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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Pitt chapter.

The fall season is officially here! The weather changing and the sun going down earlier sets a veil of nostalgia and melancholy over college campuses everywhere. What is it that makes autumn so wistful? Is it the failed summer love? The start of a new school year? The loss of ninety percent of your free time? Whatever it is, there is a certain aesthetic that is associated with fall. If you’re feeling down or upset during this time, that’s totally okay! Everyone copes with their emotions in their own way. One of the most common ways of coping with this change is listening to music. There is something so comforting about being understood by an artist and finding a song that perfectly matches your mood.

What is “Sad Girl Autumn”? Popularized on TikTok, the term is used to refer to the time period after “Hot Girl Summer.” Now, everyone has their own opinions on TikTok terminology and media references. Though most people find it arbitrary to put labels on strange and specific feelings and aesthetics, I think it can have a comforting effect on young women. I’ll admit, I get annoyed by “cookie butter hair” and “blueberry milk nails,” but the idea of “sad girl autumn” carries a different message. It conveys a sense of comfort to young women going through a difficult point in their lives. With the days getting shorter and summer coming to an end, there is a sense of pensiveness that falls like a curtain over the mind. The popularization of phrases like “sad girl autumn” lets young women know that they are not alone in the way they’re feeling; it’s okay to be sad.

With all of that said, I’ve had sad girl autumn playlists before the term was even coined. They just had different names, such as “I stole Alaska Young’s personality” and “Looking for Alaska but from Alaska’s perspective.” (Can you guess what my favorite book growing up was?) At this point, I’m an expert on the subject. Here is my (very scientific) list of the top seven best artists for sad girl autumn!

The Front Bottoms

Do you have a toxic ex? Are you the toxic ex? Either way, this band is the perfect mix of angst and longing for any autumn playlist. A small band from New Jersey, The Front Bottoms have been making iconic Midwest emo tunes since 2011. Now, the name “Midwest emo” often turns people away. However, the genre is closer to indie rock than it is true emo. The “emo” in the name comes more from the lyrics than the overall sound.

What makes their sound so unique and interesting is the fact that their music sounds more like poetry than a song on the radio. Their lyrics often consist of rhythmic ramblings of a past, present, or imaginary relationship. The song “leaf pile” is about hating the person you are and being too shy and anxious to say how you really feel. The opening to Jim Bogart says it all: “I would sleep better on your floor/ than I would ever in my bed/ and if your carpet makes my face itch/ it’d still be heaven in my head.” If you listen to any song of theirs after reading this article, make it that one.

The band’s most popular song, “Twin Size Mattress”, can be interpreted in a million different ways, but it can essentially be split into three sections. I’ve listened to this song well over a hundred times and I still didn’t get the meaning of the first two verses until doing the research for this article. Most commonly, it is interpreted to be about a man who has done his significant other wrong through addiction. The coda features the singer shouting about how his (ex?) lover hopes he never achieves his dreams and stays in his hometown his whole life. The whole song builds and builds to an energetic coda and a kick-ass guitar solo. You should really give it a listen, it’s honestly a work of art.

Lucy Dacus

Originally from Virginia, the 28-year-old singer/songwriter released her first EP on Bandcamp in 2012. She dropped out of film school in her twenties, but not before she learned how to artfully shape an album. Since then, her soft voice and rough lyrics have drawn the attention of women everywhere. My personal favorite member of boygenius, Lucy Dacus has a way of writing the perfect songs to cry to. Her songs highlight the smaller aspects that most people don’t think about- that is until they’re gone.

Lucy Dacus has a way of annunciating the emotions previously thought inexpressible. Her song “Night Shift” is almost too good. She sings about caring for someone who wants nothing to do with her, questioning why she is putting herself in the situation in the first place. The entire song builds and builds until the final chorus, where she is practically yelling: “You got a nine to five/ so I’ll take the night shift/ and I’ll never see you again/ if I can help it.” The idea of changing your whole life just to avoid someone you once loved is all too real. This song is really important to me personally because it’s scarily accurate to my real life. I got a job at a chocolate shop specifically because my ex-situationship hated chocolate. That’s a true story.

Some artists of today lack the ability to write about any topic other than love, but Lucy Dacus is not one of those artists. In “I Don’t Wanna be Funny Anymore”, she talks about the stress of being pegged as one type of person: e.g. the funny friend. She explores this idea further, wondering why she can’t be “the cute one” or “the gossip”. If you’re someone who gets trapped inside a box that other people put you in, I would definitely give this song, as well as her entire discography, a listen.

Fiona Apple

Have you been hurt by a man? No matter how, Fiona Apple has written a song about it. She was a staple artist in the 90s, and for good reason. Her first album, Tidal, was released in 1996, when she was only 18 years old. Her earlier music is a mix of pop, jazz, piano rock, baroque pop, and many others. It’s hard to pin the sound of her lyrics down, but don’t let that discourage you from giving her a listen.

She was classically trained on piano and received voice lessons as a child, courtesy of her mother who was a singer. I won’t go into her childhood on account of the events that took place, but just trust me that she’s been mistreated. Her biggest musical influence is Ella Fitzgerald, and you can certainly hear the inspiration in Apple’s vibrato.

