Sadness makes us seem nobler, more elegant, and more adult. Which is pretty weird, when you think about it. We want the sadness because it seems so grown-up, classy and polished. I remember listening to Linkin Park’s Numb in 2003 and feeling so traumatized and alone-mind you I was 7 and having the time of my life but the song did something to me. As the joke goes, I wanted to skip the marriage and go straight to the divorce having not lived through anything yet that would warrant those kinds of emotions. I have learnt there is a complex sort of joy in sadness. In the essay “Atrabilious Reflections Upon Melancholy (1823)” Hartley Coleridge spoke for melancholy as an evolved state of mind and soul than happiness or joy, he asserted that sadness can rarely exist in undeveloped entity. Anything can be happy, it takes much greater strength to live and be sad.
Sad music has always been a niche of rock and alternative music with not many of the genres artists achieving commercial success and breaking into the Millennials of the current generation despite the fact that they where the reigning music champions circa 2000. Currently there are two mega artists who have found a way to create beautiful commercial music that are by-product of solid talent and pure elements of sadness Abel Tesfaye and Elizabeth Grant both of them widely known as The Weeknd and Lana Del Rey respectively.
In March of 2011 the weeknd released one of music’s best debuts titled House of balloons not much was known about him, was he a group, a newcomer or an already established artist. Five years later with Beauty Behind the Madness we have found an RnB artist who has revolutionized the whole genre infusing it with disco and neo-soul. This was music I’d been looking for: an explicit, unwavering look at the loneliness of partying, late night hook ups with strangers and trust issues with ones self.
Like the rock stars before him the weeknd is really good at making sadness a product. His music highlights the way of life that are drugs, sex, alcohol, bravado and loneliness in one gulp with every lyric. “I’m better off when I’m alone,” he sings in assurance on the song “Real Life” where he channels one of his inspirations Michael Jackson, “Only my mother could love me for me,” on “Dark Times” where he sympathizes with his inability to be loved, “We drink till we numb the pain” on the very drum heavy song “Girls in the 90’s” where he sings about finessing girls who hopelessly fall in love with him. And his iconic line on “The Birds part 1” where he sings the warning that all men have tried to say at least once in their lives “Don’t make me make you fall in live with a nigga like me”. He has been known to talk about dreading the feeling of happiness in interviews, why? In his world Abel’s mornings are his enemies because they bring the realizations of midnight mistakes, loveless sex and the taste of bitter alcohol in his mouth. Most of us will never party as hard as the stars but we do get more fucked up than them so we feel the same things, the need to make the pain simpler by glamorizing it, to make a fashionable style of sadness. The Weeknd has blended disco, soul, hip-hop and solitude into musical art and gaining two Grammy’s, two number 1-Billboard songs and an Oscar nomination on one calendar year.
LANA DEL REY
Elizabeth Grant started doing shows in 2006, while studying metaphysics at Fordham University in Brooklyn, the singer who is benefitting off a tightly structured appearance of mystique and an unending free-fall in lust has always been this way from the beginning of her career which began with self made music videos. First came the spooky song “Video Games” made up of different montages of the life of a heart broken socialite then with the help of bigger budgets arrived “Born to die” where she sat on a throne backed by two tigers, then came “National Anthem” featuring Asap Rocky as they reimagined the most glamorous American President Kennedy and his wife Jackie following “Tropico” in which she resurrected the personas of Elvis, Marilyn Monroe and many more as they partied in a CGI heaven. Lana Del Rey’s filmography is a master class on how to understand the lives of icons, how the died and how to repeat their glamorous mistakes.
Presently Born to Die has sold over 7 million copies worldwide, more than Rihanna’s last two albums combined which is no small feat. Her contribution to the The Great Gatsby soundtrack “Young and Beautiful” solidified her talents to capture and glamorize the saddest parts of our fears. A haunting orchestral number where she directly addresses her own standing and the position of many women, artist or not: “Will you still love me when I’m no longer young and beautiful?”. Sometimes her songs drag along but in beautiful moments such as that Lana Del Rey’s confidence about her own vulnerability exceeds tragedy into the territories of great art.
Seven themes have come to define this songstress: death, wealth, nostalgia, submissiveness, respect for American cultural icons, self- destruction and the need to idolize falling in love with poisonous people. There is a lot of “He Hit Me (And It Felt Like A Kiss),” which she quotes in at least three of her songs. In “Old Money” she sings `”If you send for me you know I will come…. I will run, run, run” to Lana there is a bittersweet feeling of unreciprocated love, “red, white blues in the skies…. heaven’s in your eyes… money is the reason we exist” one my favorites “National Anthem” as she preaches that sometimes all you need in this life is Vanity, in “Fucked My Way Up” to the top a self explanatory song she sings about owning the worst things about you, the untrue rumors and the true ones because self-awareness is the best revenge, she uses herself as an armor that you cannot penetrate.
“I was always an unusual girl. My mother told me I had a chameleon soul. No moral compass pointing due north, no fixed personality. Just an inner indecisiveness that was as wide and as wavering as the ocean” a monologue in the video “Ride” she talks on the beginning of her obsessions with playing characters and existing in anything and what’s more daringly sad than loving to portray the most provocative types, in the video “Ride” she has sex with a 50 year old bikers in a club. In “National Anthem,” she’s married to A$AP Rocky, who portrays a black president who likes to party in the oval office. In “Tropico,” she plays a reincarnation of eve in a heaven present with Jesus and Elvis. The men change but sex is continual theme just like the rest of us. Lana Del Rey embodies searching for yourself in someone else. She really has no one fixed way of living her life, the making of an unhappy soul. We just try whatever feels right hoping it’s going to be right and if it isn’t, drown in regret but if it is then we Basque in victory for how long it lasts.
Occasionally we are sad because we have a reason to be, but sometimes – knowingly or unknowingly – we want to be. Possibly there is logic to thinking emotional variety is healthier than monotony even if it is happiness. We value sadness maybe because it inspires things joy cant, it brings complexity into our lives because no one wants to be simple, no one wants to be ordinary.
Happiness is just a balloon waiting to be popped
“The more beautiful the music the more distracting it is and what is more beautiful than sadness”