A Guide to Diversifying Your Sad Playlist
March 21, 2023
If you’re a Spotify user like myself that makes playlists to express anything from the most niche, fleeting emotions to the soundtracks of major life changing events, you likely have one enduring collection of songs – the legendary sad playlist. Through breakups, overwhelming distress, grief, and worry, this evolving list of songs has likely held you up during some of life’s toughest moments, making it a playlist worth cultivating.
As emotions come in waves, this powerful playlist isn’t necessarily powerful if it’s just a bland assortment of a single genre. As sadness flows through moments of laughter, tears, smiles, and silence, the music that guides you throughout moments of struggle must embody the waves of emotion, too. While dotting Lucy Dacus or Phoebe Bridgers all over your playlist may naturally hit hard in some key moments, perfecting a playlist built about the genuine experience of emotion requires a genre-free mindset and an inclusive approach. Some of these songs below offer helpful insight into how different genres may capture the entirety of sadness more accurately.
“Unloveable” by Beach Weather
Surf rock usually decorates playlists meant for sunny beach days and energetic hang outs, but Beach Weather puts a more aggressive edge on their traditional voice that captures desperation and frustration perfectly. “Unloveable” couples exasperation with heartbreaking, self-deprecating lyrics to embody the energetic spurts of vexation that often speckle bouts of sorrow.
“Colomb” by Nicolas Jaar
Nicolas Jaar’s minimalist approach to electronic music crafts a raw approach that brings out reactionary sentiments similar to listening to acoustic music. “Colomb” in particular captures a feeling of a dim rainy day, as splashes of water play behind a track of low synth and French lyrics. This song is not only an accurate representation of isolating sorrow, but also an artistic reminder that even electronic music, when stripped down, can carry emotional weight.
“Something You Know” by Blood Orange
Blood Orange’s futuristic, genreless voice that aligns most closely with R&B takes full force alongside dismal lyrics in “Something You Know.” Resonant instrumentals paint a bleak picture that somber lyrics rest upon; listeners therefore leave the experience of the song with an impactful remembrance of the repetitious jazzy melody and a story of the realities of change.
“Come a Little Closer” by Cage the Elephant
In a song that loosely clings to garage rock, a build up of anxiety and a desolate tone work together to capture the loudness that defines the inescapable reality of unhappiness. Elements of punk-rock and alternative styles capture the crevices of sadness that aren’t necessarily about curling into a ball and shutting out the world, but rather times when misery builds to become ear-splitting and frustrating.
“Posthumous Forgiveness” by Tame Impala
Psychedelic rock crafts an atmosphere of impending doom that perfectly fits the overwhelming sensation of experiencing intense emotion. Sadness isn’t necessarily all quiet and lonesome, so Tame Impala’s experimental synth accommodates for when feeling down morphs into moments of profuse, suffocating sadness.
“Chiasma” by MAVI
Rap and lo-fi combine in “Chiasma” to construct a song that holds the aura of a warm, teary-eyed hug as the backdrop to verses of complex lyrics. MAVI produces a song that is sonically both slow and heartbreaking, allowing listeners to envelop themselves in the fullness of their low spirits for a few isolated moments.
“Across the Universe” by Fiona Apple
Fiona Apple’s folk spin on The Beatles’ “Across the Universe” crafts a soothing, peaceful song that offers a shoulder to cry on when needed most. Lyrics and meaning aside, the song is an essential reminder that things will be okay even in times of the toughest dejection. It acts as a crucial part of any sad playlist to not wallow, but rather experience your emotions in full while remembering that things will eventually become brighter.
Ultimately, within this array of songs not united by genre or sound, but rather by emotion, you should find the beauty that a genreless approach offers in more accurately capturing the ups, downs, and in-betweens of sadness. Slow guitar, teary eyed lyrics, and whispery tones aren’t all that encapsulate the realities of misery, and dedicating the time to diversify the songs that define your not-so-happy moments is a step toward finding the right music for every moment.