Humans are weird. When we're sad, we want to amplify the sadness instead of trying to get better. And the best way to do that is through music. If you're going through a breakup, you're most likely going to reach for Adele's 25
or Bjork's Vulnicura
. You want whatever's going to do the best job at keeping that black cloud over your head -- an album with hopeless lyrics and gut-churning builds. Yeah, you may realize you're being melodramatic, but push that thought aside and let the singer validate your feelings. Let them reassure you that you're not alone.
English singer-songwriter James Blake
released his third album, The Colour In Anything
, last week. If you're unfamiliar with Blake, just imagine Sam Smith, but if Smith didn't completely lack authenticity and had a more organic, gritty voice. The latest album is exactly what you should listen to if you're feeling down. It's hopelessness, heartbreak, and fear all wrapped up together. The first song, "Radio Silence", is a strong start, with Blake belting out, "I cant believe that you don't want to see me / I don't know how you feel." He's talking about going from seeing someone every day to completely being ripped from them. He's not on the same wave-length as this person and the frustration from this is conveyed by the lyrical repetition and slow build throughout the course of the song.
On the third track, "Love Me In Whatever Way", Blake presents himself at his most hopeless point. He's telling his lover that he's like clay -- willing to break his back and mold into whatever shape for them, if that means that they'll stay. Tell me where I have to go, and then love me there, he sings. This person is ready to leave him, but he's on his knees, begging, refusing to give up, offering to change into an entirely different person. It's desperate, but without coming off as too whiny, and so we start to ask, "Is it okay to feel this way?"
We listen to sad music when we're sad because we can relate to it more than ever. It's okay to submit to these emotions. These songs don't necessarily weigh you down, but instead they help you get through it. That's why Adele is one of the most famous singers in the world, The Notebook
is one of the most popular movies, and Shakespeare's devastatingly tragic stories will live on forever.
On this new album, you'll also hear "My Willing Heart", which was co-written by Frank Ocean (and you can tell, because its very Ocean-esque). Every time the kick drum hits, it feels like someone is punching you in the stomach. Blake can easily rip you apart on your own, but another favorite is, "I Need A Forest Fire" which features Bon Iver's Justin Vernon. Together, they completely open up the sonic space. With glitchy whispering panned to one side and desperate screaming/pleading on the other side, dynamic doesn't begin to describe both Blake's sonic and emotional awareness.
To be fair, if you listened to nothing but feel-good music when you weren't really happy, you'd start to lose perception of reality. As humans, we need that validation and reassurance that what we're feeling is real, and more importantly, that it's okay. If it's a truly beautiful, tragic song (hey, James Blake has 17 new beautiful, tragic songs to offer) then you can almost start to feel a tinge of relief after listening to it.