Don’t worry: no Katy Perry on this list
I spent half an hour this week learning the TikTok dance to “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers – I’m fine, don’t worry. But if you’re anything like me, the back-to-school transition has been a little fraught, and Spotify might be concerned about your emotional well-being.
Here’s a playlist of songs that range from “a little sentimental” to “full-on sobbing at how many Zoom meetings you’ve had to do in a single week while also working and being a person and maintaining interpersonal relationships.” Music is the best medicine, and there’s no shame in indulging in the occasional sad girl evening: we’ve all been there. You got this.
(Also, “Motion Sickness,” Lorde’s “Liability”, and anything from folklore go without saying. They’re the free spaces in Sad Girl Bingo.)
I Ain’t Ever Loved No One (Acoustic) – Donovan Woods feat. Tenille Townes
We’ll start with a quiet Canadian ballad on (un)requited love. This one hits differently depending on how you interpret the lyrics – it could either be a sweet love song or a plea to a former lover.
“And maybe I’ll love again – then again, maybe I won’t Maybe you feel the same, maybe you don’t How would I know?”
Don’t text them, love. Trust us.
For Island Fires and Family – Dermot Kennedy
Dermot Kennedy’s voice is unreal, and the simplicity of this song makes it hit hard. It’s another one that could be interpreted a few different ways; Kennedy’s lyrics are specific yet relatable – searing yet sweet.
“So wouldn’t you let me know if you were thinkin’ less of me? That’s what she asked me What was promised, what we both agreed But truthfully, if you ever go You’ll drop me straight to Hell, the 7th circle And I was talkin’ with you earlier We were open and vulnerable, it was wonderful.”
This has been my top song on Spotify two years in a row. Take that as you will.
Old Eden – Honeywater
This is a song meant for a cozy evening in bed with a nice candle burning. It aches to be listened to; the arrangement leaves room for the lyrics to emotionally destroy you, which I’d assume is what you’re going for if you’re reading this article.
“I want love, but I don’t just want love, I want you
I see the beach house, your sweet mouth
But the terrible news
Is that love is not how it seems on the screen
Yeah, real love has problems
But it’s what’s in-between that’s the best
The way that she looks when she’s dressed
For an all quiet Tuesday
Always a blue day with you
And darling I died for the sun rays that may not have ever been real.”
We encourage ice cream. Also therapy.
My Darling Sara – Shane Koyczan and the Short Story Long
You’ve probably heard of Shane Koyczan from his viral spoken-word piece, “To This Day”. “My Darling Sara” is another spoken-word performance that decimates its listeners; it’s a narrative piece that tells a haunting story of lost love. Koyczan, a Canadian artist, paints the chilling portrait of the girl he loves, and we’re left to pick up the pieces.
“Sara does her best impression of a war
Tells me not to count my pride among casualties
Because maybe faith means never keeping score
She says there’s more to effort than just switching gears.”
Sara is a nuanced, developed character in the world of this song: letting her go is hard.
The Simplest Thing – Hey Rosetta!
East coast favourites Hey Rosetta! got their start from this song, a split track between piano ballad and jaunty, jazz-inspired jam. What starts as a quiet, somewhat morose confession evolves into something more measured – joyful, even – but dies down in a gut-wrenching last line. No spoilers, but stick this one out until the final chord; you’ll need a minute to process it.
This song comments on mental health in a way I think we can all understand; navigating times of unwellness while trying not to bring down the other people in our lives is a difficult, difficult thing. Hey Rosetta! gets that, and puts it into words beautifully.
“Did you stop to see? mediocrity and your self pity, they were stealing a kiss, look at their lips, still shiny did you notice that happiness happens less the more often you stop to find where it’s been hiding you say, ‘it’s not my fault that I get so low there’s a weight on my soul that keeps pulling me down it’s pulling me down, I swear it’”
“The Simplest Thing” is remarkably catchy for its content. Strong rec.
26 – Paramore
“Reality will break your heart Survival will not be the hardest part It’s keeping all your hopes alive All the rest of you has died So let it break your heart”
Hayley Williams is an incredible vocalist – we’ve known that for years. “26” is instrumentally scaled back, letting her really shine at the front of the arrangement. “26” is a song about maintaining your independence and not pinning your happiness on fallible other people.
Welcome to Eden – Samia
A warning up front: this one is tough.
There’s the obvious Biblical allusion, but Samia’s raw recollection of guilt and loss deals with addiction and trauma, too. The electric guitar contrasts against Samia’s saccharine, alluring voice. Samia deals with her role in others’ lives in the song: she starts as Eve, but evolves into the Garden of Eden’s snake.
“Don’t let me give you my light, it will blind you
I’ll love you and leave you there, searching to find you
Ain’t that what they said at the meetings for those in my wake
Well, I thought I was Eve but I guess I’m the snake.”
Recommended with caution. I’ve cried to this song more than once just this week: it’s a go-to for me when I’m feeling like the bad guy in my own narrative.
Amen – Amber Run
We conclude with the brooding, pleading “Amen” by British indie band, Amber Run. Plain and simple, it’s a song about death and associated grief. It’s about missing someone so much it physically hurts. It’s about hopelessness and religion and love and loss.
“And is there a God up there? So, where does he hide ‘Cause the devil is raging inside my mind And is there a moment when it all makes sense? When saying goodbye, doesn’t feel like the end?”
It’s beautiful. It’s soul-destroying. It’s universal.
Well, there ya go.
Drink some water. Cry it out. Things are going to be okay. The world’s a weird place right now, but you’re gonna be fine.
Join us next week for more music recs – they’ll be a little less gloomy, we promise.