In 2015, Mixmag posted a blog, Good Strife: How dance music swapped pleasure for pain, which explained how "dance music is commonly associated with feelings of ecstasy but some of the best recent records have been inspired by personal torment". The article explained that artists like Caribou, Flying Lotus and Mr. G "have all turned out the tearjerkers and released albums that should have come with an advisory sticker saying: 'Warning, contains lots of feelings.'"
Two years later, LA Weekly published a piece with the headline He's the Saddest Dancer: In Praise of Sad Dance Jams, and there certainly seems to be a lot of affection for what we're calling 'sad bangers' at the moment. There's even a Manchester clubnight called The Most Depressing Night of Your Life, which features DJs who "play power ballad anthems for the single, smitten, bitter and unloved".
In truth, the sad banger is nothing new. Many club tracks in many different genres - soul, disco, house, pop, electro - are tinged with melancholy. Done well, they sum up the complexity of emotions we experience on the dancefloor.
And so, to celebrate the return of Robyn - undisputed queen of the contemporary sad banger - here are 10 tearjerkers that tear up the dancefloor.
Robyn - Dancing on My Own (2010)
[Warning: Contains flashing images]
It's been eight years since Robyn released a solo album and she marked her return by posting a short film, Missing U - A Message To My Fans, about a twice-yearly clubnight in New York dedicated to her music. "I watched it and I actually cried," said Annie Mac when she spoke to Robyn on 1 August. "It's the power of music, and what it can do to people, and how it moves people, and your music just seems to have this incredible connection with people."
In 2010, Robyn told the Quietus, "I think I'm making music for grown-ups who remember what it's like to be a teenager... The feeling of wanting to be understood and wanting to find a connection with other people is a big driving force." And there's no one artist working in pop today who's more skilled at capturing that feeling in a song. The track that broke Robyn globally after an already-long career in Sweden, 2007's With Every Heartbeat, is a good example, as is new single Missing U, but there's no better sad banger in Robyn's catalogue than Dancing on My Own from 2010, about seeing an ex-lover with a new love interest in a club. What a tune.
ABBA - Dancing Queen (1976)
Swedish artists are particularly good at combining sadness and ecstasy in pop songs, and there are scores of ABBA tracks that hit that sweet spot - especially The Winner Takes It All and Dancing Queen. "Why ABBA's Dancing Queen is the saddest record ever made," began a 2016 Thump article [warning: contains adult language]. "You thought it was just a cheesy song that your great-aunt fell over to at your cousin's wedding, didn't you? You were wrong."
Dancing Queen is indeed a sad song - about, as Thump has it, the dancefloor being "a maelstrom of lost faith, memories, and missed opportunities. She [the narrator] was once 17, and as such was totally oblivious that the moment would ever end." Anni-Frid Lyngstad from ABBA is reported to have cried when she first heard it, saying: "I found the song so beautiful. It's one of those songs that goes straight to your heart."
Frankie Knuckles - Your Love (1986)
Dancing Queen is perhaps the most famous disco song of all time. When disco died, almost overnight in 1979, club music went underground again and returned in the 80s as house. Of the early pioneers, Frankie Knuckles was a master of expressing human emotion in an uplifting, danceable track. His music deeply affected people and led to an outpouring of love when he died in 2014.
The Whistle Song from 1991 is a great Frankie Knuckles sad banger. So is 1989's Tears. But for this list, we're going for Frankie's take on Jamie Principle's Your Love, a track that's become embedded in the DNA of house music.
Katy B - Crying for No Reason (2014)
[Warning: Contains flashing images]
Katy B emerged from London's furtive dance music scene in 2010 with Katy on a Mission, a dubstep track, and Lights On, featuring Ms. Dynamite. Crying for No Reason, from 2014, is a dance music ballad that made it to No.5 and you only have to scroll down the comments on YouTube to see quite how much the track means to people. "This is my sob song," writes Kara Adams. "It hits so close to home for me. It's so beautiful and so true I can't listen to it without crying."
