Adam Brent Houghtaling is the author of This Will End in Tears: The Miserabilist Guide to Music.
From his Q & A with Randy Dotinga at the Christian Science Monitor:
Q: What makes sad songs unique?--Marshal Zeringue
A: Sad songs are a really intimate thing. They're not something you listen to with all your friends at a dinner party or when you're hanging out at a lake house with your buddies. You're doing it by yourself.
If you're listening to a lot of sad music, it's because you're not in a great state of mind. You've just gotten your heart broken or suffered some kind of loss. It becomes intimate, but it's also comforting in a way.
Q: Can sad songs actually be good for us when we're feeling down?
A: There's this idea that listening to sad songs may drag us deeper into our despair. But it may also help us go deeper into a despair and focus on whatever the problem is that brought us to that point.
Q: Do you mean a kind of catharsis?
A: I found catharsis to be a very tricky topic, but...[read on]