Music can make us feel a lot of emotions. Sometimes we listen to a classical symphony to feel calmer, or we turn up the beat to feel happy or to motivate us to run that extra mile.
But sometimes, when we are lost in grief or heartbreak, we listen to music to feel sad, because the right sad song can allow us to cry and feel better afterwards. So get out your tissues, because here are our picks for the ten saddest songs of all time.
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- Here is the list top 10 best sad songs ever to listen and cry in 2018
Here is the list top 10 best sad songs ever to listen and cry in 2018
10. Fast Car – Tracy Chapman
Anyone who grew up in the late 80s and early 90s listened to Tracy Chapman’s song and dreamed about escaping their own hometown in a fast car. But the sadness of the song is deeper than wanderlust. The woman in Chapman’s musical tale finds out that no matter how far or how fast she goes, she can’t escape the life she’s running from.
9. Ghost – Indigo Girls
There are few things sadder than being unable to move on after a relationship has ended. The Indigo Girls’ trademark harmonies lend a sense of longing to this song that bemoans the fact that, even after years of being separated, sometimes the memories of and love for someone we’ve lost will haunt our hearts.
8. Hallelujah – Leonard Cohen
This song, about how sometimes even our most sincere efforts at love fall apart, has been covered by hundreds of artists, from Jeff Buckley to the Pentatonix. However, there’s only one way to feel its full power, and that’s to watch it being performed live by Leonard Cohen himself. Cohen, a Canadian musician who was known for his melancholy lyrics, pours his entire soul into every word. We challenge you not to have a lump in your throat as you sing along with the well-known chorus.
7. Lost Cause – Beck
In 2000, Grammy winner singer-songwriter Beck ended a nine-year relationship with his fiance Leigh Limon. He reacted by withdrawing and writing a lot of depressing music, which he was reluctant to release, since he didn’t want to air his dirty laundry. We’re glad that he changed his mind, because the resulting album, 2002’s Sea Change, gives a beautiful voice to how we all feel when a relationship ends. “Lost Cause” in particular captures the feeling of being damaged goods, like nothing will ever be the same and there is no way to ever be happy again. We hear you, Beck.
6. With or Without You – U2
“With or Without You” is one of U2’s most well-known songs. It was the first to top the charts in the US, and it is consistently named one of the best songs of all time. The steady beat overlayed with a single weeping electric guitar serve as a perfect backdrop to Bono’s aching vocals. The lyrics express longing for someone that the singer can’t be with, but can’t bear to be without. As beautiful as the words are, though, the song’s most powerful moment might just be in the middle, when there are no more words, and all Bono can do is cry out in pain.
5. Tears In Heaven – Eric Clapton
Eric Clapton wrote “Tears in Heaven” for the 1991 film Rush, but the song was inspired by Clapton’s own personal tragedy. In March of that year, Clapton’s four year old son Conor died after falling from a 53rd floor window. When Clapton performed the song on MTV Unplugged, the recording went to the top of the charts and was nominated for nine Grammy Awards. There’s little wonder why the live version is so popular. When stripped down to simple acoustic guitar and Clapton’s soulful voice, it’s easy to feel the unbearable sorrow of a man who has lost his little boy.
4. Fred Jones Pt. 2 – Ben Folds
Ben Folds is well known for taking on heavy subjects with raw honesty, including abortion (“Brick”) and suicide (“Carrying Cathy”). For our money, though, his most heartbreaking song is one about a more mundane subject: retirement. Who would expect retirement to be so sad? But Folds tells us a story about Fred Jones, who discovers that even after twenty five years he can just be replaced, and no one even notices he’s gone. It’s a quiet despair that we all feel at one time or another, wondering if what we do with our lives even makes a difference.
3. The Only Thing – Sufjan Stevens
Sufjan Stevens is an indie folk artist known for emotional sincerity, and his 2015 album Carrie and Lowell is considered one of his best. It was written as a way to process his grief after the loss of his mother to cancer in 2012. The whole album is sad, but “The Only Thing” is particularly stark. It’s a simple contemplation of suicide, where the singer talks about how the only reason he doesn’t go through with it is because of the beauty of the world and God’s creation. And yet, even then, everything he sees, everything he touches, everything he feels in his heart, cannot escape the thoughts of the person he has lost.
2. Everybody Hurts – REM
This song immediately resonates with anyone who hears it, because the title is absolutely true: everybody hurts. REM’s songs are often esoteric and metaphorical, with their lead singer Michael Stipe intentionally singing unintelligibly in parts, but this song is different. The lyrics are straightforward and Stipe’s vocals are clear because the band didn’t want the message to be lost: everybody hurts, so hold on. In 1995 a British suicide hotline run by the Samaritans ran a print campaign that consisted solely of the lyrics to the song and their phone number.
1. Hurt – Johnny Cash
“Hurt” was originally written by Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails, but when Johnny Cash covered it in 2002, he turned an already melancholy song into a masterpiece of heartbreak. You can hear the age in Cash’s trembling voice as he sings about how everything he’s done, and everyone he’s known, have crumbled to dirt in the ravages of time. The award-winning music video that accompanied Cash’s cover drives the point home, juxtaposing scenes of Cash’s long and celebrated career with visuals of him near the end of his life, in a rundown museum where the detritus of his fame gently decays. The fact that Cash died not long after the song was released is the final straw that makes this song, without a doubt, the saddest of all time.