woman lying down. Credit: Unsplash

Songs for a dark place

By Victoria Curley

Music can help comfort us and contextualise our sorrows.

Let’s be honest with ourselves for a second. Our comfort, pump up and nostalgic song choices aren’t just a reflection of our mood, but a message to our past, present and future selves. As many of us dived into our Spotify wrapped last year, I’m sure there were some uninvited guests we maybe weren’t too proud of. As someone who listens to sad songs whatever the weather, I can appreciate that different things work for different people. Finding that one song that you connect with can make the world of difference when you come to need it. But amidst my love of sad songs, I have realised which are superficial favourites just thrown onto the playlist, and which hold points in time in my life I’m stuck with. 

Amber Run’s I Found would be my first go-to when needing solace. On my first listen, I fell in love with everything but its meaning. The beat, like a pulse, and its slumbering vocals, were a comfort that I hadn’t really heard in a song before. I can only describe it as having no intention and no feeling; it’s a song that just doesn’t care. It comes across as insightful, yet completely confused in its description of a past relationship, and what people bring as baggage or lessons into the next one. In a way, I heard from the song what I wanted and needed at the time. The line that resonated on my first listen – “and I’ve moved further than I thought I could/but I missed you more than I thought I would” – only cemented how much I liked it. Yet the more I listened, the more I realised that I Found is in no way a kind, romantic song, but is actually quite cynical. The point in time that I’ve attached to this song is one of loneliness and uprooted change that I went through when I left school, moved house and felt like I had no control over my life. The song not only allowed me to sit alone and go through the feelings that needed addressing, but also led me to enjoy a slightly more pessimistic outlook on relationships. If I was to hear the song on the radio now, I’d be concerned less about hearing it and more about enjoying it. I’ve lost the need I had for it previously.       

Another song that has helped me is one so connected to family experience and upsetting events that I and many others have been through at young ages, which rear their ugly heads later in life if not acknowledged. For anyone who was never able to process grief, I hope Dean Lewis’ How Do I Say Goodbye, a grieving masterpiece, can open the floodgates and give you the time to cry that sad songs should allow us to. The diagnosis of my mum’s cancer for the second time came as a shock. Having been through and survived it the first time, you would assume it would have been easier to take. Comprehending the possibility of losing a family member, let alone your only living parent, is something no song can change, but the ability to let out emotions whilst living your own busy life miles away is hugely enhanced by a song already handing you the emotions to cry to. It does the hard part for you, and I simply can’t fault the song. Encapsulating both anger and a battle, I couldn’t fail to resonate with its lyrics; the clear, simple recollections of moments all families share. Dean’s voice on top of all the emotional brilliance is an added bonus. If this song doesn’t make you cry when it says “you gave me my name and the colour of your eyes/I see your face when I look at mine,” then I don’t know what to tell you. I will openly disclose that I have to hold back the water works every time I listen to this song. The song also helped me appreciate the time I have with my family, it was the nudge I needed to pick up the phone or send a sweet text to my mum while at university. When so many of us live in a new place away from familiarity, these moments of sad reflection to a tune are timely.    

When an artist writes a certified “sad song”, I do often question the originality and authenticity of the pain they describe. However, the music video accompanying How Do I Say Goodbye makes clear the genuineness of the song, comprised of beautifully nostalgic home videos. The song was written as a dedication to his father when he was diagnosed with cancer.  

Songs are a lot like poems: they can become deeply personal in their vagueness or their specificity, so finding a comfort song is an individual discovery. I wouldn’t ever force someone to listen to my suggestions if you’re not in a place to fully receive them. But I think the hallmark of a truly beautiful sad song is one that empowers you as well as bringing you down.


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