This is something I wrote on my tumblr (what a surprise) following a request to write it. I love music and I love writing, so pairing the two together is always fun.
Lykke Li is an artist I’ve known only briefly – the melancholic, ethereal Possibility and the passionately adorable Little Bit specifically are songs I love by her. Sadness Is A Blessing is a pleasantly glum song, easy on the ears but harsher on the heart when you peel back the pretty wrapping paper and peek underneath.
The song itself, musically, would fit well within the fifites and sixties, heavy on the doo-wop beats yet with her own unique, mechanical edge in the very background, underlining the whole song to make the sound her own rather than a copy of those old fashioned songs.. This harks back to the old fashioned love songs that were often mingled with losing true love as well as finding it; these kinds of songs from back in the day had a much stronger emphasis on love forever – of course due to the old fashioned traditions of marrying young and remaining faithful. This cleverly puts an automatic spin on the song where Lykke Li is speaking of this real, true love to last a long time – which can make reading into the unfortunate lyrics, dripping with sadness and longing (this is, after all, a lonesome love song much like these old tunes of old) even more emotive.
Lykke Li’s voice itself would fit well with this type of fities-era-central track – slightly tinny and wavering much like the lo-fi style from years before, and it the perfect amount of realistically unpolished for such a song, particularly when she has the desperate squeak of emotion in the bridge.
The repetition of lyrics is clever too, emphasising various parts of the song to underline the emotion there – for example, “wounded rhymes” is a lyric that is repeated twice in the beginning – setting the tone and stating that this song itself is a “wounded rhyme”: a song of sadness – and then appears once more in the middle, returning as she may have done many times to writing her sad songs over and over. The repetition of the word sadness does the same too – it underlines the key emotion, theme of the song, and demonstrates the consistency of the feeling, how it always returns and stays and doesn’t escape her. The final chorus, finishing up with the continuous “Oh, sadness I’m your girl”, closes the song by summarising what she has realised about herself – she and the sadness belong to one another.
Though the song would musically fit well with sunny days and party nights, perfect for swinging and swaying along, the music and optimistic title are only the sugar coating for the hard-edged lyrics. There are many ways to take Sadness Is A Blessing – upon reading the lyrics and listening to the song, there are alternative ideas that come to mind about the specific meaning of the song (though I’m sure Li has her own definitive meaning – I’m just not researching actual meanings to give my own personal thoughts). I love songs with ambiguity, as for each person they can be read a certain way and appeal to different people for different reasons.
Firstly, SIAB could be about how Lykke Li embraces the feelings of unhappiness literally – she clings onto and is thankful for the consistency of the emotion as the guy who left her (who she “beg[ged] not to go”) isn’t reliable. Rather than allowing the negative emotions she feels eat her up and make “wounded rhymes”, she basks in it and nurtures it as she would a real boyfriend. Within the lyrics she expresses her gratefulness for the “blessing” of her grief, compliments it by comparing it to a pearl, and finally outright calls it her boyfriend, saying that she is “[its] girl”. This gives it an unhealthy edge, and leads to a more worrying theme for the song. There is an inequality between “my boyfriend” and “I’m your girl”; the latter has connotations of dependency and being owned, which adds to the second possibility of the meaning of this song.
The song could be about depression. As she is dependent on the sadness and, in a rather twisted way, has too much attachment and care for it, she may be actually enjoying the feelings of depression rather than singing a lonesome song for her actual physical boyfriend. Instead she may relish the mental illness and embrace it rather than take the difficult journey to overcome it. Then again, it could be a way of gaining control – letting herself love it and shape it into her “boyfriend” or something beautiful and precious (”pearl”) in order to begin overcoming it and escaping it.
However, thirdly, it could be neither of these things. Rather than truly loving the sadness she feels it may be a bitter song about the main guy in question as the central character rather than the emotion – just a sarcastic expression of how she only has this unhappiness and, as mentioned before, it’s the only reliable thing in her life – though it doesn’t have an appealing spin on it this time.
This song is a very pretty tune, reminiscent of classic love songs gone by and cleverly incorporating Lykke Li’s own style within it – her memorable voice and the mechanical sounds heard in her other songs, such as Possibility, and putting a clear modern edge on an old-fashioned theme that is recognisable and relatable to many people of both today and yesteryear.