Friday, July 18, 2008

Another Royal Challenge

Once upon a time a made a mix-CD of break-up songs that followed the five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance). But I had no one I could give it to and now I don't know what happened to it. I suspect the play list was either pre-iTunes or on an old machine and didn't transfer for whatever reason. But it was pretty neat and I was super pleased with myself though haven't thought of it in years. But yesterday I was listening to "Breaking Up" off of "Under the Blacklight" (Rilo Kiley) and I thought to myself, "This would be the song to end that playlist. It's not just acceptance, it's excited to be free." Then I started wishing I could remember the rest of what was in the playlist, although I'll never know what the original contained because my music tastes change so much over time it's hard to remember that I used to like x and dislike y. I put it to you, friends and strangers who have stumbled upon this blog googling "Rilo Kiley" or "five stages of grief:" what would you put on a break-up CD so organized? In fact, I'm going to add two more "stage," one for before the standard five and one for after: background story and freedom. Please comment! Put the name of the song, the artist, what stage of grief and why it should go on the playlist there. I'll even start you out with some examples!

Breaking up, Rilo Kiley - Freedom
It's about the end of a relationship, but it's got a kind of pop dance hall beat in the chorus that makes you want to raise your arms over your head and jump around as you croon along with "Ooh! It! Feels GOOD to be free!"

Song for the dumped, Ben Folds Five - Anger
The chorus ("give me my money back, give me my money back you bitch") pretty much says it all.

Breaking up is hard to do, Neil Sedaka - Depression
Dude, I totally thought this song was by a girl. It is the classic breaking up song; it seems like a breaking up playlist would be incomplete without it.

Does he love you?, Rilo Kiley - Background story
A letter from one friend to another, telling a story about a potentially troubled marriage and ending with at least two broken hearts. It kind of sets the tone. If the tone is, "am I really sympathizing with a woman cheating with her best friend's husband?"

EDIT (7/19/08): Okay, now that I have more than a moment to think about this, I will add some more items to the list myself. I am inspired by Joseph and Beau's additions! I would also like to add the category "Categories Are Stupid" for those songs that just don't fit anywhere but should totally be on a break up mix tape. I appreciate transitional songs, too (Beau mentioned a couple, I think) because they would give said CD a smoother feel. Pete thinks I have too many Jenny Lewis songs already. But he he can go shove it up his nose; if he could remember lyrics, his list would be all Smashing Pumpkins and Radiohead.

Runaway, Del Shannon - Denial
It wasn't until Beau suggested Take a Letter Maria that I started to think about all the oldies rattling around in my brain from my middle school years as a KISN addict. Runaway sprang immediately to mind. And actually, as I started to type out the lyrics looking for the phrase that had struck me as "break up song," I was surprised to discover that this is actually kind of a creepy song. I mean, dude's girl fuckin' ran away from him to end the relationship, but he's still hoping to figure out where she's staying and "wondering" what went wrong, like he doesn't know, like maybe they'll get back together. Maybe if you beat her less, Del Shannon, she would have at least left you a note explaining why she left. Here are the lyrics to the first verse and chorus as I remember them from Middle School assemblies.

"As I walk along / I wonder / what went wrong with our love / a love that was so strong. / And as I still walk on / I think of / the things we'd done together / while our hearts were young. / I'm a walking in the rain! / Tears are falling and I feel the pain! / Wishing you were here by me / to end this misery / and I wonder / I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder / Why / Why why why why why she ran away / and where she will stay-E-A / my little runaway / run run run run runaway."

(Digression: they passed around kazoos in buckets and so about half the 8th graders would end up filling in the weird musical interludes with appropriate buzzing while everyone else went "doo doot doo doo doo" in a high pitched whine. We also sang "Love Potion Number Nine," "You Don't Knock" and "I Know You Rider" in assemblies. It was a weird place, but we didn't mind assemblies as much as we might have.)

