Saturday, October 29, 2005

Depressing Songs

Well, this week has not been a good one for me. It seems that for whatever reason my life this week has become more complicated than I would like it. I am hardly happy right now, but there is very little I can do about it. It is times like these that my mind turns towards depressing songs. Strangely enough, it always seemed to me that depressing songs have always outnumbered happy songs. For every "Happy Together" there is a "Crying" or a "Love Hurts."

It would seem that depressing songs are then very much a part of the fabric of pop culture. In the movie Bridget Jones's Diary there is a scene that has always stood out in my mind. It occurs early in the movie when Bridget is in her room listening to a medley of depressing songs. At least I remember "Without You" as performed by Harry Nilsson and "All By Myself" by Eric Carmen. Both of these songs were released in the early Seventies. I think that may well have been the Golden Age of depressing songs. Besides those two there was also "Ill Never Fall in Love Again," also by Eric Carmen, "Photograph" by Ringo Starr, "One" as performed by Three Dog Night, and several more. I really can't say why there were so many depressing songs in the early Seventies, but then it was a generally depressing decade any way. Maybe songs simply reflect the era in which they were written and/or performed.

Of course, there are some artists who seem to specialise in depressing songs. Roy Orbison was the master of them. "It's Over" lamented the end of a relationship. "In Dreams" was about a man who had lost his love and now only had her in his dreams. "Crying" was about the perpetual state in which a man who had lost his love was. In fact, off the top of my head I can think of only two Roy Orbison songs which had happy endings: "(Oh) Pretty Woman" and "Running Scared." Balladeers aren't the only specialists in depressing songs. The bulk of rock band Stabbing Westward's work seems to have been depressing songs. I don't think there are too many more depressing songs than "Shame," "What Do I Have to Do," or "Sometimes It Hurts." Even old time rock stars did plenty of depressing love songs. The Beatles had "This Boy," "You Won't See Me," "I'll Cry Instead"--and that's just scratching the surface. Rod Stewart alone did "Baby Jane," his remake of "I Know I'm Losing You," and his remake of "Some Guys Have All the Luck (his most depressing song of all, and one which I can identify with....). None of this is counting the covers of various standards he has made lately. Cole Porter, Irving Berlin, the Gershwins, now those guys could write depressing songs....

Given that people want to be happy, it seems odd that depressing songs should be so popular. I can only suppose that they serve as an outlet for people. When people are hurt and down they want to listen to songs with which they can identify. At some point all of us have lost someone we love and at that point I would assume all of us have the desire to know that we are not the only ones to have lost someone. Quite simply, misery loves company. As to why depressing songs are more common than happy songs, I cannot say. Perhaps most of us are unhappy. Perhaps depressing songs are simply easier to write than happy ones. Perhaps lost love makes more interesting copy than a happy love affair. At any rate, it seems to me that most people at some point are in the mood for depressing songs. I have to say that I am now.

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