Every day can’t be a good day, but thank goodness we can indulge in our feelings with sad music.
Whether you need a good cry or just love the poetic lyricism typical of sad songs, at least a few of these tunes will hit you right in the heart. These songs are a beautiful place to find comfort in knowing that you’re not alone when going through hard times, full of themes like grief, heartbreak, and internal sadness.
Grab a tissue and listen to this best sad songs playlist. We’re here for you!
Table of Contents
- Say Something – A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera
- Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens
- Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.
- Someone Like You – Adele
- When the Party’s Over – Billie Eilish
- Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin
- Hurt – Johnny Cash
- Skinny Love – Bon Iver
- Mad World – Michael Andrews ft. Gary Jules
- Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinéad O’Connor
- Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
- Liability – Lorde
- The Scientist – Coldplay
- I’ll Never Love Again – Lady Gaga
- Traitor – Olivia Rodrigo
- Something in the Way – Nirvana
- Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen
- I Know It’s Over – The Smiths
- Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
- Ocean Breathes Salty – Sun Kil Moon
- When I Was Your Man – Bruno Mars
- How to Disappear Completely – Radiohead
- Fix You – Coldplay
- Let Her Go – Passenger
- Let Somebody Go – Coldplay ft. Selena Gomez
- Lost Cause – Beck
- Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye
- Teardrop – Massive Attack
- Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
- I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt
- Pale Blue Eyes – The Velvet Underground
- Leaving New York – R.E.M.
- A Case Of You – Joni Mitchell
- Shallow – Bradley Cooper
- The Trapeze Swinger – Iron & Wine
Say Something – A Great Big World ft. Christina Aguilera
An instant tearjerker that topped charts worldwide, ‘Say Something’ is a go-to song for those needing a good cry. This piano ballad even won a Grammy for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance in 2015. With a simple melody and stripped-back instrumentation, this song really lets you sit with the lyrics—the desperate words of someone trying to deal with loss. The music video’s comment section is filled with people reminiscing on those they have lost and how ‘Say Something’ has given them a painful sort of solace.
Related: Check out the best heartbreak songs.
Casimir Pulaski Day – Sufjan Stevens
The main events of this song take place on Casimir Pulaski Day, an annual holiday celebrated in Illinois. Sufjan Stevens sings about a loved one who has cancer, using incredibly specific lyrics to make the emotion of his words hit harder. At the same time, Stevens grapples with his faith, wondering why his God would let such a horrible thing occur. The repetitive melodies show he is stuck in this inner conflict, a feeling likely relatable to anyone who has suffered a loss.
Related: Get lost in your feelings with these songs about emotions.
Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.
A sad and comforting song, ‘Everybody Hurts’ offers some relief from the loneliness of unhappiness. Intending to reach out to those who have lost hope, this song encourages you to “hold on” and reminds you that “everybody cries.” The most dangerous part of any grief is thinking you’re going through it alone. R.E.M. shows us that sadness is universal and temporary.
Related: See more songs about feeling all alone.
Someone Like You – Adele
This critically acclaimed song from Adele’s iconic album, 21, has endured as one of her most popular songs since its release in 2011. Adele’s powerful, vibrant vocals are always successful at evoking an emotional response in her listeners, but ‘Someone Like You’ is hard to outdo. Adele sings about trying to move on from a failed love by finding someone else like them—but internally, she knows she can never truly replicate the love they had.
Related: You’ll want a tissue when you hear these songs for breakups.
When the Party’s Over – Billie Eilish
‘When the Party’s Over’ delighted critics and took over the internet—people couldn’t get enough of this anguish-filled song. Billie Eilish swept the Grammy’s in 2020, winning five out of her six nominations, and this song is just one example of why. Eilish sings about a frustrating relationship where she feels lonely and unfulfilled, and the melodies that rise and fall replicate the push and pull this love had. Her crisp vocals and gorgeous harmonies make the song addictive despite its heavy content.
Related: Hold onto this playlist of songs about letting go.
Cat’s in the Cradle – Harry Chapin
‘Cat’s in the Cradle’ is Harry Chapin’s best-known song, a hallmark of folk-rock music. It follows a narrative style, telling the story of a father and son who don’t prioritize spending quality time together. The father prioritizes his career, and by the time he realizes his mistake, his son is all grown up and focusing on his own life. The most heartbreaking aspect of this song is that there is no resolution—the time has passed and can’t be redone or fixed.
