We all go through it. There are days that feel like the never-ending Monday—even worse if it actually lands on a Monday. This is when music can come to the rescue. Music has the power to heal and bring joy. But sometimes, it’s good to just cry it out. Music can help with that too. Whether you’re looking for it or not, there are songs worth keeping in your back pocket just for those times when you feel like a cry is coming. Here are 20 awesome songs you can cry to whenever you need it.
1. Everybody Hurts – R.E.M.
This song embodies that universal hurt. R.E.M.’s Everybody Hurts has become a classic. Those who have experienced hurt somehow find a way to this song. It isn’t even overly emotional or slow or depressing, and the message of the song is actually hopeful. It’s just the fact that the singer empathizes with such feelings and recognizes the pain as if to say, “I hear you.” You’re not alone. No one is immune to sadness or hurt. Everybody hurts, so let it just play out if you think you’ve had too much.
2. A Case of You – Joni Mitchell
Joni is a true artist in every way. She’s a beautiful soul that has left her mark through her art but mostly through her songs and her voice. A Case of You is a song that will live forever. Clearly about lost love, the ballad compares love to wine—in the most tasteful way. It’s that wine you can’t refuse and keep drinking before you realize you’ve had an entire case. Maybe not. But enough to probably mess with your perception. It’s the push and pull, the undulation that eventually breaks a relationship so unstable. “You taste so bitter and so sweet/I could drink a case of you/And I’d still be on my feet.”
3. One Sweet Day –Mariah Carey & Boyz II Men
Memories of loved ones that have moved on could definitely bring tears to our eyes. They could be good memories and tears of joy. But sometimes, we may lose people before we ever get the chance to tell them everything we wanted to. That’s One Sweet Day. It’s a heartbreaking tribute to the ones we’ve lost, and a hope that we’d get the chance to see them again one day.
4. I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You – Colin Hay
Rainy days and broken hearts. People lose people every day, but we are never the same when we do. There’s always an emptiness after a loss, and Colin Hay’s I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You puts words to how that emptiness might feel. We do things we need to do everyday. We get by. But there’s always that part that will just stay empty. Sometimes it seems like there’s just not getting over it, not even after a good cry or two.
5. With or Without You – U2
Possibly one of the best songs ever written in the history of music, U2’s With or Without You is a powerful song. It can conjure up nostalgia with a snap. It can bring you to places you’ve never been. Maybe it’s the steady baseline that makes your heart physically beat in tune. Or maybe it’s Bono’s ridiculous vocals of perfection. With or Without You is about that love that just requires too much. Sometimes you’re left with absolutely nothing left.
6. Grey Room – Damien Rice
There are a lot of depressing songs on Damien Rice’s catalog, and frankly that’s his appeal. The way his voice cracks at the right places and the melodies he conjures are priceless. Grey Room is not particularly sad sounding. It isn’t slow or devastating. There’s a subtle melancholy to the song—the idea of a grey room, sickness, looming death, and possible loss. Rice doesn’t spell it out for you, yet your heart knows it. Rice and Lisa Hannigan’s build up at the breakdown is incredibly moving. They lift you up so high until you can’t go further, then bring you back to the reality that you’re still alone.
7. If I Go, I’m Goin – Gregory Alan Isakov
A simple guitar ballad, Gregory Alan Isakov’s If I Go, I’m Goin is a quiet tearjerker. The softness of Isakov’s deep voice is mesmerizing on this track; he pulls you into a trance to just stew in your emotions. This song is a promise of a good cry. It’s a reminder of a broken love and a broken home.
8. Tears in Heaven – Eric Clapton
This is one classic sad song. Eric Clapton is a masterful storyteller and guitarist. Here he’s singing about love lost to death, but it could be love for anyone—family, friends, even pets if you will. Tears in Heaven is melodically memorable. It’s a great song to vibe to, but it’s also good for when you just want to stay in and cry.
9. Holocene – Bon Iver
In the larger scheme of time and things, we literally are nothing but specks. Holocene is a realization that maybe we aren’t as grand we think we are. Is that something to cry about? That’s up to you. But it surely will put you in a mood of introspection deep enough for some heavy thinking. Bon Iver’s haunting vocals only help out in that scenario. It’s an incredible song. Take a deep breath and see what it could mean for you.
10. Hurt – Johnny Cash
Johnny Cash is a music legend. So when he released a cover of a Trent Reznor classic, it was impossible not to love. Hurt was one of Nine Inch Nails’ greatest hits, and Cash covering the song was an odd thought. But it works. Cash added so much hidden value to the meaning of the song. Hurt is another one of those songs that covers so many points of interest when it comes to emotion.