I know you rider, various (Joan Baez, Janis Joplin, Grateful Dead) - Background story?
All I remembered of this song was the chorus (which essentially boils down to "I know you rider / gonna miss me when I'm gone / gonna miss your baby / rollin' in your arms"). As I don't remember any of the verses, it's hard to know which version I learned in Middle School. The Grateful Dead version seems familiar and appears to be just about leaving, although evidently the earlier versions had a final verse that implied the singer wasn't coming back.

Superhero, Ani DiFranco - acceptance (with a touch of anger)
This was absolutely my favorite song, maybe senior year in high school/freshman year of college. It's so angry and strong and bitter. I think it's the bitterness that puts it in the acceptance bucket rather than the anger bucket. The beginning lyrics capture perfectly that place where hurt opens you up and exposes you to the cultural cliches to which you'd typically be immune. But by the final verse, she's taking back in control and saving herself.

Don't Pass Me By, The Beatles - bargaining?
Bargaining has got to be the hardest category. I'm guessing that oldies are probably the place to look for this "look, I'm make you a deal if you just don't go" category. This is the best I've come up with. I've never been sure if I understand this song correctly, but my interpretation was always that the singer had been left by his gf, she's lied to him about a car crash as an excuse for being late to meet him, but she's never going to show. And he's left pleading at the end, "You'd never know it hurt me so / I'd hate to see you go / Don't pass me by."

I don't want to spoil the party, The Beatles - hard core denial
If there were a stage of grief called "Wallowing" this would be its anthem. He's drunk, he's sad and he wants everyone to know. Oh, she's left me! Oh, I'm drinking to spite her! Oh... hey, maybe I'll just go see if I can find her...

For no one, The Beatles - depression
Oh my god, I probably listened to this song a thousand times between 8th and 10th grade. It's so deliciously sad, another passive agressively wallower trying to break his ex-lovers cold, cold heart. Joseph, I totally agree about Wilco's "I am trying to break your heart;" I think this song may have been the inspiration because that is so clearly its deal.

You could actually probably do a break up CD just with Beatles songs. I'm a loser, Another Girl, Yesterday, You won't see me... And the scary scary background story of "Run for your life," where John Lennon threatens to 'cap a bitch,' if you will, should she ever cheat on him. I will move on.

Paper Tiger, Beck - depression, acceptance
When I started to play this album to pick a song, Pete said from the other room, "Ohhh. That album wins." Indeed. This is my favorite song on this album of favorite songs and I'm not sure how I ever registered it as a break up song as it's only the last line that let's you know it's about a girl. Guess I'm Doing Fine would be my other solid vote from this album, but Pete's right: you could just give someone this album and say, "For when you're depressed and looking to move on," and it would be just about perfect. Unless they're suicidal. "I just hold on to nothing / see how long nothing lasts" and "it's only lies that I'm living / it's only tears that I'm crying / it's only you that I'm losing / guess I'm doing fine" might not be the best lyrics for the suicidal mind.

Selfless, Cold and Composed, Ben Folds Five - anger
Although ostensibly about accepting a break up, the singer is really this close to trying to bargain his way back in. He's pissed, she's already moved on (maybe) and she's making it really hard for him to try and hurt her the way he wants to.

Train in Vain, The Clash - passive aggression
Okay, that just needs to be a category. This is another song about a guy who was wronged, he wants her back, but he "supposes" there's nothing he can do. It sounds like acceptance, but he's still hanging on. It's not really anger either, in this case though. Not with lyrics like, "without your love, I won't make it through." The real question is: do these songs have a place on a break up album? If the point is to lead someone through the five stages of grief, starting out angry and hurt but leaving the 1-2 hours of music happy and ready to start over, is there a place for Mr. Passive Agressive Woe Is Me?

Little Hands, Duncan Sheik - bargaining
Okay, I know I'm going to get a raft of shit for owning, knowing and (god forbid) liking this album, but there it is. This is a weird song; its protagonist is in love with a woman who's told him there's no relationship there ("I need another lover like a hole in the chest") but keeps stringing him along. In the end, she cuts him loose and attempts to make him feel small, but he's too focused on the fact that he survived and thinks that maybe there's a chance for some future lovin': "I'll let it go but I'll never say never."

