Wanna be depressed?

This blog might focus a lot on opera and dance and film, but there is another art form that I absolutely adore and where I'm constantly looking for new favorites. And that is the emo female pop balladeer. You know, the type of song that inevitably sounds like it should be on an episode of Grey's Anatomy. I never ever get tired of a sad ballad with those sad, "the man that got away"-type lyrics. I never get tired of the tinkly downward scales on the piano. I never get tired of applying any of these ballads to whatever situation I might have in my real life that somehow always seems to fit these lyrics oh-so-well. (Which, I suspect, is their timeless appeal -- no matter what day and what age, hoardes and hoardes of single women will listen to these songs and get depressed.)

The names may change, but the genre never dies. Here are some of my favorites (listen after the jump):



The classic Kate Bush with one of the best all-time piano ballads, "This Woman's Work". This ballad has it all: the tinkly downward piano scales, the slightly defiant, feminist slant, the floating, ethereal/soulful/sad voice, and lyrics like:
I should be crying but I just can't let it show
I should be hoping but I can't stop thinking

Of all the things we should've said that we never said
All the things we should've done that we never did
All the things that you wanted from me
All the things that that you needed from me
All the things I should of given but I didn't

Oh, darling make it go away
Just make it go away now


It's so cliched to like Tori Amos, but who doesn't love "Winter"?


My two recent favorite pop balladeers are A Fine Frenzy and Sia. They both recently came out with more up-tempo albums, but their greatest hits are still their sad, slow, torch songs.

A Fine Frenzy's "Almost Lover" perhaps takes the cake for the most prototypically excellent piano ballad. Slow, sad, with lyrics that basically make you want to kill yourself. "You sang me Spanish lullabies" -- perfect. Because ... really, who finds a guy sweet enough to sing Spanish lullabies? No one.


A Fine Frenzy's "Beacon" is also a wonderful example of this genre at its best:


The Australian songstress Sia has a gentler, less suicidal voice, but her "Lullaby" is another instant classic in the piano ballad collection. It was recently featured as the music to Hereafter. As usual, it has lyrics that are almost defiantly cliched. It starts with "Send a wish upon a star/Do the work and you'll go far/Send a wish upon a star/Make a map and there you are." The song does sound like a lullaby at first, and the tinkly piano music is there, but this song gains in intensity as an anthem for all the sad romantics who send their wishes upon a star every night. Beautiful.


Enjoy being very, very depressed.

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