Science says sad songs make you feel better

May 19, 2013 

So, according to the British publication the Telegraph, there's a new study that shows that if you're going through a breakup, it's better to listen to sad music than happy music.

Previous studies, it says, have shown that you should listen to peppy and upbeat songs when you're sad. That'll help pull you out of your funk.

But apparently that's not the case, or at least the evidence is contradictory.

Researchers say that when you've been dumped and you're feeling lonely, that sad voice coming through your earbuds acts as a surrogate friend who feels your pain.

"Consumers seek and experience emotional companionship with music, films, novels and the fine arts as a substitute for lost and troubled relationships," the authors of the study wrote.

Jon Mitchell was pithier: "There's comfort in melancholy." It's kind of obvious -- most of us are more drawn to "I Can't Make You Love Me" than to "Walking on Sunshine" when we're in an emotional slump. But social scientists need to study these things.

So now that science says you should listen to music that echoes your feelings, here's my list of some of the best sad break-up songs from the world of pop music.

1. "Love Has No Pride" by Eric Kaz and Libby Titus. The most gorgeous evocation of desperateness ever. "Friends who once cared just walk out my door."

2. "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen. Sure, we're all sick of it and everybody in the world has covered it (k.d. lang's version is the best), but the first few hundred times you hear it, it's devastating. "All I ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you."

3. "If You See Her Say Hello" by Bob Dylan. Hard to pick just one Dylan song of lost love, but this one's among his saddest. "The bitter taste still lingers on from the night I tried to make her stay."

4. "I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt. Maybe not so much a break-up song as a never-gonna-happen song, but if it's sadness you're looking for, you got it. "You can't make your heart feel something it won't."

5. "Amelia" by Joni Mitchell. An examination of heartbreak via a metaphorical ode to

Amelia Earhart. "It's so hard to obey his sad request of me to kindly stay away."

6. "What'll I Do" by Irving Berlin. It so simply captures both the fear and sadness of a split. "What'll I do when I am wondering who is kissing you?"

7. "I Don't Know What to Do With Myself" by Burt Bacharach and Hal David. Thematically very similar to "What'll I Do," but it's been a while since the break-up and the singer is still just as helpless. "I'm so used to doing everything with you, planning everything for two."

8. "You Don't Have to Say You Love Me" by Dusty Springfield. He dumped her, but she's so in love she's begging him for a platonic relationship. "All that's left is loneliness, there's nothing left to feel."

9. "Long Long Time" by Linda Ronstadt. Such resignation to a seemingly endless period of mourning.

All she can do is wait it out. "I can't say you hurt me 'cause you never let me near."

10. "Down So Low" by Tracy Nelson. Such utter hopelessness. "I just can't find another man to take your place 'cause no one can."

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow

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