Okay, I feel like I'm starting to repeat myself, so I'll leave it here for now. If I add anymore, I'll do it in the comments section. I look forward to seeing more ideas from you all!

11 comments:

Joseph said...

I've always felt that "I Am Trying To Break Your Heart", by Wilco, does an amazing job at running through all the emotions of a breakup. More regret than anything else, I guess: regret at breaking up, regret about still loving someone, regret at ever having been in the relationship in the first place. It just seems to capture a lot of the things that've gone through my head.

But to address each of those in turn. I flipped through my collection and found a lot of songs about breaking up and relationships ending, but I couldn't fit all of them into categories all that effectively. And it's not always clear that what I got out of the song really matches the intent of the lyricist. But you know what? It's my list, so fuck their intent. Onwards.

Denial. Yeah Yeah Yeahs: "Maps". Mostly I just really like this song and was listening to it earlier today. It's just sort of generally wistful, but the line "Wait. They don't love you like I love you" has always struck me as someone unwilling to accept that their SO has decided to move on.

Anger. Garbage, "Vow". This one definitely, definitely fits. Angry lyrics about a pissed off woman coming back to destroy someone's life? Perfect.

Bargaining. Okkervil River, "A King and a Queen". A plaintive, despairing song about unrequited love, and the narrator's desire to venerate the object of his affections and do anything she would want to earn her regard.

Depression. The Cure, "Pictures of You". Yeah, yeah, obvious choice.

Acceptance. Morphine, "Gone For Good". The Streets, "Dry Your Eyes". Two good, sad songs about people realizing that it's just over, dammit.

Wow. I spent way too much time distracting myself with that. Maybe I should try to get some work done, now.

Beau said...

I am a little surprised there aren't more responses to this yet. It is kinda like the home game of High Fidelity (and that is a good thing). So here is what a quick look through my iTunes gives me.

I Have Been Loving You Too Long to Stop Now - Otis Redding. It might say something about me that I usually think if this as a love song rather then a breakup song. But to the extent it is a breakup song (and it is) it is a pretty good fit in denial which makes it a rarity in the ones I found.

96 Tears - ? and the Mysterians. Anger and revenge. Pretty clear cut in my opinion.

Bring me My Shotgun Lightning Hopkins. Does a song about wanting to shot your cheating lover count? If not it should.

Piece of My Heart Big Brother and the Holding Company (and of course, Janis Joplin w/ lead vocal). As much as this one fits into one of the categories I would call it anger. But there is a lot more going on here. Even though it doesn't fit cleanly, I couldn't see a break-up mixed tape without it.

Kelsey's Song - Champagne Syndicate. I really had to dig for a bargaining song. And it barely fits. But then, I doubt more then one other person reading this would know that, so I probably should have kept my mouth shut about that...

Crazy - Patsy Cline. I suppose you could call this cliched or obvious and I know some of the readers here aren't keen on country. Despite all of that, this song belongs on any list of this nature. Patsy had an awesome voice. It should transcend genre and style concerns. And the song is too good to be considered cliched.

Comfortable - John Mayer. I am sure he has more than one song that could be here. But I like this one, and it is one of the better songs I have in the depressed vein.

Break Your Heart Barenaked Ladies. This one mixes some depression with acceptance. The protagonist clearly wanted out, but it tore him up to break his ex's heart. I suppose it may not be applicable all the time, but there it is anyway.

It Doesn't Matter Anymore - Buddy Holly. Nicely bridges from depression to acceptance, although a sad acceptance. In fact, depending on the listeners mood this could almost sound suicidal.

Take a Letter Maria - R.B. Greaves. Another song of acceptance, and a little more up beat.

That is what I have so far. A little older list then Joseph's, but that shouldn't be a surprise.

Sydney said...

