As it were, songs that are not happy are often described by music reviewers as melancholic – especially in electronic music. Melancholic is used in electronic music reviews 26x more often compared to regular old English, and at least 3x more compared to indie rock music reviews.

Melancholic songs written in a minor key often sound sad in contrast to songs written in a major key so say the boffins, but melancholic music is also culturally ingrained based on our experiences of what we’ve been told is a sad moment, such as the soundtrack to a sad scene in a film.

How does melancholic sound?

Melancholic music is everywhere, but my favourite examples are contained in any song by Matt Elliott, aka Third Eye Foundation.

Seven Examples of Melancholic

  1. “His sparse and hypnotic often loop-based compositions seem to draw parallels with Detroit Techno’s earliest beginnings, all at once conjuring those same feelings of both melancholic longing and ecstatic joy.”
  2. “His usual percussive wizardry is at work here that, whilst vigorous, retains a light atmospheric feeling keeping fully in line with the melancholic tones of the track.”
  3. “Side A is recorded straight to tape with all its delicious textures, filled with melancholic bleep goodness, deep drums, bewitching basslines and melodies that are evocative of future bygone days when deep was going to mean something.”
  4. “Recorded over a few weeks in the winter of 2015, the intimacy of the recordings shines through in a melancholic yet hopeful world of melody and tone.”
  5. “The latter two are particularly emotionally charged, with the melancholic, contemplative melodies adding an emotive dimension to the sturdy club beats beneath.”
  6. “The end result is a beautiful, melancholic and stunning debut drawing comparisons to artists such as This Mortal Coil and Cocteau Twins.”
  7. “The bass line strikes hard but he also squeezes some great melancholic synth lines out of his machines.”

What’s the most melancholic thing you’ve ever heard in your life?


 *Comparing our electronic review corpus compared to the EnTenTen Corpus, which represents a vast collection of American and British English usage.

Published by John Noi

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