These songs will surely make you cry. If not? Well... there's not much else we can say to ya. Sometimes involves Soundtrack Dissonance.
Note: any song can be a Tear Jerker if it gets associated with the wrong thing. We ideally want songs that are tearjerkers in themselves.
The Rahman song, "Khwaja Mere Khwaja", by Jodha Akbar (the first minute might be a little grating to western ears). Even though it isn't necessarily sad, it can make one cry tears of sentimentality. Immigrant nostalgia, anyone?
Also his song 'Luka Chuppi'. The visuals are tearjerking in their own right, particularly when the dead pilot's mum nearly collapses when a soldier delivers her son's personal effects back to the family.
3000 Feet by Assemblage 23. The entire song is a guy calling his lover because he's on a plane that's going to crash. It's his last chance to talk to his lover. The worst part? When the poor guy has one more thing to say, and he gets cut off by the plane impacting.
"The Waitress". It's about a homeless man's bickering relationship with a waitress and how he honestly doesn't have much life left in him Oh and the waitress he's been argueing with the whole song? Yeah that's his daughter.
Badly Drawn Boy's "Minor Incident", especially in the context of the film, can really get to one. It sounds like a suicide note to her son.
Rich Fantasy Lives by Rob Balder. "Some whispering poem was calling us home, to a place we know never existed..."
In the CD Fairy Tales by Eric Lane Barnes, they had several heart breaking songs. "The Ballad of Tammy Brown", "Dear Dad", "When You Meet an Angel" will all make you feel punched in the soul. But "A Humming Bird" may very well take the cake, a song about a man tearfully trying to cheer up his dying lover, as he has a breakdown not knowing how he can help, or how he'll manage to live without him.
The song "Wanting Memories" by Ysaye M. Barnwell. It's a beautiful song, but at some point it becomes a serious Tear Jerker.
Not very well known, but "The Beaches of St. Valery" by Battlefield Band is a heartbreaking WWII song.
Those who have seen it live before the sad passing of Davy Steele - who sang it so well - would have to agree. Also, the final verse of Jenny O' the Braes from the same album - "Rain, Hail or Shine" - can be a bit of a tearjerker too, but in a bittersweet way.
"Tha Crossroads" by Bone Thugs 'N Harmony can give some people a good cry every time they hear it.
Carbon Leaf has "The War Was in Color", which starts out as a kid asking his granddad to tell him about old photos and progresses through the perspectives of different soldiers. Some of the descriptions are painful as hell... and then comes the verse from the perspective of a soldier who died. "Now I lay in my grave/ At age twenty-one. Long before you were born/ before I bore a son. What good did it do? Well, hopefully for you/ a life without war/ a life full of color."
"What Would You Do?" by City High. "What would do if your son was at home/ Lying all alone on the bed crying cause he's hungry / What would you do if the only way to feed him / Is to sleep with a man for a little bit of money/ and his daddy's gone / somewhere smoking rock now, in and out of lock down / I ain't got a job now / So for you this is just a good time / but for me this is what I call life." The second verse really does not help.
"Poison and Wine" and "Falling", both by The Civil Wars. "Please tell me you know/I've got to let you go/I can't help falling/out of love with you."
Tears in Heaven by Eric Clapton, with out a doubt he saddest song ever written, if you know the story behind it. Make sure to have a Kleenex.
"Somebody else not me" by Duran Duran is even more sadder if broke with your boy/girlfriend
"Boy Soldier" by Johnny Clegg, especially the chorus.
"Once we played in the morning light Once we were children Then one morning they came The soldiers took us away..."
"Many Rivers To Cross", by Jimmy Cliff (also covered effectively by Joe Cocker). Even with the singer's perseverance, the adversity and temptation can be too much to bear at times.
"The Doctor's Wife" by The Clockwork Quartet.
"And I swear! I can see the gleam of her eyes amidst the new machines! and at night I can hear her whisper..."
As much terrifying as it is Tear Jerker; same goes for the wife's refrain.
Biffy Clyro's "Folding Stars". Sure, it's a depressing song in itself — but, when you find out who Eleanor is, then it really hits you.
"Many of Horror": "When we collide we come together / If we don't we'll always be apart"
"Flame Trees" by Cold Chisel. Especially in the movie Little Fish, where this song about lost loves and small towns and long gone glory days is sung by a children's choir.
"Do you remember, nothing stopped us on the field, in our day..."
"Hush Hush Hush," by Paula Cole, is a lullaby sung by a father to his dying son. One might break down when the song gets to the line "Maybe next time, you'll be given a chance."
"Kilkelly, Ireland" by Ciara Considine. It's about farmers during a famine, which you'd expect to be sad. Then it gets EVEN WORSE THAN THAT.
Converge's fifth album Jane Doe begins with their trademark blend of hardcore punk and thrash (with some bloody demented vocals), but the music just gets more and more powerful and emotional as the album goes along, culminating in the impossibly moving 12-minute long title track. It might be hard to speak for some time after hearing the album for the first time.
Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come", especially when you consider what's it's about. It's one of the last things Cooke recorded before his untimely death.
Aaron Copland. In life he was on McCarthy's Hollywood blacklist, not for being a Communist, but for being gay. Today he is probably the single most universally beloved American Classical composer and his music is played at every Presidential inauguration. Oh yeah, and it's seriously all-time great music, too.
Elvis Costello has a few, one of the most memorable being 'Tramp The Dirt Down''. The sheer bitterness and anger in his voice and in the lyrics is heartbreaking, especially to people who have less than positive memories of Margaret Thatcher.
Even Cowboy Mouth (which might be the ultimate feel-good band) has a few: in particular "The Avenue" and "Maureen".
"Superman's Song" by the Crash Test Dummies. It's the perfect eulogy to give the Man of Steel.
"Spancil Hill" by Cruachan has heart-wrenching lyrics about a man longing for his native Ireland.
"I Know What Kind of Love This Is" was kind of depressing when The Nields did it, but when Cry Cry Cry covered it... yeah.
Most songs by Rebekah Ann Curtis are tearjerking, but "Byron's Song" can really make one tear up. It's about a friend of hers who died of cancer. Not to be confused with the film Brians Song, whose protagonist also died of cancer.
Anything by Dark Sanctuary. Just try it. (Actually, this type of song was the premise of the band.)
Skeeter Davis' "The End Of The World". After seeing Girl, Interrupted, you may not be able for a time afterward to hear it without feeling a) deeply depressed or b) deeply disturbed.
"The Host of the Seraphim" by Dead Can Dance is incredibly haunting. Never mind its use as background music in The Mist, or accompanying the terrible scenes of abject poverty in Baraka.
"Fatal hesitation" by Chris DeBurgh. "Oh Romeo is standing in the rain... I know I have let her slip away... Fatal hesitation..."
"The Light Before We Land", by the Delgados. There is a good reason it's the opening theme to Gunslinger Girl.
Grey Delisle's cover of "Bohemian Rhapsody" is possibly the most heartbreaking song one might ever hear. It takes on an even deeper meaning when we realize this woman also voiced Azula from Avatar: The Last Airbender. Although, your mileage may vary on that one ...
"Sunrise" by The Divine Comedy is a resigned, jaded song about the troubles in Ireland that builds first to despairing rage at the futility of it all ("Who cares what name you call a town? Who'll care when you're six feet beneath the ground?") then goes from there to a glorious, crying-with-joy crescendo.
Donora's Photograph, which is a gorgeous but heartrending song about a relationship that, despite the promises of lasting forever, just didn't.
"Laleña" by Donovan.
Rob Dougan's "Furious Angels" and "Left Me For Dead".
Mike Doughty's "Ft. Hood," named after the army base in Texas that's produced the most US casualties in the Iraq war.
Nick Drake. His biography is depressing alone, but the album Pink Moon can leave some people weeping. It doesn't help that Nick committed suicide a few years after this album, and you can hear how completely he had given up on the world.
"Fruit Tree" can do it, especially since Nick wound up living the song.
Even Bryter Layter, which was probably his most cheerful album, isn't immune to this — as seen with "One of These Things First" and the closing instrumental, "Sunday".
Nika Costas "On My Own" is both Heartwarming and Tearjerking
"When I'm down and feeling blue. I close my eyes so i can be with you. Oh baby be strong for me baby belong to me help me through help me need you."
"O Children" by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. The lyrics are chilling and heartbreaking, and the passsion and pain in Nick Cave's voice just takes your breath away. I wouldn't be shocked if Nick were in a BAD time in his life while making it.
Dream Academy's "Life in a Northern Town". So often dismissed as a Chorus-Only Song, yet the verses are wonderfully evocative, and the "bye bye" in the third verse can trigger the tears.
Drive-by Truckers' "Little Bonnie" can hit some people hard in the gut.
Decoration Day. Just... Decoration Day.
"It’s Decoration Day and I’ve got a family in Mobile Bay and they’ve never seen my Daddy’s grave. But that don’t bother me, it ain’t marked anyway. Cause I got dead brothers in Lauderdale south and I got dead brothers in east Tennessee. My Daddy got shot right in front of his house he had no one to fall on but me.
"Riding A Tiger", by the filk band Echo's Children. It's set for a science fiction series — but, despite that, one might cry if you so much as play the opening notes.
Julia Ecklar is mostly known for some fannish power ballads, and cheery stuff like "Born Again Trek," but then she sings "Lullaby for a Weary World." It might be a good song to pass along to anyone at an anti-war rally...
"Friend of Ours" by Elbow is the band's goodbye to a dead friend of theirs. The words "love you, mate" can be so heart-wrenching.
Embrace seems to have at least one of these on every album they've released, but the title track from "Drawn from Memory" (consisting of seven minutes of pure melancholy) is probably the winner.
Brian Eno has a few, including "On Some Faraway Beach", "Taking Tiger Mountain", "Everything Merges With The Night" and "Spider And I".
Lest we forget "An Ending (Ascent)", especially when combined with a sad occasion. Top Gear featured it in a segment lamenting the impending death of high performance cars, and it was used during the London 2012 Olympics opening ceremony, as part of a montage of pictures of people who had died since London being awarded the Olympics, with a strong hint that it was in memory of the victims of the 7/7 bombings.
The video shows a man who goes crazy and thinks that he has no reason to live so he goes and holds a woman hostage. The message being conveyed in the video is that you can't always do everything you want because there are rules that will restrict what you can do. Thus this song and video are juxtapositions of each other. Epik High has been sarcastic the entire time in the song, and the music video's message is that "You can't really "fly" and achieve whatever you want in life".
Evelyn Evelyn's "Sandy Fishnets", about the disappearance and probable murder-by-drowning of a twelve-year-old prostitute. While this song may trigger a Loliconsquick (there's no graphic detail in that arena, but just enough for the listener to get the idea), it's also just heartbreaking. The bridge especially can bring one to tears - don't listen to it after the death of a loved one:
"And will she be soaring over the sea With the wind in her sails and a knife in her teeth At the helm of a ship on its way to a distant shore? Bermuda or Thailand, an uncharted island? Sandy, we're all getting older. What will they do with us When they are through with us? Sandy, what are we sailing for?"
"Ooh La La" by The Faces can do it for people who are going through rough times. "I wish that I knew what I know now" can take on more and more resonance, as the time goes by.
