Why I love sad music…

“Oh lord, I’m not ready for this sort of thing…” – Counting Crows, “Anna Begins”

I’m always intrigued by what draws people to the music that they love. I have one friend who is happiest when she’s watching energetic pop-rock shows. I have another friend who adores jam band music, particularly stuff with great percussion. Me, it seems like I love as many different types of music as I have moods – a lot, trust me – but what I love the most is sad music. The gut-twisting, tears from nowhere, hysterical gasping for breath kind of sad.

I don’t think I realized this until recently when I was listening to my iPod on shuffle while I was working out and I kept having to forward through songs because everything was too mellow for being on the elliptical. But it got me thinking – why is it that sad music makes me feel better, even if it makes me emotional?

I have a live solo show recording of a young singer who typically fronts a pop-rock band. There’s a good bit of banter between him and the crowd and it’s a fairly upbeat show. But, at one point, he talks about how people who write songs and poetry just seem to have a stronger “sad” streak than other people in the world. This, I think, gets somewhat close to explaining the why I love sad music thing…

Art, in a lot of ways, is turning the details into the big picture for the world to see. Whether it’s a song, a poem, a picture, a film, a play, or a sculpture, the best art draws your attention to something you might normally miss and makes you feel it in some way. I think artists – writers, painters, sculptors – are hyper aware of everything by their nature. Some will argue with me, but I think this makes us more prone to feeling things in ways that other people don’t. I’m not sure of the right word to use here – ironic, I know. Do we feel things deeper? I don’t think that’s the word I want? More intensely? Or are we just more prone to hypersensitivity? I don’t know….But I just feel like that’s the way it is.

As a writer, the easiest thing for me to express is happiness. The hardest things are sadness and despair. Maybe because they are really internal and often well hidden. When it comes to music, the first thing I connect with in any song are the lyrics. I guess that’s the writer in me appreciating the words. And maybe because sadness is so hard for me to express….because the details of it are often buried in places the world can’t see and it takes work to bring them to light…maybe that’s why I find sad songs the most beautiful kind of art.

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