Chick Literal

Which Came First – The Music Or The Misery?

A recent conversation with a friend regarding our respective love lives took a turn for the dismal (as such conversations so often do). “At least there are some songs that are helping me get through,” he said. “Have you seen High Fidelity?” “‘Which came first, the music or the misery?'” I replied. Long after our conversation ended, the question stuck with me.

I’ve thought it to be a great question since I first watched the movie in college. “Did I listen to pop music because I was miserable? Or was I miserable because I listened to pop music?” I’d never given much thought to actually figuring out the answer to the question until now, but having spent some time mulling it over, I think I’ve come to the conclusion that at least for me, the music leads to the misery.

The fact of the matter is this: as much as I like to whine about it, my love life has never been that terrible. The worst thing that has happened to me, is being plagued with a series of nice enough boyfriends who didn’t like me enough to, in the words of Beyonce, “put a ring on it.” A situation I might have worried about less had their not been a pop song reminding me of this. I have a lovely life, but their are certain songs that inevitably throw me into a downward spiral of misery. My “bottom 5,” if you will:

Anything Taylor Swift, but mostly “Love Story“- Speaking of songs that make you think you need to be getting married, this one takes the cake. This song actually made me so crazy that I actually had conversations with my boyfriend at the time of “but whyyyyyy aren’t we more like that Taylor Swift song?” (Hint: This does not go over great.)

Most heart-wrenching lyric: “Marry me Juliet, you’ll never have to be alone.” If you’re going through a rough patch in your life where you don’t have a ton of close friends and your boyfriend of two years is aggressively refusing to even discuss the possibility of marriage, this will reduce you to tears every. single. time.

Ke$ha, “The Harold Song“- You’d think a Ke$ha Pandora station would be safe from sad songs, wouldn’t you? You want poppy, bubbly, energetic songs. And mostly, you get them. And then, this song happens and all of a sudden you’re scheduling an emergency girls’ lunch or a manicure or whatever your misery coping mechanism of choice is.

Most heart-wrenching lyric: “I still say your name when I’m talking in my sleep.” This makes me want to just take Ke$ha out for like a cup of tea so I can be all “I totally get you. It’s not all brushing your teeth with Jack all the time. Feelings! They’re the worst!”

Adele, “Someone Like You“- Yes, this is cliche. But it is a cliche for a reason. You have to have a heart of stone not to be miserable listening to this song. Everyone has that ex who told them they just weren’t ready to get married, and ends up married to someone else six months later, and if they don’t have that, you have that ex you’re terrified is going to do that, and this song just preys on that for me. There’s a reason there’s a whole SNL skit about listening to this song and crying. That happens.

Most heart-wrenching lyric: The entire song, guys. Don’t make me pick a line. I can’t do it.

Maroon 5, “Payphone“- I have to change the radio station every time this one comes on. Nothing ruins your big dramatic cross-country “I”m going to start over and it’s going to be great!” move like a song like this becoming super popular.

Most heart-wrenching lyric: “You can’t expect me to be fine. I don’t expect you to care.” And you’re all, yeah! I’m not fine! Sing it, Maroon 5! And then you remember, yeah, that person totally doesn’t care…and then you frantically start surfing radio stations and hope that someone is playing “Call Me Maybe” to snap you out of your impending melancholy.

The Postal Service, “Nothing Better“- I’m pretty sure I actually ended a relationship because this song came up on Pandora; I started crying, and I realized that I didn’t want to be in the sort of relationship that made me weepy every time a slightly sad song came up on the radio.

Most heart-wrenching lyric: “Tell me am I right to think that there could be nothing better than making you my bride and slowly growing old together?” With lyrics like those, you are kind of forced to face the reality that maybe the person you’re with can think of about a million things better than that, and that you deserve someone who at least puts growing old with you in their “Top 10″ list of things it might be cool to do someday.

In conclusion, music is a dangerous and evil force that might ruin my life. Or perhaps I’m just overly sensitive and need to stop putting so much stock in songs. Are there any songs that completely mess with your emotions, or is everyone else just judiciously listening to Adele for 10 minutes when they have a bad day and then getting on with their lives? Is pop music making everyone miserable, or just me?