Joseph - did you have to leave any off your list because of my dumb categories? Feel free to add any that didn't fit under the category "Categories are dumb" if you like. I think the categories make it a fun exercise and help organize a CD, but one hates to miss anything. :)

Beau - Holy cats, I haven't thought about "Take a Letter Maria" since before KISN went off the air! Man, that's an acceptance song, if ever there was one! You've made me think about older songs. I think I will add some to the list in the post now that it's the weekend and I don't have to get to work.

Sydney said...

Okay, I've been through my iTunes and here is what I have to add.

Pretty much any Fiona Apple song counts as a break up song. But there are some that are particularly good for the 5 stages of grief theme.

Not about love, Fiona Apple - anger, denial
Dude, she has been with some shitty men. This might be a little denial too. She's pissed at what an asshole he is, but she has to keep reminding herself that "this is not about love / 'cause i am no in love / in fact i can't stop falling out / I miss that stupid ache."

Waltz (better than fine), fiona apple - acceptance, freedom
Not really necessarily about love or anything but it's kind of sweet and makes lots of lovely suggestions for how you might spend your newly free time (If you don't have a date / Celebrate / Go out and sit on the lawn / And do nothing / 'Cause it's just what you must do / Nobody does it anymore"

Sleep to dream, fiona apple - angry angry angry!
"I tell you how I feel, but you don't care / I say "tell me the truth," but you don't dare / You say love is a hell you cannot bear / And I say gimme mine back and then go there, for all I care." Yeah, you tell him, Fiona!

When you loved me, Julianna Hatfield - depression
"When you loved me / I was happy / when you loved me / never lonely." Lord, so depressed!

Happy Alone, Kings of Leon - freedom?
This is really just about the dude you're glad left. But it's up, it's celebratory, and it's maybe about a trany?

Lily Allen could also be pretty much universally classed as break up music. Of course her single Smile falls into the angry/vengeful category (as does Not Big, a threatening song about sleeping with all your ex's friends) but the one I'd but on a CD would be...

Knock 'Em Out, Lily Allen - freedom
Just what you need to get back on your feet. Going to a bar, getting hit on by nasty assholes and lying to them. I love this song, it's hilarious.

Change is hard, she and him - acceptance
This is an interesting potential addition, about a woman who treated her ex poorly and now he's with someone else, to whom the song is addressed. I like the lyrics, "I’m all outta luck but what else could I be? / I know he’s yours and he'll never belong to me again. / I did him wrong. / So don’t brag, / Keep it to yourself" but I'm not sure if it's really appropriate. I mean, would you ever make a mix CD addressing breaking up for someone who was the cheater/heart breaker?

You're no good, Linda Ronstadt - anger
Let him know exactly what you think, Linda! Don't hold back! It seems like there are a lot of songs like this by women, but for me, this one is the Classic.

Love has no pride, Linda Ronstadt - Bargaining
I'm not sure this is a sentiment you'd want to give a friend. I mean, as far as I can tell, she's been left and she's not just sticking around, she's begging him to come back. That seems pretty, um, subservient to me. But then there's...

It doesn't matter anymore, Linda Ronstadt - Acceptance
Maybe Love has No Pride needs to be paired with this song, where she's tired of crying and she's "sick of trying" and she's moving on.

Another thing I've found difficult to identify are bargaining songs. Here is what I came up with:

Turn on your love light, grateful dead - bargaining
I always thought this was just a booty call song, but in really listening to the lyrics, it's clearly not. "I'm begging you baby, baby please / turn on your love light / let it shine on me."

You are what you love, jenny lewis - bargaining
I know, I know, I've already got two Rilo Kiley songs on my list, but suck it, Trebek: I do what I want! (And yes, "what I want" includes mixed pop culture references.) "But you are what you love / And not what loves you back / That's why I'm here on your doorstep / Pleading for you to take me back"

Tracks of my tears, Smokey Robinson - bargaining
Classic classic classic. It seems to me that dudes are more into the bargaining in song than ladies. Thoughts?

Ain't too proud to beg, the Temptations - bargaining
Maybe this category should be called "begging." I think it's interesting that there are songs about begging your lady to come back to you. You'd have to be pretty confident that she was still attached/not desirous of your imminent demise.

