67 Popular Sad Songs – Are These The Saddest Songs Ever?

Popular Sad Songs

Crying along to a favorite sad song can help us feel better and make us feel like we’re not alone in feeling those feelings.

Let’s check out these popular sad songs and decide whether or not these are the saddest songs ever produced.

Contents

“Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division

Song year: 1980

Lead singer Ian Curtis gives everything in this song, singing about his troubled marriage and his battle with epilepsy. Many critics have said it’s a suicide note in the form of a song.

Released only a month after his suicide, Curtis’s depression is evident in every note and word. Still, the intensity of the emotion helped it to obtain certified platinum status in the UK.

“Blue” by Joni Mitchell

Song year: 1971

“Blue,” the song, not the album it’s the title track for, walks the line between heartache and seeing hope somewhere on the horizon.

There has been speculation that the song is about another songwriter, but Joni has never confirmed it. Either way, what she feels she sings into the lyrics for us to hear.

“Trouble” by Cat Stevens

Song year: 1970

Like many of the greatest sad songs, “Trouble” comes from personal experience after Cat Stevens fell on hard times career-wise and was diagnosed with tuberculosis. The song’s lyrics tell of wanting to survive.

The situation is sad, but the song holds high notes that tell of the singer’s determination to move on and keep going.

“From the Dining Table” by Harry Styles

Song year: 2017

After stating that there would be more adult subject matters in his albums, Harry Styles brings out this song which shows more adult emotions as well.

The stripped-back and exposed music and song lyrics help the listener relate as it revolves around the reaction of a breakup. Many of us have been there, and sometimes commiserating is the best balm for the wound.

“Me and Little Andy” by Dolly Parton

Song year: 1977

It’s normal to feel sad when others are sad, especially if it’s a little girl and her puppy. The heart-wrenching ending after everything they went through only reinforces the melancholy of the tune.

Parton has said in interviews that this is one of her most requested songs on tour, and both she and the audience shed tears during it.

“I'll Never Love Again” by Lady Gaga & Bradley Cooper

Song year: 2018

With powerful instrumentals and chilling lyrics, this song from the A Star is Born soundtrack is a soulful plea to the universe after Lady Gaga’s character loses her husband.


You can’t help but feel her pain at losing him and her plea that she doesn’t want to handle everything he made her feel from anyone else.

“Time (Clock of the Heart)” by Culture Club

Song year: 1982

This song looks at time and reminds us that sometimes relationships aren’t meant to be, and just giving it time to work things out could do more harm than good.

Instead, Culture Club says calling it quits and breaking up is the right thing to do. Although, that doesn’t make it any less sad.

“Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac

Song year: 1975

Sadness doesn’t always come from things happening. Often, simple angst and questioning life can bring about emotions that stick with us.

In “Landslide,” Stevie Nicks questions love, her own heart, and whether or not she can rise above it all. It’s hard not to relate with that reflective thinking and wonder about those questions yourself.

“My Heart Will Go On” by Céline Dion

Song year: 1997

Best known as the theme for the film Titanic, the song talks about Rose moving on while mourning Jack by saying that he’ll always have a place in her heart.

Being sad while knowing you have to move on can be a healthy way to process the emotion, and the skill behind the singing only helps that.

“The Scientist” by Coldplay

Song year: 2002

Chris Martin asks many questions of the listener here, and when you stop and consider them, they all evoke the feeling of a heavy heart.

That makes it great for sad times when you want something to emphasize with, but also effective for making you feel miserable.

“Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton

Song year: 1992

The story behind “Tears in Heaven” is enough to put it on any saddest songs list. Eric lost his four-year-old song tragically after a fall while he was playing from an extremely tall building.

All the emotion comes through in the lyrics, and the soulful qualities of his playing jump out of the song.

“When We Were Young” by Adele

Song year: 2015

It doesn’t need to be bluesy and slow to be sad, sometimes the idea of past mistakes is enough to bring a tear to our eye, and nothing else is required.

Adele sings about mending past mistakes in this song. Patching up wounds requires there to be wounded in the first place.

“Homesick” by Dua Lipa

Song year: 2018

The title says it all, although it was initially written about being away from a lover rather than a home in general. She wonders about the toll of being away from family and friends.

The addition of Chris Martin to the song adds another level to the emotional oomph to the lyrics and heightens the swell of the backing track.

“Purple Rain” by Prince

Song year: 1984

What color would you associate with the end of the world? Prince suggested purple and used it for this iconic song to symbolize the coming of the end.

The end of the world or the end of a relationship can be a sad time and one that often encourages us to rely on ourselves or seek out those that we’re close to.