The Fall Of Every Season's "From Below" is the kind of depressing that will drive a person to suicide.
For everyone who has had that one friend who never left, no matter what - Órla Fallon's "Always There" will bring tears to your eyes. It's something about Fallon's soothing, husky voice - it is entirely possible that her singing voice is, in fact, balm for the soul in musical form.
Fallout fans unite: The Inkspots took melancholy to an art form. "Maybe", "I Don't Want to Start the World on Fire", and "If I Didn't Care". Mix and match with 50's nuclear apocalypse, art deco, underwater distortions, and objectionism. Keep a tissue handy as well.
Out of all of Fiction Junction YUUKA's songs, the one that might make cry the most is "Hitomi no kakera" - although, "Akatsuki no kuruma" is also quite the tear jerker.
"A Hundred Years" is one that can change your entire view on life. It can have that much of an effect, including mass tears.
"Do You Realize??" by the Flaming Lips: The most life-affirming song about death ever.
Do you realize That happiness makes you cry? Do you realize That everyone you know someday will die? And instead of saying All of your goodbyes Let them know You realize that life goes fast It's hard to make the good things last You realize the sun doesn't go down It's just an illusion caused by the world Spinning round...
"Mr. Ambulance Driver", which has many of the same themes as "Do You Realize??".
Flanders and Swann's 'The Slow Train'.
"He Doesn't Know Why" by Fleet Foxes has the power to make some people incredibly emotional.
Then follow it up with the more recent "Helplessness Blues" and try not to lose it.
"Happy Birthday" by Flipsyde. The song is an apology to the unborn child of the narrator, which was aborted. It talks about how he wonders what the kid would be like, and lights a candle every year for it. The song can make one choke up. God. This is just... "I love you, whoever you would've been"
Flobots' song "Handlebars" can actually be depressing; according to the music video, it's about two brothers going off on different paths: one becomes a protester with little money but happy nonetheless, the other becomes an evil, power hungry dictator who accidentally kills his brother during a political protest gone riot.
The music video interpretation can be different from the official interpretation. According to the band itself, it's about human potential, and about how it could be used to create or destroy, and how, unfortunately, mankind tends to prefer the latter option.
Quite a few of the works of Dan Fogelberg qualify. "Leader of the Band" is probably the saddest one.
But "Same Auld Lang Syne" is in the running. As is "Hard to Say."
After the dual tragedies of Barbaro and Eight Belles coming so close together, it can be tough to listen to "Run For the Roses" without welling up. It's so sad because it's about how the whole point of the horse's life is the Triple Crown races, especially the Kentucky Derby.
"Leader of the Band" can absolutely affect some people upon hearing it. Just thinking of the words can be enough to break one.
"I thank you for your kindness, and the times when you got tough And Papa, I don't think I've said 'I love you' near enough."
Jay Foreman, "Martin Was A Monkey". It's about a monkey who wants to go skiing. And it's heartbreaking.
"But that's the way life was And there was nothing he could do, It seemed that all things had a place And his was in the zoo."
Fort Minor's "Slip out the Back", particularly the ending.
"I didn't wanna be around just to bring you down. I'm not a hero but don't think I didn't care."
Most anything by Jeffrey Foucault can make some people tear up. Especially "Battle Hymn (of the College Dropout Farmhand)" and "Stripping Cane".
"All Kinds Of Time" by Fountains of Wayne can make some people cry Tears of Joy. There's just a sort of perfect happiness and tranquility about it.
In the "joyful tears" category: The Frames, "People Get Ready", somewhere around "all the love in the world".
"How to Save a Life" by the Fray. Maybe not so much due to the song itself - but because of how effectively it was used during the tragic climax of the Scrubs episode My Lunch. Although, the song itself is concerned with the writer's real attempts to prevent the suicide of a boy he was counselling, which failed.
Also, "You Found Me"
Freezepop's "Swimming Pool" can do it, particularly the last few lines "I went under and you followed/let's not think about tomorrow/everything is perfect now". It can be even more so, if you associate it with Snakeand Otacon from Metal Gear Solid 4.
"And every time I see your face The oceans heave up to my heart You make me wanna strain at the oars And soon, I can see the shore..."
"Maggot Brain" by Funkadelic. Legend has it that Eddie Hazel was asked to play his guitar as if someone told him his mother had died and later found out that she was okay.
"Cosmic Slop", about a woman who works as a prostitute to care for her family, but hides this from her young children.
"Going Home" by Kenny G, not to be confused with the others of that same name. There's a reason it's often used at funerals.
"The Prince's Tale" from The Final Battle. Lena Gabrielle is a master at these.
"The '59 Sound" by the Gaslight Anthem. Its about the narrator's theoretical conversation with a dead friend, asking him questions such as if he heard his favorite song one more time before he died.
"Young boys, young girls, well they/ain't supposed to die on a Saturday night..."
"Taion" by The Gazette, especially during the chorus. Look up the lyrics and the backstory while listening, especially during the live version. The vocalist seems to begin tearing up at the start of the song. Unfortunately, it's hard to blame him.
"Oklahoma" by Billy Gilman is a rather powerful mix of this and heartwarming.
"Flowers and Football Tops" by Glasvegas, a song about the brutal murder of Scottish schoolboy Kriss Donald. The song is written from his father's perspective.
"My baby is six feet under Just another number My daughter without her brother"
Most heartbreakingly of all, the song segues into "You Are My Sunshine" towards the end, but James Allan changes the words:
"I hope you noticed how much I loved you How could they take my sunshine away?"
Pas Toi, about a person who realizes that a relationship was one-sided when the breakup hurts them, but not the other person. Link is here.
Whatever you do, wherever you are, nothing erases you: I'm thinking of you Whatever I learn, I just cannot know why I'm bleeding And not you.
Comme toi, where a narrator tells a young girl that he knew another girl who was just like her. He proceeds to list everything the other girl liked ("just like you"), then heavily suggests that she died at the hands of the Nazis.
Her name was Sarah, she wasn't even eight. Her life was sweetness, dreams and white clouds, But other people had decided otherwise. She had your clear eyes and she was your age, She was a good and well-behaved little girl But she was not born here and now like you were.
Puisque tu pars, where a parent mourns their kid's departure, feeling that they never did enough for the kid.
I could have given you so much strength and so much love, But everything I could still wasn't enough…
Là-bas, where a man states that he needs to leave for another country in order to remain himself and fulfill his dreams, while his fiancée tearfully begs him to stay by her side ("as a husband and a father"). Made even more poignant when you know that the girl who sang the fiancée's parts was murdered by her jealous boyfriend not long after recording the song.
"Running for Home" by Matthew Good can tug on strings that you didn't even know your heart had.
Hold On by Good Charlotte. The video features a bunch of people who either failed suicide or lost a loved one to suicide. That song has saved many lives.
The story behind the song put the whole video in perspective - Good Charlotte was getting a lot of fanmail saying "Thank you for giving me the courage to go through with killing myself". This did not sit well with the band. They realized that if their music could have such a profound effect on their fans, that they could do something to help suicidal listeners, and when they went on TRL to premiere the video, they essentially turned their segment into a suicide prevention PSA.
"Held" by Natalie Grant. Even non-religious people can cry upon hearing this song, if they lose someone that they loved.
Great Big Sea's Fisherman's Lament. The lyrics speak for themselves, but it's about losing the only life you've ever known, the loss of much of what your home province is known for, the future of said province... the anger and hurt and the feeling of betrayal are there in spades.
Also "Safe Upon The Shore", especially when hearing a live performance of it.
Gred and Forge is a band that plays lively rock songs with hilarious (and sometimes WTF-inducing) lyrics - which makes "Page 637", a slow, instrumental song about Fred's death, so heartwrenching.
Guillemots' "If the World Ends" can make some people want to break into a sad puddle of tears upon hearing it. That it's actually about the end of the world and not just a metaphore for a break-up makes it such a killer. "If the world ends/I hope you're here with me/I think we can laugh just enough to not die in pain..."
"A song is born". It's doubly sad when you remember that it is about the September 11 tragedy. Also, if you're listening to it on her I am... album, it's followed immediately by "Dearest". Oh God. Listening to both of those songs back-to-back can leave you crying for a long time. And for a more recent example, "You Were..." The lyrics are sad enough, but the emotion in her voice can really make one crack — and that's not even counting the music box version on the single!
Memorial address (which is rumored to be about her father). Anger, rage, hurt, and grief.
And teddy bear, which finds her thinking back to the day her father abandoned her and her mother.
"Two Little Boys", most famously sung by Rolf Harris. "Do you think I would leave you dying... When there's room on my horse for two..." *Sniff* Even Harris has said that when his grandfather sung it to him as a kid, he thought it was the twee-est thing ever until it got to the line "Did you think I would leave you dying..."
Words by Darren Hayes. The quiet, understated music video just helps, or makes things worse.
"But your words are like weapons You'll keep them inside They cut like a knife And you keep it together, All those feelings inside There's nowhere to hide but away from me And I just wanna listen..."
"Midnight Radio" from Hedwig and the Angry Inch, especially at "All you strange rock and rollers... you know you're doing all right!"
How about "Origin of Love"? Massive tearjerker!
Hem's "We'll Meet Along the Way".
"Another Pilot" by Hey Rosetta! can be a bit of a tearjerker.
Also "The Simplest Thing" and "Bandages".
This version of "Silent Night". Words by Stacey Randall. Recitation by Bob Holiday.
Billie Holiday's version of "Gloomy Sunday" is simply amazing... if by "amazing" you mean "not being able to listen to it without getting it stuck in your head and being hurled into a vicious blue funk".
"Time and again, boys are raised to be men And impatient they start, fearful they end But here was a man mourning tomorrow He drank, but finally drowned in his sorrow..."
Jennifer Hudson's "Can't Stop The Rain" is a song about drink driving, and is quite depressing.
Hussalonia's latest release, "The Somewhat Surprising Return of the Hussalonia Robot Singers" is made up of songs sung by synthetic robot voices. The first track is hilarious, the second one is hilarious bordering on creepy, and all subsequent tracks are either Tear Jerkers or at least very disturbing. Special mention goes to "I Can Still Wave," which features the most Woobie-ish robot since Marvin The Paranoid Android and "You Owe Me No Apologies, Maryann", which makes some of the best use of found-audio (a really old home-recorded track from an unknown family) one might ever hear.
The late Phyllis Hyman had a couple of those. Songs like "Living All Alone" or "I Refuse To Be Lonely" become hauntingly tragic when you consider that Hyman suffered from depression for years, which drove her into suicide in the end.
Also, this performance which she sung in remembrance of a deceased friend. Breathtaking and devastating.
"Godspeed" by Ron Hynes, in tribute to his late friend Gene Mac Lellan, a famous songwriter ("Put Your Hand In The Hand", "Snowbird") who committed suicide after suffering from depression:
"But God damn, God damn You put your hand in the hand of the man Must have believed he would understand Forgive a sweet soul a desperate deed Godspeed, Godspeed."
"Hide and Seek" by Imogen Heap. Yes, despite the "Dear Sister" Memetic Mutation (or maybe because of it, actually). Or, even if you haven't heard of these memes on the song, it might still you cry. However, others might find it more horrific.