11. Doing It Wrong – Drake
There’s no surprise that Drake’s Take Care Album is on this list. That entire album is heartbreaking, basically cry-worthy. Doing It Wrong is probably the most underrated song from that LP. There’s a deep emotional draw in Drake’s delivery. It’s just sad, honestly. He sings, “So cry if you need to/But I can’t stay to watch you/That’s the wrong thing to do.” Love is hard to deal with. This song reminds us just how much.
12. Famous Blue Raincoat – Leonard Cohen
Talk about heartache. Famous Blue Raincoat opens up the way the song makes us feel. 4 in the morning in the dead of winter. That’s what infidelity feels like, and that’s what the song is about. It’s a heavy burden that causes so much pain for all parties involved. Leonard Cohen is a poet. He writes so effortlessly here, a letter to beloved. It’s a dramatic unfolding of a love triangle. This is definitely the song for you to cry to if this is the kind of hurt you’re feeling.
13. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Simon & Garfunkel
Paul Simon’s writing abilities are undeniable. The duo has had so many hits, but this one hits differently. Bridge Over Troubled Water is a good song on hope, friendship, and care. Sometimes these are the things that make us cry—the knowledge that there are people that care for us and are willing to be there for us when times are tough. Bridge Over Troubled Water is a classic that has been remade a hundred times, but the original Simon & Garfunkel version is still our favorite.
14. To Build a Home – The Cinematic Orchestra
It’s a 6-minute roller coaster ride of cinematic emotions. The Cinematic Orchestra has created a masterpiece with this song. The way To Build a Home ebbs and flows tugs at the heart ever so gently. The piano rhythm is so simple yet so powerfully emotional. It’s the relationships that we work so hard to build, the home we work so hard to create. It’s depressing to see that home no longer be a home, that relationship to fall apart. Falling, breaking, crashing, burning—these are all realities of life. We face them. We cry. We move on.
15. Nothing Compares 2 U – Sinead O’Connor
Here’s another song about lost love. When love is lost, we try to compromise. We try to say that life is better without, when deep down we know it’s better with. Nothing Compares 2 U is Sinead O’Connor’s most popular single. The video for the song has also set a standard for music video making during its time. Her voice is full of ache here, a stupendous performance of such a beautiful song.
16. Lay Me Down – Sam Smith
Lay Me Down is actually a love story. It’s a song about longing and yearning. It isn’t necessarily about total loss—just about missing someone. We’ve all felt this way for another person at some point. The music, the melody—they’re just touching and striking. The way Sam Smith delivers it is bone-chillingly good. He’s got a talent for making you feel, and this song gives us all the feels.
17. Anchor – Novo Amor
If this song sounds familiar it’s because it’s been in a couple of commercials. It’s a great melody. A sad one. Like many songs on this list, Novo Amor’s Anchor is about lost love. There could be a promise of return somewhere there, or maybe just a return to love altogether—a new one albeit. Anchor is a gentle song that brings you to a place of peace. Although there might be heartbreak there, there’s also some kind of peace. In the commercials that play the song, it’s sped up just a bit possibly to eliminate the sad vibe. The original is way more preferable, especially for a good night’s cry.
18. Laura – Bat for Lashes
Driven by a simple piano melody and strong vocals, Bat for Lashes’ Laura is a gem, a needle in a haystack. The song literally tells us to not cry, but how? The song is a dedication to growing up, to losing your young self in adulthood. It’s about keeping up pretenses when you’re just breaking inside. The song highlights our insecurities about the things we once were and the things we wish we could be. Laura could really be any of us that are just lost in a haze and unsure where or who to be.
19. Answer – Sarah McLachlan
Sarah McLachlan’s Answer is a choice song in devastating moments—sickness, death, funerals, and so forth. But in its simplicity, the song is really about telling someone just how much you love them. The song drags in sadness; it’s the perfect one to play when you’re wanting to wallow in tears. Loss is difficult. It’s also particularly difficult when you want to fight for someone who no longer wants to fight for themselves. Did we mention how difficult love is yet? Add life to that list. That’s something to cry about.
20. When the Party’s Over – Billie Eilish
What are we really doing once the party is done? The quiet simply makes the loneliness louder and emptiness bigger. Many pretend to be fine on their own (though some genuinely are). But majority of people want to belong and have someone to be home with. When the Party’s Over is an impressive work of quiet confidence. Billie Eilish and her brother know what they’re doing. They are skilled musicians capable of stirring up the things we hide deep inside. Billie is the Queen of Sad. This song is her staff.