(7) Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds, "The Ship Song"
Choosing a Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds song for March Sadness proved a unique challenge; there are plenty of NCBS songs in which the speaker is sad, but usually he’s sad about someone who’s dead, and usually it kinda feels like the speaker is one who made that someone dead, which places the song in different, not-quite-sad territory. This wound up coloring the selections in other ways too; “Don’t Dream It’s Over” won out over “Better Be Home Soon” because I’m now convinced that the speaker in “Home Soon” is an abusive boyfriend. Luckily, NCBS also have a strong catalog of love songs, and it is from these that we plucked our nominee. “Into My Arms” has a sad and lovely video, but it’s pretty much a torch song. Eventually, we settled on “The Ship Song” which concerns a relationship that’s just hit the turning point of doom: “For you know the time is nigh / When I must remove your wings / And you, you must try to fly.” It retains that creepy NCBS essence (you don’t actually HAVE to try to remove anyone’s wings, Nick) while remaining achingly romantic “We talk about it all night long / We define our moral ground / But when I crawl into your arms / Everything, it comes tumbling down.” The song’s refrain makes it clear that these two will never quite be out of each other’s systems, yet cannot be together for long: “Come sail your ships around me / And burn your bridges down / We make a little history, baby / Every time you come around.”
(10) Smashing Pumpkins, "Disarm"
Judging from the Pumpkins' output, Billy Corgan’s certainly one of the saddest dudes in the tournament—maybe the saddest of those still living, and he was way back on this, their second album, and only kept escalating. I mean, only a band aiming for the title puts out an (underrated, in retrospect) album called Mellon Collie and the Infinite Sadness. The Smashing Pumpkins aren't a band that subtly wrapped their angst and yearning in layers of irony and sparkling wit. Nope: they go right to it from the first few bars here, and ask us to luxuriate in the almost painful wedge of sadness. So we do. You know you love the way the video begins, then the dramatic instrumentation: the strings, and uh, are those tubular bells that accompany the tympani that introduce the first part of the chorus? And isn't everyone so young in this video? They're all so beautiful. This song, like most of theirs, is straight-up freaking meant all the way through. There’s enough grand self-loathing in it (“The killer in me is the killer in you”) to make you rethink your decision to look up the lyrics, and the song might now feel easy to disregard as melodramatic, given distance and perspective from those dramatic, depressing years, but we would bet that this song goes right to a sweet spot of sadness for you (it does for us: we believe again, listening), and we know we're not the only ones who want to stay there for a while. So bask in how big this song is, and maybe how innocent we all once were ashamed to be.