Have you ever wondered what makes a song sad? Is it simply lyrical content? Is it the personal feelings you prescribe to that song, your recollections of it? Are there simply chords or intonations of voice that can stir this feeling in us. Is it scientific or formulaic? Certainly there are artists who are known as dark, or depressing but even some of these artists have other tracks that are more buoyant or jubilant. If you are interested in these answers or simply like most of us, have compiled lists or mixtapes in your head of the saddest songs of all time, then this book is for you.
This Will End In Tears – The Miserabilist Guide To Music straddles the line between the academia of what actually happens in the brain to trigger these feelings inside of us versus good ol’ list making and short 1-2 page chapters about known ‘Miserabilist’ artists and even some deep treatments on well-regarded tracks.
Compiled alphabetically, artists from various eras get a look from Henryk Gorecki, John Dowland, and Samuel Barber to Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams and Scott Walker with a heavy dose of traditionally known miserabilists like The Cure, This Mortal Coil, Dead Can Dance, Depeche Mode, The Smiths, The National, Joy Division, Leonard Cohen, and more. Each artist gets a short breakdown followed by a list of their respective top 10 most miserable tracks.
Interspersed between artist blurbs are short essays of 5-10 pages each on topics of miserabilism like heartbreak, tears or crying, seasonal affectation, disaster and depression, decay and disease, suicide, the end of the world, ya know…fun topics to brighten your day. Of course within each of these cheery musings are more top 10 lists on the subject.
This book is a mixtape lovers dream. There are numerous lists ready-made for you, but the fun sometimes with books like these is reading about a track you aren’t super familiar with or learning something about a song you know in a new way. Grab a cozy blanket, a nice beverage and probably a pair of headphones and your favorite streaming device. You’re going to want a soundtrack as you read or more likely you will want to pause every now and then, set your book down and fire up or artist you are reading about. Get to know it and wallow in it.
A book like this is something every music lover should own and there are multiple ways to consume it. You can pick it up and just plow through it, absorbing it all in one deep dive. Alternatively, with the way it is divided up, you can enjoy it in short bursts. If you only have time to pick it up for 10 minutes a day, you can enjoy another topic essay and a few more artists and never feel like you have lost steam or cohesion. Finally, it is simply a brilliant addition to your collection or library and something to just own and refer back to now and again.
For your listening pleasure, you can listen to two hours of pure miserablilsm inspired by the book.