1. “The Only Exception” by Paramore
People don’t acknowledge it now but Paramore is a pretty awesome band. In ten years, I bet they’re going to be like Blink-182 and become cool. Not only do they make infectious pop-punk songs that leave you feeling like a teen anarchist, they also know when to tone it down and tug at your jaded heartstrings. “The Only Exception” is a beautiful albeit tragic song that sneaks up on you. The first ten seconds, you might be like “LOL, no thanks, hon!” but then a minute later, you’ll be sobbing in the fetal position and texting your ex from high school. It’s powerful and raw, unlike a lot of other glossy pop ballads, and it really hits a nerve amongst listeners.
2. “Simple Kind Of Life” by No Doubt
Gwen Stefani goes straight for the heart on this song about an ill-fated love (okay, all of her songs are about an ill-fated love but this one’s especially devastating for some reason). Even though I’ve never technically wanted a “simple kind of life,” I can relate to Gwen’s palpable feeling of loss on this song. My favorite part is when she sings, “You seem like you’d be a good dad…” because, hi, that’s kind of creepy, Gwen. Don’t ever say that to someone’s face.
3. “Everytime” by Britney Spears
“Emotion” and “Britney Spears” are usually two things that don’t go together but for her song “Everytime” they briefly form a beautiful union. For the first time ever, Britney strips away the suffocating production, opting for a simple piano to guide her through, and relies on her voice which, although weak and kind of creepy-sounding at times, can occasionally register some kind of emotion. Is it just me or does this song sound kind of scary though? Maybe it’s the music video, which Brit maybe/sorta commits suicide in, but the whole track sounds ominous and eerie.
4. “Beautiful” by Christina Aguilera
XXXtina’s music usually makes me cry tears of terror rather than genuine emotion but for her famous self-love anthem “Beautiful,” she actually manages to make a positive mark on my feelings. The song is simply, for lack of a better word, beautiful, and for once her tireless vocal gymnastics don’t seem annoying, She’s tried to make 5,000 songs like this since but it hasn’t worked. Literally every Christina Aguilera song is about her loving herself.
5. “Losing You” by Solange
I totally understand if you’re puzzled by this choice. On the surface, this track sounds like an uplifting slice of old school R & B. Hell, it samples a screaming baby! But when you really listen to the lyrics and Solange’s voice, it’s actually a pretty devastating song. My friend was the one to first point it out to me and at first I didn’t agree with him but after falling into a k-hole with it that lasted a few days, I get it now. I feel Solange’s pain. This is a heartbreaking ballad masquerading as upbeat pop.
6. “When You’re Gone” by Avril Lavigne
I know, I know, Avril Lavigne can be kind of the worst but when she’s in her element, she can also be the best. “When You’re Gone” is straight-up “I’M GOING TO MAKE YOU CRY!!!!” music. It’s dramatic, sentimental goop but it’s also epically sad and relatable. Deep down, we’re all just eternally 16 years old, aren’t we? This is why people like Avril Lavigne are still allowed to have careers.
7. “Undiscovered” by Ashlee Simpson
Why does no one acknowledge how amazing Ashlee Simpson’s debut album, Autobiography, was? It was SUCH a fantastic pop record. Every song was flawless. “Undiscovered” is the album’s dramatic closer and it feels like you should be having an Important Moment That You Commonly See In The Movies whenever you listen to it. Like, I should be driving in a car with my bags packed or breaking up with an ex. The real clincher is when an orchestra comes in. Totally unnecessary but what a great touch, Ash!
8. “Someone Like You” by Adele
Okay, now if I hear this song, I want to find Adele’s ex-boyfriend and kill him myself for being responsible for this overplayed ballad. When I first heard it though, I was not invincible to its power. This song goes deep into your broken heart and is like “Hey hon! It sucks getting dumped, doesn’t it?” and your heart is crying and nods, “Yeah… can you stop playing? You’re making me feel worse!” and the song is like “No. I’m going to play 8,000 times a day for the rest of your life.”
9. “I’ll Remember” by Madonna
This is one of those songs that’s really uplifting so it makes you cry for a different reason. Pop music is either about having a broken heart or “surviving” something catastrophic and preserving the memory, “I’ll Remember” being clearly the latter. Madonna doesn’t usually behave unguarded in her music so it’s always a real treat when she reminds us that she’s a vulnerable person instead of a she-demon.
10. “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston
At first, I was only going to include this song so you, the commenters, wouldn’t be like, “WTF? What about “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston?!!” But then I started listening to it and a tear began to glisten in my eye. I get it now. If you don’t feel things from this, I presume you’re dead inside and/or Courtney Stodden.
11. “Adam’s Song” by Blink-182
Speaking of being dead, Blink-182’s song about suicide always has me welling up with emotion. I have to wonder though: how many suicidal Blink-182 fans decided to off themselves because of this song? I’m not kidding. I seriously think listening to “Adam’s Song” caused a few emotional teenagers to commit suicide. I think I remember hearing about it on TRL or something.