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"sulks" make the best singers

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I was watching a semi-comedic tv show about this last night, where they proclaimed that sulks, i.e. depressed moody singers, are the best. they suggested that reasons for this are that the emotions conveyed are universal, deep and multilayered, so they are more likely to affect people. Examples given were "drugs don't work" by richard ashcroft, "street spirit" by radiohead and "time of my life" by greenday.

So, what do you think? Personally, I think that being sad/depressed does usually result in ones best writing and definitely in ones most emotional writing. as for the number of people who enjoy depressed songs, just think of the number of threads we've had here!

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So they write a few good songs. But a constant stream of negative depressing songs is just sad. No originality and an apparently one dimensional view of the world and the people in it.

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It has to be more than that. Nirvana is one of the best bands ever and The Smiths have this really happy sound sometimes, until you actually listen to the lyrics. But just like the people you hang out with, someone who is sad and depressed all the time, or angry or happy, a one-trick-pony type personality gets boring after awhile. I also don't want to hear They Might Be Giants extensively: silly is good but not all the time.

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It has to be more than that. Nirvana is one of the best bands ever and The Smiths have this really happy sound sometimes, until you actually listen to the lyrics. .

I agree with pretty much everything you said Dr Cowbell, but just wanted to suggest that as well as sometimes having a "happy sound", The Smiths lyrics are not universally depressing. Sure , some are, but equally there are plenty of others which are highly entertaining and amusing. Some can even make me chortle out loud (and that's saying something....)

I may be back later with examples, if necessary. ;)

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Well OK, I have to concede that I immediately thought of "Ask" as being the exact opposite of what I said regarding The Smiths, but I'd really like to know of other songs by The Smiths that aren;t so depressing and down, for my own musical education's benefit of course! :)

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Well OK, I have to concede that I immediately thought of "Ask" as being the exact opposite of what I said regarding The Smiths, but I'd really like to know of other songs by The Smiths that aren;t so depressing and down, for my own musical education's benefit of course! :)

I may be alone in finding Morrissey's lyrics amusing and not particularly depressing. He's a very witty writer, and his sense of humour is very "tongue-in-cheek": not always immediately obvious. So there are some very funny lines scattered throughout his oeuvre, even in the apparently "depressing" songs...

"Hang The blessed DJ, for the music that he constantly plays says nothing to me about my life" (from 'Panic') followed by the kiddy-mob chorus "Hang The DJ, Hang the DJ, Hang the DJ" may not be "laugh-out-loud" funny, but is quite boisterous and (I find) uplifting.

From "The Queen Is Dead" album, "Big-Mouth Strikes Again" is pretty funny (depending very much on your SoH), as is "Frankly Mr Shankly". Come to think of it, the title track itself...

Granted , Morrissey's words don't always look particularly mirthful on the page...I'm sure it helps to have some insight into his cultural influences: strands of "traditional" British humour and "kitchen-sink drama".

I hardly ever listen to The Smiths, to be honest, but I know that I could for hours on end without finding it "depressing".

We already had a thread about "depressing" where I rambled on in similar vein, defending Morrissey against unwarranted allegations, so...enough.

For now.

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So they write a few good songs. But a constant stream of negative depressing songs is just sad. No originality and an apparently one dimensional view of the world and the people in it.

There's nothing more depressing than relentless forced jollity.

Give me honest misery, despair and cynicism any day of the week.

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There's nothing more depressing than relentless forced jollity.

Give me honest misery, despair and cynicism any day of the week.

I don't want them to force it out. I would just prefer a band that went beyond depression and a life-sucks attitude. Sure it sounds good a lot of the time... matter-of-fact, most of my favourite bands are constantly whining. But I won't hold a very high impression of them as people if they go on and on and on about how miserable their life is.

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I'm going to give the benefit of the doubt to these people and assume that they're merely expressing themselves. Most likely the majority of them are happy, well-adjusted people. Every song I write comes out sad, but I'm a pretty happy and normal person. Some people take their emotions out on walls, machinery and people. Other people choose to do it aurally (no comments necessary).

The ideal goal of writing a song is to find something people can connect with. Not everyone's found true love, but we've all been sad at one point. Certain music appeals to that side of me, and the connection I find helps me deal with things.

