Sunday, October 22, 2006

Sad Songs That Make it Better

I recently came across a blog that explored the saddest songs of all time. I love the catharsis I get from a sad song. Due to the influence of Bob Dylan's "Theme Time Radio Hour" on XM, I'm starting to expand my listening tastes beyond rock, and certainly the genres of country and blues are renowned for their cathartic power. Still, my list is confined to the rock/pop genre, as these songs are the ones that have moved me when listening to them:

10. "Be My Baby" by the Ronnettes. I've blogged about this song before, so I won't say a whole lot. The pathos of the song comes when adding the context of the biographical elements of the marriage of Phil and Ronnie Spector.

9. "Smile a Little Smile for Me" by the Flying Machine. Most of the songs on my list will skew older, since even earnest songs that came out after a certain era come packaged with irony. This song manages to pull off what would otherwise be maudlin sentimentality with disarming earnestness. Call is proto-emo.

8. Anything by Syd Barrett. I've linked to the early Pink Floyd song "See Emily Play." There was a time before spaced out drug addicts wrote nihilistic screeds (not that a good nihilistic screed can't be moving in its own right). Barrett songs were a strange mixture of innocence and corruption, hope and hopelessness. Such a combination leads to melancholy. But its not an unpleasant melancholy.

6. "Standing in the Doorway" by Bob Dylan. Many great break-up songs on "Blood on the Tracks," but in all his oeuvre, this is the song that shows Dylan at his most vulnerable.

5. "As Tears Go By" The Rolling Stones. A common theme of 60s British Invasion artists was nostalgia for childhood. The British rock stars were just as eager as their American counterparts to issue in a new era, but they had more consciousness of the post WW2 culture they came from. You don't see the Byrds, as sentimental as they could be ("Chestnut Mare") reaching for childhood nostalgia. Before the Stones became a bloated arena act, they were capable of such nuance heard here. The youtube video linked to adds even more pathos to an already heart-wrenching song.

4. "Where Did You Sleep Last Night?" by Nirvana. This is another song in which the context of the artist's life adds to the pathos. Even without the context though, Cobain's voice conveys an astounding depth of feeling. I'm somewhat disappointed that this song didn't start more a trend of acoustic rock re-interpretations of blues songs, but maybe its for the best. It took someone like Cobain to pull this off, and there haven't been too many Cobains.

3. "Hurt" by Johnny Cash. I'm somewhat disappointed that this song didn't start more of a trend of classic country artists re-interpreting industrial songs, but maybe its for the best. It took someone like Cash to pull this off, and there haven't been too many Cashes.

2. "Let's Roll" by Neil Young. Extremely sad but also extremely inspiring. Neil did justice to the story of Flight 93.

1. "Last Kiss" by Pearl Jam. I'm not linking to a video because this must be played in the imagination. It took about 30 years for this song to achieve perfect symbiosis between lyrics and melody. The melody that Pearl Jam provided wouldn't have been possible in the 60s, but the lyrics wouldn't have been possible in the 90s. The line "Hold me darling just a little while" is not something even an emo shoegazer would be able to come up with today, but it is pure perfection.

7 Comments:

Blogger Enjoy_Every_Sandwich said...

My favourite sad songs ever:
The Tide-The Spill Canvas
Self Conclusion-The Spill Canvas (not strictly sad, per se, but depressing)
Brick-Ben Folds Five
Nothing to Lose-Billy Talent

Mine are a bit more emoish than yours, as you seem to have a penchant for older artists.

PS: I love Hurt by Johnny Cash. Superior to the NIN version, I think.

3:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

oh. my. goodness. You really got number 1 right. "Last Kiss" has to be the only song that will ever make me cry. I'm usually not that in-tune with visual or audible media (i.e., I don't really cry for movies or songs, I don't get scared from "horror" movies, etc.), but "Last Kiss"...sorry, I kinda went off on a tangent there and you probably dont even care. Anyway, so, I just thought I'd tell you that "Last Kiss" was a great choice.

12:04 AM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life said...

If i could be serious for a minute,

It's disappointing you ain't got no 80's monster ballads in your list. I'll just assume you ain't knowed any of them, but i could name twenty that are better than anything in your list. Smoke it.

11:36 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

One other thing. K-fed has been on monday night raw the last two weeks and honestly has done a really good job, especially on the mic, better than many of the wrestlers. He's so real with his whole wanna be black, but i'm a white rapper thing. Maybe i'll buy his cd to try and help him out, which is funny considering there ain't no chance i'll be voting for governor.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous nWo 4 life said...

One other thing. K-fed has been on monday night raw the last two weeks and honestly has done a really good job, especially on the mic, better than many of the wrestlers. He's so real with his whole wanna be black, but i'm a white rapper thing. Maybe i'll buy his cd to try and help him out, which is funny considering there ain't no chance i'll be voting for governor.

11:40 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think all The Spill Canvas songs would be by far the saddest songs ever. even the remotely happy ones would be the saddest songs. even the 'im alive and well, god can't even smote me down' are extremely sad, because the guy is going to end up killing himself (suicide by guitar strings sooner or later)

and Nirvana. those songs are just said because its like a dead guy talking to you. or singing to you. which is creepy and hot at the same time.

and azor, i read you whole post. bending to the minority of your readers i presume, eh?

-A member of the Boycott Double Alliance

1:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Azor,

In light of some of our discussions at Tim's wedding, I thought I'd recommend Simon Blackburn's book, titled simply "Truth". Perhaps you can find some useful stuff to fend off the post-modernist non-believers (of truth, of course).

--Filliam

5:51 PM  

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