Also by Imogen Heap: Half Life and her cover of Hallelujah. A lot of Imogen Heap songs can be considered tearjerkers, just because of how incredible they are.
"Fever Dream" and "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" by Iron and Wine can make some people cry, simply because of how beautiful they are.
Other Iron and Wine examples include "Radio War," "Each Coming Night," "Naked As We Came," and "Passing Afternoon," which has the particularly poignant line, "There are sailing ships that pass/All our bodies in the grass/Springtime calls her children till she lets them go at last."
Gay Pirates by Cosmo Jarvis, particularly the final verse:
I hope they didn't tie up, Your hands as tight as mine, I'll see you on the bed of this Blue ocean babe, sometime —> But I'm yours you know And I'll love you still in hell Down we fell...
The acoustic version is possibly even more of a tear jerker...
"September Song". Taken on its own, with someone like Frank Sinatra singing it, it can be pretty moving. Then Tony Jay covered it.
"Oh, the days dwindle down to a precious few: September... November... And these precious days, I'll spend with you. These precious days, I'll spend with you..."
Jay-Z's "Young Forever", which samples "Forever Young" by Alphaville and stirs the nostalgia.
Jedi Mind Tricks are a rap group best known for putting out a lot of thoroughly aggressive gangsta rap, including some rather viciously homophobic material. Then, out of absolutely nowhere, their album Servants in Heaven, Kings in Hell gave us Uncommon Valor: A Vietnam Story. The first third is JMT's work but after that R.A. the Rugged Man takes over. His section was written based on the experiences his father had in the Vietnam War, including having his platoon slaughtered by the NLF and then coming home to discover that his exposure to Agent Orange resulted in several of his children being born with severe disabilities, including cerebral palsy and quadruplegia. The whole thing is a definite Tear Jerker but the second section is heartbreaking.
Everyone who's been through the New South Wales public school system in the last few years knows Ian Jefferson's "Always Remember". It's a song about a war, where the persona appears to be singing about his friends from the army: "There was Charley and George, Thomas and Joseph, Patrick McGee and James..." But then, we reach the third verse's "And I'll not forget the roll-call at dawn, when a soldier's name brought no reply." And they realise who Charley, George, Patrick and James really were.
"The Ballad of Barry Allen" by Jim's Big Ego. It describes the life of Barry Allen, also known as the second Flash; this song makes a power that seems like a blast more like a condemnation to a lifetime of lonliness ("And I'd like to get to know you, but you're talking much too slowly").
Blind Willie Johnson's acoustic blues rendition of "Dark Was the Night, Cold Was the Ground," a traditional hymn about the Crucifixion. No words, just subdued moaning in tune with the guitar melody. It's widely considered one of the most moving recorded blues performances of all time.
Fatima, what did the young man say Before he took you away On that fateful day? Fatima, did he know your name Or the plans we'd made To go to New York City?
"Aria" by Kalafina, especially in the context of the 4th Kara no Kyoukai movie, where it is used as the ending theme.
"From within the endless darkness The bonfire you gave me Is lighting the life That was born within my hollow chest" "Rowing this lonely boat The bonfire keeps assembling grief In this hollow world Your aria is resounding..."
Similarly, "Sprinter", used as the ending theme for the 5th movie. Especially harrowing since it follows a tear jerking heroic sacrifice — which is made all the more tear jerker by the fact that it was unnecessary yet unavoidable.
"In meeting you I saw a dream that could never come true An eternity that could be overcome within a single second" "Facing the wind I wave a torn flag On this way where you are not I will live my life for myself Till the end of the world..."
Kaizers Orchestra's "170" is about an soldier who's sent out on the battlefield and knows that he won't return to see his wife and kid again. It gets especially heartbreaking when the general asks him if he's ready (we're waiting for an answer, 170).
Imagine those over the top love films about people who suddenly find themselves with only days to live, and magically tie up all the loose ends of their lives and die happy. This is a song about a woman who spends her last days nearly catatonic, and her child so desperate to make a final connection that he hallucinates her final words of kindness and reassurance.
"Somewhere Over the Rainbow" by Israel Kamakawiwo'ole.
Christian Kane does a cover of Tracey Chapman's song "Fast Car" that may be even more of a tearjerker than the original.
And if you got a minute, why don't we go/ Talk about it, somewhere only we know. Keane's "Somewhere Only We Know" is about the pining remorse from missing your lost childhood, and the notes and intruments chosen for each part just pulls at your strings.
Lots of Keane songs have an odd ense of melancholy to them. The passion behind "Might as Well Be Strangers" is another one, definitely.
"A Bad Dream" is particularly sob-inducing if you know that it's based off of "An Irish Airman Forsees His Death" by William Butler Yeats. "In a better time you could be my friend" and "Wouldn't mind it if you were by my side but you're long gone yeah you're long gone now" are particuarly sad lines.
James Keelaghan's "Captain Torres" is about the real-life sinking of a freighter in the Cabot Strait; conditions were so bad that there could be no rescue. The crew lined up and was given a few minutes to call home and say goodbye. The song is from the point of view of one of the wives, and if the verses don't get you, the bridge will be a punch in the gut.
"Do I count myself lucky I was home the phone was ringing What of other's wives who missed it Came home to red lights blinking..."
Also by James Keelaghan, "Cold Missouri Waters", a retelling of the 1949 Mann Gulch Fire, in which 13 firefighters were killed in a wildfire in North Montana. Definitely a tear jerker, particularly the Cry Cry Cry cover version.
OUCH. "La mer ne pardonne pas", indeed. Then the long playout with the cello mimicking the stormy sea and the almost-audible voice breaking through every so often.
Luke Kelly's powerful tenor and genuine emotion in his rendition of "The Town I Loved So Well" is so moving, especially the end of the penultimate verse:
"With their tanks/and their guns/Oh my God, what have they done/to the town I loved so well?"
"Fallen Angel" and "Starless" by King Crimson. The former is about a man mourning his younger brother who died in a street fight; the latter a devastating ballad filled with images of hopelessness, which leads to a climatic build-up that soars to the heavens at the end.
"Pyro" by Kings of Leon, despite its title, is pretty melancholy. Caleb Followill has stated that it was inspired by the story of a fundamentalist Christian group who were massacred by federal agents.
"Guide You Home" By Rebecca Kneubuhl and Gabriel Mann should be just another sappy romance song. Except that it was played at the conclusion of The Legend of Spyro: Dawn of the Dragon, the end of a trilogy in a series. Add this to the fact that it followed a Thank You to the fans of the series for the last ten years, and... yeah. Tears ahoy.
"There is an open door Somehow it feels so familiar We have been here before."
It's sadder if you know the story. Hansi Kursch saw 2 car accidents a week apart - one killed a little boy, another a little girl. They were barely a mile apart. The song says that the fiddler, Death, took the boy by accident and had to take his soulmate as well, because she'd never be truly happy without him.
Kokia's Daichi wa mono wa mabuta no ura. Lyrics and translation for them here. The lyrics, mainly the chorus, imply that both the singer and someone else are slowly dying after something has happened, and the singer desperately begs him to hang in there, even as her own life fades away.
"Oboro" by Shibasaki Kou aka RUI. It may be hard to listen to the song at all without bursting into tears.
"Dead Actor's Requiem" by L'Âme Immortelle can be particularly sad.
The song "Jueves", by the Spanish band La Oreja de Van Gogh; a hauntingly beautiful song about a girl confessing her love to a man she saw every day when they took the train together, only to find that he loved her back. While one may originally find the song to be heartwarming... the feeling can became rather depressive upon learning the song was in rememberance to the deaths caused in the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings.
La Oreja de Van Gogh have several tear jerker songs, "La Playa" tells the story of a young man who meets a girl, promises her to see her again, only to wait 50 years in vain.
"Rosas" tells the story of a young girl who meets and fall in love a man, they have a relationship but one day he just leaves, she just keep waiting for him to reapear in her life with a bouquet of roses.
"Cuídate" is an upbeat song about a pair of ex-lovers who met again, there seems to be still some feeling between them, but the girl just tell the guy to "Take care of yourself, I'll be fine. Forget about me, I'll remember you".
"The Ballad of Ira Hayes", by Peter LaFarge and its numerous covers.
"He died drunk one mornin' Alone in the land he fought to save Two inches of water in a lonely ditch Was a grave for Ira Hayes."
"All the Wild Horses" by Ray LaMontagne almost sounds like a sweet, quiet lullaby, but anyone who's seen Rescue Me knows how heartbreaking it can be. If you haven't, it plays during the death of Tommy's son Connor.
Oddly enough, the old song "Laurie (Strange Things Happen in This World)" by Dickey Lee. It's a retelling of the old ghost story about the mysterious girl at the dance who asks for a ride home, and the young man realizes he forgot to get his sweater back from her, only to go back to her house and discover "she died a year ago today." The part that can especially do it is the last lines (if not so much the words, then the tune): "And then he saw his sweater/Lying there upon her grave."
Annie Lennox's rendition of Cole Porter's "Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye". Especially the video.
"Why" is also pretty heartwrenching, considering the lyrics.
"Into The West" is pretty and sad at the same time and more so if you put it in context with what happened at the end of the third Lord of the Rings movie. It won best original song at the 2003 Academy Awards.
Less Than Jake can really bring on the wistful melancholy sometimes, just listen to "Screws Fall Out": "Friends leave as time fades away/The people and the places along the way/Without a doubt/Yeah, screws fall in and screws, they fall out", and then try looking at some old school photos.
English folk punk group The Levellers offer "Another Man's Cause", a tragic account of a young soldier marching off to war in the footsteps of his dead father and brother.
It's a very obscure space filk song — but Karen Linsley's "The Challenge", about the Space Shuttle Challenger, can makes one go very quiet.
"They tried to meet the challenge Of reaching for the stars/to touch their lights, So near and yet so far They tried to leave the cradle To explore the great unknown To proudly stride the Cosmos on their own."
She's Falling Apart by Lisa Loeb, which is about a girl whose struggling with an eating disorder (possibly anorexia) and self harm.
"Andmoreagain" by Love:
"And when you've given all you had And everything still turns out bad And all your secrets are your own And you don't know how much I love you..."
Three more from Forever Changes: "Alone Again Or", "Old Man" and "You Set The Scene".
"Don't Forget" by Demi Lovato.
Any of the songs on "Nobody's Daughter" by Courtney Love, but specifically Letter to God. Think what you like about her as a person, listen to the album thinking of how it's being song by a woman who never knew her parents, had a shitty childhood, suffered from substance abuse, and had the love of her life kill himself, and a lot of people blame her and hate her for it. One might cry just thinking about her situation, never mind adding lyrics like "I been tortured and scorned/Since the day that I was born/But I don't know who I am..."
"Runaway Love", by Ludacris and Mary J. Blige. Especially live. Enough said.
Not a well-known song (the Internet knows the lyrics and that it was by one Jenna Lynn, but doesn't seem to have a clue who Jenna Lynn is), but there is a song called "Flying Free". You've all heard "Somewhere Out There", right? It's precisely that kind of song.
"We'll Meet Again" as performed by Vera Lynn. Not only can the lyrical content be construed as depressing (considering that it's a World War II song, it's implied that the place that "we'll" meet again is heaven), but it's the song that plays at the end of the Futurama episode "Jurassic Bark," an incredible tearjerker in its own right.