“Marvin's Room” by Drake

Song year: 2011

A breakup can be devastating, but what happens when you realize it’s a mistake and it’s too late? Drake sings about his ex finding someone new, and he’s left alone.

He sings it as a drunk and broken man, allowing a passionate Drake’s pain to shine further.

“Everybody Hurts” by R.E.M

Song year: 1992

Regarded as one of the most depressing and sad songs because of the subject matter, R.E.M focuses on the idea of suicide and turns it into an anti-suicide call to arms.

The poignancy of lyrics over a pop song doesn’t detract from the sadness to the point where it was used by mental health groups in the UK, such as The Samaritans.

“I Know It's Over” by the Smiths

Song year: 1986

The Smiths are known for their melancholy tunes, and they embody the angsty soft rock of the ’80s. Morrissey has penned lyrics that ask us to stop, perhaps cry a tear or two, and reflect.

This is a sad and lonely song with a tragic and lonely protagonist who mourns a life he never had or perhaps that he has recently lost.

“Famous Blue Raincoat” by Leonard Cohen

Song year: 1971

Written as a letter talking about a love triangle, this is a song examining cheating as the singer talks about his wife with another man she’s cheated on him with.

Cohen brings emotion to the lyrics with the way he sings, his deep and powerful voice delivering passion. This song is heavily covered, often by female artists who bring a different sadness to the music.

“Nothing Compares 2U” by Sinéad O'Connor

Song year: 1990

Although originally coined by Prince, O’Connor’s rendition is the saddest one. She recorded it after her mother’s death, and instead of channeling sadness from a lost lover like the Prince version, she used grief to move the words and strengthen them.

It’s the kind of song you want to sing when you’re sad because it feels like someone understands.

“Summertime Sadness” by Lana Del Ray

Song year: 2012

Written after the suicide of her friend, the construction of the song, like a typical pop song, lures one in, but it doesn’t have the same sweetness others do.

There are swells of somber storytelling that offer the opportunity to become happy. Yet, the main characters in the song are cut short with an unhappy conclusion.

“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye (feat. Kimbra)

Song year: 2011

Not every sad song has to be unhappy in the same way. This song tells the story of a relationship both people have ended, but how they feel afterward is different.

One is in pain because of it, and the other refuses to feel anything. The two singers with these two different perspectives bring lovely harmony to it.

“Bruises” by Lewis Capaldi

Song year: 2019

Bruises are impressions left after something has hurt you, a memory of the time that still hurts a little longer after the event.

This song builds on that. However, it’s written about the breakup between Capaldi and his girlfriend, and he doesn’t want to move on. He’s left with bruises that linger.

“Liability” by Lorde

Song year: 2017

I dare you not to feel when you listen to this song. Lorde cries each word of the lyrics on the aptly named album Melodrama as though they’re plucked from her heart.

The lyrics name her as the liability the song is named for; that everything is her fault. Haven’t we all felt that it was all our fault at one point or another?

“Adam’s Song” by Blink-182

Song year: 1999

Written about a teen who commits suicide, this pop-punk band takes another angle on a relatively common sad song trope.

The simple bass line provided by Mark Hoppus keeps the listener’s attention on the poetic and haunting lyrics.

For a genre often passed over for sad songs, “Adam’s Song” is a guaranteed tearjerker.

“I’m So Lonely I Could Cry” by Hank Williams

Song year: 1949

You’ll want to cry while you’re listening to this song. An excellent sad song sweeps in and reminds you of when you felt that way.

Whether it’s the somber lyrics with beautiful, heart-breaking imagery that slip into the ears or the accompaniment of the guitar underpinning it all, you feel Hank Williams’ loneliness.

“Black” by Pearl Jam

Song year: 1991

In the years since the song’s release, “Black” has had lyrics added to elevate the mood a little, but it’s never been a happy song.

Originally called simply ‘E Ballad,’ Vedder penned lyrics speak of a broken relationship and having to let go, although he’s never officially said who the other party is.

“Something In The Way” by Nirvana

Song year: 1990

Nirvana does angst well, it’s part of the grunge movement after all, and this song radiates angst. There’s always something in the way for him, another obstacle he has to overcome, and Cobain had many of them.

With a poor home life and rumors that he had to sleep under a bridge, the lead singer had plenty of material to draw from, and this is one of the many sad songs the band released.

“Cat's in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin

Song year: 1974

A song about generations and not making enough time for others is the basis for this sad 70s song. A father doesn’t make enough time for his child, only to have the same issue when the child grows older.

Harry Chapin’s voice isn’t depressing, but as the story unfolds, the certainty of what happens is spelled out in front of the character, and he sees his mistake and is unable to fix it.