Related: This playlist of cat songs is purr-fect.
Hurt – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash released his cover of ‘Hurt,’ originally a Nine Inch Nails song, in 2002. His version of the song became so well-loved that the original writer said it was truly Cash’s song. Though the exact meaning of ‘Hurt’ is disputed, it explores the self-destructive tendencies of feeling pain. Pushing people away, turning to bad habits, and self-pity are some of those tendencies this song touches on. Fun Fact: the music video for Cash’s ‘Hurt’ is widely considered one of the best (and saddest) of all time and won a Grammy in 2004.
Related: Head over to our playlist of songs about mistakes and regrets.
Skinny Love – Bon Iver
This desolate song’s gritty, broken vocals are engrossing, almost like a car wreck you can’t look away from. The sorrow, the anguish, and the heartbreak in frontman Justin Vernon’s voice are so evident, and it makes ‘Skinny Love’ an emotional masterpiece. This song is about a love that is skinny, a love that has no weight because one or both of the lovers is in it for the wrong reasons. Vernon’s reason was that he needed help and didn’t want to be alone. This shaky foundation doomed the relationship, and ‘Skinny Love’ tells that tragic story.
Related: Move on to our playlist of songs for moving on.
Mad World – Michael Andrews ft. Gary Jules
Hopeless, introspective, and bleak, ‘Mad World’ is a sad song through and through. The lyrics detail the dismal monotony of life—that idea that we wake up every day to go through the motions, waiting on our lives to begin. The understated piano combined with a timid vocal style adds to the detached outlook of this song.
Related: Don’t wait around! Go to our playlist of songs about waiting for something.
Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinéad O’Connor
Prince originally wrote and recorded this song, but it gained popularity when Sinéad O’Connor released her cover in 1989. Post-breakup, O’Connor first attempts to see the bright side, saying she can now do whatever she wants and see whoever she wants. But soon, she realizes this freedom is not worth losing her love. O’Connor’s haunting vocals melt in your ears, delivering a soft rock ballad made for those with a fresh heartbreak.
Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
Stevie Nicks’ captivating voice in Fleetwood Mac’s beautiful song ‘Landslide’ will have you reflecting on your life and tumbling into an existential crisis. The inspiration for this song came from Nicks’ struggles deciding whether to go back to school or continue her musical career- and we all owe her a thank you for choosing music. ‘Landslide’ ponders change, decisions, and the lack of control over our lives.
Related: See more great songs about changes.
Liability – Lorde
Stripped back and vulnerable, ‘Liability’ by Lorde is excruciatingly honest. She bares her soul to us, singing about how she feels like a liability—something that people use until she becomes too much for them to handle. An anthem for all the people who fear perpetual loneliness because they think no one will ever truly understand and appreciate them, ‘Liability’ is a gentle reminder that even Lorde sometimes feels like a burden.
Related: This song features on our playlist of songs about low self-esteem.
The Scientist – Coldplay
No sad songs list is complete without this one. ‘The Scientist’ is a piano ballad narrated by a scientist who gets consumed by his work and neglects his relationship. Reflecting on his choices that led to the ruining of his love, he wishes to “go back to the start.” That desperate, regretful feeling of wanting to start over is so hard to put into words- luckily, Coldplay does it for us in this song.
Related: Get to work listening to these songs with professions in the title.
I’ll Never Love Again – Lady Gaga
A track from the 2018 version of A Star is Born, ‘I’ll Never Love Again’ is performed by Lady Gaga’s character, Ally, after the passing of her husband. The grief is apparent in Gaga’s vocals, and the strings and piano build tension that mirrors her pain. This love was everything, and moving on doesn’t seem like a possibility—even if it were, Ally would refuse to.
Traitor – Olivia Rodrigo
Watching an ex move on, no matter the state of our feelings is always painful. It’s a reminder of the love that used to be shared and how it will never exist again. Even if no infidelity was involved, an ex-partner starting fresh could feel like a betrayal. Olivia Rodrigo captures that feeling perfectly in ‘Traitor,’ stating, “you didn’t cheat, but you’re still a traitor.”
Related: Listen to more songs about being betrayed by someone you love.