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  • Berit Belén Johnson

    I like sad songs – maybe I’m sick and twisted, but I think ones that speak to exactly what you’re feeling and make you hurt are doing exactly what they should be. They make you realize things about yourself that is maybe really hard to hear, or just express things that no other combination of words and music could for you. That’s what’s best about music. There’s a really great music blog actually called Music vs. Misery that talks about some really good music and posts a lot of songs that touch on this – give you a little misery and melancholy that kicks you in the butt, but in a way we mostly need it (Google it, you’ll find it.)

    • Beate Horst

      Great comment. Enjoyed reading it as much as the article itself.

    • Jade Kenneth

      Your comment is spot on. Blue Jeans by Lana Del Ray does that to me. Oh but it hurts so good.

  • Alyse Scholl

    It’ll All Work Out by Tom Petty. Two best lyrics ever written: “when she needed me, I wasnt around” and “when it mattered most, I let her down, thats the way it goes, it’ll all work out”. The end of the song is so sad.”still I think of her when the sun goes down, it never goes away, but it all works out”. I dare anyone to listen to that song and not feel anything! Great article!

  • Stephanie Woolford

    First of all, I vote Carrie. And you pose an interesting question. It’s the modern version of ” the chicken of the egg”. And this article couldn’t have come at a better time. I went through my first break up and the relationship lifespan was 4 years. The reason he ended it: he didn’t want to get married. We are soul sisters! I find myself identifying with music more than ever. Word to the wise: play Taylor Swift’s “Begin Again” on repeat and you move through the emotional spectrum starting with crying and ending with hopeful and all warm and fuzzy inside.

  • Carmen Si

    “I hate seagulls” by Kate Nash. Just listen to this:

    I have a friend, with whom I’d like to spend anytime I can find
    With … I like sleeping in your bed
    I like knowin’ what is goin’ on inside your head
    I like taking time and I like your mind
    And I like when your hand is in mine
    I like gettin’ drunk on the tunes by the beach
    I like pickin’ strawberries
    I like cream-teas
    And I like reading … ghost-stories
    And my heart skips a beat everytime that we meet
    It’s been a while and now your smile is almost like a memory
    But then you’re back and I am fine ’cause you’re with me
    And I’m in love with you
    And I can’t find the words to make it sound unique
    But honestly you make me strong
    I can’t believe I’ve found someone this kind
    I hope we carry on
    ’cause you’re so nice and I’m in love with you

    Right after your boyfriend breaks up with you and… there it goes, life is miserable!

    Anyway, when you’re miserable you go and listen to miserable songs to feel that you’re not the only one…

  • Jenny Figueroa

    It’s really funny that you mentioned “Nothing Better,” when I broke up w/ my 2 year boyfriend I used this song to console myself, particularly the line: “I feel I must interject here you’re getting carried away feeling sorry for yourself
    With these revisions and gaps in history.” In fact, I actually paraphrased it for him as he tried to convince me that we should stay together. I’m pretty sure I listened to this song at least once a day for a few months following the break up. But I did also listen to it before the break up, so going back to your question…. I’m not sure if the song helped or made it worse.

  • Dana M. Abel

    The line in Payphone that gets me everytime is the opener, “I know it’s hard to remember the people we used to be. It’s even harder to think that you’re not here next to me.” Ughhh, gets me everytime, especially right after I’ve run into my high school boyfriend, i.e. the one that got away.

  • Vicky Hager

    Martina McBride ” I’m gonna love you through it “. The first time I heard it I was driving home from work, and dreading getting there I might add, and actually had to pull over. I’d been in a relationship for six years and he was still saying he wasn’t ready to get married. As I listened to this story of what love is SUPPOSED to be like it finally hit me that he was never going to be that guy. I had reached a catharsis. I turned around and gave my boss notice right then and ended it when I got home. Three weeks later I was living 300 miles away. Its now been a year and it was the best decision I ever made but I’m here to tell ya those first seven months were rocky as hell. Heartwrenching lyrics: ” She said I don’t think I can do this anymore . He took her in his arms and said that’s what my love it is for …………..When this road gets too long I’ll be the rock you lean on. Just take my hand together we can do it. I’m gonna love you through it”

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