Kudos to all the funny people behind Futurama for making their audiences cry.
"Lower Your Eyelids to Die with the Sun" by M83. It breaks everyone down. Never watch this over a sad video.
Jesse Mac's song "Invincible". It's about his friend who drove drunk and died. Very sad.
Other songs include Beautiful Soul, Because You Live, Right Back In The Water
"Take Me In My Sleep" by Mac Lethal, about his mother, who died of cancer, its about how he had to deal with everything else, and the last 2 mins... so sad.
The song "Sugar and Spice" by Madness describes a marriage dissolving through describing the couple meeting and falling in love. It's also an example of Lyrics Dissonance with its cheerful tune, but it can still reduce some people to tears.
"Mistakes We Knew We Were Making" by Mae. This song is about a couple preparing to have their first child and how scared they both are. Beautiful lyrics and a beautiful voice.
What can now be said, oh little one on the other side? Dance until the band stops playing, Sing with all your might.
The Magnetic Fields has quite a few of these types of songs, but especially "All My Little Words".
"Why I Cry" is a depressing little number.
Or "100,000 Fireflies". Or the _entirety_ of "The Wayward Bus".
The Mandisa song "You Wouldn't Cry (Andrew's Song) is enough of a Tear Jerker for anyone who has lost someone close to them, as it is sung from the perspective of the deceased as they describe Heaven to and try to comfort their loved ones. The sob factor shoots Up to Eleven, though, when you read up on the background of the song: Mandisa wrote it after a friend of hers had delivered her first baby and he was stillborn. The baby's name was Andrew.
Aimee Mann's contributions to "Magnolia" as mentioned above. And "Coming Up Close".
The Lost in Space album. That record is the purely distilled sound of loneliness, and it can really WRECK one.
"Just Like Anyone" for anyone who's ever lost a friend to suicide.
Mannheim Steamroller's "Stille Nacht". Especially if you've heard the version that replaces the voices with a single cello. Just to prove it, the comment boxes on YouTube are constantly flooded with sob-worthy personal stories.
"Lover Dearest" by Marianas Trench is based on an assignment lead singer Josh Ramsay did while he was in rehab at age seventeen, where he had to write a love letter to heroin to demonstrate how important it had become to him. He often tears up while performing it.
A lot of Marianas Trench's early works definitely qualified as this. In Particular Feeling Small and Skin and Bones which chronicle the lead singer's battle with Bulimia.
Bob Marley's "Redemption Song" was as close as one can come to writing one's own epitaph, but Joe Strummer's cover is just gut wrenching.
Try listening to Joe Strummer and Johnny Cash dueting on "Redemption Song" and remaining dry-eyed.
"No Woman No Cry" has the opposite effect to it's title. Just listen to it! "Good friends we have and good friends we've lost/Along the way/In this great future, you can't forget your past/So dry your tears, I say/Everything's gonna be all right!" Blubbing Central, and that's before we reach the line about "My feet are my only carriage..."
Martika's "Toy Soldiers". Not only it's heartwretching in itself, and more when you learn that Martika wrote it for a friend who was struggling against his drug addiction... and won.
Eminem's song that samples it ("Like Toy Soldiers") also serves, specially its video.
Oh, GOD... The music video, released in 2004, depicts the rapper Proof, who was Eminem's right-hand man in the rap group D12, being killed in a shooting as a hypothetical scenario for what Em fears happening. Guess what happens in 2006, and guess who it happens to...
"Stan" by Eminem serves as one, since it runs very much like six minute story (or eight minutes for the longer version).
"Marvin, I Love You" by Marvin might be hard to hear all the way through without getting teary eyed.
The often clinical, sinister Everything Is an Instrument electronic duo Matmos have "For Felix (And All The Rats)", a tribute to their deceased pet played on the bars of his cage. It is almost impossible to not cry while listening to it.
"Gravedigger", off Dave Matthews' solo album.
"Muriel Stonewall, 1903 to 1954 Lost both of her babies in the second Great War Now, you should never have to watch As your only children are lowered in the ground I mean, never have to bury your own babies."
Have a girl/guy in your life you can't have anymore and just can't see with anybody else? Mayday Parade's "Miserable At Best" will probably get you:
"And this'll be the first time in a week that I'll talk to to you but I can't speak. It's been three whole days since I've had sleep cuz I dream of his lips on your cheek. And I got the point that I should leave you alone, but we both know I'm not that strong. I miss the lips that make me fly..."
"Jamie All Over". "And please don't tell me that I'm dreaming, 'cause all I ever wanted was to dream another sunset with you..."
The covers of A Dream Is a Wish Your Heart Makes and When You Wish Upon a Star by Jesse McCartney can do it, because he voiced Roxas in Kingdom Hearts II. Roxas is Sora's Nobody. Nobodies don't have hearts. And people wonder why fangirls feel so sorry for Organizaion XIII...
There are at least three other songs on John Mc Cutcheon's Live at Wolf Trap album that can bring some people to tears: "High Hearts", "Old Brown's Head Light", and the cover of "Joe Hill".
Her version done of "Marvin, I Love You" on her Christmas album A Winter Garden is even especially heart-rending thanks to her haunting instrumentation, gorgeous voice, and vibrato.
Lover is Childlike by The Low Anthem. The fact that it was written for The Hunger Games soundtrack, and fits well with Finnick and Annie's love story (and we all know how that ends) just makes it worse.
Sarah McLachlan's "Angel". The ASPCA uses it (and her) in their advertisements for a reason, and that reason is the song itself is an endless fountain of tears (made worse when you know Sarah wrote it for The Smashing Pumpkins keyboardist Jonathon Melvoin, who overdosed on heroin.)
"Over It" by Katherine McPhee can have some people bawling even after the song ends.
"Streets of London" by Ralph McTell. "One more forgotten hero, and a world that doesn't care...."
"Monster" by Meg & Dia deserves its own page. At first, it seems like it's just a song about rape (which is tear-jerker material by itself). But if you read the lyrics, you realize that it's really about how society's "monsters" have suffered just as much as their victims...
Also, Meg & Dia's "Yellow Butterfly." Many people who have heard it has cried.
Halloween by them is rather sad as well. It's about the death of someone close to Dia.
"Beloved Wife" by Natalie Merchant, a slow piano ballad with lyrics from the point of view of someone who's just lost their wife of 50 years.
"My Skin" may already make some people cry, but then they went and put it on one of those commercials with the abused animals. The words on the screen say "Why did they hurt me?", which would almost be Narm but...God, the song. "I've been treated so wrong / It's as if I'm becoming untouchable..." *Sniffle*
"Red" by Daniel Merriweather, especially the live version.
Jeremy Messersmith singing Beautiful Children always make some people cry. Unfortunately, this isn't the full song, but you get the idea.
With some of their slow songs, especially in their earlier years, Metric have a few. Notably, The Twist, Ending Start, Too Little, Too Late, and Love Is A Place. The music is so slow and depressing you find yourself feeling sad without knowing why.
MGMT's "Love Always Remains". It's about trying to live in the past and denying the bad things that happen. Rape is explicitly mentioned. The line "And no one has to hear the sound of people laughing at their fear" is usually what gets the tears started.
"In The Living Years" by Mike and the Mechanics is a real killer. Father/Son angst rendered huge.
Gavin Mikhail's "God in this Moment" It's a beautiful song about a person narrating their lives, starting with doubt about a higher power, then belief when their daughter is born, and finally, an anguished, saddened hope that there is one when the daughter and their family dies. The last few lines always get to me. "And now you're gon and I'm fading...And I-I hurt in all these new ways....Though I'm praying you've gone to a better place now, I...just can't say... but I hope...there's a God in this moment..."
White Wine In The Sun by Tim Minchin. By itself it's a beautiful, touching, and funny song - it'll probably make you tear up a bit. If you're a traveler or in the military, and you've ever spent Christmas away from your family and everyone you love... Jesus. Can lead to profuse, snotty tears.
Or how about Not Perfect? Relatable and beautiful. Or for some, Rock 'N Roll Nerd. He's got quite a few beautiful songs, it's just that most people pay attention to his comedy.
"Not Perfect" is merely poignant until the final verse, but then it swerves into pure Tear Jerker. It's beautiful throughout, though.
Kylie Minogue's "I Believe In You", because it is so beautiful. The ballad version is even more beautiful than that.
The Minutemen's nostalgic "History Lesson Pt2" is a bit of a tear jerker when you consider the writer (D. Boon) died in a road crash a year after recording it.
"The Tracks Of My Tears" by The Miracles: "So take a good look at my face/You'll see my smile looks out of place/If you look closer it easy to trace/The tracks of my tears". Any version can do this, but Billy Bragg's solo version will, probably hit the hardest.
"The Year Summer Ended in June" by Misery Signals is pretty heartbreaking. A couple of the band's current members used to be in another band. The reason they aren't anymore? The other members of the band died in a car wreck they were all in. This song is about that. The line, "Man, I'd give this whole thing up for you" can be especially hard for some people to hear.
"Where You End" by Moby.
"I Know You Are, But What Am I?" by Mogwai. Childish name, moving tune. It could be played at a damn funeral.
Try "Take Me Somewhere Nice", especially the lingering line "What was that for?"
"The Knit Cap Man" by the Moonriders is a peppy song about a businessman befriending a homeless person (nicknamed "Fujio-san"). In the final verse, the narrator is looking for Fujio-san for old time's sake and ends up finding him dead. There's a brief pause after this revelation before the song returns to an equally peppy chorus in which the narrator wonders how to handle Fujio-san's body and belongings. For an extra melancholy touch, the music video ends with footage of an Olympic torchbearer who may or may not have been Fujio-san himself.
Another that one could recommend would be Mandy Moore's "I Wanna Be with You".
Mandy Moore has a duet song with Jonathan Foreman called "Someday We'll Know". The song itself is about two people who, for some reason that is as absolute and inexplicable as the sky being blue, are in love with each other and can't be together, but the lyrics are just vague enough to where the listener can interpret it for themselves. The Lyrical Dissonance plus the metaphor-heavy lines make it customized suffering.
"Someday We'll Know" is actually a New Radicals song (remember "You Get What You Give"?) The original is quite sad as well. The Hall & Oates cover feat. Todd Rundgren? Not so much.
One might bawl upon hearing Craig Morgan's "Almost Home".
Lorrie Morgan's cover of "My Favorite Things" isn't really tearjerker, but the music video for it most definitely is. Consider that you're likely to see it playing around Christmas and it's all the worse.
"Dear Me", especially when you consider the song was released just after the death of her husband Keith Whitley.
Perfect by Alanis Morisette, about parents who expect perfection.
"We'll love you... just the way you are... if you're perfect..."
"L.G. Fuad" (Lets Get Fucked Up and Die) by Motion City Soundtrack
"I believe that I can overcome this and beat everything in the end But I choose to abuse for the time being Maybe I'll win, but for now I've decided to die..."
So is "Hold Me Down", "My Favorite Accident", "Time Turned Fragile", "Mary Without Sound", and "Broken Heart" when coupled with its music video.
