“I Didn’t Mean to Make You Cry”* (Or, My Two Cents on NPR’s “Songs That Make You Weep”)

"Crying is okay here" by Flickr user A National Acrobat

*Title comes from a line in John Lennon’s song “Jealous Guy.”

At the beginning of this month, the hosts of NPR’s All Songs Considered asked readers to submit the songs that make them cry and why the songs make them cry. Last week, they sat down and recorded a show where they discussed the songs that make them cry as well as some of the submissions by readers. I heard about this through one of my tweeps, who tweeted the link to the follow-up article “More Songs That Make You Cry.

This immediately set the gears in my head in motion. Music has been an essential part of my life, and oftentimes music has helped articulate what is going on in my head. Although there always was music in my house, it wasn’t until my pre-teen years that I discovered music’s cathartic qualities. My CD collection (along with my mixtapes) became a big part of my identity. Until this day, a lot of how I understand the world around me comes through music. (Thinking back, I was first a music critic before a literary critic. I sat down for hours trying to understand what artists were saying and why they were saying it. My guinea pig? R.E.M.) So when I read this article about songs that make you cry, I couldn’t come up with just one.

I think All Songs Considered’s post is an indication of how important music is to our emotional make-up. In the broadcast they claim to have received over 7,000 submissions. When people talk about how music nowadays is crappy or how music back in the day (whenever that is) used to be better, or that pop music has no soul, that’s just trash talk. That song you dismiss? That song could be the one song holding a person together. It might be the song that gets them through the morning, the song that reminds them of good times back home or in school. It doesn’t have to be a work of art to be meaningful to someone.

My readers, I will not subject you to a song-by-song analysis of my iTunes collection (nevermind a song by song analysis of my whole music collection). I have selected five songs at random, and explain briefly why they make me tear up. I’d love to hear what yours are.

1) John Mayer, “Comfortable”

I love John Mayer’s music. He might not be politically correct (and sometimes is just outright wrong about stuff) but I think he is a talented musician and songwriter. His pop music cred keeps some from discovering his best hits. I could easily come up with 5 John Mayer songs that make me cry. But when I first read that NPR article, the first one that came to mind was this one. Here’s why: it reminds me of a period in my life where things were rough with my boyfriend. If for example I was driving around and this song came up in my iPod, I would cry. Every. Single. Time. It plays with the meaning of comfortable, which usually brings to mind the notion of “comformity” or “settling.” But that’s not what Mayer is going for here. Till this day, I still get choked up when I hear this song.

2) The Beatles, “In My Life”

When I was pregnant, I remember this song coming on my iPod while I was in the car. For some reason I just started crying. Once the song was over, I played it again. And cried some more. Before my daughter, this song was a nice song, a lovely song. But at that stage the line “In my life, I loved you more” acquired a whole new meaning. When I hear it now, i can’t help but think of sleep-deprived Me rocking newborn Miss E to sleep while humming this song to her.

3) Counting Crows, “Sullivan Street”

This song doesn’t have a particular memory attached, to be honest. However, I can’t help but feel the tightness in my chest every time I hear the line “I’m almost drowning in her sea/It’s almost everything I need.” There’s something sad and vulnerable in this song that gets under my skin. Where have the Counting Crows gone???

4) Regina Spektor, “Braille”

The story in this song that gets to me every time. I think the song is about a couple who have a child (named Elvis) and whose relationship doesn’t work out. (But I could be mistaken.) There’s talk of puddles of mistakes and years faded away. Regina is one of my favorite singer-songwriters, and she has an incredible ability to weave stories in her songs. On top of that, her voice is magic in a coffee cup. When she sings “I’m still an asshole…blowing out wishes, blowing out dreams” I have to work hard to keep the tears from peeking out of their hiding spot.

5) Sia, “You Have Been Loved”

I came across this song at a point in my life where it resonated with me. So for the longest I’d play this song again and again on my iPod, seeking some respite from those tough times. Every time, I’d shed a tear. I love how Sia starts the video saying “If you feel like you’re a loser in love, well, do not fear…”

Bonus track: Flight of the Conchords, “I’m Not Crying.”

Let’s end on a lighthearted note. Here’s a song that parodies all of those sad sad songs.

“Im making a lasagna…for one.”

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  1. Gracie by Ben Folds (seriously, you’ve got a daughter, I defy you not to cry).
    Fix you by Coldplay (I can’t even think of the lyrics without tearing up).
    Angel by Sarah McLaughlin (And this was before it was being used for those SPCA commercials with the sad dogs and cats. Being Canadian, she has been our #1 go-to weeper for years. But Angel especially gets me).
    Somewhere only we know by Keane (Did you watch the trailer for the new Winnie-the-Pooh movie set to this song? My kids were mystified as to why I was crying).
    Chasing Cars by Snow Patrol (Just came along at the right time).

    I actually have 15 playlists, all with weepy songs. It’s a bit of an obsession of mine. But these five are probably my top.


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