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16 Sad Songs for When You Need an Ugly Cry

Sara Dobie Bauer is a writer, model and mental health advocate with a creative writing degree from Ohio University. Her short story "Don't Ball the Boss" (inspired by her shameless crush on Benedict Cumberbatch) was nominated for the Pus...

Lower the curtains, turn up the volume and cry your eyes out to this super-sad playlist

Come on, we've all ugly cried. It isn't exactly something we aim to do in public, but a hearty, full-out hysterical cry sesh can be cathartic — and for some reason, the tears just flow so much more freely when a super-sad song is playing in the background. That special ability to open up the floodgates is what makes some musicians rock stars.

So grab a box of tissues and a bottle of wine and honker down with this artfully compiled list of the 16 best songs to listen to when you need a good cry.

1. "All I Want" by Kodaline

There's just something about the vocals and swooping instrumental break that makes me think of every breakup I've ever been through... and the sort of melancholy hope that there's someone perfect out there for everyone.

More: There's No Way Selena Gomez's New Song Isn't About Justin Bieber

2. "Breathe Me" by Sia

It's all about the piano and the ouch factor. I mean, this is all about the pain we cause ourselves, and again, the sullen, beautiful piano always gets my emotions flowing.

3. "Poison and Wine" by The Civil Wars

Not really a breakup song, but not really a love song either, this gets you thinking about how honest we are with each other in love... and how far we'll go to keep love. Plus, the harmonies are like a stake to the chest.

4. "Jolene" by Ray LaMontagne

Old Ray isn't exactly known for his happy music, so if you're looking for sad, you can hit up most of his songs and have a winner. This one in particular feels hopeless but, as usual, stunning in its raspy delivery.

5. "The Scientist" by Coldplay

Again, what is it about sad piano? Sad piano hurts. Plus, the lyrics of this Coldplay classic hurt, as well, as we can all bemoan the difficulty of relationships and how often we accidentally hurt the people we love.

6. "Sometime Around Midnight" by The Airborne Toxic Event

Gimme them strings! Oh, this one just aches of emo angst! The girlfriend he's not over. The party where she leaves with someone else. The booze. Angst!

7. "Breathe Again" by Sara Bareilles

If her music is anything to go from, this woman has been through some bad relationships, and this song perfectly captures the choking feeling of losing someone we love. That feeling that we'll never be whole again.

8. "Never Let Me Go" by Florence + the Machine

Aw, yes, the title sounds so nice and romantic... until you realize she's talking about sinking under the surface of the ocean and the water holding her tightly forever.

9. "Back To Me Without You" by The Band Perry

You can just hear the agony in her voice as she sings. You can hear the empty space that ex-boyfriend left behind. Remember what it's like to lose your identity to a relationship? No. Well, you will after this one.

10. "Falling Slowly" by The Frames

It's possible to put yourself back together again after something bad happens, right? Right? Well, maybe. Or at least this song hopes so.

11. "Stay or Leave" by Dave Matthews

Here are some sad lyrics, some wrecking chords and some poignant memories to destroy your emotional equilibrium. Thank you, Dave.

12. "Say Hello Wave Goodbye" by David Gray

Another angsty Dave... but English. Still, he recalls a relationship that was just doomed to fail. He uses quiet tones instead of screams and that almost makes the pain worse.

12. "Exit Music (For a Film)" by Radiohead

This one's just plain ghostly, but it might be the most hard rock song on the list, what with the sudden change in tempo halfway through. It makes you picture that rainy day going on forever.

13. "Hurt" by Nine Inch Nails

For a band known for their wild beats, this one is mostly just Reznor's agonized voice talking about how crappy everything is. The man was totally emo way before emo was a thing.

14. "Back to Black" by Amy Winehouse

He leaves and her world falls apart. It's the oldest story in the book and, yet, Amy makes it jazzy and new with the agony of a broken, aged woman who didn't die young.

15. "All I Want Is You" by U2

Yeah, all he wants is the girl, but you just know, based on this somber melody, he never got the girl. He will never get the girl. He'll die alone, thinking about the girl.

16. "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley

Just a man and his guitar singing about how awful love is. Buckley always knew how to inject every lyric with severe emotion. Maybe he lived his life that way, too. Shame it ended so early.

More: Mariah Carey Takes Jab at James Packer in Her New Song

Now listen to the entire playlist:

Originally published April 2016. Updated April 2017.

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