"No Children" by the Mountain Goats. It's not good to be addicted to a song with lyrics as bleak as:
"You are coming down with me Hand in unlovable hand And I hope you die I hope we both die."
The Mountain Goats may have outdone themselves with "Matthew 25:21" from their most recent album, which, in a similar fashion to Sufjan Stevens' "Casimir Pulaski Day", chronicles a loved one's death from cancer. From the last verse:
"And as though you were speaking through a thick haze, you said hello to me We all stood there around you, happy to hear you speak The last of something bright burning still burning Beyond the cancer and the chemotherapy And you were a presence full of light upon this earth And I am a witness to your life and to it's worth It's three days later when I get the call And there's nobody around to break my fall..."
You can't talk about Mountain Goats tearjerkers without mentioning "Song for my stepfather", an autobiographical song about child abuse.
" You have got that look in your eye in the pinprick point where kindness goes to die I'll be six years old next year..."
Moxy Früvous is half a peppy, quirky, Canadian folk band. The other half of their songs will rip your heart out. For instance, "The Drinking Song", apparently about a friend who drank himself to death:
"Till the end, he passed out on the sundeck that morning Quietly saying goodbye But I was so hammered I sputtered and stammered Told him he couldn't just die He was a rock, went straight for his own armageddon Face froze in a grin Ambulence flyin' in, I never drank again Can't really call that a loss or a win And the band played on..."
John Munro has collaborated with Eric Bogle note See And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda above several times, so this should come as no real surprise:
"The Ballad of Charles Devonport" is about a real person. It's sung from the point of view of the mother who was forced to give him up for adoption. The whole song goes over the reasons she did it and what happened to him, including getting shipped across the ocean and being told she was dead. It's sad enough as all the things that the mother and son missed out are ennumerated in painful detail and all the things she wants to make up for. Then you find out in the end you find out that it's her ghost singing the song as her son kneels at her gravestone.
"Another Lonely Day" by Mute, which is the unofficial theme song to the indie movie A.K.A, can make one cry buckets, because the lyrics can resonate with them.
"and will I ever find my way Lord only knows It's just another lonely day..."
One of the many MOD pieces that can bring one to tears is "Alertia" by Myvoice & Reptile.
The original, piano-only version of the Kate Nash song "We Get On" can cause one to shed a tear or two. "But I must admit that there is still a part of me/That still thinks that we might get on" The way she sings the song, just simply and so honestly, can do it.
Immortal Technique's "Dance With The Devil tells the story of a young man losing his soul in the ghetto.
On the flipside of Immortal Technique's immense storytelling ability is "You Never Know about a man off the streets falling in love with a smart, educated Woman. Just as sad, but so incredibly different to Dance with the Devil. The (independent) video contributes to the tearjerker quality.
Noah & The Whales "Second Lover". Self-explanatory, really. But the lyrics are quite haunting.
"Hold My Hand As I'm Lowered" may qualify for this trope. Due to the music kicking in combined with the lines "Well, I fell in love with the world in you/And now I feel cold..."
Bebo Norman's "Britney". A beautiful song that serves as an apology to Britney Spears for all the crap the media put her through.
Norwegian Recycling's "Viva la Viral". Though a mix of realitvely cheesy songs, somehow they make something wonderful together. All we have is the past; let's make sure we make it worth remembering.
Damnit, thank you for linking this. Made tear up in class. Damn you, but thank you.
"A Prayer For The Unborn" by Gary Numan. On first hearing, it's sad enough — but then you find out it's about his wife's miscarriage. The power of the line "If you are my shepherd then I'm lost and no one can find me" can really get to one.
If you thought "A Prayer For The Unborn" was bad, wait till you hear his other song Little Invitro. The lyrics are twice as devastating, and the guitars exploding at the end of the song can really signify breaking down as hard as you've ever been broken down before in your life.
Simon Baron-Cohen writes and lectures about how autistic people lack empathy — to the point of portraying them as sociopathic, or without souls. He has never heard this.
Phil Ochs's rendition of the Alfred Noyes poem "The Highwayman".
"Moonlight Shadow" by Mike Oldfield. And the piano version by Groove coverage (not the techno version).
Also, his rendition of a funeral song "The Hero", from Voyager. This piece says, so effectively, "The End."
"On Horseback" can also do it. It's not as sad as it is nostalgic and beautiful, though.
That whole album. Ommadawn is the greatest thing he ever wrote.
It's a lovely song in its own right, but for anyone who has ever watched NANA, Olivia's "A Little Pain" is a guaranteed tear-jerker.
"Falling Slowly" from Once. While the song is definitely about hope, it's the kind of hope that you only believe in to keep going — "We screwed up, but at least we don't hate each other — maybe we can try again?" instead of "LOVE OVERCOMES ALL!" The lyrics are full of that sort of hopeful resignment, that might be why people find it so sad.
"The Hill", however... just listen to the lyrics, and the emotion in her voice when she sings them.
Chihiro Onitsuka's "castle.imitation", mostly due to its capacity as the end theme to Breath of Fire V. They're more bittersweet tears of the "triumphing over adversity/hoping through sorrow" sort though.
Orbital's "One Perfect Sunrise", their swan song. Features One-Woman Wail vocals over an otherwise bright instrumental melody, creating Mood Dissonance.
"Perfect" and "Everyday" by Maren Ord can bring some people who have lost loved ones to tears.
Owl City's song "Vanilla Twilight", despite ending on a hopeful note, is still incredibly melancholy.
Any Owl City song for some - the melodies in even the most upbeat tracks (e.g. 'Super Honeymoon') can bring a person to tears.
"Lonely Lullaby", though, is probably the most depressing of his songs. The fact that he is never once bitter or angry about the failed relationship that inspired the song only adds to how heart-wrenching it is. He still loves this girl, and it shows in every single line.
"Live", by Paul and Storm about a desperately lonely scientist trying to create his own perfect bride. Starts out as a parody of "Mad scientist" movies but the ending, where the two are killed by a rampaging mob just as the scientist FINALLY brings his creation to life, is a tear jerker.
Pavement's "We Dance" can bring tears to some. "Maybe we could dance...together?" The Malk just sounds so sad and vulnerable and lonely.
Pearls Before Swine with the desperate "Another Time" and the mournful "Images Of April".
"Pills" by the Perishers. All the love and hopelessness in there is enough to make you never want to have a relationship again.
"Little Digger" by Liz Phair. It's about her son coping with her new boyfriend after she splits up with his dad. "Now you're thinking little thoughts about it, taking every inch of him in. What does it mean when something changes how it's always been? And in your head you keep repeating the line, 'My mother is mine'." *sobs*
"And the license said you had to stick around until I was dead But if you're tired of looking at my face, I guess I already am..."
"Strange Chameleon" by The Pillows, particulary the verse after the bitching guitar solo.
"If everything is a lie that's made to look okay And the cat that I tamed was just hungry for food Even if it's an illusion that bursts with the sound of a snap The palm of my hand is still warm..."
"In My Arms" and "Taken" by Plumb.
Poe's "Amazed", particularly this line (especially within the context of the album):
"The voice of my father, still loud as before It used to scare me, but not anymore..."
If Poets of the Fall's "Late Goodbye" doesn't get you, the video will. Bonus points for featuring heavily in Max Payne 2, which is incredibly depressing all by itself.
"The Beautiful Ones". Why do we sacrifice our beautiful souls? How do you break a heart of gold?.
Karine Polwart's "Light on the Shore". A painfully honest song about the inevitability of death, with not the slightest crumb of comfort. Beautiful (especially the live version), but an Awesome Moment Of Downer.
We must mention The Pogues, and not just "Fairytale of New York". After a few beers on a winter's evening "The Broad Majestic Shannon" will also start the waterworks.
Prelude's cover of "After The Gold Rush" takes an average-quality Neil Young song, turns it a capella, and somehow manages to wring the tears out of those who hear it.
YMMV about the "average quality" part, the orignial is just as heart-wrenching.
"Hello in There" by John Prine. And he wrote the song when he was only 16!
Proof's Forgive Me. The song is desperate plea for help and it's depressing already, but given Proof's fate it's just on a whole new level.
"God you ain't got to forgive me, just don't forget me."
Talking about Proof, the last song of that album, Kurt Kobain is a suicide letter through a song. Everything about it is sad, from his voice (which breaks at some points) to the lyrics to the beat. It's called Kurt Kobain (correct spelling of the song) because of the suicide aspect.
A good part of Joe Purdy's existing music. Take, for example, Cowboy Song.
Rancid's "Otherside" - A tribute to Lars's brother. "I love you Robert, and I always will"
Rasputina has "A Quitter". A suicide note? Check. Strings? Check. Too-believable emotion from singer. Tear-smudged check.
"Rose K." as well. Directly inspired by Rose Kennedy's life, but is about aging and Alzheimer's in general.
She knows that there's a story, and she can't recall the plot. Of course her family fought over the furniture. 'Oh, I don't know why they have taken all my favorite things away, but one thing that's for sure, I don't know what they were.'
"Late Bloomer" by the now-defunct Reality Twitchwill sound familiar to anyone who's ever battled with parents over bad grades, anti-social tencencies, ADD, or just being "different".
The chorus of "Guardian Angel" by Red Jump Suit Apparatus.
"(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay", by Otis Redding, both in terms of the song being recorded just days before his untimely death and the song itself.
"A Walk In The Light Green/I Was Only Nineteen" by Redgum.
"Then someone called out 'Contact' and the bloke behind me swore and we hooked in there for hours, then a god-almighty roar. Frankie kicked a mine the day that mankind kicked the moon. God help me, he was going home in June." So powerful they put it on the Vietnam Forces National Memorial in Canberra.* The Reindeer Section's "Will You Please Be There For Me" can really grab your heart and yank it real hard.
"Where I Fall", also by The Reindeer Section.
"Ocean Gypsy" by Renaissance.
Also, "Cold is Being", based on "Adagio in G minor" - see Classical Music page.
This is the point of Damien Rice's career; mileage can vary, and he's become the default choice for angsty episode-ending montages, but... "Nine Crimes." "The Blower's Daughter." Yeah.
Oh, GOD, "The Blower's Daughter." It's devastating.
And then you hear "The Professor", about how he's fucked over his own love life again and again. And you know it's autobiographical. It can leave one speechless.
The little hitch he gets when he sings "So come on courage, teach me to be shy" in "Cannonball" is kind of heart wrenching.
"Accidental Babies" Oh god, that song! "Well I know I make you cry, and I know sometimes you wanna die, but do you really feel alive without me?"
Kim Richey, A Place Called Home. If you've seen the Angel episode A Hole in the World, you know what I'm talking about.
Some people may find themselves bawling at Sam Roberts' "Hard Road".
"Shine Your Light" by Robbie Robertson. Thanks to a beautiful fanvid done to honor Doyle from Angel with the song, one might lose it at this line:
"I thought I saw him walking by the side of the road Maybe trying to find his way home..."
Kelly Rowland's "Stole" can move one to tears by the story of young students having dreams and then their lives being taken away from them by carelessness and negative thoughts. The music video, which accentuates the story, was then put into rotation on MTV.
Kate Rusby's "Broken Hearted I Will Wander" in the "Music of Sharpe" collection. Her haunting voice captured the universal grief of those who have lost family and friends to war.
