R.E.M.’s “Everybody Hurts” Voted Saddest Song of All Time

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Somber tunes have always been part of the DNA of music, and R.E.M. now holds the top spot for the “Saddest Song of All Time,” with their 1992 hit “Everybody Hurts,” according to a recent survey by OnePoll

Followed by Sinead O’Connor’s “Nothing Compares 2 U” and Eric Clapton’s “Tears in Heaven,” in the number two and three slots, respectively, the band’s Automatic for the People hit is rounded out in the top five saddest songs of all time by the Dolly Parton-penned Whitney Houston cover of “I Will Always Love You” and “Yesterday” by The Beatles in fifth place.

Conducted by the ear care brand Earex in collaboration with Robert Till, chair of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music and professor of music at the University of Huddersfield in the UK, the survey also explored how music impacts mood, including feelings of nostalgia through the feedback of 2,000 participants. 

“What’s interesting is many of the top choices in this survey weren’t simply about their overall popularity, some of the most mentioned sad songs have far fewer plays on streaming platforms than others, indicating there really is something special about these particular songs,” said Till of the saddest songs. “As one might expect, people’s age affected their choices, with younger audiences voting for Adele rather than R.E.M., but what’s revealing for the saddest song is the youngest age range selected The Beatles’ ‘Yesterday.’ Perhaps this reflects the recent film of the same title and the importance of films and videos in providing context for songs.” 

Of those surveyed, 48 percent said music had a big impact on their mood with 36 percent opting for a sad song when they are feeling nostalgic, and 24 percent craving sadder tunes after a breakup. A little under half of the respondents also admitted that sad songs can even brighten their day.

When thinking of happier times, the surveyed also found that “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina and The Waves, Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now,” and “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, were considered some of the happiest songs, while Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger,” “I’m Still Standing” by Elton John, and Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” are more motivational songs.

Additionally, Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World” and The Beatles’ “Let It Be” were listed by respondents as the most relaxing.

“Music has a powerful ability to take us back in time where we associate particular songs with special moments in our lives or memories of particular periods,” said Till. “Remembering how important music is right through our lives, this study is a timely reminder to look after our ears and our hearing while we are young, and throughout our lifetime, so that when we are older, we can continue enjoying the significant part music plays in our lives.”

Here are the OnePoll 30 Saddest Songs:

  1. REM – “Everybody Hurts”
  2. Sinead O’Connor – “Nothing Compares 2 U”
  3. Eric Clapton – “Tears in Heaven”
  4. Whitney Houston – “I Will Always Love You”
  5. The Beatles – “Yesterday”
  6. Adele – “Someone Like You”
  7. Celine Dion – “My Heart Will Go On”
  8. Roy Orbison – “Crying”
  9. Eric Carmen – “All by Myself”
  10. Robbie Williams – “Angels”
  11. Bill Withers – “Ain’t No Sunshine”
  12. James Blunt – “Goodbye My Lover”
  13. Toni Braxton –”Unbreak My Heart”
  14. Eva Cassidy – “Songbird”
  15. Coldplay – “Fix You”
  16. U2 – “With or Without You”
  17. The Beatles – “The Long and Winding Road”
  18. Al Green – “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?”
  19. Sam Smith – “Stay with Me”
  20. Amy Winehouse – “Back to Black”
  21. Carole King – “It’s Too Late”
  22. Lewis Capaldi – “Someone You Loved”
  23. John Lennon – “Jealous Guy”
  24. Simon & Garfunkel – “The Boxer”
  25. Gary Jules – “Mad World”
  26. Adele – “Easy on Me”
  27. Boyz II Men – “End of The Road”
  28. Neil Young – “Only Love Can Break Your Heart”
  29. Passenger – “Let Her Go”
  30. The Fray – “How to Save a Life”

Photo: Chris Bilheimer

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