Collab Column | Music can change lives

By The Pitt News Staff

Collab columns consist of multiple columnists offering their own takes and experiences on a topic. This week, we’ll discuss how music can create a deeply personal experience tied to the moments we hear it.

“Depressing” music can make you feel better // Lucas DiBlasi, Senior Staff Columnist

Music has an incredible crosscultural ability to have a profound impact on people. Nearly everyone has favorite musicians — artists who’ve created songs and albums that they will remember until they die. For some people, music is a way to connect with others, to dance and sing and drum together or to set a lovely ambience over dinner. Others use music as a vehicle to bring back happy memories, and some just put on a catchy song to make their day a little brighter as they drive to work.

But there’s a specific type of music that has had the deepest impact on me — sad music. Don’t get me wrong, I love happy music, but there’s something that a depressing song can do that can have a very positive impact on your life. When you connect deeply to a heart-wrenching song, like Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” or Iron & Wine’s “The Trapeze Swinger,” you can realize that those artists must have been feeling the same emotions you feel right now.

Somehow, across time and space, through a short piece of audio, you can realize that you’re not the only person to go through an excruciating breakup. You can realize you’re not the only person to feel crushing anxiety about the future and regret about the past. In short, music like this can make you feel less alone when you are at your loneliest. The most depressing songs, paradoxically, can make you feel better.

Even if sad songs can seem like the epitome of self-wallowing, and the furthest from a dance tune as you could possibly get, they can create a sense of community. Make some time for a sad song when you feel down, because they remind us that some experiences, however lonesome, are shared. That makes them a little less lonesome, and makes music a little more wonderful.

Mac Miller’s music changed the way I think about life // Grace DeLallo, For The Pitt News

Music is brought into our lives at the genesis of our existence. Music touches humanity in inexplicably profound ways — the spectrum of emotions it makes us feel produces a certain magic that is precious and intimate. My own experiences with these same sensations have wholly impacted my existence.

Mac Miller was never one of my favorite artists. I didn’t listen to all of his songs, buy his merchandise or display his picture on my wall. I enjoyed his music but lacked the passion I felt for other bands and artists.

Then, “Swimming,” Mac’s fifth and final album before his death, came out and that changed — a connection was forged.

A mere month following this release, Mac Miller was found dead due to an overdose. I felt a strange sadness wash over me — the kind that leaves you realizing the person gone will never be able to live the life they so desperately wanted to.

Mac had a lust for life that lifted his music into the hearts of millions. When he wrote “Brand Name,” he foreshadowed his death to the world by declaring that he did not want to die young. Mac used his music to relay his fears and aspirations to the people willing to listen, making art out of the most human of experiences. With songs about drugs, sex, partying, depression and loneliness, his lyrics transported me into a world where the complexities of life conversed with me. The growth he demonstrated in his albums showed how he matured — that his experiences resonated deep within him as he tried to get better and learn how to not only survive, but thrive in this world.

I asked myself how this same person could be gone?

My cousin Shaun died on Jan. 9, 2020. When I first received the call that detailed his passing, I didn’t feel much emotion. I honestly thought I was a bit broken, because how could I not feel sorrowful about this family member’s tragic passing? This is a person I have known all my life. He hid the younger cousins’ eggs at Easter, wanted to sit and know how life was and play games during the holidays. It wasn’t rational.

I went back to my dorm, showered, crawled into bed and listened to Mac Miller’s song released that day — “Good News.” Putting my headphones on, I soon slipped into a trance that would touch my sadness and unlock it within me. Mac brought Shaun’s death to life.

As I listened more and more, I began to realize the synchronicities of their lives and deaths. Shaun, like Mac, had passed of an overdose. It was like the universe was trying to tell me something. I cried and found messages that seemed fated to reach me in my newfound grief.

I no longer listen to Mac’s music without immense emotional investment, for I hear his music as a reminder of Shaun. Although they are no longer with us, music has breathed a kind of furthered existence into both of them. Mac Miller’s music allows me to keep a piece of my family alive — and for that, I cannot ever be grateful enough.

The Smiths’ sadness is a vehicle for my happiness // Breanna Jones, For The Pitt News

I could not live without music. Everyone that knows me is aware of this fact.

Music brings me, as well as others, a multitude of incredible sensations and moods. An intense euphoria radiates throughout my entire body and an untroubled disposition fills my mind. But it’s been noted that many people do not necessarily need a song describing merriment to feel some kind of joy in their hearts. A study from 2008 conducted in Japan and published in “Frontiers in Emotion Science” found that listening to sad music can raise levels of the hormone prolactin, which produces a “consoling psychological effect.”

If you are familiar with the 1980s indie rock band The Smiths, you know about their reputation as one of the most depressing bands to ever exist. Their lyrics describe many themes such as heartbreak, loneliness and depression. Despite this, their British punk melodies have brought me an immense amount of happiness, providing me with plenty of the “happy hormone” prolactin.

The sad lyrics in The Smiths’ music also provide me with a deeper understanding of my own thoughts and feelings. It is incredible to have an artist perfectly articulate how you feel, when you could not describe it yourself. It allows me to dive deeper into my mind, exploring my own thoughts and feelings to understand them more. At times, it can be difficult to explain how I truly feel, but this is no issue when I listen to The Smiths.

I feel less alone. I have especially listened to their music in times of mental instability where I feel lost or confused. It has gotten me through a lot of rough times when I thought that nobody could truly understand my inner sadness.

A song that is always number one on my Spotify Wrapped — a personal chart with statistics on your most listened-to music — is “I Know It’s Over.” This tune describes the immense pain of depression, as does most of The Smiths’ music.

The Smiths never cease to impress me. Despite many of my friends wondering why I listen to such “sorrowful” music, I continue to share the understated incredibility of The Smiths. Their despairing music brings me more contentment than sadness.