Sad music: why do we like to listen to it?

Why do we like sad music? There is something magnetic and attractive in songs like Eric Clapton's Tears in Heaven or Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah. But what?

Sad music: why do we like to listen to it?

Why do we like to listen to sad music? There is something magnetic and attractive in songs like Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton or in Hallelujah by Leonard Cohen. It is a musical emotion that, far from overwhelming us or causing us discomfort, awakens our innermost feelings, stopping the world, letting us navigate the introspection of our ego ...

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We are not wrong by saying that in the list of the most successful songs there is always some with melancholy shades. An example as unique as it is interesting is that of the English singer Adele . His musical career is based on that quintessence, on that sadness, on that permanent perfume in which disappointment, rupture, anguish and loneliness pervade the words, like those of the more than famous Hello .

Are we masochists? Because we love to listen Everybody Hurts by REM and all those titles we hear in loop even when we're having a bad time? Aristotle himself already stated in his time that music has the gift of liberating. In this primordial idea he was already anticipating what we now know as 'emotional catharsis', that mechanism by which we allow ourselves to externalize complex feelings, sensations and emotions.

Nobody is immune to the effects of music. The brain is fascinated by it. Moreover, studies such as the one conducted by McGill University , in Quebec, led by neuropsychologist Valorie Sampoor, explain that neuronal activity in areas such as the nucleus accumbens (associated with rewards) would be evidence that music is as important for the human being as food is or as much as social relationships are.

Because nothing is comparable,

nothing compares to you.

I've been so alone without you

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like a sparrow that does not sing.

Nothing can stop these lonely tears running down,

Tell me, honey, where did I go wrong? (...) -

-Sinead O'Connor. Nothing compares 2 U -

Sinead O Connor

We like to listen to sad music because our brains need it

Sad music connoisseurs claim that one of the most touching songs in history is Nothing compares 2 U , interpreted by Sinead O’Connor and written by Prince, in 1985. The music, the text and a female face crying in the foreground almost immediately enter the depths of the our emotional brain . It is almost impossible not to be struck by an infinite number of sensations, from feelings that carry with them our memories of the past, images with which we identify.

The fact of 'taking pleasure' precisely from sad emotions seems almost a contradiction. Precisely this premise (or this dilemma) was the starting point for a staff of psychologists, musicians, philosophers and neurologists from the University of Tokyo, who decided to conduct a series of research studies in this regard. The data was published in the journal Frontiers in Psychology , and they couldn't have been more interesting. Let's see them in detail.

Sad songs produce positive emotions in us

Most of us like sad music, we know that. However, there is something we have all been able to verify: after listening to a melancholy playlist, we are not sick. That is to say, we don't feel overwhelmed by that malaise, those defeats, from that pain caused by a breakup, by a betrayal. What we feel after listening - curious fact - are well-being, relief, tranquility.

Young man listens to sad music

One of the researchers involved in this study, Dr. Ai Kawakami, an expert in music and emotions, emphasizes the need to distinguish the emotion experienced from the perceived or indirect emotion. Music has the ability to make us perceive emotions of this last type: we come into contact with them, but “we don't suffer from them”. That is to say, we don't experience them with the same intensity as when life itself hits us with a right, with an unexpected and distressing event.

Sad songs have the curious quality of connecting with the deepest emotions and then leaving them unscathed. And not only this: one emerges in us feeling of well-being .

I only need a light caress

Sad songs vaccinate us for life

Leonard Cohen used to say that every time he played the song Hallelujah by Jeff Buckley felt a special emotion. It was like finding balance in a chaotic world, like seeking reconciliation in conflict. So, one of the reasons we like sad music is because it injects us with a little peace, drops of introspection and brushstrokes of emotional catharsis.

Leonard Cohen

This type of music is a vaccine that defends us from the difficulties of life. In fact, we resort to it as we do with books that tell us dramatic stories, like when we choose to see a film with a sad plot, but which always leaves us a lesson. The magic of indirect emotions generated by these dimensions is genuine and incredibly useful.

These artistic experiences free us from real emotions, the most bloody and painful ones, which so often paralyze us in very pleasant conditions. We like sad music because it allows us to connect with our emotional self , in a safer and, of course, more beautiful way. Through the lyrics, we can go back to moments from our past, crying for them, free ourselves from their weight and return to the present scratch-free.

We can even get carried away by the beauty of the music and lyrics for empathize with the artist , enjoying a moment of intimacy in which to walk through this alien universe, full of deep sadness. Regardless of everything, we always come out comforted, ready to face our day with a stronger temperament.

Music and Alzheimer's: awakening emotions

Music and Alzheimer's: awakening emotions

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