‘Everybody Hurts’ by R.E.M. voted saddest song of all time

R.E.M. had the saddest song of all time

R.E.M. had the saddest song of all time with their 1993 track Everybody Hurts (Image: Rick Maiman/Sygma/Getty Images)

Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”, and “Yesterday” by The Beatles, completed the top five.

Almost half (48 percent) of adults believe a tune can have a huge impact on their mood.

As a result, 36 percent tune into sad songs when they are feeling nostalgic, and one in four (24 percent) will have them on rotation following a break-up.

And almost half claim sad songs can brighten up their mood.

Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now”, “Dancing Queen” by ABBA, and “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina And The Waves, were considered to be the happiest songs recorded.

While Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive”, “Eye of The Tiger” by Survivor, and Elton John’s singalong anthem “I’m Still Standing”, were revealed to be the ultimate motivation tracks.

The soothing sounds of Louis Armstrong’s “What a Wonderful World”, and The Beatles’ title track from their final album “Let It Be”, were named the most relaxing.

The research was commissioned by ear care brand Earex, which has teamed up with Professor Robert Till, professor of music at the University of Huddersfield and Chair of the International Association for the Study of Popular Music.

The Beatles had two tracks in the sad songs list

The Beatles had two tracks in the saddest songs list – with Yesterday in the top five (Image: Bob Thomas Sports Photography/Getty Images)

Music and sound in general can bring so much joy, so it’s crucial that we raise as much awareness as possible to look after our ears

Claire Campbell, Earex spokeswoman

Professor Till said: “What’s interesting is many of the top choices in this survey weren’t simply about their overall popularity – some of the most mentioned sad songs have far fewer plays on streaming platforms than others, indicating there really is something special about these particular songs.

“As one might expect, people’s age affected their choices, with younger audiences voting for Adele rather than R.E.M. – but what’s revealing for the saddest song is the youngest age range selected The Beatles’ Yesterday.

“Perhaps this reflects the recent film of the same title, and the importance of films and videos in providing context for songs.

“We associate particular songs with special moments in our lives, or memories of particular periods.

“Remembering how important music is right through our lives, this study is a timely reminder to look after our ears and our hearing while we are young, and throughout our lifetime, so that when we are older, we can continue enjoying the significant part music plays in our lives.”

The survey found the three key components to making a great song is a good beat, memorable melody, and evoking an emotional reaction – while nearly a fifth (19 percent) believe a good song must be relatable.

Queen's Don't Stop Me Now was the happiest song

In contrast, Queen’s Don’t Stop Me Now was voted the happiest song (Image: Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images)

Simply having the power to raise a smile was found to be the top reason why music is important, along with its ability to give them a lift when needed (54 percent) and being able to share it with others (30 percent).

As a result, over half (56 percent) of music lovers have a bank of songs they will always turn to in certain situations or with specific people.

More than a quarter (26 percent) turn on happy music when with friends, and a further 25 percent plug into motivating songs in the gym.

It also found the average adult listens to 25 songs each day, with home, in the car and at work the top places to play their beloved songs.

But one in five (20 percent) will always plug their earphones in when on a walk or run.

And while most listen to music at a regular volume around the home, 29 percent admit they love to listen loudly either at home or in the car.

Nearly half listen to music too loudly

Nearly half of music lovers listen to music at a high volume that could damage their hearing (Image: Ina Fassbender/AFP/Getty Images)

In fact, nearly half (48 percent) of those polled, via OnePoll, sometimes listen to music at such a loud volume that it could impact their ear health and hearing.

And more than eight in ten would be “devastated” if they could no longer listen to music.

Claire Campbell, from Earex, said: “The findings clearly demonstrate just how much we value what music can bring to our lives, as well as highlighting the importance of looking after our ear health so we can continue to keep immersing ourselves in the sounds we love.

“Listening to the music we love using in-ear buds or at a loud volume can have a detrimental impact on our ear health and, if excessive, could damage our hearing.

“Music and sound in general can bring so much joy, so it’s crucial that we raise as much awareness as possible to look after our ears.

“Our ears provide our ability to recognise, appreciate and reproduce sounds. They are complex and delicate and that’s why, when you get a problem – like a build-up of earwax or hardened earwax – your ears need special care.”


  1. R.E.M. – Everybody Hurts
  2. Sinead O’Connor – Nothing Compares 2 U
  3. Eric Clapton – Tears In Heaven
  4. Whitney Houston – I Will Always Love You
  5. The Beatles – Yesterday
  6. Adele – Someone Like You
  7. Celine Dion – My Heart Will Go On
  8. Roy Orbison – Crying
  9. Eric Carmen – All By Myself
  10. Robbie Williams – Angels
  11. Bill Withers – Ain’t No Sunshine
  12. James Blunt – Goodbye My Lover
  13. Toni Braxton – Unbreak My Heart
  14. Eva Cassidy – Songbird
  15. Coldplay – Fix You
  16. U2 – With Or Without You
  17. The Beatles – The Long and Winding Road
  18. Al Green – How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?
  19. Sam Smith – Stay With Me
  20. Amy Winehouse – Back To Black
  21. Carole King – It’s Too Late
  22. Lewis Capaldi – Someone You Loved
  23. John Lennon – Jealous Guy
  24. Simon & Garfunkel – The Boxer
  25. Gary Jules – Mad World
  26. Adele – Easy On Me
  27. Boyz II Men – End Of The Road
  28. Neil Young – Only Love Can Break Your Heart
  29. Passenger – Let Her Go
  30. The Fray – How To Save A Life

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