Her most popular album, When the Pawn, sings about the way Fiona Apple was mistreated and how she overcame her struggles. There is a perfect mix of slow, sad and quick, confident songs that keep the listener interested. The song “Paper Bag” is about the pain that comes akin to yearning for someone who is bad for you. The lyrics “He said ‘it’s all in your head/ and I said ‘so’s everything’ but he didn’t get it” are so simple, yet so real. The man in this situation is telling her that everything she is experiencing is just a creation of her mind, and she argues this point by stating that everything is, in fact, a creation of the mind.

Mazzy Star

I’ve heard Mazzy Star’s sound described as “sad Lana Del Ray,” and although I don’t completely agree with this, there are some undeniable similarities. Formed in 1988, Mazzy Star is an indie/ alternative band that has that dreamy, wistful sound that feels perfect on a chilly October night. Listening to a Mazzy Star album feels like you’re looking over a balcony at a bustling city below you. Genuinely, the albums are works of art.

Mazzy Star’s album So Tonight That I May See feels more like a state of being than it does a collection of songs. The music is dark, yet ethereal, and is better described with emotions than it is with words.

Their most popular song, “Fade into You”, is just so simply beautiful. I will warn you, if you’re just getting over a difficult break-up avoid this song like the plague: you will cry. “Fade into You” is about just what it sounds like; it is a beautiful ballad about being so completely wrapped up in another person. I know I keep using the word longing, but I promise, this song deserves it. The lyrics “I think it’s strange you never knew,” brings the listener to remember the times they were too afraid to confess their feelings for someone.

The Smiths

It would be fundamentally incorrect for me not to include The Smiths on any fall playlist. Whether you discovered them through your parent’s old vinyls, The Perks of Being a Wallflower, or the several of their songs that went viral on TikTok, The Smiths are an unforgettable band.

The Smiths discography is the definition of sad girl autumn. Songs like “Back to the Old House” and “Unlovable” tell the story of a distraught man trying desperately to figure out where he went wrong. Lyrics like “And you never knew/ How much I really liked you/ cause I never even told you/ oh and I meant to,” rip the listener’s heart out and shred it into a thousand little pieces. Their lyrics often tell the story of what once was – a perfect topic for sad girl autumn.

My personal favorite song of theirs is “Still Ill”, which is about not being able to control your own mind. There is just something about The Smiths that just makes you want to lace up your Doc Martins and walk down the streets of a crowded city. Their lyrics are just emotional enough to make you pine, but cynical enough that you don’t break down when listening to them in public.

The Cranberries

The Cranberries is a truly timeless band. Listening to their music while walking down the sidewalk after class will have you feeling like you’re in a coming-of-age film. Their album covers perfectly match the vibe of the music, which is a big thing for me. Although formed in 1989, their themes and sound are still replicated by artists today. Their most famous hits include “Zombie” and “Dreams”. The lead singer, Dolores O’Riordan’s, distinct style of singing catches the listener’s attention and the unique instrumentals keep them listening.

Although The Cranberries’ discography has an overall fall vibe, there are a few songs that perfectly meet the “sad girl autumn” criteria. First, “Linger” carries a pensive, longing tone that any girl in a situationship can relate to. The lead singer annunciates her feelings, singing, “But I’m in so deep/ You know I’m such a fool for you/ You’ve got me wrapped around your finger/ Do you have to let it linger.” As I was writing that last line, the first crunchy brown leaf I’ve seen this season tumbled past me. If that’s not a sign, I don’t know what is. You have probably heard “Linger” on TikTok, as it went viral a few weeks ago, and for good reason: it’s a really good song.

What makes this band so great is that they write about a wide range of topics. “Ode To My Family” is one of their hits that tackles a topic other than love. This autumn song focuses on family dynamics. The singer repeating “Is anyone there?” hammers in the longing tone that is perfect for any fall playlist.

Phoebe Bridgers

I won’t write too much about her because she is sad girl autumn personified. If the words “sad girl autumn” have ever left your mouth, the words that preceded it were likely “Phoebe Bridgers invented.” The genre (can I call it a genre?) is practically defined by her sound.

Born in 1994, Bridgers’ sound is described as a mix of indie rock, folk, and pop. It is also described as really, really sad! Her artistic lyricism and gentle voice make her a staple for a sad girl autumn playlist. Some of her hits “Waiting Room”, “Moon Song”, and “Motion Sickness”. If you’ve ever gone through a breakup without listening to her music, you’re missing out on so, so much. It’s so ethereal yet so real; Bridgers’ music makes you wonder if she’s read your diary, the way it’s so relatable.

Honorable mentions go to Mitski, Radiohead, Conan Gray, Car Seat Headrest, TV Girl, The Foo Fighters, and The Smashing Pumpkins. There are so many more artists that I would love to have in this list, but I tried to do a mix of older and newer artists that captured the aesthetic of sad girl autumn. All in all, fall is just a great time for music. The odd feeling of summer ending and classes starting back up again can be difficult to cope with; and what better way to cope than with music? Tis the season to go to Goodwill, get an apple crisp macchiato, and turn up Phoebe Bridgers!

Kat is a first-year student at the University of Pittsburgh. This is her first year writing for Her Campus, and she is primarily interested in writing about psychology, history, relationships, music, movies, and her own experiences as a freshman in college. She is majoring in secondary education with a focus in English. Her goal for the year is to be a published author on at least three different platforms.