Breakup Songs: The Victim Edition (Part 2)

Posted on July 7, 2012


Gots to get over it soon, bro. (foto@me, Zhang Huan at Rockbund Art Museum)

While I was researching songs for Breakup Victims, I came across many maudlin, snivelling samples of pop tracks. You know what I mean – those of the How Am I Supposed To Live Without You ilk.

Now, in our darkest moments, even the best of us are liable to reach for the familiar, the most soothing, the least painless, the easiest. But really, it’s bad enough that you just got dumped, you don’t need the judgement of a once-sympathetic pal who leaned over your shoulder and saw Michael Bolton on your ipod. I’m not saying these pop classics are not good songs – they could be very cathartic and most of them are suitably dramatic – but, well, let’s just… see if there are better alternatives, shall we? No need to commit to the tried and tested yet…

Sorry, was that what he said to you as well? Ach, sweetie.  *pat, pat*

Without further ado:

(All pics lead to youtube vids.)

1) When you’re burning with rage…

You may reach for: “You Give Love A Bad Name” by Bon Jovi

@45cat. Yes, yes, I did link the mv. Clikpik.

But why not try: “Good Luck” by Basement Jaxx

Very similar in sentiment, about telling their exes to piss off. Yeah, you’re ANGRY! RAGING! THAT BITCH/COW/BASTARD RUINED YOUR LIFE! Yes, yes but now, surely you can be at least a little bit classy about it. Only observe:

But wake up baby You’re so totally deluded You’ll end up old and lonely If you don’t get a bullet in your head Good luck good luck Good luck in your new bed Enjoy your nightmares honey When you’re resting your head

Um, ok maybe not.

Honorable mention: “There’s No Home For You Here” by The White Stripes.

2) When you can’t get over it…

You may reach for: ” Always Something There To Remind Me” by Naked Eyes

But why not try: “Half A Person” by The Smiths

I don’t want to get personal, but it does seem a bit obvious that a band calling themselves Naked Eyes would disguise “sweet and tender love” with complete obsession:

And every step I take reminds me of just how we used to be/ Oh, how can I forget you, girl, when there is/ Always something there to remind me… I was born to love you and I will never be free/ You’ll always be a part of me… If you should find you miss the sweet and tender love we used to share/ Just go back to the places where we used to go and I’ll be there (with a hood and chlorofoam?)

(The mv is glorious, glorious 80s awesome, though.)

I understand the shock of getting dumped might lead to delusion and –  why, hello darkness my old friend. But what I don’t understand is how so many musicians try to bury their mad-man lights under the bushel of love. (What up, Twilight Vamp Dude.) I mean, we can be crazy and know it, right? Here’s The Smiths, who at least own their obsession with pride:

Call me morbid, call me pale/ I’ve spent six years on your trail/ Six full years of my life on your trail

Half a person, but no half measures.

Honorable mention: “Everything Reminds Me of Her” by Elliot Smith and of course, “Every Breath You Take” by The Police. Hey, nothing wrong with just watching, right? These bushes are like, 10m away from your window, for Chrissakes.

3) When you run into your ex, and it still hurts…

You may reach for: “Look Away” by Chicago

The “look away” joke is a tad obvious.

But why not try: “Sometime After Midnight” by Airborne Toxic Event

Oh, these are songs of pain, and excruciating reminders why rubbing shoulders/ hobnobbing/ fraternising/ consorting etc with your ex is never a good idea, especially for the dumped. Chicago’s example is a textbook study of pathetic-ness. The goon was apparently still hanging around his ex, “chatting” on the phone, occasionally coming over for a pity fuck, and generally trying to be more useful than a loo roll. One day, tragedy struck in the form of a phonecall informing El Losero that the girl has found someone else. Mr Doodoo then turns all passive-aggressive martyr: fine, yeah, I’m happy for you, but when you see me walking on the streets on my one-man pity parade, IGNORE ME. Don’t look at me. That’s right. TURN AWAY.

At least the protagonist in Airborne Toxic Event’s unfortunate encounter wasn’t asking for it – he bumped into Ms Ex at a bar. I love the strong narrative of this song, its unusual chorus-less structure, and the Pure Pain (TM) of Mikel Jollett’s voice. But the mv is sooooooo obvious, my goodness. “As you stand under the bar lights”-flash to image of girl under bar light, etc.  (However- Q: Who’s the cute Asian guitarist? A: Steven Chen)

Honorable mention: “Walk On By” by Dionne Warwick and the meltingly gorgeous (and 12 min long!) Isaac Hayes version.

4) When you’re a snivelling, sorry wreck…

You may reach for: “Where Do Broken Hearts Go” by Whitney Houston

RIP, Whitney.

But why not try: “Tore My Heart” by Oona

How to speak of heartbreak without speaking of hearts? Here, Oona’s hurt, seething cry paints a far more realistic picture of the pain of a breakup than any semi-lyrical poetic pretensions. (Where do the damned things go, indeed?) In any case, a direct approach is far better for health and healing than maudlin sniffles. “You! Know! You tore my heart!” vs “Where do broken hearrrrtssssss gooooooo, can they find their waaaaaay hoommmme…”


5) When you’re trying to get better…

You may reach for: “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor

Sing it, sister.

But why not try: “Overpowered” by Roisin Murphy

Methinks the lady doth protest too much. Although the desire to yodel one’s potential recovery – “I will survive! I will!” – from every speakerbox is quite understandable, it also smacks of overcompensation. (“I’m not drunk! I’m not!” #facefloor#) Plus of course there is the fact that I am heartily sick of this song. Roisin Murphy might seem like a weird alternative, but despite her dancey, beat-heavy electronica, there’s something I’ve always found strangely touching in how she puzzles over why her relationship didn’t work out:

Your data my data
The chromosomes match
Exact as in matter
A matter of fact…
As science struggles on
To try to explain
Oxy-toxins flowing
Ever into my brain
 A chemical reason
If reason’s your game
A chemical needing
Is there in the brain

This is a person trying to make sense of a difficult situation, and trying to analyse matters from as objective a perspective as possible. Roisin admits, despite knowing it’s time, that she’s “overpowered”. But in my book, acknowledgment triumphs screeching denial every time. Plus, judging from her insanely awesome mv, my money’s on Roisin for survival in style.

Honourable mention: “I’m Doing Fine Now” by The Pasadenas


6) When you know it was a mistake in the first place…

You may reach for: “Me and Mrs Jones” by Billy Paul and every karaoke-loving overaged Casanova


But why not try: “Tears for Affairs” by Camera Obscura

Now don’t get me wrong. “Me and Mrs Jones” is a beautiful song, but like the torrid love affair that overstayed its welcome, it’s really overexposed. It actually isn’t a breakup song – Billy schemes from opening line to final verse about how they can continue their clandestine meetings – but it’s such a poster boy for Sneaking Around that I had to include it. Anyways, I wouldn’t bet my cat-poop-covered socks that him and Lady Jones is heading anywhere, in any case.

Camera Obscura’s offering is tenderer, bitterer and much more relatable. It is filled with remorse, regret, confusion and sadness – but there is also a feeling of relief that what shouldn’t have been, is finally over.

Honourable mention: “The Weakness in Me” by Joan Armatrading


And that concludes the Breakup Songs: Victim Editions. Time for the evil prepetrator-bastards to have their say next.

P/s: For more breakup-slash-general sadness songs, Chart Attack has a very funny entry, as does 4TT. And Pajiba… well there aren’t enough heartbreaks to live out all those songs.