The Best Sad Songs of 2024 (So Far)

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The Best Sad Songs of 2024 (So Far)John Medina - Getty Images

I hate to tell you this, but according to the stars, 2024 will be a rough year. Just about every astrology-adjacent app, X account, and newsletter warns of periods of intense transformation and growing pains. Fun, right?

Before you answer that, I have one more bit of glum news: this absolutely tracks with the year in music so far. Coming off the high energy of last year—which featured a surplus of pop, disco, and rock albums—it seems as if artists are ready to take a step back and reflect on the not-so-sunny parts of life. (See: Ariana Grande's latest record.)

Don’t fret! It’s not all gloom and doom. The saddest songs of the year so far have been downright impressive, at least. The best of them include offerings from The Last Dinner Party, Hozier, D4vd, and more. So grab your journal, press play, and hope for happier times.

Last Dinner Party, "On Your Side"

If you’re not familiar with The Last Dinner Party, now is the time to get acquainted with the stellar British rock band. In recent months, they've seen a meteoric rise, thanks to their enchanting vocals and striking lyrics—which navigate feelings of lust, longing, and power. In “On Your Side,” lead singer Abigail Morris reflects on her devotion to someone who doesn’t deserve it. In one moment, she breathlessly pleads, “I wish I didn’t want you,” and in the next, she admits her inability to walk away. “If it takes all night,” she wails, “I’ll be on your side.” It’s a vulnerable confession that pierces through the monotony of lovesick ballads. Many artists have written about heartbreak, sure, but not quite like this.

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Beyoncé, "16 Carriages"

In "16 Carriages," Beyoncé reflects on life in the limelight. Despite spending 20 years touring the globe, she manages to make the stress of stardom sound relatable. Is Beyoncé one of the greatest solo acts of her generation? Yes, but she’s also someone who’s been “overworked and overwhelmed,” just like you. “16 Carriages” is her hero’s tale—with bookmarks of family strife and troubling adultification—but it also strips back the superstar's glittering persona, revealing someone who is far more vulnerable than she appears. If this is any indication of what’s to come in Act II, then we ought to shed our expectations of Queen Bey and prepare for her reintroduction.

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Hozier, "Too Sweet"

Hozier never fails to entice listeners with his storytelling. When a snippet of “Too Sweet” first released on TikTok, fans gushed over his declarations of drinking whiskey and enjoying a cup of black coffee in bed. The then-unnamed song sounded hot and mysterious, but it holds a heavier narrative. Hozier does enjoy a bitter beverage, but that’s less of a brag, and more of a metaphor for his own self-loathing. He sings of a lover—who is “bright as the morning / soft as the rain/ pretty as a vine/ as sweet as a grape.” In other words? They're too good for him. Whether that’s true or not is a mystery, but one thing is certain. In “Too Sweet,” Hozier stands in the way of his own happiness.

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D4vd, "2016"

D4vd is an indie wunderkind, whose music manages to infuse banal experiences with new meaning. His latest offering, “2016,” expresses a desire to go back in time. Don’t be fooled by the chipper melody, though; “2016” isn’t a glimmering reflection of the past, but rather, a plea for the cognitive dissonance he once had. “I’m not the same kid I was in 2016,” he sings. “I was young / I was dumb / Now I overthink things / That I shouldn’t, I couldn’t / You wouldn’t believe what I did as a kid back in 2016.” With that, Dv4d poses an interesting question. Do we really want to return to our youth, or do we just want to know less than we do now?

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Nascent & Orion Sun, "Big Brown Eyes"

Nascent and Orion Sun’s latest single, “Big Brown Eyes,” is a beautiful, yet anxiety-drenched daydream. In the track, they choose to ignore the end of a relationship turned sour; instead, they reminisce on their ex’s beauty. “Big brown eyes,” Orion sings, pleading with herself, “I want to remember you just like this.” It’s a nice thought, but moments later, she confronts her somber reality. “Deeper than my deepest thoughts / Lies your laughter and your heart / What am I supposed to do? I can’t sleep now.” This is a song with no resolution—but then again, true heartbreak rarely does.

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Fletcher, "Pretending"

Fletcher often jokes about the difference between her true self, Cari Elise, and her stage persona. The latter is unflinchingly confident and sings about having sex with her ex like it’s nothing. But in her latest song, “Pretending,” Fletcher steps aside and lets Cari take the mic. In the rock-inspired track, she croons about pretending not to be in love with someone she’s smitten with. Fletcher may have repressed those feelings, but Cari is ready to speak up. With lyrics like, “I laugh it off as if that shit wouldn’t wreck me / As if I’m not what you’re waiting for / Like I’m not your ending,” Fletcher sets the stage for her next era of music—one that’s delightfully introspective.

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Role Model, "Oh, Gemini"

Rumor has it that Role Model (AKA Tucker Harrington Pillsbury) wrote “Oh, Gemini” about his ex-girlfriend Emma Chamberlain, but don’t let the gossip dissuade you from giving this track a fair chance. Young love—for all of its glory and gloom—is on full display in his biting retrospective, which pleads for second chances. That’s something we all can relate to, right?

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Ariana Grande, "We Can’t Be Friends"

Leave it to Ariana Grande to fuse gut-wrenching lyrics with an infectious beat. This song is very dance-friendly, so go ahead and groove along! But give yourself a moment to sit with the lyrics —you might be pleasantly surprised. “We Can’t Be Friends” is inspired by Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, which tells the story of Clementine, a woman who wipes her memory after an unbearable breakup. Like Clementine, Ariana flirts with the idea of permanently forgetting her ex.

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