I always thought it was ironic that Elton John’s 1984 classic “Sad Songs (Say So Much)” is a bouncy, upbeat tune with a feel-good melody. Despite its message, it does not at all sound like a sad song. But there is no denying that “Sad Songs” resonates with anyone who has tuned in to a particular song for the purpose of reliving the bad vibes of a break-up, the loss of a loved one, or the end of a friendship.
In the second verse of “Sad Songs,” John perfectly summarizes why it feels so good to listen to songs that make us feel so bad:
If someone else is suffering enough to write it down
When every single word makes sense
Then it’s easier to have those songs around
The kick inside is in the line that finally gets to you
and it feels so good to hurt so bad
And suffer just enough to sing the blues
John is pointing out the fact that every now and then, someone captures in their lyrics exactly how you are feeling. It is strangely cathartic to hear someone put into song your feelings of loss and regret – especially if that someone is a popular singer whom you admire and respect. There is a certain comfort that comes from hearing them share their pain, which, perhaps surprisingly, sounds similar to your pain.
Every once in a while, we simply cannot put into words our sadness or sense of loss. Sometimes it is due to us trying too hard, and sometimes it is because we don’t try at all. As John sang in the chorus of “Sad Songs,” one of my favorite things about music is that there is always a song there to do it for us:
When all hope is gone
Sad songs say so much