Something in the Way – Nirvana
Do you ever feel like something is standing in the way of your happiness? Sometimes our setbacks are obvious, but other times we just feel stuck and can’t figure out why. ‘Something in the Way’ is about that feeling of wanting to get better but hitting some kind of roadblock every time you try. Trudging drums and melancholy strings paint that hopeless feeling. We can sense the dejection of this song as Kurt Cobain, writer and singer, practically whispers the vocals. This is often considered to be one of the saddest songs ever.
Related: You don’t have to stay here. Head over to these songs about feeling stuck.
Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen’s plaintive vocals in this song are made for a staring-at-the-ceiling midnight cry session. ‘Famous Blue Raincoat’ is written from the perspective of a man talking to another man about a woman they both had a relationship. There is lots of ambiguity to this song, but the woman likely cheated on both men with the other. Cohen is crestfallen at the realization and has to come to terms with loving a woman who doesn’t solely love him and reconciling his anger towards the other man with his understanding that they are ultimately the same.
Related: Feeling emotional? Check out the best songs about crying.
I Know It’s Over – The Smiths
This bleak ballad sees a man on his deathbed, the soil falling over him, reflecting on his regrets. He laments over his loneliness and remembers an unrequited love for a woman who is now married to someone else. Sonically and lyrically, the song builds steadily, growing increasingly tormented as the man realizes he will never be able to fix the wrongs of his life.
Related: You’ll understand why everyone loves these songs about empathy.
Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
Often considered the saddest song, this one is the epitome of grief, written after Eric Clapton’s son fell out of a window and did not survive. Clapton ponders on seeing his son again in heaven, wondering if their relationship would still be the same. His soft vocals complement the warbling guitar to create a genuinely emotional listening experience. Fun Fact: Phoebe Bridgers references this track in ‘Moon Song,’ which is widely considered one of her saddest songs.
Related: Listen to these beautiful heaven songs.
Ocean Breathes Salty – Sun Kil Moon
People tend to avoid thinking about the inevitably of their lives ending, but ‘Ocean Breathes Salty’ refuses to let you ignore it. “That is that and this is this” shows a form of acceptance, but the abrasive vocals and guitar suggest otherwise. The music video follows a little boy and his unsuccessful attempt to save an injured bird- even our most innocent intentions cannot stop the effects of time.
Related: Mourn your loved ones with these songs about losing a friend.
When I Was Your Man – Bruno Mars
Bruno Mars’ smooth vocals are perfect for a breakup song. In ‘When I Was Your Man,’ he reminisces over his ex, realizing he didn’t truly appreciate her. All she wanted was to go dancing and be given flowers, and Mars couldn’t give that to her. He’s grown now and hopes that her new man can love her in the way she deserves. The regret and guilt in this emotional song serve as a reminder to never take our loved ones for granted.
Related: Here’s our playlist of songs about ex-partners.
How to Disappear Completely – Radiohead
Any type of sadness- grief, depression, heartbreak- has the power to make you feel suspended in time. Like you’re floating through a fake reality, a life that isn’t truly yours. ‘How to Disappear Completely’ is that feeling in song form, with lyrics like “I’m not here, this isn’t happening” and “that there, that’s not me.” The pinnacle of this song is the dramatic string section, which culminates in hauntingly dissonant chords in the track’s closing minute.
Fix You – Coldplay
When dealing with a loss, you feel like you’re being ripped apart at the seams, and often we long for someone to sew us back up. ‘Fix You’ is about trying to help a person going through a hard time, no matter how helpless and lost they feel. The guitar solo in the upbeat instrumental break offers hope in a song full of heavy lyrics. Fun Fact: Actress Gwenyth Paltrow was the muse of this song, as she had just lost her father when she met lead singer Chris Martin.
Related: See our top picks of missing someone you love songs.
Let Her Go – Passenger
The idea of not knowing what you have until it’s gone is undoubtedly cliche, but it doesn’t feel like just a tiresome saying in ‘Let Her Go.’ This Passenger song’s tag line is “only know you love her when you let her go,” warning against taking someone for granted. Only when they’re gone, do you realize how vital they were to your existence. Passionate strings and disheartened vocals show us how hard it is to come to a resolution to this feeling.
Let Somebody Go – Coldplay ft. Selena Gomez
Sometimes love ends without an explicit reason, which can be the most complicated ending to deal with. This duet puts a new spin on the saying “if you love something, let it go” because they know the person will not come back. Accepting that love was good while it was and isn’t anymore is incredibly difficult, and this song beautifully explains why.