The entirety of Tom Russel's Magnum Opus, The Man From God Knows Where can be a gigantic Tearjerker. The album is based off of Russel's family tree, traced back carefully over 100 years. Many of the simple songs have captivating lyrics that accurately portray characters going through struggles. Probably the worst of the tracks for Tearjerkers is the track "Chickasaw County Jail" which was written about Tom's father, Charlie Russel. It details his life as someone who tried hard to get far in his life, failed miserably, lost his wife for many years, and ended up forgotten "in an old folks' home". Then the singer continues on through the track only to be cut off by the fade out. Then the Fridge Brilliance kicks in and you cry because it was Russel's way of depicting just how forgotten his father had become.
For that matter, "Angels Calling" needs to be here. If you read any of the Real Life tearjerkers, even if you've got a stone heart, while listening to this... It'll likely really open the waterworks up.
Saint Etienne's "Teenage Winter", the centrepiece of the Tales From Turnpike HouseConcept Album. "Holding on to something / And not knowing exactly what you're waiting for" can really do it. The four-fold repetition of the chorus with the strings in the middle is just gorgeous, and by the closing coda even the album's characters are in tears.
"Mums with pushchairs outside Sainsburys Tears in their eyes They'll never buy another Gibb Brothers record again Their old 45s gathering dust The birthday cards they couldn't face throwing away..."
And the main character of the album gets a Tear Jerker all to himself four tracks earlier, with "Last Orders For Gary Stead" - having spent most of the album as a comedy alcoholic, we finally find out exactly why he's Drowning His Sorrows (it's because of a rather awkward divorce).
Mark Sandman has had many in his songs, but two are the most heartbreaking because of their later "Funny Aneurysm" Moment usage. In the Morphine song, "French Fries With Pepper" he references the date of 09/09/99, which is the same year he died. In the Treat Her Right song "No Reason" he recounts that his brothers all died at young ages as well as the stabbing that would lead to his fatal heart attack.
The Say Anything song "Goodbye Young Tutor, You've Now Outgrown Me" is just one of the many tearjerkers from the double-album In Defense of the Genre, an album all about the lead singer (Max Bemis) and his descent into mental illness coupled with a rapidly souring relationship. When you start the album the ensuing 90 minutes of music will build you up and break you down only to leave you with one last glimmer of hope at the end.
ANYTHING Mark Schultz has done. But especially "He's My Son" and "Letters From War" — as well as "Remember Me".
"The Man Who Can't Be Moved" by The Script. Mostly because of the lyrics, in which the titular Man clearly has some mental health issues, but believes that by sleeping on the street where he met his lost love he's making a big romantic gesture that will win her back.
"Breakeven", also. And at the end of their debut album, "Anybody There".
Selah's "Moments Like These" is a song about a father and him cherishing the time he has with his daughters. That's tearjerking in itself, but then comes this verse:
I’ve got a little girl in heaven right now Those streets of gold are her playground The two hours she lived was enough to fall in love She’s the sweetest thing I ever let go of
"Immediate Music" by Serenata.
Shadows Fall is not really a band you'd expect this from. However, "Another Hero Lost" is just heartwrenching. There was this one Captain America tribute on Youtube with the song....oh dear....
It can tough to keep a stone face upon hearing "We Are Pilots" by the Shiny Toy Guns.
"Breathe Me" by Sia. Especially if you're a fan of Six Feet Under. The breakdown near the end will break your heart.
Likewise for "She Wolf (Falling to Pieces)" with David Guetta.
The last song on The Crow OST, "It Can't Rain All the Time" by Jane Siberry is just absolutely shattering. Her partially spoken word account of what happened to Eric and Shelley is so full of grief that it's almost unbearable to hear.
"Viðrar Vel Til Loftárása" by Sigur Rós. You will weep after seeing the video. See also the entirety of their () album.
The music video to "Untitled # 1" can make one her curl up in the fetal position sobbing wretchedly upon watching it.
"Tear by Tear" by Sister Hazel. The lyrics to the bridge include such gems as
"And the fat kid at school couldn't take anymore All the taunts and the names and the ugliest words No one even stopped to notice Went on with their day Till he pulled out a gun and blew himself away."
"Please tell my mother I'm down on my knees And I really miss you mom I love you, you, you All I love, all my love"
Sarah Slean sings two of these. She specializes, it seems, in heartbreaking piano melodies. "I Know" is Slean's reflection on violence against women, and she just sounds so damn resigned about it. Then, another, "Last Year's War" about a couple getting over infidelity.
The song "1000 Candles, 1000 Cranes" by Small Potatoes is about an American woman who lost two sons in WWII and a Japanese woman who lost her parents when the bomb was dropped on Japan.
The song "Italy and France" by Debi Smith, a song about a mother comparing her "different" special-needs child with flying to Italy when she thought she was going to France.
"We landed in Rome, and I had to make The best of what seemed a colossal mistake. But as it turned out, as it unwound I loved Italy; I was spellbound..."
The circumstances of his death doesn't help, but Elliott Smith's "Waltz No. 2" is a punch to the gut.
Mainly because of the circumstances of his death, the entirety of "From a Basement on a Hill" can give one shivers. Particularly "King's Crossing". ...."I can't prepare for death anymore than I already have..."
"Give me one good reason not to do it (because I love you)" The line in parentheses was provided by his girlfriend. The whole song is heartbreaking, and that line is the culmination.
"The Fields of Athenry" by Hollie Smith.
Halfway Pleased by Curt Smith (other half of Tears For Fears). It's a song about his relationship with his mom, who had post-natal depression. What the little girl says in the beginning of the track ('What is it? What is it, Mama? Where are you?') makes it even sadder - and that only got into the song by accident.
One Moment More by Mindy Smith is a plaintive, heartbreaking song which Smith wrote after the death of her adoptive mother. You can almost hear her fighting back tears in the chorus, and it gets this editor every time.
"Collapse" by Sparta. If the shockingly dark lyrics don't do you in, the cello out of nowhere at precisely the right moment will.
"Some Fantastic Place" by Squeeze. It can be hard make it to the guitar solo without breaking down and crying.
Star Sailor's "Tie Up My Hands"
Also "Way To Fall", particularly since it plays right after the soul-crushing ending of Metal Gear Solid 3.
"Personal" by Stars (the Canadian ones, not any of the other manifold musical groups under the name) can brings tears to one's eyes at total random. It's somewhat eerie (they went for the foreboding effect, so it sounds like the male of the song — who we only meet through personal ads — is about to murder someone or something) but emotacular whispered lyrics notwithstanding, it's quite powerful. It layers on the depression and angst without ever going beyond the realm of plausibility. Single M seeking single F. Single F replies and sends a photograph. They arrange a date... and single M never shows up. No reason is ever given So- 'is it you, or me?'
Speaking of Stars, their song "Your Ex-Lover is Dead" can also bring one to tears.
"All of that time you thought I was sad I was trying to remember your name." "I'll write you a postcard I'll send you the news From a house down the road from real love..." "Live through this and you won't look back..."
"Calendar Girl" perfectly captures the mental state where just surviving the day is a hard-won victory.
"Calendar girl Who is lost to the world Stay alive... November, December, yeah all through the winter I'm alive."
"In Our Bedroom After The War." Enough said.
As well as "Barricade". Gay football hooligans who fell tragically in love.
"Coma Therapy" by Strata. Even without knowing what the lyrics are about, the song might make you break down.
"Later That Year" by Straylight Run. It starts "So later that year, the bodies came home to Dover wrapped up in flags and lined up in rows" and ends with "we did the math,it wasn't worth it after all."
Try listening to the Stone Roses "Waterfall" when you're driving in the northern English moors.
Matthew Sweet has a few of these on the sentimental parts of his album Girlfriend.
Symphony X's ''The Odyssey Particularly the last verse of the final part; "Champion of Ithaca":
"Seems like forever that my eyes have been denied Home — I'm finally home It's been twenty years away from all I ever knew I have returned to make my dream come true..."
"Cry" by System F, featuring Saskia Lie Atjam on vocals. The original is sad enough, but the Rank 1 remix takes the cake.
As well as "Destination Moon". There might be other ways to interpret the song — but one possible interpretation is about a perpetually sick and crippled person constructing delusional fantasies about stuff they know deep down they'll never be able to do.
"The End of the Tour". TMBG tunes tend to be open to interpretation, but one possible message here is "enjoy what we have because one day, it's gone", and more specifically, "one day we won't be partners anymore; we won't share that interest that binds us, anymore; we won't be friends anymore".
An even more common interpretation is that it's either about the death of a loved one, a fatal car crash, or both.
There's an unreleased Dial-A-Song track (it can be found online, but the recording quality is mediocre), "No Answer," that is absolutely devastating—complete with a final verse that can very easily be interpreted as being about a stillbirth or miscarriage. TMBG's lyrics do tend to be darker than you'd think, but this one is especially sad.
"Sometimes A Lonely Way" is just sad. Even the music is sad—a rarity for the band.
"Jumper" by Third Eye Blind. "I wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend/You could cut ties with all the lies that you've been living in/And if you do not want to see me again/I would understand." This song can affect someone who has either been suicidal or knows someone who is (or was).
"Semi-Charmed Life" can be as well, even being an incredibly upbeat-sounding song, as the whole thing is essentially about crystal meth addiction "I'm scared but I'm not coming down./And I won't run for my life/She's got her jaws just locked now in smile/But nothing is all right."
Same with "The Salt Would Routine" by Thirteen Senses.
Rob Thomas's "Now Comes the Night." If you ever manage to hear it on the radio while driving, be sure to pull over before the bridge starts. It doesn't really make you cry — it simply destroys your soul.
"Ever the Same" is already an extremely poignant song: "You tide me over with a warmth I'll not forget/But I can only give you love." It becomes a sad Tear Jerker when you find out that he wrote it when his wife was diagnosed with an auto-immune disease, and it must have been hell for both of them — then it rolls right back to happy because it's just so hopeful and reassuring. How many songs are both happy and sad Tear Jerkers, at the same time?
Richard Thompson's "Beeswing."
And "1952 Vincent Black Lightning" especially the line "I see angels on Ariels in leather and chrome/Swooping down from heaven to carry me home..."
Ah that's a fine moment. Another would be the lone acoustic-guitar coda of "The Great Valerio". Which incorporates a tribute to Erik Satie: oddly, considering how that composer's work is so closely associated with the piano. But Richard can play anything on guitar.
And, on the punch-in-the-gut tragic side, "God Loves a Drunk". Richard is good at these.
And "Guns Are The Tongues", though that's more of the despairing-angry tears department.
Thrice's ''Daedalus''. The fact that the song's written from Daedalus's point-of-view — and, thus, has lines like "But son, please keep a steady wing/And know you're the only one that means anything to me" can really get to some. The last verse doesn't help, either:
"Oh Gods! Why is this happening to me? All I wanted was new life for my son to grow up free And now you took the only thing that meant anything to me I'll never fly again, I'll hang up my wings..."
"Like Moths to Flame" is another one.
"Comptine d'un autre été ; L'après midi'' by Yann Tiersen. The song by itself (a simple piano piece) is breathtakingly beautiful and sad, but when considered with this video it becomes especially poignant. The part with his dead wife and war buddies can especially do it.
