‘Being Pretty Ain’t Pretty’, perfectly summarize this chronic dissatisfaction, but instead of fighting for better they find a kind of resigned peace in their situation. Kacey Musgraves’ recent release ‘Same Trailer Different Park’ also looks at the lives of ordinary people, but tracks like ‘Silver Lining’ actively strive for better, with even the pessimistic ‘Blowin’ Smoke’ being full of characters who spend their lives dreaming of a different existence. Still, they are all songs of negativity. It is no coincidence that the song often awarded “best country song of all time” is ‘He Stopped Loving Her Today’ by George Jones. The sadness and heartache in that song touched people’s lives and souls.
As someone who has written songs most of her life, I tend to view the construction of songs differently to other people. It must be noted that during the lowest points in my life I wrote many more songs than usual, with a much higher quality rate than those times when I was happier. At the end of the day, it is hard to write a happy song that you can feel when you sing. When you sit down to write about your life, if you are simply happy and content there is nothing you have a burgeoning desire to get off your chest; there is no passion and no emotion. Songs may involve happiness but more often than not are tied up with more complex emotions such as hope that give a depth to the song.
So when you next take a look at your music library, have a think about those songs that without, you would be lacking in some way. Those songs that feel integral to your soul, the ones that touched you inexplicably. I bet you they’re sad.
Vickye is a guest contributor! Find her on her own site www.forthecountryrecord.com or Twitter, @FTcountryRecord!
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