Editor's Rating

sad is one of the many ways that we feel things and, while happiness is a worthwhile endeavor, there is validity, purpose, and meaning in other states of emotion, as well.

Music is one of the many ways that we feel things and, while happiness is a worthwhile endeavor, there is validity, purpose, and meaning in other states of emotion, as well. Sure, I like to tap my toes to a happy tune as much as the next person, but tapping into the deep stuff can also be an extremely worthwhile and cathartic endeavor.

There is much meaning that can be derived from melancholy. In fact, sad music does not merely evoke sadness. Researchers have discovered that sometimes, listening to sad music actually makes us feel happier, more romantic, and less doomed. Another study found that listeners felt less gloomy and miserable and more cheery, animated, and inclined to dance when they listened to sad music.

Although we humans possess an amazing ability to rise up from the ground and overcome what hurts us, there are times when we just have to take the time to be sad. (And rise up from the ground and overcome what hurts us after that.) So, in order to help with this uplifting/melancholic process, I have collected songs (listed here in no particular order) that have “sad” written all over them. Whenever I hear these songs, I’m reminded about certain large, important aspects of the human condition and while they are not always happy, they ring true

The death of an innocent child and the grief of a mother can remind us that misfortune and sorrow are an integral part of life and can be given meaning and purpose when we reach beyond ourselves. Ronan’s mother memorialized the value of his life—“You were my best four years”—and she established the Ronan Thompson Foundation to ensure that his brief life will continue to make positive contributions to the lives of others.

  • Connection. Listeners identify with the emotions expressed by the music or the meaning of the lyrics. They seek this kind of identification when they want to re-experience those same emotions. Some listeners in Van den Tol and Edwards’ studies found that identifying with their feelings in this way seemed to help sort them out. In other words, they sought “cognitive reappraisal” of their emotions.
  • Message. Another way listeners achieve the goal of cognitive reappraisal is through seeking out music with a message they wanted to relate to.
  • High aesthetic value. Before sad listeners can reassess their situation, they use music as a distraction. In this scenario, music of high aesthetic value—music believed to be particularly good or beautiful—is the most sought out. Van den Tol and Edwards hypothesize that the more beautiful the music, the easier it is for listeners to concentrate on it, thereby achieving the goal of being distracted from their present situation.

Memory trigger. Finally, listeners used sad music as a memory trigger, when it had association with past events or people, and they wanted to retrieve those memories. Interestingly, when listeners chose music for this purpose, it seemed not to enhance their moods, as music did in other situations.