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Why Do We Like Sad Music So Much?

By Kian Etemadi

Image via This is 50.

The majority of my playlists on my Spotify account are called ‘sad rap’ or ‘emo rap’, and the majority of my friends have playlists with similar names and songs of that genre. If I’m feeling bored I might listen to some Juice WRLD or Iann Dior, or even have a private concert for myself with my LED lights and Bluetooth speaker. Yet, all these songs are really depressing and somewhat tragic. I never really thought about the lyrics as much when I was younger, but recently I've started writing my own Juice WRLD-esque songs, and it made me wonder: why does our generation like sad music so much?

As it turns out, listening to sad music has been proven to make us feel better, according to a few studies mentioned below. Music has been proven to make us want to dance, make connections, and more. A lot of the reasons why we like sad music revolve around a paradox called the Sadness Paradox. The Sadness Paradox asks why we enjoy music that makes us sad. Sadness is not a desired emotion to most people, so this paradox asks the question of why we seek out sad music anyways. According to studies that conducted numerous interviews with people from all over the country, sad music may actually have ‘beneficial emotional effects’. Sad music can help regulate negative moods and provide consolation for the listener. For example, by listening to sad music after the loss of a loved one or a breakup, it will provide a relatable sort of comfort. Or, if the song is about how the artist feels down lately, the listener will hear that they aren’t alone. This is good insight into why we like sad music, and it shows that people will go looking for it in order to feel better.

Though there are benefits, at the same time sad music can also help reveal underlying mental health illnesses or even worsen them. According to Science Daily, a study found that, “Anxiety and neuroticism were higher in participants who tended to listen to sad or aggressive music to express negative feelings.” Why are we actively seeking out music that negatively impacts our mental health? This is how the Sadness Paradox came about. Music may make us feel better, but also worsen our mental health. According to one study done by Garrido and Schubert, “Participants with high levels of rumination reported having benefited from listening to sad music while at the same time reporting an increase in depressive symptoms.”

Sad music draws in listeners from all walks of life. Whether you are sad and just want to cry or you need to feel happy, music is there for you. It can help you make connections with your life and relate to other people. However, it is important to remember the side effects. You may feel better after one song, but what about in the long run? I used to listen to Juice WRLD constantly, but now I listen to bands such as Ludic or classic 80’s songs. Music can be a tricky thing, but thankfully, there is a wide range of genres fit for everybody and there always will be.

Written by Kian Etemadi.

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