(16) 10,000 Maniacs, "Eat for Two"
“Eat for Two” covers a fairly wide swath of emotion, most overtly anger, fear, and regret. But sadness is always there too, obvious in the form of an unplanned and unwanted pregnancy (“My folly grows inside of me”), but, more subtly, in the form of the narrator’s disappointment in herself. Bitterly, she tells us “Pride is for men, young girls should run and hide instead / Risk the game by taking dares with yes.” She holds herself entirely responsible for her predicament and dispenses with the baby’s father in a few withering lines, “But she couldn’t stand for the way he begged and gave in.” It is this quality that makes the song a more universal song about sadness—it’s less about an unwanted baby and more about the sadness we feel when we disappoint ourselves with our own weakness.
(1) Elliott Smith, "Waltz #2"
Though official selection committee advisers strongly recommended “Needle in the Hay,” the committee made a late switch to “Waltz #2” and stand by this choice. Smith is a one-seed in part on account of his reputation—this is a legacy program we’re looking at here, and it’s hard to argue with a track record of sadness like Elliott Smith’s (or with his presumed—or possible, anyhow—suicide with a knife to the chest). One of the things we admire most about “Waltz #2” is that it's a freaking waltz, for starters, and thus it stands out from everything else here. Secondly, there’s the wonderful way the song ends, turning the minor to the major with the very last chord. It’s almost unbearable listening to that turn, knowing he's gone. The committee admits that it doesn't know enough about Elliott Smith—the committee does not claim expertise in his oeuvre—but his is a pretty god damned sad story, ending sadly, and with a significant question mark, and this is one of the bracket's high-water points of desperation and sad beauty. Of course there's no official video: