Some songs become so tied up with a person or a place or a feeling that they become impossible to hear without a deep sense of sadness about what was or could have been. Whether it's a family member, a holiday or a bygone love, most songs that break your heart symbolise something or someone you've lost. Today's choice isn't a song tied to a particular personal memory, but even so it still manages to get me every time I listen. With lyrics like 'No one stays the same', I guess I associate this song with the inevitability of time moving on and getting older... the thought of which breaks my heart a little bit.
Before and during the lockdown, I have been listening to a lot of sad music. When I was a kid, my mother had a sad CD of sad songs that I absolutely hated listening to, so I recently decided to create my own sad song playlist to see if I could do better. After evaluating the sadness level of a number of songs, I believe I have found one of the saddest songs I have ever heard: "The Last Battle" by Mercedes Lackey, Alexander James Adams, Leslie Fish, and Cecilia Eng. It's a long, epic folk-style song about an elf (yes, like in Lord of the Rings) mourning the lack of magic in the world now that most of the elves have moved away. It sounds silly at first but the well-crafted lyrics and excellent singing make it a favourite of mine.
Initially I was going to pick 'Up the Junction' by Squeeze, instead settling for 'Somebody Else' by The 1975. The song reminds me of happy memories at the back end of first year, hanging out with my mates, playing football and having a few pints in various beer gardens, yet the song is actually quite heart-breaking. 'Somebody Else' details the heartache of seeing someone you love drift off, whilst matching the mood of the lyrics with the tone and tempo of the song. It’s a great song for when you’re having an off day and it is one of The 1975’s best tunes.
‘Landslide’ was written by Stevie Nicks before she joined Fleetwood Mac and is about her doubts about her career and her relationship with Lindsey Buckingham. Soon after, the pair joined Fleetwood Mac and whilst their careers soared their relationship soured, with the pair sleeping with pretty much everyone involved with the band except each other. ‘Landslide’ is a beautiful, heartbreaking song in its own right, but is most affecting when seen performed after the couple split for good. It’s usually performed with only Nicks and Buckingham on stage and the sexual tension is palpable as the pair often dance together to an incredibly emotionally raw song about their breakup. It’s an amazing, earnest song about the uncertainty of the tail end of a failing relationship and the live performances are beautiful.
This story behind this song is truly heartbreaking. In a tragic accident in 1990 Eric Clapton’s son, Conor Clapton, fell to his death after running through an open window. Clapton isolated himself for a good amount of time after his death, before being asked to score the soundtrack of the upcoming movie Rush. Clapton felt that this song had been in his head for a long time, and this was the perfect opportunity to get it out. Although stating that the song itself is somewhat ambitious, in that it links to both the movie and his son, one can clearly see the parallels between his lyrics and the event. The lyrics show Clapton punishing himself, with lines such as “Would you know my name if I saw you in heaven?” and “I know I don’t belong in heaven”. Clapton’s soft spoken and powerful lyrics are extremely emotive, and I can’t help but feel for him every time I hear the song.
When I was 14, one song that never failed to break my heart was 'Welcome to the Black Parade'.
The titular song from their third studio album, the track has gone on to become of their most famous and has become an anthem for generation of teenagers. Easily recognisable from just the opening piano notes, the lyrics are firmly engrained in the memories of many former Kerrang! readers.
When I was a hormonal teenager, even the first line of "when I was a young boy" would bring me to tears. Without even attaching any meaning to the lyrics of the song, the beautiful of the song and the sobriety of it alone would be enough just to bring me to tears. Beyond the music itself was the evocative imagery of the whole Black Parade album, which was incredibly stylised and can be seen as MCR's answer to Sgt Pepper. With five whole minutes of rugged emotion and an absolutely stunning music video mainly in black and white, this song was more than enough to break teenage Grace's heart.
As far as a heartbreaking song goes, I’m not sure there’s many that will beat ‘The Town I Loved So Well’. Written by Philip Coulter, the song starts with a nostalgic recollection of his early life in Derry, from the joys of childhood to meeting his future wife. However, this is followed by a harrowing picture of Derry as it was during The Troubles. As Coulter writers, the town had been “brought to its knees” by bombings and violence, and the horror that this reality inspired upon his return is evoked quite heartbreakingly in this song. As the song concludes, there is a faint optimism that the Derry of his childhood might be reborn out of the ashes of such a brutal conflict, but this musical snapshot of a town amidst a bloody war of contrition is heartbreaking on both an individual and collective level.
The final song from Tame Imapala's 2015 masterpiece Currents, 'New Person, Same Old Mistakes', isn't the usual type of song that you'd expect to break a heart. It's sad sure but heartbreaking? For me the song resonates a little differently. I see the sadness in wanting to be different but feeling like the same bad things keep happening. 'New Person, Same Old Mistakes' is a song full of confliction. On the one hand, Parker talks about how he feels like a new person. However, there's still lots of things holding him back. Parker is in a strange state of limbo on the song. Life can be that way sometimes. The idea that you have no idea where you're going, no idea if what you're doing is right. No idea who you really are. That's heartbreaking.
This is an "autobiographical" song about 2 brothers, one of which gets in too deep with the mob, and loses his life for it. The reality of the song is that Conor's brother wasn't killed by the mob, he "essentially drank himself to death.", according to Conor. Matthew was 42, a schoolteacher, and left behind 2 kids. Conor's trademark vivid imagery conjured up by the lyrics is ever-present throughout the track, and there's something remarkably sad in his voice, as always. Conor's most heartbreaking songs are inspired by the deaths of loved ones, and this is no different.
For many this song symbolised a call to action, an anthem for the disenfranchised. For me it serves as a symbol of all good things come to and end, perhaps it's because i'm in my final year for uni, perhaps it's because the Watchmen intro got to me too much. Either way this song to me is heartbreaking, purely because it reminds me as to how everything is not permanent and eventually the good things you have may go away.