Thriving Ivory's song "Angels on the Moon". Finding out it was written about 9/11 makes it even sadder.
"Losing my Way" by Justin Timberlake. It's about a drug addict who learns a bit too late what the consequences of his actions are, and it's an utterly heartbreaking desperate cry for help. Here's a link.
"In Die Nacht" by Tokio Hotel. Not because it's sad, but because of the love that flows from the singer to the guitarist, the subject of the song.
An introduction to a live performance of the song: "What we've got is pretty rare, I think. We're probably going to spend the rest of our lives together. We'll never part. Tom and I are going to go off together, into the night."
"Superman" by Oliver Tompsett. It's so sweet and sad, the last line of the bridge is "maybe it's time I faced the fact that I should get over you".
"without you I'm not superman at all" or "I don't know what I've done to make this heartache mine, I want you to love me for who I am til the end of time. I'll forgo who I'm meant to be so that you will love me too..." Sob.
Tony and Vixy's song Strange Messenger tells the semi-true story of an entire tribe dead and lost to history. All that remained of their language and history were forty words spoken by a parrot that nobody else understood. All those stories and all that history just gone. The intensity of the loss hits you right in the gut.
Were they beautiful and gentle? Would they call us friend or foe?
What wisdom did they live by? What secrets did they know?
It's a symphony reduced to what a single bird can sing
The forest lost their language, and they lost everything
"Nur zu Besuch" from the Toten Hosen. A song about the sadness of losing a beloved person. Made extra sad as the lead singer dedicated it to his dead mother
"Shattered" by Trading Yesterday has the ability to make some people break down in tears upon hearing it.
"Without love gone wrong Lifeless words l carry on But I know, all I know Is that the ends beginning Who I am from the start Take my home to my heart Let me go and I will run I will not be silent...''
"Love Song Requiem" and "One Day" can also do it.
"Dear Mr. Fantasy" by Traffic.
"Drops of Jupiter" by Train. It's the imagery combined with the lyrics that does something to your heart.
Lots of Train songs are tearjerkers. "Blind", "Hopeless", "When I Look to the Sky", "All I Ever Wanted", and "Brick by Brick" to name just a few. Yeah, there's that many sad ones.
On the Fear & Bullets album by Trust Obey (made to accompany reading the original graphic novel), the song "Sleeping Angel (The Dreaming)" just breaks you.
"Kuroi Namida" by Anna Tsuchiya. The pure emotion in her voice is breathtaking.
"Rain City" by Turin Brakes can make one choke up. Such a gentle and loving acoustic number. The fact that it was played as the background music to a sad scene in The OC can ruin it somewhat for some, though.
The part of the end theme from We Were Soldierscalled "Mansions of the Lord" (sung by the United States Military Academy Glee Club). Oh, and by the way, it's such a heartrending piece that the U.S. Army decided to make it THE official song to be performed at military funerals after the movie came out. Top that.
"Castles In The Sky" by Ian Van Dahl can be the ideal way to make one start to cry.
"OK" by Farin Urlaub. The song itself sounds like a fairly standard Breakup Song - until you see the video and realize what's really going on here is that the person addressed "left" by dying.
Paul Van Dyk also had a song called The Other Side, with Wayne Jackson singing. It was written in the wake of South East Asia Tsunami, in recognition of the loved ones of the people there lost in the water. It is just so... powerful.
わたしのココ (Watashi no Koko) has done some pretty depressing stuff, but it's hard to top "神様お願い," an upbeat waltz, (which, by the standards of the album, was a Surprisingly Gentle Song) about witnessing love without having ever been loved. But what really clinches is is the last two stanzas:
ねえ神様どうして (O God, why) わたし生まれてきたの (Was I born?) 誰にも愛されずに(Am I only to fall apart,) 壊れてゆくだけなの(Before anyone loved me?) その答えはいつでも(The answer will never) 風のなかで聴こえなくて(Make itself heard in the wind.) ねえ神様お願い(Please, O God,) わたしの全てを消して。(Power me down completely.) ねえ、神様。(O, God.)
Say what you will about Kanye West's public persona, but "Hey Mama" can be pretty hard not to cry to. There's even a video of West performing the song in concert after his mother's death, and being overcome by tears and staggering off the stage.
"Welcome to Heartbreak" and "Coldest Winter" from 808's Heartbreak. The former's about the life he could've had, the latter a farewell to his mum. "Street Lights" is also a bit depressing, given that it's mostly that one sad chorus repeated who knows how many times... In fact, the whole damn album is sure to move someone in some way.
Many of Eric Whitacre's choral works can be just overwhelming.
Cause you're always there And it's always right As it's always been Yeah, it's always right Right on Good times, bad times You were there at anytime And that is why you'll always be my friend And I keep saying After all we are We are all friends After all you are You're my best friend
Simple Plan's Untitled aka How could this happen to me. It's from the POV of a teenage girl killed in a drunk driving accident, and the video really makes it even sadder!
"A La Claire Fontaine", especially in the movie The Painted Veil.
If your of a certain age, "A Boy and His Frog" may reduce you to tears. The most heartrending part is the half-sobbing line of "I'll miss you, Dad". Then you realize that not only Kermit is singing this but Brian as well.
"A Moment Like This". Depending on the version, it can be so beautifully tender or heart-grabbing triumphant.
A song, called "A Walk In the Light Green/Only 19", is about a new Australian soldier going to Vietnam, losing his friend to a landmine, then coming home to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.
Another tear-jerking American favorite would be "Amazing Grace". Suffice to say, multitudes of people have cried to that song — especially if it's a particularly remarkable rendition.
"Amazing Grace" played by a lone bagpipe, at a military, police or firefighter funeral. One doesn't necesarily have to be religious to be moved by it.
"America the Beautiful".
You may, perhaps, be able to listen to "Ashokan Farewell" without crying. But if you can listen to it playing under the reading of Sullivan Ballou's letter, and not break down utterly ... you are not a healthy person.
An Australian song that is often played on ANZAC Day (remembrance to all Australian soldiers who fought and died in all wars) is 'The Band played Waltzing Matilda' about a soldier in World War 1 who lost his legs. There probably isn't an Aussie alive anywhere who didn't tear up listening to that song the first time.
Even non-Australians can lose it during "The Band Played Waltzing Matilda". Indeed, seeing as how it is ANZAC Day and not AAC Day, the day is not only for Australians. Try watching the Dawn Service from Gallipoli. Good luck keeping together.
"The Battle Hymn of the Republic" can do it, especially when the lyrics "As he died to make men holy / Let us die to make men free" come in (especially when you consider who would be most likely to be singing it in the years shortly after it was written).
The US Army Chorus's version can really do it. Especially when they sang it at a celebration of Lincoln's 200th birthday, where they changed the lyric to "So he died to make men free."
This troper's voice faltered a bit when she sang the contemporary Catholic hymn "Be Not Afraid" at her grandmother's funeral as her casket was wheeled in. From that day onward, she can't sing it without tearing up.
There's a contemporary piece, "Be Thou My Vision", which was commissioned by a man in honor of his dead parents. Happier in tone than you'd expect, but still incredibly touching.
Another song that can get one to tear up is "Believe Me If All Those Endearing Young Charms". No matter the version, you might tear up.
The ending to "Billy, Don't Be a Hero." Also the rest of the song to some degree, but especially the ending.
"Cherish (Ai Otsuka)". the lyrics, when translated, is generally happy and is a love song, but set to this video  can have you tearing up.
"The Circle Game".
The song "Come In From the Firefly Darkness".
"Comptine d'un autre ete" has such a sad melody, even a modified version of it in a commercial can really move someone.
The American folk song "Dreaming of Home and Mother" is pretty tearjerking in the original language, but the Japanese, and especially the Chinese renditions really tug on the heartstrings.
The lullaby "Dun do Shuil" from the album "Till Their Eyes Shine." Sung in a minor chord, it's a mother singing to her child that their father will be back tomorrow with food for them. And the minor chord makes it blatantly obvious that this isn't the case.
The song "Era en abril" ("It was in April") of Argentinian singer Juan Carlos Baglietto, where he describes a man and his wife's pain and attempts to cope with the loss of their stillborn son.
The US Naval Hymn, "Eternal Father Strong to Save".
"Feliz Navidad" can do it, due to it's association with the opening sequence of Christmas Eve on Sesame Street.
"Fiddler's Green," a dying sailor's vision of Heaven.
"Now I don't want a harp nor a halo, not me Just give me a breeze and a good rolling sea..."
How about "The Fields of Athenry" at full volume.
"Flowers of the Forest".
Hearing the whole crowd at a Dinosaur Jr gig singing the ending of "Freak Scene" can bring one to tears:
"Don't let me fuck up will you 'Cos when I need a friend it's still you".
"Gloomy Sunday" (aka "The Hungarian Suicide Song"), especially the versions performed by Billie Holiday and Sinead O'Connor.
"God Bless America".
"The Green Green Grass of Home". It's a song about a guy who wants to go home to his family and his girlfriend, but he's in prison and he's executed before he can.
"The Heart Asks Pleasure First", also known as "that song from The Piano". It is like rain in summer, dancing leaves in autumn, snow at Christmas, and warm sun in spring all in one song. It flows on beautifully, and you think it will forever, and then it stops... like a life.
The Israel national anthem Hatikvah (or The Hope) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7SCkq1qzdk. The words in the songs are supposed to be happy, but it just sounds so heartbreaking. Written in the 1880s, the theme is meant to revolve around the nearly 2000 year old hope of the Jewish people to be a free and sovereign people in the land of Israel.
"Himmel på jord" may be "just another Christmas-song", but it's a great Christmas-song nonetheless. Especially the refrain, which translates into something like "Heaven on earth, a mercy so great. I'm not alone here on earth."
The Holocaust Cantata. Especially "The Train," where the male soloist sings a last farewell to his love as she is being taken to a concentration camp.
Already rolling, puffing and blowing/Already hearing the clatter taking her away...
"The Train" from Holocaust Cantata can leave one crying and numb.
"House at Pooh Corner"
"I Thank You God" — especially the women's chorus version of that song, as soon as you realize it was arranged for a dead mother.
Also, thanks to the Concert for George, "I'll See You In My Dreams".
"I'll Stand by You". GOD. Every version can make one cry like a small child. Particularly the line:
Nothing you confess Could make me love you less I'll stand by you.
Any decent rendition of "If I Were A Blackbird".
"In Christ Alone" can do it, especially at the line "no pow'r of hell, no scheme of man".
"In the Garden", an assurance hymn frequently chosen by people for their own funerals. "How Great Thou Art" is another.
"Hamilchama Ha'achrona": "ani mavtiah lah, yalda sheli k'tana, she'zeh tehiyeh ha'milhama ha'aharona..." "I promise you, my little daughter, that this will be the last war..."
"Kilkelly, Ireland" is another one. The story of an Irish immigrant, told through the letters written to him by his family back at home.
"Kirkconnell Lee". The Ballad of Helen, who was caught with her lover by the man her parents had chosen for her, and takes a bullet meant for him( her lover, that is). It's very sad, with her lover wishing it were he that was ' where Helen lies'.
