Okay, so it’s absolutely no secret that 2020 has
kind of been the most depressing year ever in recent history, and that’s me being generous. What with an entire pandemic, global warming, a president who has zero clue what he’s doing, and seeing Black Americans lose their lives on a daily basis, it’s a lot to deal with. First, there’s disbelief. Then, there’s anger. But after those two intense emotions fade away, then comes sadness (which there is more than enough of to go around nowadays).
In short: You, my friend, are in need of a good cry. And the good news? Instead of searching Spotify and inevitably stumbling across two to three mediocre sad-girl playlists minimum*, we have one riiiight here that’s 100% tested and guaranteed to make the tears flow. So draw the curtains, curl up under the covers with your favorite stuffed animal, and have a packet of Kleenex at the ready—these sad songs are about to take you on a super emotional, sob-filled rollercoaster ride.
“Stay” by Rihanna feat. Mikky Ekko
Starting off with the big guns, obviously. Chances are you’ve cried to this song *at least* once, don’t even lie.
“Say Someything” by A Great Big World, Christina Aguilera
Literally rip my heart out and throw it on the floor because I physically cannot deal with how gut-wrenching this iconic duet is. Reduce me to a puddle, why don’t you!
“Small Bump” by Ed Sheeran
You’ve heard “The A Team,” and yes, that one was beyond sad. But Ed singing from the perspective of a couple who suffered a miscarriage? That’s next level sad.
“Buy the Stars” by MARINA
Perhaps one of the most underrated pop stars of our generation (and that is no exaggeration), MARINA is excellent at delivering music that seriously pulls on your heartstrings. “Buy the Stars” is no exception—try to keep your composure at the 2:40 mark, I dare you.
“Old Money” by Lana Del Rey
Lana has a way of putting even the baddest of bitches in their feelings. I mean, how could she not when she sounds like an actual angel descending from the heavens while singing this tearful ballad? Asking for a friend.
“I’ll Never Love Again” by Lady Gaga
If you’re anything at all like myself, hearing this at the end of A Star Is Born left you a soppy, wet-faced mess in the back of the theater. Won’t spoil it for those who have yet to watch, but uh…yeah, you’ll be messed up for
days weeks months after those end credits start to roll.
“26” by Paramore
For those though days in your 20s where life is unexplainably hard, and you desperately crave for the sweeter, care-free moments of your childhood. 😞
“Stay” by Miley Cyrus
We included “Stay” in our list of Miley’s best songs for a reason (because it slaps). It was criminally underrated then, is criminally underrated now, and deserves your sad girl energy more than ever.
“Lithium” by Evanescence
The geniuses behind “Bring Me to Life” and “My Immortal” created yet another golden track to accompany your existential dread. The push and pull of fighting with your sorrows? Now that’s what I call Relatable™.
“Ruby” by Foster the People
“Happiness ain’t free/ Everybody fights just like me” honestly hits real different after a 3 a.m. weeping sesh.
“Casanova” by Allie X
Poured the entirety of your soul into a person who chewed you up and spit you out? This song is exactly what your exhausted heart is in need of.
“everything i wanted” by Billie Eilish
It would’ve been waaaay too easy to put “when the party’s over” on this list, but Billie’s voice in this track sounds like her chest is tight from holding back a sob, and that’s enough to let the tears flow.
“Love in the Dark” by Adele
Let’s be real—you came to this list with the full intention of seeing Adele make an appearance. Ask and you shall receive.
“The Scientist” by Coldplay
Sure, “Fix You” might be the iconic Coldplay staple that people always flock to, but “The Scientist” demands just as much respect, ‘mmkay? (FYI: It sounds even sadder after your third—fourth? fifth??—glass of wine.)
“Falling Short” by Låpsley
Hmmm, guessing she wasn’t talking about my height when she wrote this. 😶
“Look After You” by The Fray
There’s a running commentary that every single big song by The Fray sounds exactly the same, but TBH that doesn’t even matter because they’re the KINGS of sad bangers.
“Forever & Always (Piano Version)” by Taylor Swift
Feel free to fight me on this (and lose) but the piano version of “Forever & Always” is infinitely better than the slightly angrier original version. It really gets across the pain of an unreciprocated breakup and shows just how much Joe Jonas hurt her teenage feelings. It just goes there, you know?
“A Little Bit Longer” by Jonas Brothers
Speaking of a Jonas, “A Little Bit Longer” is entirely from Nick’s perspective about him almost going into a coma from his type 1 diabetes as age 13. If you don’t weep for the song itself, weep for BB Nick.
“Clair De Lune” by Flight Facilities
Flight Facilities might be known for making danceable electronic music, but “Clair De Lune” is different—the second you hit play, a shot of melancholy is injected into your veins, instantly placing you into a trance. True story.
“Liability” by Lorde
BRB, blasting the living sh*t out of this (and demolishing the nearest box of tissues, of course) until Lorde releases her highly anticipated third studio album.
“Rainbow” by Kacey Musgaves
Originally, Kacey wrote “Rainbow” to personally encourage herself in times of hardship, but that later changed. “It turned into a song as a little message to myself, and then ended up being a song for anybody with any kind of weight on their shoulders,” she told Taste of Country. (Ah, so that’s why it makes me blubber like a big ol’ baby!)
“It’s All in Vain” by Wet
There’s truly nothing more depressing than being with someone physically and still feeling lonely…aka the feeling that Wet flawlessly captures in this hauntingly beautiful track.
“Somebody Else” by The 1975
If you had to listen to one single piece of music for the rest of your life by The 1975, it better be “Somebody Else.” Die hard fans agree, casual fans agree, and hell, even frontman Matty Healy listed this in his top 10 faves from the band…so uh, take that for what you will.
