Why Sad Songs Make Us Happy.

I’ve always been fascinated by psychology in the field of music (I minored in Neuroscience in college). Here’s an interesting article I came across today if you’re feeling like learning something:

“Sad songs say so much,” Elton John once sang.

But what do they really say, and why do they speak to us?

In a recent study published in the journal “Frontiers of Psychology” researchers tried to find out. They played music in minor keys to participants. And what they found was that while participants could perceive music as sad or gloomy or tragic, what they really felt listening to the music were emotions they described as “romantic,” “fascinated” or even “animated.”

One, we might be experiencing the joy of “vicarious emotions” through sad music. In other words, sad music brings up feelings that are real, but also free us of the unpleasantness that would cause those feelings in real life.

Second, we might be experiencing sweet anticipation and delivery on that anticipation. In other words, we hear something sad, and expect it to make us feel a bit sad, and the satisfaction of our expectations being met makes us happy.”

So, I thought about the staple of heartbreak anthems, I Can’t Make You Love Me by  Bonnie Raitt. There are millions of sad songs, but to me, this one is in my top 3, and luckily this particular song has been covered by everyone and their mamma…so you can enjoy it…maybe six times right now! Ha!

Okay, you want to sing along? Lyrics included in Bon Iver’s version.

Fun Sad Fact: The idea for the song came to Reid after he read an article about a man who drunkenly shot at his girlfriend’s car and when asked in court if he’d learned anything, replied: “I learned, your honor, that you can’t make a woman love you if she don’t.”

Which one’s your favorite?


8 thoughts on “Why Sad Songs Make Us Happy.

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