I don't have a problem with "happy" music; on the contrary I quite like some of it. But some of it occasionally seems frivolous to me, so I'd prefer to listen to something I consider a little more realistic. There is nothing more powerful to me than someone releasing an honest emotion.

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I don't want them to force it out. I would just prefer a band that went beyond depression and a life-sucks attitude. Sure it sounds good a lot of the time... matter-of-fact, most of my favourite bands are constantly whining. But I won't hold a very high impression of them as people if they go on and on and on about how miserable their life is.

Well "whining" is a bit different isn't it? Relentlessly "whining" is irritating whichever side of the "depressed"/"happy" fence you sit.

"Whining", to me, suggests "mediocrity", which is the real enemy.

If a good songwriter can come up with a really uplifting positive song that touches your soul, fills your heart with joy, "takes you higher", etc., then that's great. But there aren't that many able to do this (in my experience). And there have been too many bad song-writers writing too many ham-fisted, cliched attempts at addressing the subject of "love" over the years, that the whole genre of songs about the transcendental power of love, joy and positivity has been seriously devalued...

Meanwhile writers who care to look at "the other side", to tap into the mundane, the negative, the destructive, exploring vulnerability, insecurity, ennui,anxiety, grief and pain, etc., may not do so because they themselves are depressed or depressing, but rather because they have an astute eye for observing these aspects of the human condition. If they can do this in away that avoids the pitfalls of cliche, they are almost bound to come up with something more interesting than another variation on the "love song" theme...

...as long as they can do it without whining.

Whatever mood I was in, (or wanted to be in), I'd sooner spend an hour listening to Joy Division or Nick Cave, (famed miserablists, but gifted and potentially inspiring), than "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina and The Waves...

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Whatever mood I was in, (or wanted to be in), I'd sooner spend an hour listening to Joy Division or Nick Cave, (famed miserablists, but gifted and potentially inspiring), than, "Walking On Sunshine" by Katrina and The Waves...

I´d rather listen to a Phil Collins album rather than "Walking on Sunshine"... :stars:

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This is a interesting topic...not that I think all great singers are depressed or moody, but I think there are singers who have lived with depression and it comes through in their singing. Look at Janis, Billie Holiday...two awesome singers who lived with drugs and depression. Maybe it was easier for them to reach into their souls and make those blues songs so real as they sang them. Judy Garland was another, she had a wonderful voice, but her life was filled with heartache and drugs, but her songs were sung with the pain she was going through. I feel it is the same with some writers. I write all the time, but my best writings are when I am feeling some kind of hurt in my life. It just seems singers who have struggled with something like drugs, depression, booze, or just plain heartache find solice in their singing. Just my thoughts.

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Points taken and duly whirred in brain.

I was thinking about this last night and I have come up with a theory.

Perhaps sad/depressing songs are what 'sell'... not (only) commercially, but what we want to listen to. Because we turn to music when we are depressed or angry or some other negative emotions and it's comforting to know that there is someone who 'understands'. The lyrics are usually such that you can twist them around to suit your situation.

I'm not perfectly clear about the 'happy' part. I think it has something to do with the fact that being sad is a solitary activity needing comfort and refuge, while happiness involves more social contact and perhaps less focus on the music.

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commercial hits are not usually sad or depressing, just have a look at what's usually in the charts. However, there are the occasional angry and frustrated songs i guess.

" I'm not perfectly clear about the 'happy' part. I think it has something to do with the fact that being sad is a solitary activity needing comfort and refuge, while happiness involves more social contact and perhaps less focus on the music"

you might be right on this though

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I agree with Levis totally.

And there are many big hits which have depressive lyrics... "Alone again naturally" (Gilbert O´Sullivan) "Without you"(harry Nilsson) "Everything I own" (Bread) "It´s a heartache" (Bonnie Tyler)... well, must be plenty...

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OK, what do these songs have in common?

"Top of the World"

"Rainy Days and Mondays"

"California Dreaming"

"The Rainbow Connection"

It's those two "down and depressed" folks, Karen and Richard Carpenter, who certainly had their share of failed love and "life sucks" experiences. Life got to them, but they knew that "silly love songs" are necessary to make it through the day. :happybanana:

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