LCD Soundsytem - All My Friends (2007)
LCD Soundsystem's music is steeped in pop history, taking influence from disco, house, rock and punk. In James Murphy they have a fine songwriter brilliantly adept at weaving heartbreak into intelligent, clubby tracks. New York, I Love You but You're Bringing Me Down is a fantastically emotional song; so is Someone Great; and Christmas Will Break Your Heart is a great example of a Yuletide sad banger.
But perhaps the greatest song Murphy ever wrote is All My Friends, which picks up on some of the themes in ABBA's Dancing Queen. In naming it the best track of 2007, Pitchfork said: "All My Friends is about a lot of things - guilt, drugs, the weight of expectation - but mostly, it's about aging, about how the template for growing older is melting away, and about what decisions we make for ourselves in light of such lowered expectations. This is a song about building a compass, and for Murphy, that journey not only starts with his friends: it ends there, too."
Womack & Womack - Teardrops (1988)
"Footsteps on the dance floor", "teardrops in my eyes", "whispers in the powder room" - Womack & Womack's Teardrops has all the ingredients of a perfect sad banger and it remains a copper-bottomed classic that's been covered by everyone from Elton John and k.d. lang to The xx.
A 2017 Noisey article, Sad Pop, Catharsis and Teardrops on the Dancefloor, explains quite how influential it became: "Maybe more than ever, pop artists today are occupying the headspace we're invited into on songs like Teardrops: there's a type of emotional discomfort between lyrical content and musical form that has become a crucial technique for some of our most bold pop musicians, from Lorde to Paramore, via Charli XCX and Bleachers."
Ultra Naté - Free (1997)
For some, Ultra Naté's 90s anthem represents something of a tricky moment in dance music history - when clubbing suddenly meant superclubs and handbag house, and the underground character of the scene had all but disappeared. For many others, Free is a great pop song that gets to the heart of what it feels like to be dancing at 5am without a care in the world. It's an aspirational track for anyone who's "down" and "feeling bad" that demands you, "Make that change, let's start today / Get outta bed, get on your way / Don't be scared your dream's right there / You want it, reach for it." Because you're free! To do what you want to do!
Gloria Gaynor - I Will Survive (1978)
Inexplicably, Gloria Gaynor's I Will Survive was originally a B-side and it only blew up when DJs noticed it was better than the A-side (a cover of The Righteous Brothers' Substitute), after which it became a No.1 in the US and UK. An anthem for the downtrodden, it combines tragedy ("It took all the strength I had not to fall apart / Kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart") with empowerment ("I used to cry / But now I hold my head up high and you see me") and is perhaps the greatest sad banger of all time. In 2016, it was selected for preservation in the Library of Congress's National Recording Registry, on account of it being "culturally, historically, or artistically significant". It's all three!
La Roux - Let Me Down Gently (2014)
La Roux's 2014 second album Trouble in Paradise was cruelly overlooked - by the record-buying public, at least. It was a critical smash, awarded top marks in the Guardian and 9/10 in NME, but it failed to sell well, which remains something of a pop mystery. A warm, analogue-feeling album influenced by golden-era disco, it's about "emptiness where there was once joy", as La Roux's Elly Jackson told NME, and it's full of sad bangers. Our pick for this list: Let Me Down Gently, one of the album's more downbeat tracks but a banger nonetheless. "I hope it doesn't seem like I'm young, foolish and green," Elly sings. "Let me in for a minute / You're not my life but I want you in it." No, we're not crying, you are.
Pet Shop Boys - Always On My Mind (1987)
Finally, 80s pop in the UK was a ripe time for sad bangers - The Communards' Don't Leave Me This Way and Ultravox's Dancing with Tears in My Eyes are both classics of the genre, and so is Pet Shop Boys' Always On My Mind, which took a vintage country song made famous by Elvis and Willie Nelson and flipped it into a decidedly unchristmasy Christmas No.1 in 1987. In explaining the success of their version, Neil Tennant of the band told Radio 2's Simon Mayo, "It's got to sound like you, not the original artist." Their electropop take certainly does sound different, and it was voted the greatest cover version ever in a BBC poll in 2014.