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Spirits in My Head

Why do the sad songs linger?

By Donna ReneePublished 3 months ago 6 min read
image created with DALL-E

Written for the Vocal+Assist Facebook Group, thanks for the extra push to finish this one that I've been thinking about for weeks!

Why sad songs?

Sad songs have readily taken up residence in my mind throughout my life.

Angry songs, wistful songs, and heartbreak songs too.

Occasionally a funny or happy one will earn the right to stay a little while but I just connect better to the darker ones… and once my mind latches onto a song it becomes my heartbeat and my current inner anthem. It has gotten to the point where my friends will send me a link to a new song accompanied by something like, "Hey, I just heard this really depressing song and thought of you! Hope it makes you happy!"

It usually does. My friends know me well.

Now with technology available where I can easily put a song on repeat through my Bluetooth headphones, I often find that I’ve spent literally hours listening to the same 3 minutes and 45 seconds of sadness throughout my day. And I like it that way, whatever that says about me! I have come to realize though that I don't listen to sad songs because I'm always in a terribly dark place or because I want to feel sad. Sometimes is that the truth? Sure! But in those times I prefer silent sadness.

I realize now that I prefer to listen to sad music because it helps me process my emotions without letting them overtake me completely (like they can do in those times when I can't get myself to listen to anything.) I can feel companionship in my sadness through music much more easily than I can in trying to talk to someone. I don't have to reach out to anyone, I don't have to make an appointment with my therapist, I don't have to rely on my friends, and I don't have to cry alone in the corner. I can just listen to one of my go-to songs and experience community in the lyrics and in the haunting melodies.

One of the earliest sad song memories I have is of riding in the car with my dad and learning the words to "Sounds of Silence" by Simon and Garfunkel by playing it over and over. Another few favorites of his (and mine) were “My Father’s House” by Bruce Springsteen, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” by the Hollies, and the absolute carnival of sadness in Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” and “Tower of Song.”


Actually, here you go! If you are in the mood, join me on my playlist of sadness! I promise to end with something more uplifting.

SIDE NOTE: You have no idea how hard it is going to be for me to keep this to a reasonable number of sad songs. I'll shoot for 10 but no guarantees.

Let's start with one of the OG sad songs of my life.

1. My Father's House - Bruce Springsteen

You probably think of his anthem style songs like "Born to Run" when you hear Springsteen's name but let me tell you, listen to this one right now if you aren't familiar. The stripped down style and pain and heartache in every syllable is sad song perfection. Feeling sad about your family relationships? Regret over past decisions? Missing someone who you can never speak to again? Well, here ya go!

2. The Sounds of Silence - Simon and Garfunkel

Sad about the state of the world? Disappointed in the superficiality of our relationships? This one oughta do it for you!

3. I Got Nobody Waiting For Me - M. Craft

Lonely? Pretending you don't miss someone? Love lying to yourself about that? Perfect, crank this up! I tried to pick a favorite line in this but they are all SO GOOD.

4. No One’s Gonna Love You - Band of Horses

Currently in a failing relationship? Can't shake someone even though you both know it needs to be over? Losing someone despite your best efforts? Trying to work your way through qualifying exams in grad school and drowning in self doubt? (Hmmm...maybe that one was just me)

This one is gonna be your jam.

5. I Fall Apart - Post Malone

Feeling wrecked by love or the end of a relationship? Enough said.

6. Lost Cause - Beck

This could be about a lover, a friend, or even yourself if you listen to it and imagine looking in the mirror.

7. Bigger Than the Whole Sky - Taylor Swift

There is no better song out there about this level of loss. Even if it doesn't apply to you, I promise you that it does to someone in your life.

8. For What It's Worth - Buffalo Springfield

This one hits hard. I remember hearing this song as a child for the first time... on PBS after 9/11. It was used together with footage of the Twin Towers up in smoke. Anytime something terrible is happening in the world, I have to listen to this again. I've been listening to it way too often lately, it seems.

9. I'll Be Waiting - Cian Ducrot

This is the newest song on my sadlist. I found this one after Instagram apparently decided that I like watching flash mobs singing and dancing. Anyway, this reel was of an artist going up to a busker who was singing HIS new song, then the artist just happened to have the whole dang choir who also sings on the song with him and they all joined in. Maybe you had to be there... Just take my word on this, INSTANT CHILLS on the chorus. The song itself though is full of longing and regret for a lost relationship. You can feel this one as familial (as it was actually written) or as being about a romantic relationship.

10. Spirits - The Strumbellas

~I got guns in my head and they won’t go

Spirits in my head and they won’t go~

This one is special to me. I feel like it came to me from the universe, in a way. I was sitting in a coffee shop in North Carolina a few years ago, staring into the swirling, murky depths of a mocha (on the verge of that complete emotional overwhelm that I mentioned earlier) when this catchy and upbeat feeling song came on. But the lyrics? BOOM. Instant camaraderie with other PTSD survivors and anyone else who struggles against intrusive, inescapable thoughts.

In conclusion, of sorts, and to answer the question in the subtitle...I think the sad songs linger because I need them to...

BONUS HAPPY SONG, as promised!

Don’t Lose Sight - Lawrence

I promised something uplifting at the end! This one is pretty epic.

Thanks for hanging in there and let me know your favorite sad songs.

I'm always in the market for a new go-to!


About the Creator

Donna Renee

Hi! Thanks for reading! My hobbies include making coffee, drinking coffee, and starting to write a story and then rage-deleting it when I get the slightest bit frustrated.


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Comments (3)

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  • Naomi Gold3 months ago

    How fun, I love music recommendations! I wouldn’t say I love sad songs, but I like songs with a soft and melodic sound… so that often has sad lyrics.

  • suman mohan3 months ago


  • Gosh, we're like twins! I often gravitate towards songs that are sad, angry and depressing for all the same reasons as you! When I was reading this, it felt like you were talking about me! Finally I found someone who shares my taste in music. Thank you for the playlist and I was so excited to see Taylor Swift there!

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