“Hurt” by Johnny Cash

Song year: 2002

This is a cover of Trent Reznor’s (Nine Inch Nails) “Hurt,” released seven years earlier. His original is also a sad song, but this country version holds another level of pain because the singer has lived that much longer.

Cash’s baritone has weakened in this, but he holds a strength that inspires coming back through the sadness. It’s a beautiful and morose rendition.

“Teardrop” by Massive Attack

Song year: 1998

Sad songs aren’t limited to one genre, and trip-hop songs like “Teardrop” can bring sadness just as efficiently as any other.

Without lyrics to sink into, the backdrop of sound is given free rein to focus on expressing sadness through weepy tones and long sustained notes.

“No Distance Left to Run” by Blur

Song year: 1999

With no distance left to run, lead singer and writer Damon Albarn has to be content with what is happening in his life, including his relationship, which ended with Justine Frischmann.

This isn’t Albarn railing against the word, but there is sadness in a song that he’s seen his limitations, and he has decided to admit defeat.

“Lazarus” by David Bowie

Song year: 2016

Bowie’s songs can be haunting even when they aren’t sad, but “Lazarus,” as the name suggests, does speak about death and life after it, even if that life is simply a memory.

The slow and rhythmic tempo combined with the choice to use horns at key moments means there’s something funeral-like about the song, further adding to the sad song’s apparent death theme.

“The River” by Bruce Springsteen

Song year: 1980

A river is often seen as a symbol for hopes and dreams, and Springsteen’s use of that symbol for the song’s title isn’t accidental.

The song mourns having a life of your own and the things we put ourselves through because society deems we must. Hopes and dreams still exist as the river flows but do they ever reach them?

“Let Her Go” by Passenger

Song year: 2012

Breakups often make us sad, but as this song sings, it’s hard to know what you have until it’s gone and you can’t get it back.

Passenger delivers a song that asks us to reflect not on the immediate and strong emotions but on why we’re feeling them. What have we lost by allowing her to go?

“When You're Gone” by Avril Lavigne

“When You're Gone” by Avril Lavigne

Song year: 2007

Touching on the different times in a person’s life when they may feel pain and grief, this song uses Lavigne’s beautiful voice and combines it with a haunting piano strain.

The chorus swells and implores the listener to listen well and drive the sentiment a little deeper. The lyrics are casual and conversational, and we don’t need fancy poetry to understand the basic feeling of missing someone we care about.

“So Sick” by Ne-Yo

Song year: 2006

This is a little meta because Ne-Yo is singing about being sick of love songs and does so in a lost love song format.

The consistent beat to the song keeps it interesting and lets us focus on the lyrics, which are him missing a lost love and how everything he sees reminds him of her. It’s relatable as well as catchy.

“Yesterday” by The Beatles

Song year: 1965

The Beatles wrote just about every type of song and were capable of producing grand acts that made you want to dance, sing, and, yes, cry.

This ballad was the latter, and through melancholic riffs and vocals written by Paul McCartney, it told the story of a broken relationship where one person desperately wanted to go back to yesterday, when things were better.

“Angel” by Sarah McLachlan

Song year: 1999

Best known as a song used for almost every SPCA commercial, “Angel” is gut-wrenching with lyrics that bring tears to your eyes and a swelling backing track that guarantees even without puppies looking for homes on screen, you’ll start to sniffle.

On a day you need to cry, this is the song that can help you through that catharsis until your mood lifts.

“Good Riddance (Time of Your Life)” by Green Day

Song year: 1997

Sometimes to move through life, one must move on, and that’s the meaning behind this sad and moving song.

Written about an ex-girlfriend, Armstrong’s lyrics and haunting melody remind the listener that people come in and out of everyone’s life, sometimes for a day and sometimes for much longer.

“Brick” by Ben Folds Five

Song year: 1997

Sadness can be born from guilt and can also help us process it. “Brick” was a song written as a reaction and a way to process Fold’s emotions regarding his high school girlfriend’s abortion.

The subject matter is heavy enough, but then, the piano traces in another layer of feeling while the chorus cuts through.

“Whiskey Lullaby” by Brad Paisley ft. Alison Krauss

Song year: 2003

Country music is certainly no stranger to sad songs, and this song goes above and beyond when it comes to the painful subject material.

The song is about a man going to war and coming back to his sweetheart with someone else. They both meet tragic ends at their own hands, sung by two influential artists with almost haunting voices.

“No Children” by The Mountain Goats

Song year: 2002

Sad songs can help us move on, but songs like “No Children” almost celebrate the terrible feelings and help us progress through the emotion by just feeling sad until we’re done feeling that way.

