An old adage claims, “Music has charms to soothe a savage breast, to soften rocks or bend a knotted oak.” It speaks to the overwhelming power of music over our emotions. Many people listen to sad songs following a breakup. For some, it serves as a balm to help soothe the ache.
Breakup songs seem to serve a particular service at the end of a relationship. Hearing about someone else’s sadness can help us deal with our own. Some breakup songs are slow with a low pitch, and others have an upbeat tempo to help us elevate our mood. While we are feeling down and lost, some of these songs can serve as an anchor that keeps us from drowning. They can also provide us with some emotional direction.
Some breakup songs that help get those feelings out and leave you empowered may include:
- Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
- Don’t Speak by No Doubt
- Fix You by Coldplay
- You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette
- Go your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac
- My Favorite Mistake by Sherly Crow
- Torn by Natalie Imbruglia
- Irreplaceable by Beyoncé
- Hit The Road Jack by Ray Charles and The Raelettes – probably the best upbeat tempo of all breakup songs.
- I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor – unarguably the fiercest of the breakup tunes – shout it at the top of your lungs!
These are only a few examples of breakup songs. But one thing they all do is provide us with some needed empathy. Someone else is feeling our pain. We are not totally alone.
Most of us have been there. Our love life has been shattered, and we can barely get off the couch long enough to grab more ice cream or chocolate. We want some melancholic songs almost as much as we crave the ice cream. And there is a reason for that.
Why We Listen To Sad Songs
A study has concluded that sad tunes may be very useful. Researchers from the Freie University in Berlin interviewed 772 participants from diverse places to find out why they listened to sad songs. One hundred and eight said they clung to sad songs after the end of a relationship; over 50 participants took comfort in a melancholy tune following the loss of someone they loved.
The researchers concluded that after listening to Hank Williams or Billie Holiday, the brain is rewarded with emotions, empathy, a heightening of imagination – all without us having to actually go through the pain. Call it “feel better by proxy.” It’s a bit like consuming a dozen donuts while someone else gets the calories. Sad music can be very cathartic.
Common popular sad songs are Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” and “Moonlight Sonata” by Beethoven. One of the researchers in this study indicated that not only does sad music evoke emotions, but it also allows the listeners to relive past events, such as more pleasant moments of a faded relationship. It is bittersweet and nostalgic, helping listeners to re-experience better times.
While these are the most common experiences listeners feel when hearing sad breakup songs, there are cases of people listening to sad songs simply to reinforce their own misery and sink themselves deeper into depression. It can be tricky, but the listener should check with him or herself to be sure of the reason he or she is engaging in sad songs. Wallowing in deeper depression is not one of them.
Another study, this one published in the Journal of Consumer Research, revealed that people chose the type of music that reflected their recent experiences. A person who has had a frustrating day may prefer the outlet of an angry song. A melancholy person suffering from a broken heart will opt for sad tunes. Our musical choices frequently reflect our mood of the moment. It makes us feel understood while it helps us cope.
We receive emotional visibility and understanding from the music to which we listen. That means that as our broken feelings improve, we will most likely listen to more upbeat tunes to match the healing we are experiencing. That fills us with the hope that we may find a newer and better relationship.
Songs are very subjective and individualistic. Find out for yourself what songs speak to you on the deepest level. Then listen.
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