Rubber Ring: Why do we listen to sad songs?

In John Gibson & Noel Carroll (eds.), Narrative, Emotion, and Insight. Penn State UP. 131 (2011)
Abstract
In this essay, I discuss a few ways in which songs are used, ways in which listeners engage with and find meaning in music. I am most interested in sad songs—those that typically feature narratives about lost love, separation, missed opportunity, regret, hardship, and all manner of heartache. Many of us are drawn to sad songs in moments of emotional distress. The problem is that sad songs do not always make us feel better; to the contrary, they often make us feel worse. So, why do we listen to sad songs? I argue that we seek out sad songs, partly, to intensify distress, which helps us reflect on situations of profound personal significance.
Keywords paradox of painful art  art and emotion  music  song  paradox of tragedy  Famous Blue Raincoat  The Smiths
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