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sometimes we're happy, sometimes we're sad

November 4, 2012 1:41 AM

Music Talk Challenge! Name two songs: the saddest song you can think of, and the happiest song you can think of. Narrow it down to two. Even though there may be others, just narrow it down to two. That's the MuTalk Challenge.
posted by flapjax at midnite (24 comments total)

My saddest: I'm So Lonesome I Could Cry
My happiest: You Make Me Feel Like a Natural Woman
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:50 AM on November 4, 2012


I may revise this off-the-cuff response (cos it's fun - thanks Flapjax), but what came immediately to mind:
sad: Ne Me Quitte Pas and this astonishing live version with subtitles
happy: Penny Lane

I'm ashamed to say that my French is very poor and so my understanding of the subtleties of Brel's lyric is weak - but the power of the emotion more than fills in the blanks. Penny Lane - it's simply the joy of being young and alive, isn't it? Hats off to Macca for his one - happy songs are far harder to write I think than sad ones: "happines writes white" is a quote I first heard from the poet Philip Larkin but I think it was original coined by the French poet Montherlant
posted by MajorDundee at 2:30 AM on November 4, 2012


I think off-the-cuff responses are bestest, so here's mine:

Sad: Steve Reich's "Different Trains" - I think the context of its' creation is important, so Wikipedia link and YouTube of the second movement.

Happy: Revolution Year Zero from the Poster Children
posted by soundguy99 at 5:54 AM on November 4, 2012


Always one to muddy the water.......I have, perhaps unhelpfully, a sub-genre: happy-sad. Can we play with this too Mr Flapjax sir?

One of the defining characteristics of music (cue trite be-cardiganed cracker-barrel philosophy) is that it expresses those subtle shades of emotion that are difficult to express in words. Good lord - that's a revelation, isn't it. Anyway - happy-sad is one of them I guess....

Tinseltown In The Rain - man, I'd almost forgotten how much I love The Blue Nile.
posted by MajorDundee at 10:10 AM on November 4, 2012 [1 favorite]


Sad -- man, I dunno, too hard. Maybe I am Trying to Break Your Heart, by Wilco, or Goodbye by Steve Earle. But I could probably list a hundred.
Happy -- I Say A Little Prayer, Aretha, or Ain't That Good News by Sam Cooke. (Disco-NNECT the telephone!)
Happy/Sad -- Johnny Cash - The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face
posted by unSane at 1:17 PM on November 4, 2012


Of course we could list a hundred, unSane! That's why the challenge was to list TWO! Haha!

Oh well, since the spell is now broken, I'll add a couple more to my 'saddest' category:

Randy Newman's Texas Girl at the Funeral of Her Father.

And, no YT clip for it, but Richard Thompson's I'll Be Taking My Business Elsewhere.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:09 PM on November 4, 2012


Impossible, but my quick response:

Sad: At the moment, Fuck and Run by Liz Phair. "I woke up alarmed, I didn't know where I was at first / just that I woke up in your arms" is maybe my favorite line ever.

Happy: Look at What the Light Did Now by Little Wings. The original is much better than any version I've been able to find on youtube, unfortunately.
posted by Corduroy at 9:49 PM on November 4, 2012


Sad: The Handsome Family, "The Giant of Illinois."

Happy: Katrina and the Waves, "Walking on Sunshine."

HappySad: Magnetic Fields, "It's Only Time."
posted by Karlos the Jackal at 12:13 AM on November 5, 2012


I just realized my absolutely saddest song of all time ever is not either of the above but

John Wayne Gacy Jr - Sufjan Stevens

Watching this, I suddenly realized how much he sounds like Chococat. Have they ever been seen in a room together?
posted by unSane at 4:44 AM on November 5, 2012 [1 favorite]


Saddest: Coffee Stain
Happiest: Tie between Beyond the Black Hole and Tomorrow Hill
posted by ignignokt at 12:10 PM on November 5, 2012


Yeah, I was going to say John Wayne Gacy Jr. for saddest song I can think of, too. Such an awful, awful song.

As for happy: It has to be. It will ALWAYS be: The Weight

(Okay that particular version is maybe a bit happysad...*sniff*)
posted by Doleful Creature at 11:26 PM on November 5, 2012


That's weird -- I've never thought of The Weight as a happy song, but I suppose it is, in the same way that Return of the Grievous Angel is... which is a song I considered for my happiest.
posted by unSane at 4:35 AM on November 6, 2012


My usual vote for saddest is Famous Blue Raincoat, though right now this sucker is giving it a run for its money.

Happiest is way harder. I mean, hard even to find candidates among the songs that speak to me. Maybe Fish and Whistle? Or the aptly named Oh How Happy?

