A DEAR FRIEND of mine has just gone through a very rough break-up. She alternates between different levels and forms of devastation, and the ways in which she expresses and then copes with her sadness/depression/anger/etc.
I often feel powerless to help her beyond giving her an ear to talk into and a person to chug whiskey cocktails with. I wanted to be able to do something more, because sad friends are sad and part of one’s duty as a true friend is to find ways to help a pal find or regain some semblance of happiness.
So I put a playlist together for her of break-up songs that are less about lamentation, and more about moving on with one’s life. The following are five of my favorites.
One of the best and most effective ways to recover from a break-up is to knock the heartbreaker down a few pegs in your mind—to convince at least yourself that they were not the person you built them up to be, that even though they may think very highly of themselves as a love interest for other sane, rational human beings, they aren’t. “Bad News” might be the best example of songwriting I’m aware of that does this without pulling any punches whatsoever.
The entire song is about taking your ex-lover’s positive perception of himself or herself re: their positive traits, and then completely dismantling them. The first line is “Whatever it is you think you are, you aren’t.” The rest of the song is based on this premise. Every time I listen to it I hearken back to failed relationships where I feel like I was slighted, and then I am able to build a mental list of the things my ex may have thought she was or the kind of person she felt she was viewed as at the time, and then I convince myself that she was none of the positives.
It’s super cathartic.
Two Gallants—All Your Faithless Loyalties
I believe that most people who endure a one-sided breakup that they didn’t want (and/or didn’t see coming) feel a desire to express to their ex that they were giving it their all, and that someday the ex is probably going to realize how well he or she was treated, and that they f**ked up in a big way by ending things.
This is a good thing to do, I think. It’s beneficial to put your thoughts and feelings out there like that.
But what isn’t beneficial is taking a dumping and then crawling back.
Which is why I absolutely adore this song. Singer Adam Stephens makes it clear that he put everything he could into the relationship he sings about, and was then tossed away.
I’ve known and loved more breakup-related lyrics than I can quantify, but these words are insurmountable:
“Don’t you never think of me as one among the rest / I’ve got little else left to defend / I’m sure that you’ve seen better, but for you I did my best / But you’ll go, I’ll stay, I’ll begin again / Just as you had planned / ‘Cause I’ve known lonesome things you can’t come back from / I hope I never see your face again.”
Bright Eyes—Take It Easy, Love Nothing
The title of this song itself is a powerful message that might help you after a breakup. God, just think of how freeing it could be to just relax a little bit, f**k around a lot, and not love a person who may ultimately break your heart and leave you a crumpled mess. (It’s pretty freeing. I know from experience.)
Ostensibly, the song is about Conor Oberst sleeping with a longtime friend and the friend leaving the next morning without saying goodbye. She leaves a note conveying that she still views them as only friends, and that she would prefer he act the same way toward her—that he pretend he did not put his junk inside of her the night prior.
But it ain’t really about that. It’s more about being rejected by someone you love or can see yourself loving, and then having him or her sweep the happy feels rug right out from under your feet when they’re done using you.
And then it’s about bouncing back. It’s about learning from a terrible experience and adapting the way you live your life. Oberst kicks off the final verse with “Now I do as I please, and I lie through my teeth / Someone might get hurt, but it won’t be me.” Those lines have always resonated deeply with me. I’m not saying you should go out and hurt people, but doing whatever you want and trying to make yourself impervious to romantic pain is the highest accomplishment for a newly single bloke.
Cake—I Will Survive
Y’all know the Gloria Gaynor version, but the Cake cover of this song is phenomenal. Singer John McCrea brings a vaguely angry, yet very determined and optimistic rendition of the song. And the music fits his vibe perfectly.
Brand New—Seventy Times 7
This song is about the disintegration of a teen friendship between Brand New’s Jesse Lacey and Taking Back Sunday’s John Nolan, allegedly because Nolan nailed Lacey’s girlfriend.
But I’ve always directed it at girls I’ve gotten really angry at. I’ll leave these lyrics from the bridge and make no comment, because res ipsa loquitur:
“So is that what you call getaway? Tell me what you got away with, ‘cause I’ve seen more spine in jellyfish; I’ve seen more guts in 11-year-old kids / Have another drink and drive yourself home / I hope there’s ice on all the roads / And you can think of me when you forget your seatbelt and again when your head goes through the windshield.”