Almost any song using the words of a Henry Lawson poem. Songs like "The Water Lily", "The Bush Girl", and "Reedy River" can be especially heartbreaking.
"Living Next Door to Alice". It might be hard to decide who you should feel more sorry for — the guy telling the tale or Sally, who is calling him. At one point in the song, she's confessing her feelings for him and the very next line is "and the big limousine disappeared". So, he is so crushed by Alice leaving, so busy looking at the disappearing car, that he doesn't even register a love confession. Listening to the song can leave you on the verge of crying.
And then you read the poem it's named after and you die all over again.
"March of the Volunteers" seems a bit out of place here with its almost idealistic talk of bravery and self-sacrifice in casting off oppression, but it stirs something all the same.
"Nadia's Theme" Oh, sweet Jesus.
The music video Okkusenmannote direct translation of "okusenman" is "110 million", but it means "countless", and thus "Omoide ha Okkusenman" is "Countless Memories", when you put perspective into it, can make you cry. One might cry at when the main character in the video met a girl he knew in his childhood aboard the train. But there are also other instances that might make you cry, since the song is about growing up and parting with friends we had, with only countless memories left behind and knowledge that we'll never repeat those experiences note and yes, it is one of those things which get more tear-jerking as we grow older, because it's a song about growing up being sad compared to childhood.
And somebody made an awesome 3D music video of Megaman 2 right here, but at the points around 1:54 and 2:15, he fights the robot masters who finally seem to have respect for him, and he takes their power and it's kind of heartwarmingly sad.
A slow, a capella rendition of "One Tin Soldier" might do it.
There's an old soldiers' song, called "Only Remembered" — recorded by various folk artists, including Coope Boyes and Simpson and John Tams. The chorus goes:
"Only remembered, only remembered, Only remembered for what we have done. Shall we at last be united in glory? Only remembered for what we have done."
When Tams performs it live, he likes to make the audience sing along with the above-quoted chorus.
"Peat Bog Soliders", known in German as "Moorsoldaten", is moving enough in it's own right, but becomes a Tear Jerker when you learn that it was written by prisoners in the Nazi concentration camp of Bogermor in the early 1930s, a defiant affirmation of their democratic ideals. Luke Kelly's rendition is particularly moving.
The song "Prayer of the Children" has been known to make many people cry. This is all without mentioning the story behind this beautiful song. A missionary named Kurt Bestor lived in Serbia in the 1970's, and, well, let's let him tell his story:
"When Yugoslavian President Josip Broz Tito died, different political factions jockeyed for position and the inevitable happened — civil war. Suddenly my friends were pitted against each other. Serbian brother wouldn't talk to Croatian sister-in-law. Bosnian mother disowned Serbian son-in-law and so it went. Meanwhile, all I could do was stay glued to the TV back in the US and sink deeper in a sense of hopelessness. Finally, one night I began channeling these deep feelings into a wordless melody. Then little by little I added words....Can you hear....? Can you feel......? I started with these feelings — sensations that the children struggling to live in this difficult time might be feeling. Serbian, Croatian, and Bosnian children all felt the same feelings of confusion and sadness and it was for them that I was writing this song."
And here is that song in all its glory. Lack of tears proves lack of any human compassion whatsoever.
Another Argentinian one: RasguÃ±a las piedras by Sui Generis.
"Read Me A Memory" is a pretty obscure song about fairy tales. Heartstrings mat be plucked: Nostalgia, leaving childhood, a parents love for a child, tradition...
"Years turn like pages, soon I'll be grown. Maybe someday I'll read to a child of my own. Though I may not remember the stories we shared, I always knew, through time spent with you That you loved me too."
"Somebody That I Used to Know" by Gotye. It expresses the dissolution of a relationship in such frank terms, with such affecting background music to match, that it's bound to at least yank your heartstrings a little. "You didn't have to stoop so low/Have your friends collect your records and then change your number/I guess that I don't need that, though/Now you're just somebody that I used to know." *sniff*
"Heart's a Mess" is another one, this time about someone who is closed off from love after getting hurt. Gotye sings from perspective of a person wanting to break through their resistance: "You have lost/Too much love/To fear, doubt and distrust/(It's not enough)/You just threw away the key/To your heart"
"Star Spangled Banner".
"Stopping All Stations" is a very upsetting Rashomon style song by Hilltop Hoods which details a fatal mugging on an Adelaide bound train from the viewpoint of the victim (a war veteran that the world has left behind), a woman who tried to help him but was knocked out by the mugger and the mugger (a young man angry at the world). The linked song is the Restrung version which changes the last verse but it still loses no impact, just that the old man survives.
"To the digger with a machete at his lungs and he's prone, He can barely stand but ready to stand up for his own, She tries to help him she doesn't choose to flee the car, And catches a blow with enough bruise to leave a scar, She starts fainting, the rooms moving and seeing stars, Aint it amazing how courageous human beings are?"
"Those Were the Days" is another one.
A certain college a capella group's version of "Walk of Shame" — which is a comedy song, mostly — can make some people cry. Mostly it's the line "I pray to God he stays asleep" at the very beginning, before embarking on the (titular) walk home after hooking up with a random fellow college student. Some lines might make one giggle like an idiot, but that line... um, doesn't. It's all the vocals.
"Watchman, Tell Us of the Night", a beautiful, melancholy orchestral piece. The song is dreamlike, through the eyes of a child. Perhaps, "beautiful" is not a comparable word.
There's an old spiritual called "Were You There", which is only sung on Maundy Thursday or Good Friday. It's such a simply little tune, but incredibly poignant.
The version with the lyrics "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom", delivered in a melancholy tune, can really do it.
The multi-lingual version of "When you Believe" can be quite heartrending, especially with this Axis Powers Hetaliavideo.
The credits version of "Where Are You, Christmas?" (Don't watch the video itself, or you may end up with Narm.) Some people might remember how wonderful Christmas used to seem (and for most, how wonderful it actually was) when they were kids, and now ... what happened, indeed?
"Hey Santa" by Carnie & Wendy Wilson. A 90's classic, another tear inducing one here…but in the good kind of way, at that.
"Where Have All The Flowers Gone?" gets progressively more beautiful and more depressing as it goes on. Paraphrased, the song goes as thus: All the flowers are picked by girls, all the girls take husbands, all the husbands leave to be soldiers, all the soldiers go to graveyards, all the graveyards become covered with flowers.
Presented for your approval: Marlene Dietrich singing the same. Very, very late in the career of a woman who'd been personally affected by both world wars, at a time when she'd started to suffer catastrophic health problems...
"You and Me", the official theme song for the 2008 Beijing Olympics games. Granted, China isn't the most open of countries, but the effort to show openness to the rest of the world - demonstrated with the two different singers and the various nationalities in the music video - definitely shows. Try listening to it and not at least tear up.
The standard "You Don't Know Me" is all about unrequited love, but the two versions that might do it the most are Ray Charles' and Michael Buble'.
"You Light Up My Life" will bring tears to anyone who has ever been loveless or known someone who has.
"You'll Never Walk Alone" being sung at Anfield on anniversaries of the Hillsborough disaster is absolutely heartstopping.
Oh, god, the line "Hold your head up high and don't be afraid of the dark." Especially if one terrified of losing the people who support her and has an irrational fear of the dark.
"Zog Nit Keynmol (The Partisans' Song)", a Yiddish song written in 1943 by Hirsh Glick, who was a Jewish inmate of the Vilna Ghetto.
The Vandals are a punk band known for their sophomoric humor (sample album title: Live Fast, Diarhea), so you'd expect a song of theirs called "Canine Euthanasia" to be in poor taste... It turns out to be a sincere tribute to a beloved pet who had to be put to sleep - if you're a dog lover, the lyrics might well make you cry, especially the BBC session version that has Joe Escalante performing it solo on piano:
You were my constant companion
but now you don't recognize me
your eyes are blind and dad says
we should let you die with dignity
You knew where we were going on that last ride
when I promised mom & dad I wouldn't cry.
Robert Wyatt's voice alone probably qualifies.
Lou Reed managed to create a whole TearJerker album with Berlin
Two of Kenny Rogers' songs, Lucille and The Coward of the County. Lucille is a tearjerk through and through. In Coward of the County, the last words Tommy's father says to him can qualify.
Westlife have made several songs that qualify as Tear Jerkers. Especially over the last few years.
First example is "I'll See You Again", a song written by band-members Nicky Byrne and Kian Egan as a tribute to their late fathers who died months before the album the song was on was released.
Always... you will be part of me
And I will forever feel your strength
When I need it most
You're gone now...
Gone but not forgotten...
I can't say this to your face
But I know you hear...
I'll see you again
You never really left
I feel you walk beside me
I know I'll see you again.
Another excellent example is "You Raise Me Up", especially in the context of their last concert. Having just said their final goodbyes to their fans all over the world, the song was intended as a Tear Jerker. It only becomes even more touching when you consider that Shane Filan had just pulled off the band's biggest CMOA ever, by getting 85.000 people to light up their flashlight-apps and pointing them at him. It looked awesome, but was also a huge Tear Jerker.
There's just something about Underworld's "Born Slippy .NUXX" that makes it heartbreaking. Perhaps it's the use of the word "boy". Perhaps it's knowing it's supposed to sound like an alcoholic's internal monologue. In any case, it can be emotionally overwhelming to listen to at times.
USSR made a song called "Bronezhilet". It's a song about the Afghan war the Soviet Union fought. The refrain goes "See, the bullet holes in my armored vest? How many boys are lying here? How many young years?" Its chorus (which comes immediately afterwards) alternates between "Mama, mom, forgive me, I did not save myself. Bullets flying into me, I did not notice." and "Who at night thought about how pretty his girl stands. For whom the last day became Afghanistan."
Opeth has a couple of Tear Jerker songs, but amongst them, The Drapery Falls stands out as one of the most depressing. The song is about an abusive couple who viciously hate eachother, each night with the male side of the couple raping and beating his wife. Each day, they both wake up to eachother's sounds, snapping back into reality - which is, for them both, nothing but misery.
"Septiembre" ("September"), a song by the spanish musician Carlos Berlanga. The lyrics are written from the perspective of a former pop star who slowly accepts his fate of being lonely, addicted to heroin and forgotten by his public: the combination of their nonchalant tone with a pretty upbeat Synth Pop arrangement makes for a severe case of Lyrical Dissonance. When Berlanga passed away in 2002, after spending a couple of decades drinking and drugging himself to death, it seemed that he had outlined the circumstances of his own demise in this song, written 22 years before.
"Missing You", by Puff Daddy and The Family, might bring tears even to people who don't consider themselves fans of the artist paid tribute to (The Notorious B.I.G.).
"Always Like This" by Bombay Bicycle Club. Despite its upbeat nature, the lyrics are incredibly sad and on top of that, the lead vocalist sounds like he could burst into tears at any moment in the song, making it one of the worst cases of Lyrical Dissonance ever.
School Friendsby Now, Now can bring people to tears if they have been led on.
Brutally parodied by The Goodies with "Mummy I Don't Like my Meat", the story of a family so desperately poor they had to feed their pets and later the father to their daughter. Originally heard in the TV series as part of a game show where contestants had to sing a song that would make a granny cry; this song caused her to almost drown in her own tears.