Destigmatizing sad music: A genre of connection and healing

Monty Daniel

We don’t have to be ashamed of listening to sad music.

As a society, we tend to shy away from what makes us feel most vulnerable, but the best way to face our fears is to confront them head-on. This mood of music can bring people together to form lifelong bonds and change lives forever. Sad music has healing properties just waiting to be explored and utilized if given the chance.

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Kara Zehner and her fiancé had one of their first bonding moments over Moose Blood and The Wonder Years, who are known for their sad, emotionally-driven music. Her fiancé, Jessie Joyner, sent her songs by these artists at the beginning of their relationship, and they’re using them again as they are planning their wedding.

“We don’t even want a DJ for the wedding; we know what we want,” Zehner said.  

Music with a melancholic tone has shaped this couple’s relationship and has brought them closer together. With Joyner and Zehner living two hours apart, their shared love of sad, emotional music helped their relationship remain strong.

“Being long distance made the relationship have its hardships,” Zehner said. “But the one thing we connected on was music.”

Zehner also expressed how sad music makes her feel less alone and how it helps her process her emotions more in-depth. 

Music is a big outlet. … I think I’m just thankful for it more than anything.” -Danny Steiner, guitarist of Denver-based post-punk band. 

For Danny Steiner, guitarist of Denver-based post-punk band Lowfaith, sad music has helped him in a similar way. After graduating college, many don’t know what is going to happen or what they are going to do with their lives. Steiner was no exception to this feeling. Luckily, he had his band who was working on an album called “On Loss.”

“I created a lot of ambient guitar loops and would literally just listen to them for hours,” Steiner said.

Ambient soundscapes created by the artist Grouper, and even the ones he has made, have helped Steiner through times of depression and loneliness.

Steiner described the feeling of it as being “coated in a blanket of music” by comforting him and allowing him to feel these emotions in a safe, personal space. 

Music can change a person’s life, whether that’s altering their trajectory or bringing them closer to others.

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“It’s a big thing for me; music is a big outlet,” Steiner said. “I think I’m just thankful for it more than anything.”

Sam Bulkley also has music, especially sad music, to thank for giving him a lifelong friend. Besides the music itself as a companion, Bulkley’s life was changed when he met Jairus Crabb at a Say Anything show. While waiting in line, Bulkley was blown away by Crabb’s knowledge of Say Anything. According to Bulkley, Crabb knew the order of every Say Anything album and could name it off the top of his head.

“It was just really interesting seeing someone who was so full of light and energy and then also able to connect to all of the darker sh*t that is conveyed through most Say Anything songs,” Bulkley said.

After meeting at this show, Bulkley and Crabb became concert buddies and close friends, eventually moving in together. 

Possibly the best way to connect to artists and fans of sad music is to attend concerts. Moshing, a custom regularly participated in at punk shows, is another way for audiences to connect with one other in a cathartic way.  

“(Moshing is) sort of a release, to be able to feel those feelings and convey those feelings either for that song or with the artist,” Bulkley said. 

A lot of the time, seeing an artist who creates sad music will bring back memories and even make fans cry — such is the case when Dawood Nadurath saw Florist live. Nadurath said he didn’t cry because he was sad, but rather because of the memories and associations that came flooding back.

I think (sad music) helps you get down to your most base-level emotion. I think it helps people grapple with certain aspects of their personality.” -Dawood Nadurath, employee at Terrorbird Media. 

“I needed something to help me make sense of the sadness and desperation, and (music) was there for me,” Nadurath said. “So now that I’m doing great, in a wonderful place in my life, and I saw and heard some of those songs performed, I immediately started crying.”

Nadurath works for Terrorbird Media and promotes music that usually has a melancholy tone to it to college students. He thinks it does best among college-age students due to the warmth and familiarity that many find comfort and solace in. 

“Not to say that dance music, or any upbeat music, doesn’t make you feel,” Nadurath said. “But I think (sad music) helps you get down to your most base-level emotion. I think it helps people grapple with certain aspects of their personality.”

Nadurath makes the point that you don’t have to be sad to listen to sad music. The main point of music is to make you feel something, and oftentimes, sad music has the capability to be incredibly open, honest and vulnerable. 

Everyone experiences sad music differently, and it has positive effects on a lot of people. Oftentimes, sad music is just seen as the emo weeping in the corner, but that’s not the whole picture. Steiner points out that there are different camps of sad music, and really within every genre there is a sad camp. Sad music isn’t afraid to be real with you, and dealing with reality is healthy.

“Let people listen to what they listen to, and be conscious of why they’re listening to it,” Bulkley said.  

Monty Daniel can be reached entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @MontyDaniel_.

Editor’s Note: Kara Zehner previously worked for Rocky Mountain Student Media