by Shannen Gaffney
As a last little hurrah as music director, before the reigns are handed off to DJ Glasses, I decided to follow DJ Esmail’s lead in listing ten songs that make me cry. It’s the perfect time to listen to this kind of playlist anyway, Back 2 School time! I would also like to just clarify that there are many, many more than ten songs that could make me cry under the right circumstances. Here’s a fraction of those.
1. Built to Spill – “Carry the Zero” (1999)
I nearly failed Math 101. But carrying a zero is a simple enough concept, even for me, to compare to a relationship gone wrong – and BTS do it just right. Those opening chords alone just strike a nerve. This song comes from my favorite album of all time, Keep it Like a Secret. If you don’t know them and need an album to start with, listen to that one!
2. Elliott Smith – “Between the Bars” (1997)
We’re going there. There’s loads of reasons why this song makes me cry from the lyrical content, delicate vocal timbre, and Elliott Smith’s story in general. Though many of his songs are, this song in particular is clearly about the struggle of overcoming addiction, and it’s utterly heartbreaking, as is everything this man is associated with.
3. Jose Gonzalez – “Heartbeats” (2006)
This song was originally by The Knife, which is a much livelier, synthtastic (yup) version, but the way Gonzalez reforms this song with nothin’ but guitar arpeggios fits perfectly with its solemn lyrics and theme of broken promises. (This song works great on a sleep playlist.)
4. Sinéad O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990)
I couldn’t leave this classic song out. Sinéad is an artist and activist and a heroine despite any mental breakdowns or illnesses she’s experienced, and this song is indisputably heartbreaking. Even Miley Cyrus was inspired by this music video, and tried to pay homage to it with “Wrecking Ball,” which, was not as good.
5. Ben Kweller – “Old Hat” (2009)
I grew up listening to every Ben Kweller album. His older songs stick with me the most, but this one off 2009’s Changing Horses is a beautiful tune about avoiding the pitfalls of boredom in a long-term relationship featuring a giddy little piano line and heartstring-pulling lap steel guitar.
6. The Cure – “A Night Like This” (1985)
In 2014 there’s almost nothing more existential and sad than watching the Cure live. They aren’t the performers they once were, but in 1985 they were #sad for other reasons. Those perfectly timed and striking opening chords paired with in-your-face hollow drums open up the song with a void that rips through you, and just keeps pulling. Pure goth sadness.
7. Waxahatchee – “Catfish,” “Lively,” “Blue Pt. II” (2012-2014)
(Also P.S. Eliot’s “Diana”)
It’s scientifically impossible to pick just one Waxhatchee song that “makes you cry.” I had to include all of these, and even one from P.S. Eliot (Katie and Allison Crutchfield’s older band; you won’t be sorry). I’m assuming you’re having a horrible day since you clicked on this article, so wallow in these intimate tearjerker songs (and all of American Weekend) and you may feel a little better.
8. Kevin Devine – “Ballgame” (2003)
It only takes three chords to make a great song and Kevin Devine may just be the king of this rule. With three simple chords, “Ballgame” explores alcoholism, war, regret and growth in one of his most poignant songs ever written.
9. Drake – “From Time” ft. Jhene Aiko (2013)
I’m putting a Drake song on here. Sue me. Though I’ll admit a good portion of his lyrics are a bit elementary, tunes like “Furthest Thing,” and “Pound Cake” have that yearning, apologetic quality that we can all relate to – and an aural emptiness Drake cultivates extremely well. Aiko’s beautifully fragile voice carries this one, and Drake’s reflections on his relationship with his father add to the drama.
10. Bright Eyes – “Poison Oak” (2005)
Bright Eyes is up there with Waxahatchee in that the whole discography is emotional as hell. Oberst is a known existentialist, of course, his effective and assured recipe being a simple song structure, steady acoustic guitar and a philosophical debate, the piercing lyric in this one: “I’m glad you got away, but I’m still stuck out here, my clothes are soaking wet from your brother’s tears.”
Listen to more cry-worthy jams on Shannen’s Rock Bottom Radio, Wednesdays at 2pm.