Music for Sad Sacks


"They reach into your room," Elton said, "Just feel their gentle touch." Every now and again, we all have to wallow in our misery. And we all know that "when all hope is gone, sad songs say so much." For a really good, nice wallow, the garden variety song with a tinge of depression just won't do. Overblown woe with a theatrical grandiosity is the ticket for today's on-the-go Sad Sack. We've collected a number of sad songs below and rated them from one to four boxes of tissues you'll need to soak up those tears from a trickle to a river.

And be sure to catch some of these, plus more music for Sad Sacks throughout the day, from 6 AM to 6 PM Friday January 13th on WYEP.


  • The Cure, "Boys Don't Cry"

Robert Smith and company have provided their share of good tear-jerkers over the years. In fact, when "Friday I'm in Love" was released in 1992, some fans wondered if Smith had been kidnapped and replaced by a bizarre double-agent from Happyland. "Boys Don't Cry" is one of the standard bearers for the goth-rock mainstays. (Even dubbing the band "goth" makes Smith sad.)

sample lyric: "I try and laugh about it, hiding the tears in my eyes/Because boys don't cry"

weepiness rating: 2 boxes of tissues


  • Marvin Gaye, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine"

No one wants to be the last one to know any important info, let alone the tragic detail that your significant other is now another's other. That's rough. Gladys Knight recorded this song first, but while her version is soulful with some powerful singing, Marvin really makes you feel it. That slight raspiness in his voice comes across as a catch in the throat, kicking up the song into an extra tissue zone.

sample lyric: "Losing you would end my life you see 'cause you mean that much to me/You could have told me yourself that you loved someone else/Instead I heard it through the grapevine"

weepiness rating: 3 boxes of tissues


  • Prince, "When Doves Cry"

On paper, it's got all the theatrical sadness one would need, but how can you be very sad when you're listening to such a joyful arrangement?

sample lyric: "How can you just leave me standing, alone in a world that's so cold?"

weepiness rating: 1 boxes of tissues


  • The Replacements, "Unsatisfied"

One can think of this song as the flipside to John Lennon's "I Want You (She's So Heavy)" with The Beatles. Lennon told Rolling Stone magazine in 1970, "When you're drowning, you don't say, 'I would be incredibly pleased if someone would have the foresight to notice me drowning and come and help me.' You just SCREAM." With this Replacements classic, Paul Westerberg repeatedly rages against the lie that his life appears to be and cries for the satisfaction that never comes, and he imbues his vocals with every ounce of those emotions. But we'll still deduct one tissue box for being more angst-y than weepy.

sample lyric: "I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied/I'm so dissatisfied/I'm so, I'm so unsatisfied/I'm so unsatisfied"

weepiness rating: 2 boxes of tissues


  • Roy Orbison, "Only the Lonely"

Let's face it. Roy Orbison is one of the music world's Godfather of Sad Sacks. His most successful period of hit singles in 1960-'61 is littered with song titles like "Only the Lonely (Know the Way I Feel)," "Today's Teardrops," "Running Scared," "Love Hurts," and the majestic "Crying." Even his perhaps best-known song, the relatively straightforward "Oh, Pretty Woman" from 1964, backs up the line, "I couldn't help but see, pretty woman, that you look lovely as can be" with the Sad Sack follow-up, "Are you lonely just like me?"

sample lyric: "There goes my baby, there goes my heart/They're gone forever, so far apart"

weepiness rating: 3 boxes of tissues


  • Chris Isaak, "Somebody's Crying"

Isaak has never shied away from dipping his music in the same Well of Tears as Roy Orbison, and this song is a prime example. He even uses a propulsive drumbeat on the chorus reminiscent of "Oh, Pretty Woman." And while he doesn't have the stunning vocal range of Orbison to kick the song into drama overdrive, Isaak is a master of singing with doleful vulnerability. This song is a Hallmark Movie of the Week in waiting.

sample lyric: "I know somebody and they called your name a million times, and still you never came"

weepiness rating: 3 boxes of tissues


  • The Smiths, "How Soon Is Now?"

Morrissey is quite simply a towering figure in the annals of Sad Sack music. He's like a Sylvia Plath poem sprung to fretful life, spewing out woe-is-me tearjerkers like he's being paid under the table by Kleenex. He's churned out songs like "What Difference Does It Make?," "Heaven Knows I'm Miserable Now," "I Want the One I Can't Have," "Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me," "Never Had No One Ever," and "Please, Please, Please, Let Me Get What I Want" like a one-man Brill Building of self-pity (and that's not even getting to his solo songs). This song is perhaps his "Stairway to Heaven" of misery, an epic and surprisingly radio-friendly anthem to ill-at-ease Sad Sacks everywhere.

sample lyric: "You go and you stand on your own and you leave on your own and you go home and you cry and you want to die"

weepiness rating: 4 boxes of tissues


  • Adele, "Someone Like You"

It's like the 2011 Saturday Night Live sketch when everyone couldn't help but bust out crying listening to this song. Basically nailed it. "You both needed a good cry so you were listening to Adele's 'Someone Like You.' "  "Do you do it too?" "Everyone with a heart and an iTunes account does."

sample lyric: "I heard that you're settled down, that you found a girl and you're married now/I heard that your dreams came true, guess she gave you things I didn't give to you"

weepiness rating: 3 boxes of tissues


  • Merle Haggard, "Misery & Gin"

About 40% of all country songs could have been included on this list, so consider this entry as also representing all the cry-in-your-beer country weepers that are not from the boot-scootin' and bro-country end of the Grand Ole Opry spectrum. Merle was certainly no stranger to tearful tunes, from his very first single "Sing a Sad Song" to his 47th and final album in 2011 which included three songs with "blues" in their titles.

sample lyric: "Looking at the world through the bottom of a glass/All I see is a man who's fading fast"

weepiness rating: 2 boxes of tissues


  • The Beatles, "Eleanor Rigby"

While most of your typical Sad Sack tracks are about affairs of the heart, Paul McCartney wrote this pocket melodrama about the futility of life itself--making the Orbisons and Morrisseys of the Sad Sack world come off as Up With People by comparison.

sample lyric: "Eleanor Rigby died in the church and was buried along with her name/Nobody came"

weepiness rating: 4 boxes of tissues


  • Best Coast, "Why I Cry"

It's a two-minute blast of upbeat music, but the lyrics paint a vignette of alienation and self-pity in which life is a Sisyphean "never-ending hill."

sample lyric: "Look to the future, nothing's there/Don't know why I even care"

weepiness rating: 2 boxes of tissues


  • Eric Carmen, "All By Myself"

Even before the lyrics begin, the piano intro itself screams "here come the waterworks!" The verses are fairly compact but are packed with gorgeous touchstones of Sad Sackery: pining over lost youth, loneliness, insecurity. The choruses enter the scene like soaring eagles of melodrama, flying over awe-inspiring vistas of tear-drenched strings and ominous drum fills. And don't get me started with that Hugh McCracken guitar solo popping by like a comforting, shoulder-patting friend.

sample lyric: "Living alone, I think of all the friends I've known/But when I dial the telephone, nobody's home"

weepiness rating: 4 boxes of tissues


What are your favorite Sad Sack songs? Tweet us @WYEP and let us know, or post on our Facebook wall!

Listen for more sad songs on WYEP's Sad Sack Music Day on Friday January 13th,
throughout the day from 6 AM to 6 PM.