In today’s Guardian, several music critics write, sometimes very movingly, about the songs that can bring them to tears. It’s a subject most of us can relate to, including me. Many songs have made me cry over the years; I’ve cried to Nick Drake, Tim Buckley, the Velvet Underground, REM, Palace, Bonnie Prince Billy, Mazzy Star, Johnny Cash, the Flying Burrito Brothers, Kristin Hersh, and countless others – indeed, there are few artistes who haven’t made me bawl at some stage. But the ones that stick in my memory at the moment are the ones that got to me last year, just after an old friend who was just a few months older than me died very suddenly of what was either an aneurysm or a heart attack (the post mortem couldn’t reach a conclusion). Everyone who knew him was stunned by his death, which didn’t seem quite real, like all sudden deaths. A day or two after he died, I was trying and failing to work so I went for a walk in my local park, listening to Hot Chip’s then recently-released album One Life Stand. And less than a minute into the third song, I found myself crying.
A pulsating dance song doesn’t seem like the sort of thing to bring on sobs, but this song did. It was the lyrics, particularly this section: “Nothing is wasted, life is worth living…There is a day that is yours for embracing, everything’s nothing, nothing is ours…”
I think what set me off was the “nothing is wasted” line, the idea that even if someone is gone there was a point to them being here, that their lives weren’t wasted, that everything goes to nothingness in the end but that’s okay. Anyway, tears started trickling down my cheeks as I walked along, but I didn’t stop walking. As the synthy strings soared, I somehow felt uplifted as well as sad, as if all that was needed was just to keep marching along to the beat. The combination of the bittersweet lyrics and melancholy dance music was, it turned out, just what I needed.
It wasn’t the only song that made me cry around that time. The day after my friend died I was listening to Charlotte Gainsbourg’s IRM on the bus on my way in to meet fellow stunned and bereaved friends for a drink, and half the songs on it made me tear up. ‘In The End”s sweetly sad melody combined with the words “who’s to say it’s all for the best in the end?” had me turning away from the person sitting next to me so he wouldn’t see how red my eyes and nose were.
It says something about both those songs that when I was checking those Youtube links and listened to them again, they still both made me cry. And yet, in a weird way, like a lot of the songs that make you cry, they made me feel strangely better afterwards.
What about you? What songs bring you to tears?