Random Saturdays – Is Country Music Sadder Than Rock Music?

Malcolm Gladwell did a podcast on Bobby Braddock, the man behind some of the saddest country songs of all time.  Mr. Gladwell’s interpretation of American pop/rock music charts versus country music was interesting to me.  He’s Canadian and I’m from Texas.  I’m not a fan of much newer country music.  I listened to alot of popular country music in the 90s because I was in Texas and my friends’ families all listened to it.  Before that, I had only listened to older country music from people who weren’t from the suburbs.  My favorite country songs, just like my favorite rock, jazz, pop, blues, rap, R&B, hip hop, classical, etc. have one of two things in common – they are either so sad that you want to throw your heart on the ground and hit it with a sledgehammer or they are so happy that your heart feels like it will burst with joy.

Anything in between is not good enough to be a favorite for me.

Since I listened to that podcast, I can’t quit thinking about Mr. Gladwell’s comments on “Wild Horses” by the Rolling Stones.  I like the Rolling Stones’s version and, yes, the lyrics are not quite as sad as “From Boulder to Birmingham” by Emmylou Harris, to which Mr. Gladwell compared it.  They’re both connected since Gram Parsons apparently wrote “Wild Horses” and his death inspired “From Boulder to Birmingham”.  However, part of the sadness and heartache emoted in a song is in the music itself – the melody, the specific notes, the key of the song.  While I think “From Boulder to Birmingham” is pretty heart-breaking, The Sundays‘s version of “Wild Horses” saddens a deeper part of me.  Something about the fragility in Harriet Wheeler‘s voice shatters my heart.  “From Boulder to Birmingham” is a finely-tuned piece of music, but The Sundays’s “Wild Horses” is something you sing to yourself while rocking back and forth and weeping in a corner.

While we’re on the topic of cover songs, we should talk about “Hurt“.  Nine Inch Nails put out this song while I was in one of the deepest parts of my depression and it helped me.  It made me feel a little less alone, like Trent Reznor understood what I was feeling.  If Trent Reznor could feel that way, then maybe I wasn’t quite as alone in the world as I felt.  When I first heard that Johnny Cash was doing a cover of the song, I felt the same way that Trent Reznor says he felt.  The song just didn’t seem to fit.  Johnny Cash is a country music legend, but Nine Inch Nails was filed under “Industrial Rock“.  It just seemed so weird.  Then, Johnny Cash’s version of “Hurt” was released.  If the song itself wasn’t heart-wrenching enough, then the video would certainly make up for it.  Whereas the Nine Inch Nails song moved me because of how I felt, Johnny Cash’s version moved me because of how he felt.  We all know Johnny Cash’s story.  We know his pain is real and he feels every word he sings, every chord he strums.  You can see this clearly in the faces of Johnny and June in the video.  There is no acting here, just memory.

I really don’t think that country music has more power to make me cry than rock music.  Although, I have been moved to tears by many songs in both genres.  For me, it’s more of the combo of lyrics, music, and personality that determine whether a song makes me cry.  I know some people who feel the same as I do.  I also know people who would agree with Malcolm Gladwell.  There are also those who have never been moved by music in that way.  I’m just sad for them because there’s a certain magic about being moved so deeply by a song that you cannot hold back your tears.  It’s cathartic and also makes you feel connected to the world around you in a very unique way.

With that, I leave you with one more beautifully sad song.  It’s from one of my favorite artists, Sara Bareilles.  She was supposed to repeat the chorus to the end of the song, but was crying so hard while recording in the studio that she could no longer sing.  If you love NYC the way I do, then you may find yourself tearing up at her broken-hearted sacrifice along with me.

