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Music can make you feel swinging in the air, and much pop music is about love. But don’t underestimate the downside: many of the most love songs are very depressing or sad. Murder, accidents, lost loves loneliness, addiction and suicide are beautiful subjects for a sad song. 

You can feel good while listening to music, and most pop music is all about love. Contrary to common belief, depressing songs can typically be realistic, heartbreaking and even interesting.

Locking yourself in your bedroom to listen to mopey music isn’t just wallowing. It’s allowing the grief a place to breathe, allowing you to experience the pain in its fullness and hopefully come out the other side. We need sad songs for the comfort they can provide.

Depression is a more profound feeling of sadness that makes a person feel hopeless and worthless, leading to apathy. Clinical depression is a condition that affects so many people each year. 

In contrast, situational depression is a familiar feeling that many people experience that comes from the loss of relationships, serious breakups, loss of a family member or friend, or overwhelming, stressful events. 

For example, some of the most depressive songs of all time are quite depressing. Songs like these have been accused of glorifying suicide due to the magnitude of their misery. A good melancholy song is one that gets you to that stage in the song. There are a few songs on the following list that you probably know and ‘love’. 

We have collected the list of MOST DEPRESSIVE SONGS OF ALL TIME about depression that put it into perspective, and we believe they can ease your mind during difficult times.


1. ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’ by Sinéad O’Connor

O’Connor’s version dialed the sad factor, channeling the singer’s very real grief from the death of her mother five years previously. A superb vocal performance, the sound of naked sorrow  plus layers of weeping synth strings and an iconic, tear-streaked music video added up to one of the most famous sad songs in musical history. 

2. ‘Hurt’ by Johnny Cash

This song is known as the most depressing song of all time. ‘Hurt’ was Johnny Cash’s final triumph, recorded less than a year before his death. Bad health had worn down Cash’s scowling baritone, but the cracks in his voice helped the Man in Black turn Reznor’s petulant angstfest into his own all-American epitaph. ‘Hurt’ is a man singing in the face of death, channeling a lifetime of memory, pain, hard-won success and thwarted ambition.

3. ‘Only Love Can Break Your Heart’ by Neil Young

Young’s beaten-down folky ballad is the sound of someone resigned not just to momentary heartbreak but to a lifetime of sadness – yet somehow there’s still a hint of a ghostly, golden melody in there. It’s also been covered by Natalie Imbruglia, The Corrs, Psychic TV and Jackie De Shannon, to name a few from a very long list. 

4. ‘Teardrop’ by Massive Attack

‘Teardrop’ stands above the pack — despite a plague of horrendous cover versions and a weird afterlife as the title song for House — because of the haunting vocals by Elizabeth Fraser of Cocteau Twins. The song became deeply personal for her when, on the day of recording, she heard that her ex-lover Jeff Buckley had drowned in Memphis and therefore this is often counted in this list of the most depressive songs of all time.

5. ‘I Know It’s Over’ by The Smiths

‘I Know It’s Over’ may be The Smiths’ deepest journey into despair, with only the subtlest black humor (‘I know it’s over… and it never really began’) to light the way. By the time we get to the relentless questioning at the center of the song – ‘If you’re so clever/Then why are you on your own tonight?’ – we are naked in front of the mirror with no-one to blame for our sorrow but ourselves.

6. ‘No Distance Left to Run’ by Blur

Damon Albarn was locked into sensitive mode for this one, stripping away all the beery bravado for a long and hard look at the end of his relationship with Justine Frischmann. With a melody like a lullaby and a title lyric that keeps coming back like a mantra, Blur’s ‘No Distance…’ is an acceptance of sorts. But though the relationship is spent, the regret and resentment in the voice and the lyrics lets us know there’s more pain further down the road and therefore this is often counted in this list of the most depressive songs of all time.

7. ‘The Boxer’ by Simon & Garfunkel

The central story’s a familiar one – Dick Whittington finds out the streets of NYC aren’t paved with gold after all – but the Arthur Miller-worthy final image of the unbowed boxer, and the string-swelling two-minute coda make it hit home with devastating force. There’s a reason that Paul Simon chose this song to perform on the first Saturday Night Live after September 11 2001.

8. ‘No Name #5’ by Elliott Smith

Like a handful of other singers on this list, Elliott Smith passed away tragically young. His death in 2003 from two stab wounds (probably self-inflicted) cast a shadow over the five albums he had released, including 1997’s Either/Or, the record which included the last and greatest part of the ‘No Name’ song series that he’d started on Roman Candle in 1994. 

9. ‘Tom Traubert’s Blues (Four Sheets to the Wind in Copenhagen)’ by Tom Waits

With his numerous gravel-voiced tales of whisky-sodden debauchery, it’s easy to forget that Tom Waits is something of a master at heart-piercing melancholia – never more so than on the opening track to 1976’s Small Change album. From the impossibly sad sweeping strings that introduce the song, you know this is going to be a dark one. 

10. ‘Lazarus’ by David Bowie

One of  the most depressing songs of all time, Bowie’s final album often plays like a self-written obituary, and its breakout single’s haunting horn jabs and slow tempo suggest a death march. ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven,’ he entones on the erie track released less than a month before his untimely death. One more melancholic masterpiece from the Thin White Duke.

11. ‘Strange Fruit‘ by Billie Holiday

Though she’s also remembered for her version of the harrowing ‘Gloomy Sunday’ the incredible Ms Holiday left an indelible mark on the culture with ‘Strange Fruit.’ Abel Meeropol’s horrific poem about lynchings in the southern states became the most powerful protest song of the 20th century thanks to Holiday’s interpretation: understated, tense and as full of sorrow and humanity as righteous rage, it’s a song that lingers in your soul forever.

12. ‘The River’ by Bruce Springsteen

At his most bleakly empathetic, The Boss has more in common with the great American tragedians Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill than any of his songwriter peers. ‘The River’ is as devastating as it gets, a mournful account of two carefree young lovers forced into a joyless marriage after an unplanned pregnancy. This song is often counted in the list of most sad and the most depressive songs of all time.

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