“When Did I Lose It All” by Pale Waves
“I wanna marry you, but not now” — Pale Waves/my boyfriend 😭
“Jar of Hearts” by Christina Perri
I’m going to age myself by a million years for saying this, but I first heard this song on VH1 back in 2009 (*cough* when they used to play actual music videos *cough*) and was instantly blown away. The pain in Christina Perri’s voice! The emotion of the lyrics! They don’t do it like this anymore, kiddos.
“Something In The Way” by Nirvana
Legend has it that “Something in the Way” was originally based on a stretch of time when Kurt Cobain was homeless and sleeping under a bridge in his home state of Washington. People can’t agree on if that rumor is true or not, but imagine how lonely Kurt must have felt if it was. :'(
“Stone Cold” by Demi Lovato
Still cursing out The Recording Academy to this day for failing to give Demi a Grammy for this track. My “allergies” act up every. Damn. Time.
“Read All About It, Pt. III” by Emeli Sandé
Is that a draft? Oh, no…turns out it’s just the chills running through my body at the sheer emotion in Emeli Sandé’s voice.
“Dust Is Gone” by MØ
“Lean On” isn’t the only vibe that MØ is capable of delivering, you guys. Burn a candle as this deep cut of hers involuntarily causes your throat to tighten.
“Mind Games” by BANKS
If you’re reading this, imma need you to stop sleeping on BANKS RTFN because she is a literal goddess that has a song to fit each one of your moods. “Mind Games” is just one of the few of hers that will get you feeling every single emotion.
“If I Ever Feel Better” by Phoenix
Depressed, feeling generally empty on the inside, and a little hopeless…but make it funk. Boom.
“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
Alright, so this isn’t exactly the saddest of sad songs, but it’s like…you know that moment you’re like “Shit, I’m an actual grown up now, and life came at me so fast?” This song feels exactly like that. Thank you, Stevie.
“ghostin” by Ariana Grande
Rest in peace, Mac Miller. 😞
“She Used to Be Mine” by Sara Bareilles
“She is hard on herself / She is broken and won’t ask for help / She is messy, but she’s kind / She is lonely most of the time”…just saying Sara, you really didn’t have to expose me like this.
“This Night Has Opened My Eyes” by The Smiths
You know what’s worse than feeling sad? Feeling not happy, and not sad at the same time, much like Morrisey describes. I’ll take “ennui” for $500, please.
“1901” by Birdy
Not to make you feel bad, but Birdy recorded this when she was 15 (!) years old. Yep, feeling hella unaccomplished right about now.
“Runaway” by AURORA
Ah, yes, yet another child prodigy to make me feel badly about my lack of songwriting abilities :’). Just gonna go ahead an rub this into your big fat wound right about now, but AURORA literally wrote this when she was 12. 12!!! Goodbye, logging TF off.
“You & I” by One Direction
Um, where my Directioners at??? If Zayn’s high note at 2:58 doesn’t leave you a bleeding mess, then you aren’t a real one. I said what I said.
“Fade Into You” by Mazzy Star
Fun fact: I cried while listening to this in the shower once. Do with that information what you will.
“I’m In Here” by Sia
Before Sia started churning out maaaajor hit singles and hiding her face behind elaborate wigs, she made enigmatic songs like this one—another gem from VH1’s golden days :’).
“Chamber of Reflection” by Mac Demarco
If I had a dollar for each time Mac forlornly sings the word “alone” on this track, I’d be approximately $15 richer.
“Dum Surfer” by King Krule
Okay, so I will admit that the video for this is a lil Halloweenie (*tee hee*). However! It’s just what you need to fill the void inside of your sorrowful soul. Trust me on this one.
“Good to Love” by FKA Twigs
Hahaha, what? Me?? Crying??? Nope, I just have FKA’s ethereal voice and otherworldly talent in my eyes.
“Malibu Nights” by LANY
Bet you didn’t expect to hear a song on here that’s entirely about Dua Lipa breaking a man’s heart, but here you are.
“Praying” by Kesha
Rising like a Phoenix from the ashes, Kesha sings of the sexual harassment, emotional distress, and employment discrimination she faced at the hands of her former producer, Dr. Luke. Guaranteed to make you feel all the feels.
“Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson
Specifically for when the emotional traumas from your childhood are weighing down on your fragile spirit.
“Don’t Speak” by No Doubt
In need of a dramatic song for your next at-home karaoke sesh? Hello, “Don’t Speak” is two parts perfect, one part sad-angsty, all parts crowd pleaser.
“Confessions of a Broken Heart (Daughter to Father)” by Lindsay Lohan
Forget “Rumors,” y’all. “Confessions of a Broken Heart” is easily Lindsay at her most raw. Turn it up, cry it out, let it flow.
“Youth” by Daughter
Hipster YouTube ate this up back in when it started making the rounds back in 2012, and with good reason—with lyrics like “if you’re still breathing, you’re the lucky one,” there’s literally no way to not get choked up while listening.
“Samson” by Regina Spektor
Didn’t realize that the biblical story of Samson and Delilah could leave me feeling so vulnerable. Welp, I guess that’s the power of Regina Spektor. ¯_(ツ)_/¯
“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M.
I mean…where is the lie.
“Let Down” by Radiohead
It would be criminal to have a sad songs playlist and not include Radiohead, don’t you think? It’s the line when lead singer Thom Yorke says “crushed like a bug in the ground” that really gets me, because can anyone really feel lower than that? (Nope, no, probably not.)
Starr Bowenbank is the editorial assistant who writes about all things pertaining to news, pop culture, and entertainment—you can follow her here.
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