To quote mamoosh: This one was tough. Songs don't really make me sad.
I do listen to a lot of music, God knows, but I was never your stereotypical emo teenager, holed up in the corner with those huge white 70s headphones bawling my eyes out to the musical stylings of Terry Sacks. Music absolutely has the power to make me break down sobbing, but it usually helps if it's in a greater context (to really watch me fall apart, just rent Moulin Rouge! and watch as I go through every Kleenex box in the house as Ewan McGregor starts in on Your Song). I've also been know to cry upon hearing some songs for the first time because they're so fucking good: just two weeks ago, driving up to LA for Chris's birthday, I had Owen Pallett's Heartland in the CD player and began crying in a hopefully not obvious to Dan kind of way upon hearing his Lewis Takes Off His Shirt (free mp3 download, by the way!). The same also goes for Max Tundra's Until We Die, but you probably guessed that already.
My main problem with "sad songs" is that I tend to read them as camp. This might have something to do with early Marc Almond exposure; sometime around my 13th birthday, I was exposed to Jacques Brel for the first time listening to Marc pitch an absolutely stupendous hissy fit known as If You Go Away, which I loved, but which didn't make me sad. (Brel of course also gave us Seasons in the Sun and other peppy uptempo numbers suitable for increasing SSRI sales.) Around the same time, I also had a copy of the Coil cover of Tainted Love, which leaves me totally cold: it seems more like a performance art stunt than anything you'd actually want to listen to, but I did appreciate the sentiment.
Over the ensuing couple of decades, I've probably bought a thousand CDs, but none of them could really be said to contain said songs... well, except for one.
Everbody's favorite quirky Scientologist Beck released an album called Sea Change about a decade ago. Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, this was coincident with Beck kind of sucking, a trend that's only increased in recent years. Instead of awesome thrift store "let's throw a bunch of shit together, maybe even with Melvins samples" craziness or blissed out Kraftwerk-eque funk numbers (Get Real Paid), he's now reduced to releasing, well, poo. Seriously. One listen through The Information and I'd given up on the guy forever.
Anyhow. Back to Sea Change. As far as I can tell, Beck's girlfriend broke up with him, so he sat down and wrote a dozen songs about how much it hurt.
Mind you, I've both broken up with and been broken up with by people in the past. This is not something I ever feel like revisiting: it's over, it's done, that's that. But for those of you who are so inclined, please feel free to wallow in your own sad for a while by watching this delightful video:
As you can see from the video, only the magic of futból can save you from near-certain suicide. Instead of a magic Negro, this video of an affluent white man loitering in a public park features magic Hispanics who make it all better by introducing Beck to the joys of kicking a soccer ball around MacArthur Park. This of course makes it specifically LA, which is kind of cool, even if somewhat cringeworthy. (On the bright side, though, that sandwich Beck is eating looks amazing. Do any of you Angelenos know where he bought it?)
Musically, I suppose you can make any song sad just by slowing it down (again: see Coil's Tainted Love). It also helps to play acoustic guitar, preferably with expensive session musician steel pedal guitar, because that sort of thing signifies country authenticity (see Ween's Fluffy for an excellent take on this trope). Finally, don't forget to mumble the vocals: it gives it that certain amount of I've-seen-it-all ennui that really sells the song. Oh, and lest I forget: don't forget to add the following lyrical clichés to top it all off:
- Living a lie
- Losing you
- Face-pressing against windows
- Leaving the past behind
- Yellow roses
- Yellow roses in graveyards (triple sad score )
- Blue birds (not quite Novalis, but it'll have to do)
- Tides, turning
- Battlements, empty
- Biding friends farewell
- Standing outside in the cold (inferred in this case)
- Inability to hear music (read as metaphor for "inability to see any beauty in this sad, sad world")
- Being able to do whatever you want, only to find that you aren't able to, because of sad
I have to admit, though, that it's not a bad song. It does make me sad. But why would I want to do that? I should just duct tape this CD to an emergency bottle of tequila just in case I ever feel the need to go on a bender. In the meantime, however, I'm gonna return to my usual pattern of listening to music that makes me really happy - such as Max Tundra's cover of The Rockford Files.