NPR’s All Songs Considered recently produced an interesting piece on songs that make you weep. Some of my favorite choices are Neko Case’s “Vengeance is Sleeping” and Sufjan Steven’s “To Be Alone With You.” Music is such a personal art, and much of it depends on the mood we are in when we first hear a song or the specific moment, so I find it heard to say one song is more emotional than another. But it has been interesting for me to read people’s comments on this topic. Everyone probably has an opinion, and there is no right or wrong answer.
So, in no particular order, below is a list of heart-wrenching songs that, oftentimes, make me get a little teary-eyed.
“Car on a Hill” by Joni Mitchell. I only started listening to this song after reading an essay on it by music critic Jessica Hopper, who often writes for the Chicago Reader. The longing and disappointment Mitchell describes is what gets me most. The narrator of the song sits on a hill overlooking a crowded metropolis. There are thousands of people below her, but she is only waiting for one person. She waits and waits, but he never comes. Read more of Hopper’s writing here.
“Heart of Gold” by Neil Young – When I lived in Dublin, I often took a bus to and from work and walked the rest of the way home to my flat. One rainy evening, just at it approached dusk, I got off my regular bus route and accidently bumped into a midget who was walking along a crowded street. He growled at me, showed me his nicotine-stained teeth and said “Out of my [expletive],” while pushing me aside with his arm. I fought the urge to kick his tiny body down, walked home in the rain and went straight to my room. I put on my headphones, turned on this song and let the tears fall.
“Opus 23” by Dustin O’Halloran – Sofia Coppola used some of O’Halloran’s music in her film Marie Antoinette. One Sunday afternoon in Japan, just as the weather was getting cooler, I put on this song, opened my Japanese book to study and started crying inexplicably.
“Alicia Ross” by Kathleen Edwards – All you have to do is listen to the first line of this song – “I am a girl with a forgettable face” – to know that this song is going to be a serious downer. What makes the song even more heart-wrenching is that it is based on a real woman who was murdered at the age of 25.
“Only Love Can Break Your Heart” by Neil Young – Young’s shaky voice always moves me, and I think he is at his most poetic here. He wrote this song for his friend Gram Parsons, who was shaken after his break up with Joni Mitchell.
Please share any thoughts about songs that make you cry.