This is especially true of anxiety, and while this song doesn’t sound at all like a sad song, it’s a beautiful piece to listen to and just work through what you’re feeling without judgment.

“Mad World” by Gary Jules

Song year: 2003

A slow and far more somber cover of the original Tears for Fears song, Gary Jules’s version is by far the sadder one. By slowing down the tempo and softening the vocals, he brings the whole piece into monochrome, which the original version failed to do.

Placed on the Donnie Darko soundtrack, the song gains another life, and the depressive nature of the hushed lyrics gains strength.

“No Coffee At The Funeral” by Vök

Song year: 2021

In Iceland, coffee is traditionally always at funerals. Hence, the title of this song from Icelandic-based Vök tells a story of absolutely nothing going right, not even having coffee at the funeral she attends.

The balanced instrumentals and simple lyrics are much more potent with singer Margrét’s voice which tells the sorrow of her father’s funeral.

“19 Seventy Sumthin'” by Neck Deep

Song year: 2017

Penned after his father’s death, Ben Barlow works through his grief by offering narration of when his father met his mother through his father’s eyes.

It’s a bittersweet song and one that makes your heartache, especially when you learn Ben wasn’t able to be at the funeral as he was performing with Neck Deep in the US.

“Welcome To My Life” by Simple Plan

Song year: 2004

Another pop-punk anthem, this time angst, gives way to something poignant and a reflection on what it’s genuinely like to be someone else.

At the same time, it shows that horrible stuff happens to everyone, and any division because of fame doesn’t change that.

“Ride On” by AC/DC

Song year: 1976

Unlike the rest of the album or AC/DC’s catalog for that matter, “Ride On” is a slow track with almost a blues or folk feel.

It captures the heavy hearts of the band after Bon Scott’s death and how he didn’t get to be something more.

“The Wind Cries Mary” by Jimi Hendrix Experience

Song year: 1967

While not as poignant as a song about death, this song speaks of more straightforward trouble and a girlfriend walking out after an argument.

The song was written for Jimi’s girlfriend at the time Kathy Mary Etchingham and given to her when she returned home. It’s beautiful, and the guitar work only a master could perfect like Jimi.

“Can't Get It Out of My Head” by Electric Light Orchestra

Song year: 1974

A haunting dream that is better than a life awake, this is a beautiful piece with a rather simple premise of being unable to forget what magical things he’s seen and embrace reality.

Many of us dream of something different and better than our everyday lives, and ELO delivers that feeling.

“All My Love” by Led Zeppelin

Song year: 1979

Another memorial song, but this time for a child rather than a wife, Led Zeppelin’s Robert Plant brings another side of the band out for this eerily beautiful piece.

The band would go on to write other songs for Plant’s son, but this was the one that touched the world the most with every single note and syllable able to communicate the loss he felt.

“Bankrupt on Selling” by Modest Mouse

Song year: 1997

Modest Mouse brings sadness to us in the reminder that having everything can’t bring you happiness and indeed can cause more unhappiness than the opposite.

The lyrics speak of wanting to have it all and being willing to do whatever it takes to get it, even at the expense of your happiness. Not a traditional sad song.

“China” by Tori Amos

Song year: 1992

With carefully crafted imagery and a bass line that sweeps you away to another world, “China” tells the story of wanting to be with someone and them not allowing it. They build a wall around themselves and refuse to have that happiness.

Although perhaps not Tori’s saddest song, it’s a poignant reminder through her lyrics that constructing barriers can prevent others from helping us through life.

“Across the Sea” by Weezer

Song year: 1996

Regarded by fans as one of their best songs, Rivers Cuomo wrote the song about a fan letter that he received while in university from a fan in Japan who asked about his life.

Depressed and upset that he would never meet her, Rivers used the emotion to fuel a striking and memorable song. The use of piano and nylon guitar gives another level and adds discord to the overall sound.

“Pictures of You” by The Cure

Song year: 1989

If the Smiths are known for sad and angsty songs, the Cure taught them everything they know. This is a song about longing and loss, perhaps even loss that comes seemingly from nowhere.

Robert Smith has given different meanings and reasons for the song, but in the end, they always come back to wanting someone back that perhaps you never really knew at all.

“Careless Whisper” by Wham!

Song year: 1984

A song about betrayal, but this time with the singer as the guilty party, “Careless Whisper” shows someone unable to move on with his life because of his mistake.

It’s an emotional and popular song in pop culture and easily sung without thinking about the lyrics, but it can bring a tear to the eye when you’re experiencing something else upsetting in life.

“The Sound of Silence” by Simon & Garfunkel

Song year: 1965

The song is sad even without analyzing the meaning behind the lyrics, thanks to gentle and lilting words and a soft backing melody.