It seems like there are other categories that a lot of break up songs fall into, namely Regret and Bitterness. For instance, the Traveling Wilburys Congratualtions strikes me as more bitter than angry, but oh is it bitter! It would be totally appropriate for a break up CD, even if it "bitterness" isn't an actual stage of grief.

Eric said...

Okay, this may be the best blog challenge ever. And a total waste to my morning. But I think the best song about the actual break up is The White Stripes, 'There's No Home For You Here' off Elephant. It perfectly captures the moment of trying to break up with someone you've been in love with for so long and living with. I'm going to have to think about more songs. A future list is coming!

Eric said...

Ohh! Shuffle just popped up a Jewel song, which reminded me "You Were Meant For Me". The extremely depressed/he'll come back to me time just after the breakup.

SonicLlama said...

Going through my mp3s, I realized that I have surprisingly few breakup songs, and tons of songs about random shit that twee indie rockers think is keen.

Who knows, though- maybe all of Mastodon's songs are touching breakup ballads, but much of the time I have no idea what Troy Sanders is going on about. A few entries...

Ani Difranco- Untouchably Face
Anger. Very quiet, acoustic anger.

Blondie- Hangin on the Telephone
Bargaining. I love the video on this one, with all the black and white and the New Wave/Punk looking decor. Nice reminder that Blondie was awesome before they were disco.

Gloria Gaynor- I Will Survive
Acceptance. Pretty much the ultimate acceptance song, really.

The Cure/Tori Amos- Lovesong (I prefer the Tori Amos version)
Depression/Bargaining. The song isn't explicitly about a breakup, but listening to it, you know it kind of is.

Guns and Roses- I Used To Love Her
Acceptance. Or anger. In any case, it's about a breakup, what with him killing her and all. That counts as a breakup song, right?

Joy Division- Love Will Tear Us Apart
Not a breakup song, but definitely about depression. Actually, it's even worse than a breakup song- it's about being in love with someone, and that love making you miserable. How's that for dark?

The Magnetic Fields- All My Little Words
Bargaining. One of my favorite tracks of 69 Love Songs.

Pink Martini- Hey, Eugene
Denial, and by the end of the song, it sounds like she's just going to skip right over into depression.

And of course...

The Smiths- Girlfriend in a Coma
Acceptance. I guess if one person goes into a coma indefinitely that's pretty much a breakup, right? He seems pretty accepting of it by the end of the song.

Beau said...

I have to agree with Eric. This was an awesome challenge.
I feel like I should point something out though: Your Lynda Rondstadt "It Doesn't Matter Anymore" is the same lyrics as the Buddy Holly song I listed. I would call you out for stealing mine, but I would guess Lynda sings it better...

Sydney said...

Ooh, Beau - my bad! I'd like to say that I restated it as a pair of songs sung by Linda Ronstadt, but in fact I totally forgot. ::sigh:: So the next question will be: how do we order such a weighty playlist?

Joseph said...

Oh, I dunno. I think I mostly have a lot of songs that are sad and regretful, but not clearly about breaking up. Except the Magnetic Fields -- probably the only band on my computer that writes songs that are explicitly about love. Everyone else tries to be obtuse. Which I love, of course, but it makes it hard to say "this is a song about breaking up". I'm considering going through my collection again to look for more songs, but that seems like a dangerous time-sink...

And yes, concurred: a great challenge!

Yvonne said...

I must say that I do like to bring in the oldies on this topic. Ok, so this one is going to be lame but really, the Gloria Gayner song "I will survive" is quite nice. For some reason changing the stupid lock is cheerful. Then there's Hank Williams' "Your cheatin' heart" being as about to the point as you can get. The Stones' "Under my thumb" good mental games there. Seriously, neglecting Eric Clapton's "Layla" an outrage! REM's "Crush with eyeliner" is a good one, and their "To the one I love" is nice. The Police with their stalker breakup song "Every breath you take" that's some good times there. My all time favorite is Bob Dylan's "Don't think twice it's all right" The lyrics alone are great.