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Olly Alexander of Years & Years
Olly Alexandervia @ollyyears / Instagram

Olly Alexander’s sad boy playlist

Feeling blue? The thin-skinned Years & Years singer has you sorted, with a playlist featuring FKA twigs, Burial and Destiny’s Child

Everybody knows that a tearjerker beats a happy track any day. Who wants to crank up that questionable Pharrell song (you know the one) when you could wallow, crying into your cereal in the morning and listening to something that actually speaks to your blues rather than tries to erase it? Music’s forever-sensitive singer Years & Years’ Olly Alexander happens to agree. “I feel like listening to sad songs are a way of narrating your life and confirming your identity,” he tells me. “All the best songs have an element of sadness.” With that in mind, here are ten of his favourite tracks to shed a tear to.


“A lot of this early-00s R&B music feels quite sad – maybe because I feel nostalgic for it. This remix really picks up on that sadness and turns it into this dark, dance-floor anthem. I’m a fan of Cyril Hahn too, and the way the line “Say My Name” is repeated in this remix really gets to me.”


“I feel like you could listen to any Bon Iver song and it would make you cry. They're all so heart-wrenching. “Stacks” is my favourite track off his first album and I love that album. It feels like a really perfect, sad song. I put it on when I want to wallow in my feelings. All of Bon Iver’s songs are sad songs.”


“This album that this track comes from is almost ten years old, which is really scary. My friend burned it for me on a CD and this was the song that stood out. I was really blown away by it and I started listening to a lot of similar electronic stuff after this. I used to always take the bus to school and listen to this on my headphones – it was depressing as hell but I wasn’t having a great time at school so it helped.”


"This is one of his more obscure tracks, but I’m a big Jeff Buckley fan and he’s one of my idols. This is one of the last songs on his posthumous demo and it’s always meant a lot to me. The chord progression is amazing in the song, and the lyrics are mourning for something that’s lost. I think it’s really beautiful."


“I was obsessed with this album and this track was at the time when garage was coming back, but in a really interesting way. I love garage and I’ve listened to this song so many times. It really felt like a soundtrack to my first couple of years in London and it’s that late night early morning music and whenever I listened to it I felt like I wasn’t alone in London. I’d love to work with SBTRKT if he’d have me.”


“When I lived in Battersea five years ago, I listened to this track a lot. It has that steel pan riff and it just does something to me. It’s an example of when dance music has this euphoric feel, but makes your heart feel like it’s going to burst, and Jamie XX has had a few songs like that. It feels like it’s late a night or you’ve done something horrible and you’re going home and you listen to that song.”


“This was the first FKA twigs song I heard two years ago, and I was amazed by it. What struck me the most was the lyrics because I really related to them. She writes about sexuality in a particularly new and fresh way, especially that line “He won’t make love to me, not now I’ve set the fee.” I can really connect to that. “


“Joni Mitchell is one of the best lyricists ever and this is such a beautiful song – the chord progression of the piano is amazing. It has some of my favourite lyrics in it ever. She says, 'I remember that time you told me you said "Love is touching souls" Surely you touched mine because part of you pours out of me' I just think that’s a killer lyric. I will never be as great as Joni Mitchell but I’ve always wanted to learn how she writes music in a really simple but powerful way.


“I recently discovered Lapalux – he’s a great producer. I used to go running to this song because I love running to sad music! I think it’s musically interesting and I’m not entirely sure who sings on this but I love her voice. As for the lyrics, I feel like she’s trying to get closure but she never gets it. Does anybody ever get closure?”


“I listened to Tim Buckley to get a wider concept of Jeff Buckley’s music and this is an incredible song. I think the lyrics are amazing and speak about something quite toxic, like he feels seduced but he’s confused about who’s seducing who. I really relate to that portrayal of a relationship. This song really put into words the way I have felt about myself. I’ve been writing about the same things ever since.”