It’s almost as if the song is feeling the emotion itself, unable to gather the strength to be quicker and more rhythmic.

“Lost Cause” by Beck

Song year: 2002

A song about loss can range from screaming and powerful lyrics to convey the hurt and heartbreak to this song by Beck that seems almost sleepy in a sense, never hurried or rushed but still needing to get the words about his failed relationship out.

The intense but unhurried backing instruments are also in on the story but give a playful note here and there to keep the whole thing from feeling too depressed.

“Over the Rainbow” by Judy Garland

Song year: 1939

Best known for its appearance in the Wizard of Oz film, Garland’s enchanting voice and positive message of hope for a place everyone will accept everyone may seem a strange choice for a sad songs list.

However, the sadness comes in the fact that she knows it will most likely never come true, not truly. It’s a song of beautiful longing, not a prediction.

“In the End” by Linkin Park

Song year: 2001

Chester Bennington’s ability to write meaningful and sad lyrics thankfully lives on after his death in songs like this one.

While not a slow and plodding song about heartbreak, the intensity of the lyrics and the message to keep moving on makes it even more powerful and one of the saddest on this list.

“Home Sweet Home” by Peter Gabriel

Song year: 1978

One that you can read on two levels, both the surface value and the deeper meaning, Peter Gabriel wanted to explore the subject of suicide in a song.

He wrote this where a woman jumps out of a window as perhaps a metaphor for not being emotionally ready to start a family. Or it’s simply a sad song about a woman who thinks she has nowhere to turn and jumps out a window. Either way, whether analyzed or not, it’s sad.

“Who Wants to Live Forever” by Queen

Song year: 1986

Written for the 1986 version of Highlander, the song talks about mortality and immortality and leaving all your loved ones behind while you keep living.

Freddie Mercury’s vocals make the sad song almost uplifting, and the rest of Queen indeed turn something relatively simple into a work of (sad) art.

“I Can’t Go On Without You” by KALEO

Song year: 2016

Conflict makes for good art, and this song brings that conflict from being betrayed and hurt but being unable or unwilling to move on.

The Icelandic singer tells us that after the protagonist’s relationship crumbles, he isn’t able to forgive and forget but can’t move on without doing so. A slow and swelling guitar with interesting instrumental choices adds even more emotion to the mix.

“Fiction” by Avenged Sevenfold

Song year: 2010

Originally titled “Death” because the song is about a terminally ill patient and written by the drummer Jimmy “The Rev” Sullivan, the song is sad through and through.

Three days after finishing the song, Jimmy was found dead, and the band renamed the song to “Fiction” due to this. The band kept his vocals on the track in memory.

“Mama, I’m Coming Home” by Ozzy Osbourne

Song year: 1991

Unlike the bolder and heavier songs Black Sabbath is known for, this is a poetic and straightforward song devoted to Sharon, Ozzy’s wife.

Whether it’s genuinely about her or coping with his drug problems, this almost ballad speaks of hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. Pushing past sadness to find a light can help bring out the sadness in all of us.

“True Love Waits” by Radiohead

Song year: 2001

Statistically speaking, “True Love Waits” is the most depressing Radiohead song, thanks to some complex computing using Spotify’s algorithms. It’s not difficult to see why either.

Whether you believe it’s about a relationship or a take on the abstinence movement and not having sex before marriage, you have to admit it’s not an upbeat song.

“Cancer” by My Chemical Romance

Song year: 2006

Gerard Way feels every song he writes, and he’s known for being a bit of a tortured poet for the sake of his art, and that comes through with this song.

As the title suggests, it’s about cancer, but it’s also about the shame the patient feels that he’ll be leaving his loved ones upset. The strong vocals and interesting melody give the emo-rock genre some teeth.

“Lightning Crashes” by Live

Song year: 1994

Dedicated to a friend who a drunk driver killed, the song retells the cycle of life from birth to death and through life.

The soft lyrics that build in intensity tug at your heartstrings, and the story’s familiarity has something everyone can relate to and potentially cry over.

Best Sad Songs, Final Thoughts

Sad songs come in many different flavors, from sad meanings, sad instrumentals, and powerful explosions of emotion in their stories.

What’s true of all of them is that we relate or sympathize with the words and then create a connection for the song’s length. Everyone has a favorite sad song they turn to, but maybe one on this list will become a new favorite.

P.S. Remember though, none of what you've learned will matter if you don't know how to get your music out there and earn from it. Want to learn how to do that? Then get our free ‘5 Steps To Profitable Youtube Music Career' ebook emailed directly to you!

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