Nowadays in popular music escapism is the name of the game. Songs are often nothing more than an attempt to make the listener feel good – even ballads are autotuned and polished to perfection. Raw emotion is no longer acceptable.
But look at the world. Look at all the terrible things that are happening. More than ever we need to hear songs that tell us the real stories of people’s lives – of their heartbreak and pain and suffering. These songs are still out there, but you won’t hear them much on the radio or at award shows. When Miranda Lambert stepped up to sing Tin Man at the ACM awards she said it was a ‘risk’ but it was a performance which proved that sad songs still have the most power.
There are a few songs that have reduced me to tears on first listen – First Day of My Life by Bright Eyes and Cover Me Up by Jason Isbell certainly – but I hadn’t quite prepared myself for the feeling I got when I first listened to Tin Man. I was putting on my makeup in my bathroom mirror when the song started. I’d gotten up early that day and usually I hated getting up early but I was desperate to hear The Weight of My Wings. The whole album was emotional but when Tin Man came on I became a complete wreck. After it finished I could barely get myself together to redo my make-up and go to work. There was just something devastatingly true about this song. I felt her pain. I recognised it because it was mine too.
Tin Man wants a heart so he can love, so he can feel. But Miranda tells him the truth – having a heart can be painful. We don’t really know what Miranda has gone through in her life – even if the tabloids might try to tell us – but on this song we can hear the truth of her emotion in the way she sings. Her heart is shattered. And this song is not just about broken marriages, its about life itself. Sometimes you feel so bad you’d rather feel nothing at all.
Studies show if you like sad songs you are a more empathic person. To hear a sad song gives us hope and actually makes us less depressed because we know that there’s others out there who feel the same. We need to listen to these songs and celebrate them. Miranda herself talks about listening to John Moreland when she’s feeling sad and you can hear his influence in some of her songs. As he sings, if we don’t bleed it don’t feel like a song. But to feel better you don’t have to bleed. All you have to do is listen.
So it’s a real shame that this song isn’t a number one hit or even being played on the radio. We need this song right now, more than ever. Sad songs are our armour. From them we can gain the strength to live in this broken world. We can listen together. Music just might be the only thing that’s going to get us through.