Most days while I cook eggs and pile them on top of lettuce, then clean up the kitchen in the mornings, I usually listen to a podcast of This American Life on my no-longer-beaming-white Mac.
For those of you not in America, or who have somehow managed to take a road trip anywhere around the United States without landing on Ira Glass’ distinct nasally-infected voice, TAL is a show not about the US. It’s about the people that live within its borders, and who could easily live outside of them. It consistently takes storytelling and narrative to new levels, whether bonding us to a group of prisoners doing Shakespeare within the confines of Missouri Eastern Correctional Center or conspiratorially informing us the supposedly-real secret formula for Coke.
This week, the episode was re-aired from 2007. But it was about a subject that spans the test of time: breaking up. As I was swayed by the interview with Phil Collins by a woman who was going through a heart-wrenching break-up – and knew she could only move on by writing her own break-up song – I thought, “break-up songs are what get us through it. What would we do without those ballads that let us wallow in our shit, storm angrily off out the front door, and tear our insides to shredded wheat just a little bit more?”
In honor of this episode, and all the many hearts around the world that are being broken right at this moment, here is CL’s favorite break-up songs:
Come Back To Me
Against All Odds – Phil Collins
The song that started it all — well, at least this post. It’s hard to listen to even a moment without your stomach tightening a bit, especially once he says,
You’re the only one…who really knew me at all.
That’ll take you right back to your first heartbreak, and the love you never thought you’d get over. Then maybe your second heartbreak. Might even work up to your third. Thanks, Phil, for all the tears.
Nothing Compares to U – Sinead O’Conner
Sure, she ripped up a picture of the Pope on Saturday Night Live. But before that, she was just the bald-headed woman singing in front of a black background.
I went to the doctor guess what he told me, guess what he told me, he said girl you better try to have fun no matter what you do, but he’s a fool.
Originally penned by Prince, Sinead’s version was played incessantly on the radio in the early 90s, and blasted through a boom box by every person who thought, ‘sure, I get to eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant, but what’s the point when I’m horribly and terribly alone?”
Piece of My Heart - Janis Joplin
If anyone can take it, it’s Janis. She’s not afraid, and neither are we. We just need you back, now. Then we’ll show you how tough we can be.
I Feel Sad
It’s My Party – Lesley Gore
The original “woe is me” song from the 1960s, Lesley Gore lets it be known that it’s her party and she’ll cry if she wants to, dammit. I mean, how could he just leave the same time as Judy? On her BIRTHDAY, for chrissakes?
Yes, love can be that cruel.
Ain’t No Sunshine When She’s Gone - Bill Withers
Whether seeing the Sting-with-a-mustache version of the song in the late 80s or watching Notting Hill on a rainy Sunday afternoon, this song can’t help but make you feel nostalgic, even when you don’t really have anything to be nostalgic about. It’s just…sad.
Oh Darling – Beatles
Obviously, we’re sad. OK, we may also be a little bit angry, too, but only part of the time, and that’s only because you told us you didn’t need us anymore. What are we supposed to do other than scream and play the guitar really, really hard?
You’re a Jerk. And That’s a Nice Way of Putting It.
Insensitive – Jann Arden
You may have missed this one, but Christine didn’t. It was her anthem in 1995 for whatever ex-boyfriend she had at the time (and probably all the ones who came before).
Oh, you probably won’t remember me, It’s probably ancient history, I’m one of the chosen few, Who went ahead and fell for you.
And one day, you’ll realize it friend. Well, maybe. It might be hard with that whole INSENSITIVE thing you got going on.
Not Goin Cry – Mary J. Blige
Though Alanis Morrisette’s You Oughta Know may go down in history as the 90s anthem for the wronged female, we feel Mary J. Blige’s Not Goin’ Cry does a better job of showing the pain, anguish, pissed offness and general FU to the man who traded in for a younger (or older), perkier version of his lady.
And if you saw the movie this song came from, Waiting to Exhale, you know who came out on top.
Eleven years of sacrifice, And you can leave me at the drop of a dime, Swallowed my fears, stood by your side
I shoulda left your ass a thousand times.
Yeah, you should’ve.
I Don’t Need This Shit
I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor
Sure, this song has been overplayed for the last 30 years. Does that mean we don’t still love it? Of course we do — it’s the largest middle finger to the face that’s ever been recorded and played by millions of DJs around the world (don’t get us started on the remixes).
We can hear “go on now go, walk out the door, just turn around now, ’cause you’re not welcome anymore” a million more times, baby, especially when we’ve got our boots that were made for walking on.
As Cool As I Am – Dar Williams
Thing is, when the other person is full of neurosis and tries to make you feel bad about who you are by constantly comparing you to others…that sucks. And is stupid. And makes you get over it real, real fast.
Landslide – Fleetwood Mac
We all change, though we continue to be afraid of it. We get older, evolve, and sometimes outgrow the relationships we’re in, but don’t know how to let them go gracefully. Though Stevie Nicks purportedly wrote this song about her relationship with her father, it feels too close to the end of a romantic relationship that we had to include it here.
Well, I’ve been afraid of changin’, Because I’ve built my life around you, But time makes you bolder, even children get older, And I’m getting older, too
Last Goodbye – Jeff Buckley
It sucks when you know it’s over. Really, really over. There’s confusion, anger, withdrawal, wondering if they ever really knew you at all. Then finally, the fighting ends.
I hate to feel the love between us die. But it’s over, Just hear this and then I’ll go: You gave me more to live for, More than you’ll ever know.
Knowing Me Knowing You – Abba
Possibly the worst situation for a break-up: one with children involved. They know each other, and they know that they have to face it…this time they’re through.
Memories, good days, bad days. They’ll be with me always. In these old familiar rooms where children would play. Now there’s only emptiness, nothing to say.
Where I Stood - Missy Higgins
This is a very personal one for Carlo. To help him understand the reasons why his marriage ended, his wife sent him this song. The song was instrumental in his being able to let any resentment go and actually feel empathy for her. Missy wrote this, but Carlo’s ex may as well have (as well as many of you we’re sure).
I don’t know what I’ve done, or if I like what I’ve begun. But something told me to run and honey, you know me it’s all or none. There were sounds in my head, little voices whispering. That I should go and this should end and I found myself listening.
We know that approximately 80% of all songs ever written is about heartbreak. What are you favorite break-up songs?
[Feature image: EliJerma]