Lost Cause – Beck
This folksy guitar ballad focuses on the frustration of fighting for someone who doesn’t fight for themselves. Beck sings that it’s hard to “leave you here wearing your wounds, waving your guns at somebody new.” This person is hurting, and it makes them explosive and disoriented. Eventually, staying with them does more harm than good, and you have to accept that they are a ‘Lost Cause.’
Related: Stay strong with the best fighting songs.
Somebody That I Used to Know – Gotye
The difficulties of a messy breakup come to the surface in this song. Even when you know the end of the relationship is for the best, it’s hard when the break isn’t clean. In ‘Somebody That I Used to Know,’ the ex-partner has cut off the narrator, and the narrator is angry that it now feels like their love didn’t even exist. We get both points of view, which is a unique aspect of this breakup song.
Teardrop – Massive Attack
Elizabeth Fraser, singer of ‘Teardrop,’ drew on the passing of her friend Jeff Buckley as the inspiration for this song. It’s about wanting to confess love but knowing the other person can’t hear you because they are no longer in your life. As she calls out to a love that could have been but now never will be, the pain in Fraser’s vocals are fresh and compelling.
Related: Listen to our favorite songs about forbidden love.
Love Will Tear Us Apart – Joy Division
With a riveting bass line, steady drums, and big synths, ‘Love Will Tear Us Apart’ is a trademark of Joy Division’s discography. This song was a cynical reinterpretation of The Captain & Tennille’s ‘Love Will Keep Us Together,’ talking about love falling apart due to the two people changing in ways that are no longer compatible.
Related: Find more of the best songs with bass.
I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt
Bonnie Raitt asks for just one more night with her love in ‘I Can’t Make You Love Me.’ She knows her love is unrequited, even accepts it, but still needs to be with them one last time. She knows she can’t force this person to love her and promises to leave in the morning. The piano is mournful, the vocals are gorgeous, and the song is heartbreaking.
Related: You’ll want to hear these songs about wanting someone.
Pale Blue Eyes – The Velvet Underground
A diversion from their typical sound, The Velvet Underground delivers an intimate lullaby with ‘Pale Blue Eyes.’ It’s just on the verge of being a love song, but lyrics like “thought of you as everything I’ve had, but couldn’t keep” and the revelation that this person is married shows us that love is one-sided. The peaceful guitar lures you in, and the remorseful vocals break your heart.
Related: Find this song on our playlist of songs about blue eyes.
Leaving New York – R.E.M.
By leaving New York, the narrator of this song is leaving love behind. He fears being honest about his feelings and the other person’s reaction. Would they laugh? Would they leave him? Would they harshly reject him? The terrifying thought of honesty is a fear to run from in ‘Leaving New York’ by R.E.M.
Related: Heading to New York? Listen to these songs about NY.
A Case Of You – Joni Mitchell
Joni Mitchell looks back on a deep love that she no longer has. Her sweet vocals and lilting runs are captivating as she compares loving this person to drinking a case of wine- no matter how much she has of him, she will never get tired of it. The line “love is touching souls, surely you touched mine” makes it clear how intense this love was, and how agnozing the pain of its ending is.
Related: Grab your partner and listen to these soulmate songs.
Shallow – Bradley Cooper
The most popular song to come out of the 2018 A Star is Born soundtrack, Bradley Cooper duets with Lady Gaga in ‘Shallow,’ a dramatic song about diving into the deep end. The deep end could be referring to love, careers, or life in general—either way, these characters are straying far from the shallows. Powerful vocals make this song a highlight of the movie, important to both the plot and our understanding of the characters.
Related: You’ll fall for these falling in love songs.
The Trapeze Swinger – Iron & Wine
A nostalgic song that tells the story of lost love, ‘The Trapeze Swinger’ has lyrics with such attention to detail you are practically watching the story unfold. The steady guitar and background vocals support the lead vocals beautifully as Sam Beam sings about the stages of love between him and this person through childhood, youth, and adulthood. The countless personal memories in the song make it all the more painful to know that the love ultimately failed.
Related: Relive the good gold days with these songs about meeting an old lover.
More of the best sad songs:
- My Tears Ricochet – Taylor Swift
- For Emma, Forever Ago – Bon Iver
- Pink Moon – Nick Drake
- Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door – Bob Dylan
- Candle in the Wind – Elton John
- I’m Not Gonna Miss You – Glen Campbell