Wallowing in Sad Music…is great
Moments where we feel depressed that we compound by listening to equally depressing music is often something that we teach ourselves to give up on as we get older and that supplementing despair or at least distracting ourselves from it is better. Art, media, social interaction in real life/online or working are used as band aids for those feelings and avoiding rather than confronting them are treated as the norm.
It’s perhaps immature but feeling like fucking shit and wallowing in self-pity when listening to something that feels like a cinder block on my chest feels good to me, in a way that doesn’t. I firmly believe that the best type of music is music that revels in the ecstasy of one emotion or another and this is equally as true for music that revels in sadness as music that revels in positive emotions like love.
Even though there is always something that I could do about how I’m feeling at these times that would help me get out of these shit emotions (like distracting myself), I still listen because I enjoy the feeling of despair. It’s completely useless and perhaps it is the past-time of someone with too much free time on their hands but all the same lying in existential crisis while listening to Oneohtrix Point Never feels so bitterly sweet to me.
Digibro, the Otaku Gonzo Journalist, just uploaded a video on his second channel where he expressed a slight disdain for Father John Misty’s new album, Pure Comedy. For what he describes as wallowing in the sadness that the world is fucked and everything is shit rather than grounding those emotions in way that makes everything feel worthwhile in the end.
Not that Digi is unjustified in this criticism or that I want to defend Father John Misty but I think his criticism here is mostly a matter of emotional state.
I understand where he’s coming from and to those who have serious emotional problems, being completely alone with the emotions that cause you the most distress and damage are the last things you’d want to do — distracting yourself with something else is the optimal solution. I’d be lying if I said this was unhealthy to do so as well, since avoiding such emotions is most likely what leads to a happier life, despite what the uninitiated say about how you should be forthcoming with your feelings.
I think from Digi’s perspective, since there is no conclusiveness in wallowing in misery and there is nothing that can be gained from it, it is pointless. But I can also see in someone else’s case the pretence of affirmation or happiness in music to someone who is devoid of anything that could lead to such affirmation is just as pointless.
Personally this isn’t my situation but I think his critique is one that is grounded entirely in his own emotional preferences and his state of mind at the time of listening. Not to say that criticism isn’t a matter of personal or emotional taste at the end of the day but due to the very personal nature in the way that most of us experience music I can see people having the exact opposite problem he has with music that’s revels in joyousness.
In fact I know they do, since songs like Pharrell’s ‘Happy’ are difficult to swallow and leave many with a feeling of disdain for having that shit forced upon them in their day to day lives. Music that is too joyous often gets criticised because the emotional state that music is trying to cultivate feels fake to people, like putting on a smile for job interview or a party you don’t want to be at. Which is also a critique lobbied at albums that are too depressing, since if we’re completely honest, some people have no right to complain.
However, to someone who is as happy as Pharrell is in ‘Happy’ there’s some validation in that song and despite how shit life is most of the time the emotion of happiness feels valid. In the same way someone who feels like complete shit who wallows in self-pity while listening to Deathconsciousness for a few hours would feel validated in those emotions.
There’s no satisfying positive emotional conclusion to some music and perhaps its a bit too on the nose for some people but it’s the lack of positive emotional conclusions in that music that makes it so worthwhile to those who at the time of listening don’t want to hear solutions to their problems.
Pop music has an uncanny ability to connect us on an emotional level and make us feel like we’re not alone in our emotional states more than any other art form I’d argue. Due to the personal way we experience it and the deep emotional response even a few notes will register within us.
I feel that listening to music as a form of self-pity is a form of communication, one where there is very limited response between the artist and audience but since words often fail to describe emotions and since most of us would all rather be alone than speak to a friend about them, sometimes it’s the best way we can communicate them.
Either way maybe sadness is just as self-serving as happiness sometimes and its definitely comforting to hear someone else sing about being as sad as you are.