It occurred to me, as I was posting my recent compilation of fierce songs to make you feel empowered after a break-up, that there are a few steps one must follow before getting to that place where you can say “I’m over it.” The biggest? A good cathartic cry. And make no mistake about it; good music is just as capable at letting you wallow in the misery and pain, as it is at leading you to the other side.
After compiling this list, I realized that it could neatly be split in two; with half the songs falling into the categories of Jazz Standards and/or Stage Songs (i.e. Theater/Broadway/Whathaveyou), and the other half as being Contemporary (i.e. Rock/Punk/New Wave/Pop). So that’s how I’ve done it. Here, then, are the six songs comprising the Contemporary songs that while not guaranteed to make you sob, are a damned good start to get you there.
6. “Pictures of You” by The Cure – Poignant, gripping, and (considering it was penned by Robert Smith) as morose as you’d want it to be, “Pictures of You” is a good starter-song for anyone looking to merely dip a toe into the weepy pool of sentimentalism; and is every bit the icy goth ode that its title promises.
5. “Only You” by Yazzo – A synth-driven torch song about a looming breakup, “Only You” is sung – by the soulful Alison Moyet – from the point of view of a person who is ignoring the increasing conflict in a relationship while staying narrowly focused on the now-passed good times. Sappy, sentimental, and a song for everyman, this one owed more to Motown than Manchester, and it totally works for wallowing.
4. “Someone Like You” by Adele – Easily one of the most gorgeously penned odes to romantic torment in popular music, the immensely popular “Someone Like You” is all the more poignant for those moments when Adele veers from her de rigueur sonic perfection, and allows us to hear her voice dip or crack, making the pathos that much more relatable.
3. “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush – While it has nothing whatsoever to do with a breakup (it’s about traumatic childbirth), “This Woman’s Work” is a fantastic catalyst for crying. Nobody emotes quite like the great Kate, and the way she sings this intense ballad will leave you feeling spent and quite bereft.
2. “Kissing a Fraud” (Pianopella Remix) by Jimmy James – Jimmy James went through a nasty breakup, and in his single, “Kissing a Fraud” he beckons you to take his hand as he dives down a deep well of sorrow, regret, and bitterness. “Love was here, then disappeared. What was it for? Don’t matter anymore. I was kissing a fraud.” Tears? If this were an Eddie Murphy stand-up routine, you’d be asking Tito to get you a tissue.
1. “For a Friend” by The Communards – One of the first songs to address the HIV/AIDS pandemic, “For a Friend” was written by Jimmy Somerville on the passing of Irish gay rights activist Mark Ashton (1960-1987). Achingly beautiful for its impassioned lyrics as well for its haunting music, the song takes hold of you from the piano’s first note, and doesn’t let go until well after the final echoes of Somerville’s falsetto have faded.
Six Sad Songs for Crying - Contemporary
Get into it!