It isn’t exactly a revelation to say that music can invoke strong emotions. It can lift your mood when you’re feeling down, or keep you down when you’re already there – self-indulgently wallowing in misery and heartache, Bridget Jones style.  And sometimes it can hit just the right note to bring you completely undone, even if just for the duration of a single song. Here are four that have done just that for me.

Me and a Gun – Tori Amos
I wasn’t a big fan of Tori Amos in the early 2000s, mostly because I’d only really heard Cornflake Girl and Professional Widow, and while I’ve since come around to Cornflake Girl, I didn’t like either back then. Then someone at work put on Tales of a Librarian and I was forced to rethink my I-don’t-like-Tori-Amos stance. I had her copy the CD for me and listened to it on my Discman at the gym. Distracting myself from the fact that my I-don’t-really-like-running stance had definitely not changed, I focused on the music and actually heard the lyrics to Me and a Gun for the first time. Based on Amos’ experience of being raped at knifepoint, the juxtaposition of random, innocuous thoughts and brutal description of physical reality is jarring, and the desperate optimism of the repeated line, “I haven’t seen Barbados, so I must get out of this…” is devastating. I found myself in tears on the treadmill, and the discomfort of running had nothing to with it.

Anniversary of an Uninteresting Event – Deftones
The self-titled fourth album from Deftones was always a bit middle-of-the-road for me. I like the songs, there is an overall cohesiveness to the album, but I just don’t love it. It doesn’t have the raw energy of Adrenaline or Around the Fur, and never quite hits the heights of the brilliant White Pony. This song, however, always stood out for me. The opening bars instantly evoke for me a last dance, a couple’s final few moments before they part forever; imagery so strong that, even having never experienced what I see in my mind’s eye, I still feel the emotion of it every single time. It makes me simultaneously yearn for a life never lived, and wish that I could create something that would affect someone as strongly as this song affects me.

Rearview Mirror – Pearl Jam
Vs. was the first Pearl Jam album I ever owned, and I listened to it on repeat, amazed by songs that spoke to my teen angst in a way that was completely new to me. I loved Rearview Mirror from the first listen, but it didn’t truly resonate with me until five years later. I was 19 and at a nightclub that I went to every Saturday night. It was a time when a lot of things had changed for me, mostly for the better. I had left behind people I had little in common with, who I didn’t like and who didn’t like me, and instead made real friends who had similar interests to mine. I had left high school for university and discovered a freedom to make my own choices. Suddenly the meaning of the lyrics hit me, and so did all the negative feelings that I had moved on from but never actually dealt with. “Saw things so much clearer/once you/were in my/rearview mirror”.

3 Libras – A Perfect Circle
I first heard this song when Mer de Noms was released in 2000, and it immediately became a favourite. “Difficult not to feel a little bit…disappointed…passed over” – that lyric really got me. How could it not? What 20 year old woman wouldn’t feel just a little bit of heartache at those words? But about five years ago, at home alone, three quarters of the way through a bottle of wine, it felt as though the song had actually been written for me. Working at a job I hated and being rejected for everything else I applied for, in love with yet another boy who didn’t feel the same, a song about being overlooked, a song that repeated over and over the words that were at the very heart of myself at that time – “You don’t see me” – was enough to completely break me. Fun fact: it is possible to sing this song while sobbing.

Featured Image by MJM Photographie used under a Creative Commons Licence