“Me and you are subject to the blues now and then
But when you take the blues and make a song
You sing them out again” -Neil Diamond
As long as we’re on the general subject of mysteriously aesthetic experiences, why do most people get such intense pleasure and satisfaction out of listening to extremely sad songs? From a purely logical perspective, it would be reasonable to think that listening to such a song would be depressing.
Yet as we all know, quite the opposite is true. I know I can listen to Leonard Cohen singing “Famous Blue Raincoat” all day long, or Billie Holiday singing “Gloomy Sunday”, or Sinatra singing “Blues in the Night”, or Jeff Buckley singing “Hallellujah”, or almost any version of “Hurt”, whether by Trent Reznor, Johnny Cash or Sad Kermit.
Why does immersion in such woe and misery make us so happy? Is it simply emotional catharsis, as Neil Diamond suggests? Or is there something else at work?