9 Sad Songs To Listen To On Infinite Repeat When You’re Depressed

Wendy Stokesby:


Daylight Savings Time is over, which means that night comes at 4 PM these days, which in turn means that 500,000 Americans will be sinking under our blankets and into our seasonal affective disorder soon. We will also be engaging in the ritual of indulging our completely unnecessary, sun-affected sadness by playing sad, sad songs on infinite repeat. But hey man, no judgment! If this is something that you’ve done or currently need to do, we’re right there with you. Here are nine songs that we’ve used to soothe our troubled souls:

David Bowie, “Sense of Doubt”

My depression tends to be orchestral and melodramatic – I once, after a breakup, played Morrissey’s “Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want” while crying and singing along in my car, to give you an idea. I’ve hit a rough patch recently, and I’ve found solace in Bowie’s Berlin triptych (Low, Heroes, and Lodger), which he recorded while he was detoxing in Germany. My depression in no way compares to the torture of cocaine detox, but still, knowing that David Bowie has felt this low makes me feel like maybe there’s hope for me yet. As he says in “Rock N’ Roll Suicide,” though: “I’ve had my share, I’ll help you with the pain – you’re not alone.” – Rebecca Vipond Brink

The Shins, “New Slang”

So, this one is definitely the most embarrassing/cliche/ridiculous. When I was a freshman at a liberal arts college (OF COURSE), I’d ride around on subway staring forlornly out the window (which, I might add, provided a view of nothing but the subway tunnel and my own pouty shadow) listening to this stupid song and thinking about an ex-boyfriend and what the meaning of my life even was and WHY WAS EVERYTHING SO HARD. I know, just like every other 19-year-old liberal arts major ever. So shameful. I’m pretty sure even then I knew I should be embarrassed about this. And yet, I carried on for months. I still think it’s a nice song though — it just should be banned from ever being allowed in this context, EVER. – Claire Hannum

Rosey Grier, “It’s Alright to Cry”

This song is from Marlo Thomas’s “Free To Be … You And Me,” a kid’s special from the ’70s. I had a record of it when I was a kid that I assume was a hand-me-down from one of my cousins. Anyway, whenever I am upset I listen to this and it – along with Rosey Grier’s face – just makes me feel better. Rosey Grier, by the way, is the absolute best. He was a pretty well-known football player back in the day, who was also known for being super into needlepoint. Which I just love. Everything about him, including the fact that he is Pam Grier’s cousin and the fact that he was the one to subdue Sirhan Sirhan after he assassinated Bobby Kennedy and the fact that he was once in a movie called “The Thing With Two Heads” where he had to share a body with a crazy racist Ray Milland, makes me super happy. – Robyn Pennacchia

Bon Iver, “Skinny Love”

I woke up in the morning for work, it was still pitch black out, and I just knew it was going to be one those days where everything seems horrible and pointless. I popped in the headphones for the commute to work and played the song on repeat. I had never really listened to the song or the artist much before but it had the perfect sad tone that let me indulge in my feelings. It’s mildly embarrassing now, because I still don’t know the lyrics or what the song is exactly about, but I’m glad the song worked for me in that moment. – Michael Chiodo

The National, “Baby, We’ll Be Fine”

When I was at my most depressed, the terrible year from 2006-2007 when I lived in Tacoma, WA and felt bad in my job, my geographic location, and most of my personal relationships, I went so far as to make a mix CD for myself called “Everything’s Going to Be Fine (Or, Hope on Foolish One!)” full of songs that were meant to sort of encourage me not to give up but also to permit me to wallow in my medium-grade despair. It had 20 excellent tracks, but maybe the most representative was “Baby, We’ll Be Fine” by the National, both for its overall tone/vibe and its lyrics. The admittedly indulgent but comforting lines “Take a forty-five minute shower and kiss the mirror / Say ‘Look at me / Baby we’ll be fine’ / All we gotta do is be brave and be kind” were just the kind of ridiculous-but-still-legitimately-doomed-feeling pep talk I needed to have playing in my head at that point simply to keep going. I still love the National and that song, even though, luckily, I’m in a way better place now, almost 10 years later, literally and emotionally. – Kathleen Rooney, author of O, Democracy! and co-founder of Rose Metal Press

Aretha Franklin, “Ain’t No Way”

I generally try to avoid miring myself in depression and giving in to the whim of staying home and moping and being sad. It’s something I associate with my twenties, I guess, and now that I’m older, even if I am sad or depressed or down, instead of wallowing in my room in a puddle of my own emotions, I get up and take a walk or something. But if the sadness is brought on by heartbreak, not an existential crisis as it relates to career or my finances or the fact that I still live in an apartment with three other people and I’m too old for this shit, “Ain’t No Way” by Aretha Franklin is a pretty solid go-to. Gets me every time. – Megan Reynolds

Lykke Li, “Never Gonna Love Again”

When I’m feeling the more classic blues, I go straight for torch songs, anthems of heartbreak and unrequited love (see: “Nothing Compares 2 U,” “It’s All Coming Back to Me Now“). It’s no Sinead, but Lykke Li’s “Never Gonna Love Again” helped me get through a hard year in which I lost my best friend and found myself alone and having to make a new home after moving to New York City. Listening to a song about loneliness might seem to make the problem worse, but that’s what’s comforting about torch songs: In the moment, embracing the darkness can sometimes feel just as good as the light. – Nico Lang, Opinions Editor at The Daily Dot

Rilo Kiley, “A Better Son/Daughter”

Back when I had a car, I would listen to Rilo Kiley’s “A Better Son/Daughter” over and over while I drove around my suburban college town. When I was a senior, my mom was really sick, and I was balancing school and work and hospital visits while feeling like I was falling short at everything. I’d roll into house parties dripping snot and tears because I’d been circling the block scream-singing to the lyrics, and I’d clean up as best as I could with napkins in my glove compartment before I went inside to drink too many cheap beers.

The song builds up perfectly from the beginning line (“sometimes in the morning I am petrified and can’t move”) to the list of things I constantly wished for during the depths of depression and grief: “You’ll be better, you’ll be smarter and more grown up and a better daughter.” The simple lyrics became my mantra in those months. You’ll try and try and try–and you’ll fake it when you have to. You might not be better tomorrow, or the next day, or the next day, but you’ll get by.

Man, nothing makes you feel as hopelessly depressed and melodramatic as sobbing over your steering wheel outside an Elmhurst, Illinois Walgreen’s. I don’t listen to this song very often anymore because it makes me feel too raw. When I do, it puts me back into that vulnerable state of a twenty-one year old girl who was so fucking scared of everything. But I think the song told me what I needed to hear, at a time when I couldn’t even believe it yet. The line at the end of that list of promises always gets me the most in its bittersweet optimism, a vow for the future that was hard for me to imagine at the time: “You’ll be happy.” – Megan Kirby

Simon and Garfunkel, “The Sound of Silence”

Like any teenager, I was so excited to  move out of my parents house, go away to college and to taste the sweet freedom of “adulthood.” However, within, oh, two days of moving into my dorm room, I was overcome with the most visceral depression I’d ever felt in my young life — I missed my mommy. I had never been away from her, and of course took her utterly for granted, but the minute her constant presence was gone from my day to day, I realized just how much I depended on her for comfort and support. Those first few months of college were really hard for both of us, and on one of the weekends when she came to visit, I bought the Simon & Garfunkel soundtrack for “The Graduate.” I played this song in particular every time I was overcome with homesickness, and still find that it comforts me on days when I’m really depressed. – Amelia McDonell-Parry

Image via Shutterstock

Original by Rebecca Vipond Brink

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