Why are all of us so attracted to sad country songs?
I mean, maybe it’s because music is a safe space for us to feel certain negative emotions without actually having to experience something that makes us feel this way.
Maybe it’s that we know that we’ll survive the 3-or-so minute pain similar to that inherent safety of watching a horror movie.
Or maybe I’m just overthinking this…
But there’s just something about a country song that punches you right in the gut and makes you want to die just a little.
To take this one step further, country music has a poetic way of turning all that sadness inward to create my favorite type of sad song: The self-loathing song.
The song about one’s own inner demons that makes us all feel like we’re fighting a battle and losing right along with the singer.
There’s just something to the rawness of these songs, and below are some of the best:
“Whiskey and You” – Chris Stapleton
Chris Stapleton has plenty of sad songs, but none have that pattern of self-loathing like “Whiskey and You.”
After experiencing a breakup, the singer is stuck in this cycle of drinking and can’t help but compare their former partner to the whiskey they’re drinking.
This song perfectly embodies the way that a person can self-sabotage even when they are aware that what they’re doing is bad.
“If I don’t break down and bring it on myself It’ll hit out of the blue”
“A Boy Like You” – Zach Bryan
I mean if we needed to crown a king of self-loathing country songs, I think Zach Bryan would be an easy choice.
The song I had to pick though is “A Boy Like You” because the singer is telling himself that he is literally not good enough for the girl he is with.
All of those things he hates about himself, she loves. But the singer is trying to tell himself that those are the reasons he should let her go.
It’s a classic trope, but Zach Bryan’s specificity makes the song feel so genuine and raw.
“A boy like you with your stories of shame And all of the reasons she won’t have your name”
“Anything Goes” – Randy Houser
I gotta admit that the vocals are what really sell this song for me even more than the lyrics.
If Zach Bryan’s hatred was soft and intimate, then Randy Houser’s is explosive.
A breakup takes away the singer’s moral sense and, honestly, his emotions. While not the same type of loathing as the previous songs, Houser shows the reckless side of self-loathing.
“Shouldn’t I feel guilty? Well I don’t feel a thing”
“Take Me Away” – Morgan Wade
This is easily my favorite song on the list because I think it shows the way that country music can so beautifully blend self-loathing and love.
This song is that moment when you are finally ready to open yourself up and attempt to trust someone.
The singer isn’t perfect, and maybe the relationship they are attempting to form isn’t completely healthy, but the song shows the poignancy in the trying and the willingness to let yourself.
“I’ve been looking for some peace of mind With you here, I think it’s time”
“Mama Werewolf” – Brandi Carlile
While the rest of the songs are about self-loathing in/out of a romantic relationship, “Mama Werewolf” focuses on a mother telling her child that she is a werewolf like the mother’s own father.
The song discusses that dark things can be passed down between generations, and sometimes, it’s the burden of the youngest generation to break the cycle.
The song is so beautifully bittersweet because the mother loves her child enough to know that they could bring her back from her darkness, but at the same time, she has no guarantee that she will be able to keep her darkness at bay.
“This curse a gift from my father’s kin They fought the beast I feel within”
“Who You Thought I Was” – Brandy Clark
So, we’ve had breakup songs, an almost breakup song, and a beginning love song. Now let’s talk about a post-breakup song in which the singer is actually attempting to shake off their self-loathing.
“Who You Thought I Was” takes us through all of the things the singer thought they wanted to be growing up, but now, they’ve come to the conclusion that just want to be a better person for their former partner.
This song is weirdly feel-good yet stealthily heartbreaking because the singer doesn’t believe they are good enough right now but wants to put in the work to get there.
“I wanna be at least almost close to worth your love”