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Music to Cry To
7.13.2001 by Sean

It's hip, it's happenin', it's the thing that's got everybody a-yappin'. "It's a bad motha-" "Shut yo' mouth!" "But I'm talkin' bout sadness!" "Then we can dig it."

You betcha. Sadness is the coolest thing since sliced bread. Despair; Misery; Depression; Everybody digs 'em, everybody likes to take the time to sit around and be profoundly morose. Some of us got the blues, some of us got Kurt Cobain, and some us got Bright Eyes, but regardless of the form or the face, the rhyme of the reason, everybody enjoys slipping, now and then, into that soft dark place where the lights are low, and the music matters.

Last week, I talked about critics, and why their opinions do have some worth. To be able to appreciate music, you need to be aware of the places it can go, the places it has visited. You need to be able to listen, and listen hard.

It's my opinion that sadness is the emotion that, all together, inspires the best pop music in the universe. Happy music is fun but inconsistent, angry music's too often inane or full of attitude, lusty music doesn't hold up over thirty listens. When you write music from sadness, you care enough to listen hard, care enough to make it good.

That's not to say that every ballad is worth hearing, or even worth recording. Anyone can slow down the tempo, add some minor chords, and weep some crocodile tears into the microphone. Even Snow. But to write a song and perform it by drawing on a broken heart (present or past), by thinking of a loved one departed, or by simply delivering that crow's-call of mourning that you've had within you for so long, well... often these things make the best songs in the world, in every genre. Sad songs cleanse, they burn, they ache.

Even if you don't like a style of music, more often than not you'll like a "sad song" from that genre. Anti-soul? How 'bout Al Green's "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart"? Anti-trip-hop? Portishead's "Roads". Anti-classical? Check out Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez".

My friends are always mocking me for my endless supply of depressing music. It's true - I'm a sick bastard - but that doesn't make the sad songs any less poignant, any less powerful, any less moving. I'll take "Nightswimming" over "Imitation of Life". And you can quote me.

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