News Flash: Sad Songs Make You Sadder. Albertina Rizzo

I don’t like sad songs. Listening to them is like messing withyour heart and that thing already has a s**tload of work to do. I’ve never been comfortable with them. And it’s not because I’m afraid of feeling. Believe me, I could do with a day or two of not feeling. Feeling is exhausting, people. It’s the idea that you’re letting something make you sadder than you already are. There’s plenty of stuff in the world to make you sad – for example, a Dunkin Donuts/Baskin Robbins franchise at 11pm. Point is, I don’t really need a depressing whipped cream topping on that miserable, fat sundae. And that’s exactly what sad songs are to me.

I don’t know when my dislike for depressing songs started, but I’m guessing it was somewhere in the developmental stage – what age that is or what that even means is beyond me, but it makes me sound like I might know something, so let’s go with it. I remember one of the first songs that made me really upset was Debbie Gibson’s break-up ballad, ‘Foolish Beat’.  Now keep in mind, at the time I had no reference for anything being said in the song. My romantic experiences up until that point were non-existent because at that age I had the sex appeal of a Tupperware container. There was next to zero contact with boys. The only boy in my life was my 16-year-old neighbor, who I lovingly referred to as “Gay Charlie” (because he was gay and his name was Charlie). He talked to me a lot about heartache and loved that song. Charlie would play it on his yellow Sony Walkman, hand me one side of his headphones, and cry in front of me. Just cry and cry while I quietly sat in his room waiting for him to get tired of crying so that he’d go with me to the deli to buy a Snickers bar and a Coke… It was a pretty popular place where a lot of the kids hung out and I wasn’t about to walk in there and purchase said items alone – doing that seemed sadder than anything Debbie Gibson had whined about.

What stuck with me years later, besides acne, was the idea of Gay Charlie making himself sad with music. I never understood it. As I grew older and shed all that fructose syrup off my ass, I finally had the opportunity to date a boy or two and, consequently, understand ‘Foolish Beat’. Here’s what I realized: there’s way too much saxophone in the song. Seriously. It’s about 90% saxophone. I challenge any teen singer today to add that much “jazz sax” to their Top 40 hit.

The other, more important realization is that I enjoy music that makes me happy.  Listening to sad things when I’m already sad seems pointless, like eating when I’m full or explaining iPads to my mom. Instead, I choose to listen to really upbeat tunes to help me forget I’m upset, or at least help me repress the issue until I’m seemingly less miserable. So, if you ever see me walking down the street with ‘Rock Lobster’ blaring from my headphones, chances are something really s***ty happened and you should probably buy me a Snickers bar.

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  1. I actually prefer sad song to happy ones – I’m sort of a melancholy person in general, which is the opposite from my sister… I think you and my sister are very much alike on this subject.
    Some of my favorite sad songs are: Mad World and Falling Awake by Gary Jules, Angel by Sarah McLachlan, 9 crimes by Damien Rice.
    I think sad music beautiful.

  2. Not only sad songs, but happy songs that SOUND sad. The Beach Boys’ “Wouldn’t It Be Nice” is one of those for me. And then there are songs that are sad that make me feel better for some reason, like Neil Diamond’s “Song Sung Blue.” Hmmm.

  3. “The thing about sad music is that it all comes down to the concept of music therapy. Research shows that sad music releases the same chemicals in our brain that crying does, which acts as a tranquilizer so it calms us down and allows us to start to move on. It’s not so much making you sadder as helping you embrace the sadness you’re already feeling and giving your brain time to process emotions. It’s actually really healthy to listen to sad music. Obviously, music therapy works differently for everyone and it’s all about preference.”

    - I couldn’t have said it better. I think society teaches us to hide or bottle our emotions, so they can be hard to reach, even when you are really sad. Ever been miserable, but you can’t cry for some reason? Then you listen to a beautiful sad song & the floodgates open. It’s a good feeling, letting it all pour out. And identifying with a song is comforting, because you know, at that moment, you can share your grief, & it doesn’t feel so isolating & lonely.

  4. I don’t know, for some people listening to depressing music when they’re sad is sort of cathartic. I for one cannot STAND happy songs when I’m sad- so I’ll usually listen to my playlist of depressing tracks (yes, I made a playlist. Don’t judge me!), or to songs with a really fast, pounding beat when I’m mad. It DOES help me feel better. I mean, why listen to songs that don’t reflect your mood?

  5. ” I had the sex appeal of a Tupperware container”
    priceless!

  6. The thing about sad music is that it all comes down to the concept of music therapy. Research shows that sad music releases the same chemicals in our brain that crying does, which acts as a tranquilizer so it calms us down and allows us to start to move on. It’s not so much making you sadder as helping you embrace the sadness you’re already feeling and giving your brain time to process emotions. It’s actually really healthy to listen to sad music. Obviously, music therapy works differently for everyone and it’s all about preference. :)

    Becca Sands | 9/20/2011 08:09 am
  7. Haha, Edge of Glory was the first thing I thought off, too!

  8. the sax solo is making a comeback! You can find it in Lady Gaga’s Edge of Glory and Katy Perry’s Last Friday Night….

  9. Twin? I think so. My stepsister listens to sad music allllllllllllll the time… especially when she’s depressed and I don’t understand it. And no one in their right mind would ever consider me an unfeeling person. But yes… when I’m sad…give me something upbeat.

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