Random Saturdays – Music Edition: Sara Bareilles “Stay” and Damien Rice “Delicate”

I’m a sucker for songs that have certain instruments (i.e. string orchestras, pianos, nylon brushes on drums) or mention certain topics (ex. breathing/air, oceans, souls, rebirth, etc.)  I’m discovering that I also like songs that say something along the lines of, “Stay tonight and we’ll make the most of it because in the morning one of us will be gone.”   I’m not sure why I like songs about the last topic, since they don’t tend to be relevant in my daily life.  Then again, there are the songs that are just about hooking up, and there are the songs that rip your heart out of your chest, throw it on the ground, and jump on top of it a few times;  I prefer the latter.  So, I suppose I just enjoy songs that evoke a strong emotional response.

About a month ago, I discovered that Sara Bareilles released “Once Upon Another Time” in 2012, an EP of which I was not previously aware.  When I heard “Stay”, I knew I had to buy the album.  The song reminded me of something, but I couldn’t figure out what.  After listening to it four or five times, I realized that it reminded me of the Damien Rice song, “Delicate”.  Now, I can’t listen to one song without thinking of the other.

Sara Bareilles “Stay” (lyrics video)
The beginning of the second verse really gets to me:  “My hands are shaking/This is a/complicated love affair”.  Then, my heart breaks just after the second chorus with the way she sings, “I don’t wanna cry/I know we’ll get to tomorrow/And say goodbye/That’s why I’m asking for tonight”.

Damien Rice “Delicate” (lyrics video)
The lyrics in this video aren’t completely accurate, the major flaw being that the song says, “I might take you home” instead of “We might take it home”, but I like the image used and the way the lyrics fade in and out throughout the video.  The part that really throws my heart on the ground is the last refrain of the chorus, when Rice’s voice goes into falsetto and cracks.  That’s kind of his thing, but I like it.

Now that your heart is thoroughly broken, I think it’s a good time to end this Music Edition of Random Saturdays.  Tune in tomorrow for Sorrowful Sundays, when I’ll feature all of those SPCA videos of homeless animals as Sarah McLachlan plays in the background!

Pimping Saturdays – Music Edition: Old 97’s “Big Brown Eyes”

I grew up in a very musical household and have a deep love and appreciation for music.  If I could pick my dream career, I’d travel the world playing piano and singing.  I can’t sing or play piano, though, so I have to settle for listening to Sara Bareilles.  If I had to choose between being blind or deaf (not a choice I ever want to make), I would choose to be blind.  I don’t know if I could ever deal with the depression that would come with realizing that I would never listen to music again.  Never hear the opening to “Daytripper” again?  I can’t even imagine how terrible that’d be.  Even though I already love music, certain things get me extra pumped up about it (i.e. concerts).  Since the Maroon 5 concert last week, I’ve been listening to Neon Trees on Spotify, which led me to subscribe to my friend, Sarah’s, Justin Timberlake playlist, which gave me withdrawls for The Lumineers album that I’ve listened to at least once a day since I bought it last month.  I listened to The Lumineers at work this week, which made me think about R.E.M. for some reason.  So I listened to them, which made me think about the Old 97’s, so I listened to them next.

I remember listening to the Old 97’s on The Adventure Club in the 90s. When I met Olga, she had tape recordings of Old 97’s CDs/tapes from her brother.  She even let me copy them from her.  That’s a true friend, folks!  I’m trying to get rid of my DVDs and CDs now (finally got rid of the last of my cassette tapes last year), but I haven’t been able to part with my Old 97’s CDs yet.  I have the songs on my computer, iPod, iPhone, and cloud drives, but I still can’t part with the  physical discs.  At this point, I should say that my favorite type of song is what I call a Happy Broken Heart song.  These are sad songs with upbeat tempos.  One of my favorite Old 97’s Happy Broken Heart songs is “Big Brown Eyes”.  Fans of the Old 97’s know this as a classic tune that was actually recorded on two different albums.  To me, the biggest difference between the two are the lines, “I’ve got issues, yeah / Like I miss you, yeah”.  I think Rhett Miller sounds more desperate on Wreck Your Life than he does on Too Far To Care, and I like the desperate version better.  [Insert joke here]  On that note, please enjoy this Happy Broken Heart song!