SAD SONGS THAT SOUND HAPPY

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While typing yet another response for a club application on a Thursday night, I could hear the familiar melody of a song played in my neighbor’s house. 

The music wasn’t being played too loudly, but I could distinctly hear a man’s voice alternating between two minor notes alongside the strum of melancholy chords. The man’s voice was what I noticed first, but then the haunting yet familiar melody is what captured me. I was desperate to remember what the song was called. 

It was so familiar and so sad. I racked my brain for answers. I knew the singer was male, and it sounded like a band. My first thought was “Broken” by lovelytheband. But then, after humming the melody a few times and really thinking, I realized it was actually “Tongue Tied” by Grouplove. 

I was surprised that the song was “Tongue Tied.” I had never realized that the ending was so sad because I associate the song with happy and positive feelings. The beginning of the song is nostalgic and exciting––it reminds me of warm weather, the sun out, and the promise of summer. It is one of those songs for partying with your friends and belting out the chorus (Does anyone remember that video of Post Malone?).

Despite the general happy association of the song, the ending is surprisingly sad. While the song begins with major chords and the exciting promise of love, as the song progresses, the major chords shift to minor chords. At the end, the song focuses on the sobering reality of losing someone you love. I enjoyed the production of “Tongue Tied,” but some critics do not agree. Robert Cooke of Drowned in Sound criticizes “Tongue Tied” for showing “no restraint whatsoever. Its bloated synth sounds like the soundtrack to an advert for some E number-riddled sweets written by Katy Perry.”

Even though the production quality was contended, I still enjoyed learning about this deeper meaning to the song. The album cover depicts a close-up of a person in water-color, with the words “Never Trust a Happy Song” in the front. That is the name of the album, which is suggestive of the nature of most of the songs in the album. They are seemingly cheerful and catchy, but underneath contain much more nuance and complexity. Feelings of abandonment and loss are explored by exuberant melodies.

For Grouplove, “Tongue Tied” was a huge success despite receiving primarily critical reviews. They were number one on the US Alternative Chart, and “Tongue Tied” went on to be certified platinum four times. Grouplove was definitely a band with a lot of potential, but they just haven’t been able to release a song with a similar level of success since “Tongue Tied.”



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