Admit it: there’s been a time (or 100) when you’ve found yourself to be in your feelings. You feel emo — it happens. It’s often unwarranted and unprecedented; it may be due to lack of sleep and/or food, the exam you have on Tuesday or the exam you had (and may have failed) last Tuesday or because you finally found the person from your big lecture class that you’ve been nursing a crush on all year, and you see on Facebook that they’ve been in a relationship with someone for two years. Who really cares why you’re feeling emo — the point is, you just are.
I learned in my musicology course last year that listening to sad songs while you are sad actually does make you feel better. It makes you feel as though whatever it is you’re feeling is valid, and after you belt your heart out (or just cry and listen) to your sad song of choice, you undergo a sort of catharsis that leaves you feeling cleansed. Plus, the act of singing releases endorphins, so singing when you are sad will make you feel happier. With that in mind, if you do happen to find yourself in the feels for no apparent reason, check out the songs below:
“Ivy” — Frank Ocean
It begins with a reverberated guitar melody that progresses as Ocean’s soothing yet powerful vocals build. Then, it pierces through all the walls and all the bullshit that you have worked to hide behind. Ocean perfectly begins soft and low, so when only 30 seconds in, he skips up an octave into a more exasperated, emotional tone, the listener is ready to let go of the strength and composure they feel they must uphold. This build up is expert, and is executed at a level that isn’t often heard, even from artists of the same caliber. With ease, Ocean juxtaposes an angsty and nonchalant tone, representing the whiplash of the constant battle of feeling and caring too much and not at all (“If you could see my thoughts you would see our faces” vs. “It’s quite alright to hate me now”). His lyrics are nostalgic, constantly referring to “back then” — a time that every listener has, a time that every listener thinks of and a time that every listener, at some point, wants to return to.
“Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright” — Bob Dylan
Dylan’s apathetic yet powerful lyrics, combined with his soft-spoken singing, are like a stream of consciousness within your own head. With lines such as “I ain’t saying you treated me unkind / You could’ve done better, but, I don’t mind, / You just kind of wasted my precious time, / But don’t think twice, it’s alright,” Dylan succinctly puts the hardship of breaking up with someone, even after reluctantly realizing that neither the relationship nor the person was perfect, into words. The matter-of-factness in Dylan’s tone that basically says “you suck, but it’s seriously fine!” allows you to easily sing along and convince yourself that maybe it really is seriously fine.
“Michicant” — Bon Iver
Listening to Bon Iver feels like sitting on a rock in the middle of a moving river, with your feet in the cool-but-not-too-cold water, with the sun hitting your chest and the smell of trees filling your olfactory senses. It’s like being where you are most comfortable, with a warm blanket and a cup of tea, with your favorite book and your favorite person and a glass of your favorite kind of expensive alcohol. This song is one of my personal favorites from Justin Vernon, for the harmonies of his voice and the entrancing instruments. I don’t quite even know how to describe his music; it is hopeful and yet bittersweet. There is something about it that can mend a broken heart, a bad day or a disappointment.
“Yes I’m Changing” — Tame Impala
The first time I heard this song — to put it frankly — I was like, “Yaaaaas.” Taking in the ambient vocals and synthesizers combined with the strong beat of the bass and drums will inadvertently have you nodding your head. The lyrics are dreamy and matter of fact; they have a way of relating to different aspects of life that make this song applicable to almost any situation. This song is cathartic, with hopeful lyrics such as “There is another future waiting there for you” or “There is a world out there that is calling my name / And it’s calling yours too,” and the electronic, psychedelic track consumes your being, allowing your mind to get a break from the war within.
“Love is a Losing Game” — Amy Winehouse
These lyrics are poetry. Winehouse’s voice is poetry. The music is poetry. Without any music, the words are incredibly sad, beautiful and real. And Amy Winehouse, well, she could be singing the phone book and I would probably still be sitting on my bed and crying. The combination of her voice, the words and her musical choices are enthralling, with each breath, vocal run and carefully chosen accented word or note bringing meaning to the song that is deeper than what’s on the surface. You don’t only feel the pain Winehouse brings forth through this song, you share it with her. Written by Winehouse herself, the lyrics and music are so cohesive; the words are deep and thought provoking, while the music is repetitive and simple. The simplicity of the music makes the song raw. Winehouse forces you to listen to everything she is saying and feel it completely; she leaves you no other choice.