Which Songs Make You Cry?

What kind of a man blubs when he hears ‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M.? Apparently it’s the number one tear-jerker amongst blokes, if we’re to trust the results of a survey conducted by royalty-collection body PRS.


I’d like to know who they asked, because the top ten is a strange combination of the genuinely moving (‘The Drugs Don’t Work’) and the gloopily sentimental. Weeping to ‘Angels’? Jesus. Get a grip.

1. REM – ‘Everybody Hurts’
2. Eric Clapton – ‘Tears In Heaven’
3. Leonard Cohen – ‘Hallelujah’
4. Sinead O’Connor – ‘Nothing Compares 2 U’
5. U2 – ‘With Or Without You’
6. The Verve – ‘The Drugs Don’t Work’
7. Elton John – ‘Candle In The Wind’
8. Bruce Springsteen – ‘Streets Of Philadelphia’
9. Todd Duncan – ‘Unchained Melody’
10. Robbie Williams – ‘Angels’

I just can’t imagine feeling emotional about many of those songs. They’re too obvious, too naked in their designs on you. They push buttons that are there for anyone to push.

Music rarely reduces me to tears. That’s because I’m a terrifying blank, with a blackened shard of pitchblende where my heart should be. Though I admit I may have shed a tear to Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Stolen Car’ once, on a drizzly afternoon, while battling a scything hangover.

Anyway. The impulse to weep is a complex and subtle thing. It’s not a question of string section + yearning vocal = waterworks. It’s often more about the memory a song triggers, rather than the way the music itself is acting on you, in the moment.

An embarrassing confession: I recently found myself getting quite choked up after randomly hearing ‘Mary’s Prayer’, a yuppie-era hit by blazer-clad bell-ends Danny Wilson.

Why? It’s not an especially moving song. The lyrics are gibberish. This was pure, dumb nostalgia. I hadn’t heard the song in over twenty years, and all of a sudden it was 1987, and I was seven years old, watching Going Live in my pyjamas. Boo-hoo. How pathetic.

The point is: people cry for the stupidest of reasons. Leaking a mysterious mineral broth from your eye-sockets is one of the human body’s more useless functions. Consequently, being able to engineer that reaction through song is not necessarily a marker of creative brilliance.