Happysad is harder for the opposite reason: damn near everything I really like falls in that category. In My Life? Boingo's Stay? When I Paint my Masterpiece? Vapor Trail? No, can't decide.
posted by nebulawindphone at 1:57 PM on November 6, 2012


Sad: Nick Drake’s From the Morning. Arguably happy-sad I guess, but it has the unique ability to make me tear up almost every time I hear it, even at the most awkward moments.

Happy: I’ll say Parliament’s Deep. Fuck yeah, we’re going to raise Atlantis to the top!
posted by mubba at 6:15 PM on November 6, 2012


I have another saddest song, which was written by a friend of mine. I think I'll have to record a cover version and post it. His version is online in lots of places ("I Don't Know Enough" by Pat Rowles on his album GAUCHE) but I'm not sure it quite captures the sadness I always felt when I heard it. It's also a beautifully written and constructed song, almost a model in some ways.
posted by unSane at 8:07 PM on November 6, 2012


he sounds like Chococat. Have they ever been seen in a room together?

I look exactly like that, too. EXACTLY.
posted by chococat at 4:43 PM on November 7, 2012


My first thought for sad was actually 'Casimir Pulaski Day' also by the venerable Mr. Stevens. Mr. Blue Sky is the song I think of when I think happy songs.
posted by TwoWordReview at 5:51 PM on November 7, 2012 [1 favorite]


I look exactly like that, too. EXACTLY.

I have this thing where I form a very precise mental image of the appearance people I've never met, based on their voice or online presence, or just what I've heard about them, sometimes just their name. It's so strong that often when I do meet them I want to yell NO YOU DON'T LOOK LIKE THAT YOU MUST BE AN IMPOSTER.

So the really odd part is that the mental image I had of Choc was actually like a shorter Sufjan Stevens (sorry about the short part - not responsible for my subconscious).
posted by unSane at 6:21 PM on November 7, 2012


The words of Casimir Pulaski Day are terribly sad (I mean, cancer of the bone in the first stanza) and yet the music has this strangely light feel to it and a lot of the images are joyful, aren't they? All that running with shoes untied and kissing and almost touching blouses and so on.

I think this whole happy/sad thing would make a great challenge in some way. January maybe, after the obligatory holiday stuff.
posted by unSane at 7:06 PM on November 7, 2012


Keeping that ol' plate spinning, let's have us another category. How about haunted 'n' shivering...

David Sylvian Orpheus - from about 1.30 it goes from brilliant to sublime....I understand...these fires never stop

Cocteau Twins Fifty-Fifty Clown - about the first minute or so. This is the "Heaven" bit of Heaven Or Las Vegas?

The Sundays Blood On My Hands - a rather shitty version of this but Harriet Wheeler's gorgeous and unashamedly English-accented voice still sends the shivers running

Gustavo Santaolalla De Usuahia a la Quiaca
posted by MajorDundee at 12:29 PM on November 8, 2012


Saddest: tie between Blood Embrace' by Matt Sweeney & Bonnie Prince Billy and Pete Seeger's version of Barbara Allen

Happiest: it's gotta be Automail.
posted by tmcw at 6:13 AM on November 13, 2012


Elvis Costello's Shipbuilding is the saddest song that occurs to me at the moment, with Liz Phair's Go West and Johnny Sunshine as personal runners-up. For the happiest, Fantastic Plastic Machine's MPF (Mezzo Pianoforte), although that's more the happiest song that I've never grown sick of, with runners-up of Mel Tormé (Swingin' on the Moon), Mike Phirman's Chicken Monkey Duck, Mint Royale's Don't Falter and Captain Vegetable from Sesame Street. Oh, and Röyksopps' Happy Up Here and, argh, there's one on the tip of my brain, but I can't spit it out. It'll come to me in 2013, i'm sure.

For happy-sad, I have to go to Tom Waits, Ol'55 and Picture in a Frame.

I don't know what this says about me
posted by davejay at 8:04 PM on November 19, 2012 [1 favorite]


Pizzicato Five's Twiggy Twiggy! Gah, that was going to bug me all night.
posted by davejay at 8:13 PM on November 19, 2012


Wow, looooooong-time listener, first-time caller, and I get to post on the legendary flapjax' post! How humbling and great is this!

Sad: "W*O*L*D" by Harry Chapin. There was just a deeper sense of rainy-day weight to sadness in the '70's, it seemed to me as a small boy in the '70's, and hearing this song--the famous live version in particular--will always encapsulate sadness in intself for me.

Happy: "I Can See Clearly Now" by Jimmy Cliff. Tied, of course, with the first Dm7 of any James Brown song.
posted by riverlife at 2:53 AM on November 22, 2012


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