Feature – Songs That Make Me Cry

Music is a remarkable thing. If you allow it to, it has the ability to completely embody you to the point where you become so invested and filled with emotion that you will feel tears rolling down your face. It can be out of sadness, happiness or a myriad of other reasons.

Obviously there is no definitive list of ‘songs that can make you cry’ so this is obviously entirely subjective to my own personal experiences.

Sufjan Stevens – John Wayne Gacy Jr.

One of the most memorable songs to come from Sufjan Stevens’ masterpiece ‘Illinois’ is his ode to John Wayne Gacy Jr – the infamous ‘Clown Killer’. Gacy was a man who would dress up as a clown as a job and would go on to lure over 30 young men to their deaths between the years 1972 – 1978. Stevens does a fantastic job of pondering upon what sort of man he was, often showing that on the outside he was exactly the same as any other person and he highlights the depths of mental illness and how little people know about it and the people who suffer from it. The emotional impact comes from the moments of realisation throughout the song when Stevens himself realises that someone so apparently normal could do such a monstrous thing. ‘Twenty-seven people, even more, they were boys with their cars, summer jobs – Oh my God.’ Stevens sings manically over haunting piano chords and acoustic guitars. He makes the song swell in such a beautiful way that it’s too much to handle.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor – Static

Perhaps not the best song on Godspeed You! Black Emperor’s most revered album ‘Lift Your Skinny Fists Like Antennas To Heaven’ but easily one of their most emotionally potent. In the beginning half of the song a woman’s voice comes in that has been pitched down and sounds hysterical. She talks about god, death and what it would be like not to believe in a god only to find out that there was one once you pass. Can you imagine the pool of regret you’d find yourself in for everything you’d done in your life? She ponders in many different ways about death and what will be left of you when you pass. But what makes this song so emotionally potent is the space that the instrumentation allows for you to interpret what she’s saying for yourself. The way in which the weeping strings become more prominent as she continues makes the entire sermon she is giving unbelievably depressing.

Radiohead – Reckoner

The centre piece for Radiohead’s ‘In Rainbows’ is a moment that’s able to capture my heart based purely on what it does sonically. In the middle of this song it feels like the entire album falls into place – like everything has been building to this moment of pure blissfulness. Thom Yorke’s vocals are harmonising with themselves singing slower than on the rest of the track, the instrumentation itself has slowed right down so you can only hear some faint strings and guitars, and Ed O’Brien is faintly singing the album title in the background. And then all of a sudden everything slots back into place and the chorus kicks in on one of the most beautiful moments to be placed on a song. The song has some emotional potency but the real pleasure derives from the fantastic songwriting and beautiful use of effects. It’s like staring into heaven.

Neutral Milk Hotel – Two Headed Boy Part 2

In the final song of Neutral Milk Hotel’s ‘In The Aeroplane Over The Sea’ everything clicks into the place in what sounds like one of the most heartbreaking closing chapters ever. The song resolves the character arc of the Two Headed Boy. There’s much debate as to what the Two Headed Boy is or what he might metaphorically represent, but this song sounds very much like someone talking to the boy in retrospect of an event. This song is filled with beautiful imagery to do with a girl who the boy might have loved – it’s really up to interpretation. The real emotional involvement of this song comes when you listen to it after listening to the album from front to back. There are so many little references to earlier points in the album and the moment in which Jeff Mangum starts singing to melody from ‘Two Headed Boy Pt 1’ is one that feels so welcome yet heartbreaking.


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