5 Songs that Never Fail to Make Me Cry

I’ve written before about how starkly I admonish listening to sad songs after a breakup. You know they will just make you sob with more gusto than Jennifer Lopez pretending to be sympathetic on American Idol. I mean, you’re already feeling pathetic and miserable, so don’t go out of your way to make it worse, for Pete’s sake.

But there are certain songs that, upon hearing by accident — say, on the radio, mayhaps — will throw me into a tear-filled tizzy no matter my relationship status.

I’ll usually turn these off immediately after hearing the first chord, because generally speaking, I don’t like to cry and feel depressed. But sometimes, just sometimes, I’ll listen and wallow and enjoy a good old-fashioned blubber fest and then brainstorm the most painless ways to kill myself. It’s usually when I’m menstruating.

1. Against All Odds by Phil Collins

This is the song that sparked this blog post. I heard it on the radio while driving home tonight and immediately had to switch channels. There are a gazillion songs about breakups, but this one always gets me. And I don’t even like Phil Collins. But there’s something in his voice that makes me believe him when he croons, “I wish I could just make you turn around… turn around and see me cry.” And then when he says, “You’re the only one who really knew me at all.” Man, to lose the only person who ever really knew youuuu-hoo-hoo-hoo! Dammit, there I go…

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2. Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye

This is a new one for me. I listened to it the other day and it stirred up something I’ve always found distressing about the end of relationships. To me, it is so completely crazy and tragic that someone can one day be the most important entity in your life and the next day is reduced to something so insignificant as “somebody that I used to know.”

This song also reminds me of one of my past breakups. When I broke up with this guy, I cut off all communication with him. I wasn’t intending to be cold, it was just what I needed to do to move on and get over it. I wouldn’t take his calls, but he didn’t understand why and it really upset him. Hearing this song made me realize how he must have felt, and it made me feel bad.

(Note: the video kind of killed it for me. It’s weird and has nothing to do with the song and the naked dude isn’t even attractive. So maybe close your eyes and just listen.)

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3. If I Could Turn Back Time by Cher

Alright, this is another instance in which the video does not match the sentiment of the song. Cher, supreme goddess that she is, prances around on a battleship amid dozens of sailors while wearing a getup that would make Nicki Minaj go, “Dang.” But the lyrics and the emotion in her voice just break my heart. Most songs like this – in which the singer admits they screwed up massively and are begging forgiveness – are sung by men. So hearing a woman — especially a woman as strong as Cher — belt it out this way kinda moves me. And I always envision she’s singing it to Sonny. Not Gene Simmons.

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4. Father of Mine by Everclear

This is the only song on my list that is not about a breakup. It’s a grown man talking to his deadbeat dad who bailed years ago when he was just a boy. There is so much resonating pain and anguish discernable in Alex Alexakis’ voice when he wails, “My daddy gave me a name, then he walked away.” Actually, all of the lyrics in this song make me want to hug every man I know, stroke his hair and tell him it’s going to be okay.

Come to think of it, nearly every Everclear song makes me want to cry. Can someone explain this to me?

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5. You Were Meant for Me by Jewel

This is the one — the queen mother of all Songs That Make Me Cry. It is impossible for me to get through this song without floating around in big puddle of snot by the last line. We’re back to the breakup songs, but in this one she so eloquently and tenderly describes the emptiness one feels just doing mundane, everyday activities like brushing your teeth, putting on pajamas or making breakfast… without you.

Jesus Christ, I can’t even write these words without the tears welling up like those of the first runner up in a toddler beauty pageant.

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What songs get your mucous membranes moving? Come on, we all have them!

33 replies

  1. “Longer by Dan Fogelberg and “Cats in the Cradle” by Harry Chapin. Just thinking about those songs makes me cry as well playing them on the guitar.

  2. Those are some great songs for crying.

    Some additions:

    Empty Garden (about John Lennon) by Elton John.
    I Wish I Never Saw the Sunshine by Beth Orton
    The Funeral by Band of Horses
    Cast No Shadow by Oasis (supposedly about Richard Ashcroft of The Verve)

    I made a Spotify playlist for sad songs which, strangely, I tend to listen to when I’m happy. I know.

  3. Wow, might have to stop reading just for the comment about the Somebody That I Used To Know video! Gotye/Wally de Backer has been well known and respected in Australia since 2006 and he is a BABE. Check his song ‘Heart’s A Mess’ if you want another for this list. It’s so emotional and beautiful.

  4. First? That Gotye song says SO MUCH about relationships! I feel like its one of the *only* realistic and honest break-up songs out there.

    Second? Songs that make me cry don’t make me think about break ups any more, since I’m not all that emotional about anyone these days. This rendition of Neil Young’s “After the Goldrush” by Linda Ronstadt, EmmyLou Harris, and Dolly Parton does it every time. OH, speaking of EmmyLou, the version of Cash’s “Long Black Veil” with her and Dave Matthews. Yowza.

    • Ohhh, you gotta love Dolly. Who else can get away with a bright yellow cowgirl suit with fringe? Love that woman.

      I think all country music is designed specifically to make you cry. They probably hold focus groups to see if enough people blubber before releasing the track. If not, it’s a big country fail. Maybe that’s why I don’t like country western.

  5. Oh man, that Jewel song gets me every time.

    One I recently discovered brings on the water works: Wild Horses by the Rolling Stones.

    Also any songs about Moms like “Mama” by Boyz II Men or oddly enough “Dear Mama” by 2Pac (I know. it’s weird.)

    • Right? There is something about that Jewel song. It doesn’t remind me of anyone or anything, it’s just a general heartbreaking song for some reason. 2Pac actually has a lot of really deep, touching songs. Not weird!

  6. “Against All Odds” was the song I devoted to my father after my parents got divorced and went away. Still who I think of & he’s been dead for 10 years. He was an evil man, but I loved him. I still have to turn off the radio whenever it comes on & I’m not a crier.

    • There really is something about that song, isn’t there? And when you have a context like that, oh man. It’s always the songs that remind you of a person or place or time in your life that nails you.

  7. Outstanding blog topic. I’m going to yoink this one, I predict. John Mayer’s “Comfortable” makes me misty. Ditto Jason Mraz’s “Beautiful Mess.” There’s a line that says, “You were worth the wait,” as though they get back together or he hopes they do, at the end of the song that restarts the waterworks all over again.

  8. It’s rare for me to hear a song that makes me cry, though I cry at movies pretty easily. But this song just slays me:

    The achingly sweet, sad lyrics, the absolute perfection of the timing of each note, the fragile power of Stina’s voice… it’s just a masterpiece.

  9. The one song that always gets me is the Israel Kamakawiwoʻole version of “Over the Rainbow” because they played it on ER when Dr. Greene died. ;(

  10. Breathe Me by Sia – ever since the series finale of Six Feet Under, that song always reduces me to a blubbering mess.

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