Sunday, November 16, 2008

The Sad-Happy Happy-Sad

Home - David Byrne and Brian Eno

I had a conversation with friends this weekend about the phenomenon of happiest sad songs and saddest happy songs. The song above "Home" by Brian Eno and David Byrne is an excellent example, but I'm not sure whether it falls into the former or latter categories, not that it really matters.

What's the deal with the happy-sad? After a reading in Olympia when I was still in school, I remember talking with my friend Amy Hitchcock and sort of complaining that people always seemed to find even my happy poems sad. Alternatively, they always managed to laugh at the bits I found the most sad. Amy quickly corrected me in her usual way saying, "Well, Lindsey you're the happy-sad. That's how you've always been." Amy always had a knack for nipping my existential deliberations in the bud--thank goodness. Most art, if it's any good (I'm not saying my college poems were any of that) spans an emotional range. Still, there's something very unique about the happy-sad or sad-happy song. Sometimes it's an upbeat tempo and major chord structure with the most God awful depressing lyrics (Belle and Sebastian) or it's a song about Summer and love but all slow and lethargic and tortured with diminished chords and minor 7ths (I'm making this up). Sometimes maybe there is no need to reason why, just classify. At least it helps a little. So we have the chimerical happy-sad and sad-happy--two very important double-headed beasts.

Here are a two other happy-sad or sad-happy songs that top my list:

"Sunday Morning Coming Down" --Johnny Cash version
"My Dear Someone"--Gillian Conoley

Friends, remind me of yours?


fish fishtofferson said...

one i consider in the happy/sad category is "i see a darkness" by b.p.billy.

Ridiculous Human Things said...

whoa totally.

fran├žois said...

As an undergrad, my friend Vanessa would tell me I wrote "funny poems that make people cry." Now I just make people cry.

fran├žois said...

Oh, and as for sad songs that are actually funny, anything by Soundgarden or Alice In Chains.

1 said...

Perfect Day, Lou Reed.

1 said...

Independence Day- Elliott Smith
Ew, I'm so 90's.

Speaking of 90's: Lithium- Nirvana. Hello?! That song is probably about heroin.

Soundgarden! Yeah!

Black Hole Sun?

"No one seems to get this, but 'Black Hole Sun' is sad. But because the melody is really pretty, everyone thinks it's almost chipper, which is ridiculous."- Chris Cornell.

Don't get me started on Pearl Jam, their whole discography is loaded with sad songs just masquerading around in all that grunge-happy goodness.

Mother Love Bone has a few too, but I won't get into it, I don't think you were even born when they were kicking ass.

You're welcome.

1 said...

I hope all of your friends think I'm serious, because I am goddammit!

Ridiculous Human Things said...

It just got real 90's in this box.

Ridiculous Human Things said...

"You and Me" by Randy Newman or maybe by Harry Nilsson.

1 said...

"It just got real 90's in this box."
Is almost as good as "Welcome to the Dojo."
As far as veiled cooter references go. In my book anway.

Oh God.
That's good Linds.
Think about it.

Ridiculous Human Things said...

"God Only Knows" by The Beach Boys

Ridiculous Human Things said...

The entire Pet Sounds album by the Beach Boys.

Maxwell said...


"Sad Song" by PSAPP