Depression affects nearly 15 million people a year. Unfortunately, I am one of those people. The one thing that triggers my depression most frequently is the idea that I’m always going to be alone. I always feel stifled by my sexuality because I currently identify as asexual, and I feel like I don’t deserve love.
When you’re sad, people always say, “Well… just be happy.” Because you know… we never thought of that before. But the truth is, sometimes it’s hard to feel happy all the time… “normal” people probably feel the same way. However, when you add depression into the mix, it’s hard to feel like you’ll ever rebound again.
Therapists often recommend starting to listen to “happy” music, but all that does for some is remind them that the upbeat music is the antithesis of what they feel. It can often times make things worse. So instead, start listening to songs that don’t necessarily top the charts and songs that remind you that no matter what, someone out there knows what you’re feeling. You are not alone.
Whether it’s through finding someone going through the same thing as you, or finding an artist who’s able to voice your feelings in a way you hadn’t thought of, these songs can help you grasp your understanding of depression and self. They did for me. So here are five pop songs you should listen to if you’re struggling with depression:
“take away” – dumblonde
When pop duo dumblonde came together last year following the second demise of Danity Kane, not a lot of people noticed aside from former DK fans… but they should have. The pop duo, consisting of former DK members Aubrey O’Day and Shannon Bex, turned out their debut, self-titled album, which focused predominantly on pop, electronic dance music, and they successfully created one cohesive piece of work that Rolling Stone called one the best pop albums of 2015. Though the album focuses on fast-paced up-tempo songs, the one exception is track 10’s “take away.” The song is by far the slowest paced, ballad like track on the album featuring a melancholy vibe of a burned lover not knowing how to move on from his or her past flame.
When first being diagnosed with depression, many think it’s just an easy fix; one or two therapy sessions, and you’ll be cured. That thought stems from the desire to go back to a time when you were happy before. As dumblonde sings, “Bring me back to who I was before. Stay away I don’t belong to you,” you can’t help but feel like beating depression is as easy as going back to when you were last happy. And while it’s not as easy as it sounds, looks or feels, it’s nice to feel like you can.
“All in My Head” – Tori Kelly
Tori Kelly’s breakout year in 2015 set her a part from other previous YouTube stars, set her up for the release of her debut album, Unbreakable Smile, and gave audiences some of the best performances of the year at the Grammy’s, Billboard Music Awards and VMA’s. But for most long-term fans, Kelly’s journey began years prior post a stint on American Idol, breakout YouTube videos and the release of multiple extended plays. On her EP Songs Handmade By Tori Kelly, she features a song entitled “All in My Head,” where she sings about falling for a guy but then finding out he doesn’t feel the same way.
Depression causes a lot of internal struggles for sufferers who often overthink situations, such as convincing themselves that everyone around them hates them, feeling like they’ll always be alone, and thinking that they’ll never be happy again. This theme can be seen as amplified throughout the song’s chorus, where Kelly repeats, “Could you tell me, was it real or was it all in my head.” For most struggling with the internal thoughts that consume them, it’s hard to understand if most of those thoughts are contrived or made up in their heads. This song can help you understand that feeling what you feel is okay, but you can’t let it consume you.
“What Now” – Rihanna
Sometimes when suffering with depression, the hardest part is not being able to feel or not being able to understand where those feelings come from. You want to be happy, and you may even want to be sad just so you can feel anything at all, but you remain numb to the world. It’s a hard feeling to understand, grasp and vocalize… that is until Rihanna’s song “What Now.”
The track, featured on her seventh studio album Unapologetic, sees Rihanna shy away from her usual overt-sexual presentation of self and allows the singer to get a bit self-reflective on what it feels like to not feel at all. Though Rihanna spent most of her seventh album playing around with trap music and her stereotypical pop-synth sound, “What Now” is a standout track that plays off of her usual pop sound and adds more power rock into it. And just as a listener thinks the song is over, Rihanna flips the script and sing/yells, “I don’t know where to go. I don’t know what to feel. I don’t know how to cry. I don’t know why. So what now?” It embodies what a sufferer feels. Where do we go from here?
“Save My Soul” – JoJo
When JoJo released new music in August of 2015, it was her first major label release since 2006. She came out swinging with three singles, aptly named her “Tringle,” with the standout track “Save My Soul.” The mid-tempo track, as JoJo describes it, is about the various degrees of addiction she’s experienced in her life, but more than that, she describes the song’s content as feeling powerless to a person, a situation or yourself.
Feeling powerless to oneself is a feeling oh-too-familiar to those dealing with depression. When you can’t understand what the problem is or you can’t understand why it just won’t go away, you feel powerless to yourself. It gets so hard that at some points, you just want someone out there to make it all go away, but it’s unfortunately not that simple. Happiness isn’t achieved through other people; it comes from within. Just as JoJo sings, “There’s nothing you can do to save my soul,” you too have to recognize that no one can save you besides yourself. The song continues with, “I try to wash the scars and marks from under my skin, but you’re etched in me like stone,” reinforcing the idea that depression will never go away, but you are able to control it yourself and find your own happiness. You have to find it in you, and it can be hard, but you are not alone.
“Alive” – Sia
Following Sia’s successful sixth album, 1000 Forms of Fear, with hit single “Chandelier,” she dedicated her seventh album, This is Acting, to repurposing songs she wrote for other pop stars that they rejected for their own projects. Sia, known for penning hits for the likes of Rihanna and Beyoncé, took previous tracks she wrote for Rihanna, Katy Perry, Demi Lovato, Shakira, and more to demonstrate that when she writes songs, they will always be hits. Unfortunately, that wasn’t necessarily true, especially when the album sounds like anything but a Sia album. It suffers from an identity crisis, which makes sense in part because of the album’s theme.
The one standout track is “Alive,” the first single released from the album, and it was originally written for Adele’s 25 and Rihanna’s Anti, though both rejected it. The song, more than anything, embodies what it’s like for anyone who struggles with any sort of problem that controls him or her. The song plays off the notion that no matter what you go through, you can survive. More than the content though, Sia’s vocal production is the mirror image of what it’s like to be stuck in one’s head. When she sings, “I’m still breathing, I’m alive,” she yells to the point where her voice squeaks. Though most would see this as a flaw, its imperfection makes it the perfect representation of any internal struggle.
So when you’re listening, remember that depression can take everything away from you, but as long as you’re breathing, you have the chance to win again.
This list is not exhaustive, and it definitely does not suit every person suffering with depression. We all have things we go through, and we all cope with them differently. So what does your playlist look like?