- Drew Barrymore by SZA
SZA is one of the baddest bitches in the world. That’s why I love this song – I find it oddly comforting that she feels the same insecurities and doubts that I do. It’s not really a sad song you cry to, moreso one you just stare at the wall to because you feel seen. This song is vulnerable and self-aware and honest. The song was inspired by a party SZA went to for a boy, and the boy ended up showing up with another girl, bringing out her insecurities and doubts. SZA sings, “I get so lonely, I forget what I’m worth” and “I’m sorry I’m so clingy, I don’t mean to be a lot.” This has been kind of a comfort song for me since 2017.
Sadness rating: 5/10
- Cellophane by FKA Twigs
I discovered this song through TikTok in 2020. I think just the repetition of the lyrics “Didn’t I do it for you?/Why don’t I do it for you?” is enough to break me. There is a reason Pitchfork named it the best song of 2019. FKA Twigs sort of came into the spotlight when she started dating and got engaged to actor Robert Pattinson. During this time and even after they ended their engagement, she received a lot of racially-motivated hate and hostility, and many people think that was her inspiration for this song, probably due to lyrics such as “They wanna see us, wanna see us apart.” I love how raw this song is, and admire FKA Twigs for releasing something so vulnerable.
Sadness rating: 8/10
- Before the World Was Big by Girlpool
Girlpool’s style is definitely unique. Some of their songs are very reminiscent of Kimya Dawson, which is why I originally started listening to them. The vocals in this song are, subjectively, not that good. However, once you actually listen to what they are singing, you understand why they sound as desperate and frustrated as they do. I am huge on nostalgia, especially nostalgia that makes me feel sad, and this song captures that perfectly. I love the layered vocals during the chorus “I just miss how it felt standing next to you/Wearing matching dresses before the world was big.” Like Class of 2013, this is another song I listened to a lot my senior year.
Sadness rating: 7/10
- Nana by The 1975
This list could have its own subcategory of dead-grandma-music. I couldn’t not add this song, though, since it is such a good sad song. Lead singer Matty Healy sings about his grandmother who passed away, and how deeply that affected him. The lyrics are pretty frank regarding his feelings, such as when he sings, “I don’t like it, now you’re dead/It’s not the same when I scratch my own head/I haven’t got the nails for it” and “But I’m bereft you see/I think you can tell/I haven’t been doing too well.” I think the reason the song is so heartbreaking is that he doesn’t mask his feelings behind poetic words. He just tells it how it is. Matty Healy is an incredible lyricist, and I think this song showcases that because even with their simplicity, the lyrics are profound.
Sadness rating: 9/10
- I Bet on Losing Dogs by Mitski
It would be very hard for me to make a list of sad songs and only include one Mitski song. I think Mistki could sing the dining hall menu and make it sound like the most heartbreaking thing ever. She uses “betting on losing dogs” as a metaphor for getting into relationships she knows aren’t good for her, or will end badly. She makes the conscious decision to get together with people who will hurt her, which she says with the lyrics, “I know they’re losing when I pay for my place by the ring.” She allows you to feel everything she is feeling within her songs, which is mostly sad, and I think a huge part of that is how she sings her lyrics.
Sadness rating: 8/10