Some songs are so gutting that they bring you to your knees and tears the first time you hear them. Singers like Adele are known for their ability to provoke these emotions from listeners.
If you’re in the mood for soul-crushing music, start with these 20 phenomenal ones chosen by music lovers.
1. How To Disappear Completely, Radiohead
If it’s a Radiohead song, best believe it will bring you to tears. From the low strumming of the guitar to the soulful melody, How To Disappear Completely is a piece about disappearing and the underlying anguish behind the decision of disassociation.
2. Something I Can Never Have, Nine Inch Nails
“I still recall the taste of your taste,” the song begins and crescendoes into the fear, anger, desperation, and depression the singer faces now without the “something they can never have.”
3. Black, Pearl Jam
What’s not to love? The passion and intensity of the vocals and the lyrics would turn any rock-hard heart into a marshmallow. The singer uses poetic expressions to pine after their ex-lover and describes the agony their absence has caused.
Also, how can we forget the closing lines and the tears in his voice?
4. Purple Rain, Prince
Prince explained the meaning of the song (title):
“When there’s blood in the sky — red and blue = purple… purple rain pertains to the end of the world and being with the one you love and letting your faith/god guide you through the purple rain.”
By the end of the song, all you’d want to do is listen to this song with a loved one and cry as loudly as the guitar did in that evocative ending solo.
5. I Can’t Make You Love Me, Bonnie Raitt
“She could only do one take she was so emotional,” someone writes.
Don’t we all wish we could make someone love us? But all is fair in neither love nor war. In this song, Bonnie Raitt accepts the sad fate that the heart wants what it wants, and no one can make it want something it doesn’t.
6. Adam’s Song, Blink 182
Time is fleeting and passes by in the blink of an eye. Sometimes, we never realize how much of our lives pass by until all we have are memories of happiness and friends that are no longer there because we’ve spent most of our years surviving, not living.
7. Pearl Jam, Release
This 9-minute song is another song that features the singer surviving but not living. There are many ways to deal with grief, and this singer chooses to ride the wave where it leads him.
8. Lover, You Should’ve Come Over, Jeff Buckley
“Maybe I’m too young / To keep good love from going wrong.”
Buckley spends the song in burning despair, yearning for the things he can’t have and a lover he wishes would come over. Absolutely gut-wrenching.
9. The Last Goodbye, Jeff Buckley
Goodbyes are the worst. In most cases, all one is left with is heartbreak and memories that haunt them for months — why can’t we overcome this wall?
10. Time, Pink Floyd
This song is for those who spent most of their lives with the delusion that there was time to waste, only to wake one day and find how much time had gone by.
11. While My Guitar Gently Weeps, Beatles
“While My Guitar Gently Weeps was just a simple study based on the theory that everything has some purpose for being there at that given moment,” band member George explained.
12. Nutshell, Alice in Chains
This song describes, in a nutshell, the feeling of being paralyzed, like your life is out of control, and when one would give up rather than continue the struggle.
13. My Immortal, Evanescence
Losing someone inflicts a wound on a person that most people never heal from. Evanescence explores loss, pain, and profound sadness.
14. Stop This Train, John Mayer
“So scared of getting older / I’m only good at being young,” Mayer sings, wishing someone would stop the train of life. On days when you feel you’re growing up too quickly, this turns the nostalgia up.
15. Fast Car, Tracy Chapman
Sometimes, it feels like until we escape our current lives, we never truly know what living is. Here, Chapman details a life dealing with an alcoholic father and a runaway mom and the toll it has taken on her.
Despite wanting to stay and care for him, she fantasizes about running away and being someone else.
16. Funeral, Phoebe Bridgers
Funerals are tragic and even more devastating when we know the victims. Funeral is a song about everything and nothing, about existential musings and the vanity of life.
17. When You Cross Over, Ryan Adams
Here, the singer wishes a friend the kind of peace that a person experiences when they cross over — a life void of pain and suffering.
It hits harder when someone you care about is at the end of the road, battling illness, and you must let them go.
18. It Must Have Been Love, Roxette
What do you do when love becomes a whisper and memories turn grey?
The first time I heard this song was in Pretty Woman, and because I was only recovering from a breakup, it brought me to tears.
19. Strange Fruit, Billie Holiday
“It’s about lynching Black people in the South, comparing the victims to fruit hanging from trees,” a contributor writes. “If you hear that one, you won’t soon forget it.”
20. You Still Move Me, Dan Seals
This country ballad is a song about a conflicted lover. Broken and abandoned by a lover, he still craves her and cannot devote himself to a new lover who picked up his broken pieces.
It is one of the most moving musical pieces ever!
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