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Songs for the dumped

December 3, 2009 Leave a comment Go to comments

When I broke up with my high school girlfriend, I’d hoped we’d stay friends. Which we tried to do, more or less successfully, until she tried to tell me how she was feeling through song. That song was “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morisette plaid through the tape deck of a car stereo as she was driving me home. The following four minutes was awkward enough that we didn’t talk to each other for a while after.

So I’m not a big fan of music therapy for your emotions. I’m a much bigger fan of beer therapy for your emotions. That being said, I’ve listened to a lot of music in the last year since my breakup with my girlfriend, and there are indeed a plethora of angry, empowering songs out there that will help get your swagger back after you’ve been dumped. But there’s also a crapload of songs designed exclusively to make you want to slit your wrists if you’ve just broken up with someone, regardless of whether you were dumper or dumpee. As a public service announcement, I’m listing the best angry, bitter songs that will get you back on your feet and the songs you need to avoid at all costs if you’re going to get through your post-breakup period without trying to discover what constitutes a lethal dose of Tylenol.

Song for the Dumped – Ben Folds Five

Well, yes. He did write it specifically for you, for this moment. It’s over, stop being weepy and get your damn black t-shit back. Everything from the enraged scream of a countdown that starts this song off, to the distorted guitar, to the profanity to the driving, vaguely discordant piano line will help you turn that pain into rage and anger, the first step to getting out of your bed and down to the bar where you can meet the string of meaningless lays that will bridge you to your next meaningful relationship.

Since U Been Gone – Kelly Clarkson

I’m no American Idol fan, and I tried to dislike this song when it came out but, well, hell. Clarkson actually nails the eye-rolling, snarling self-loathing of so many breakups with her delivery on lines like “I even fell for that stupid love song…yeah, yeah, since you been gone.” Remember, you get what you want now.

So What – Pink

Another adrenaline-pumping, sour-grapes anthem along the same lines, Pink reminds you that you may have been dumped, and the waiter may just have given your table to Jessica Simpson, but you’re still a rockstar, so you might as well get hammered and drive a rider-mower down Fifth Avenue or take a chainsaw to something. It’s therapeutic, really.

99 Problems – Jay-Z

Sure, you may be out of work, not getting laid, behind on your rent and losing your car to repossession, but at least you don’t have to close the bathroom door anymore and there’s no stupid stuffed animal on your bed. In fact, listening to Jay-Z’s thumping beats, you can convince yourself you never want a woman again.

What it Takes – Aerosmith

From back before every Aerosmith song sounded the same, and sucked badly, this song is just this side of country, plaintive and yearning, but still angry and bitchy and rocking enough to make you feel better, rather than worse. “Girl, before I met you I was F-I-N-E fine.” Yup, and you still are, brother.

Love Stinks – J. Geils Band

My favorite Valentine’s Day song ever. All around you might be couples walking hand in hand, but you never have to have a stupid fight about what kind of bathmat to buy ever again, you’re never going to be late for a movie because she’s decided every pair of shoes she owns makes her ass look fat, and you don’t have to watch The Real Housewives of (Fill in the City). Ever. So remember: sex is good, but love is too high a price to pay, stick with internet porn. Now rock out with Peter Wolf and some goofy synth.

And now, the songs you absolutely must avoid:

Against All Odds – The Postal Service

Under no circumstances are you to listen to this song after a breakup, neither the Postal Service’s brilliant, spare cover or the Phil Collins original. She’s not coming back. You’re going to spend eternity waiting for, what, exactly? We’re looking at you, pal, we’re taking a look at you now. You look sad. Drink some whiskey and listen to the songs from the first half of this list.

I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You – Colin Hay

If you’ve just broken up, this song is actually more painful than watching a Zach Braff movie. The lyrics are simple, the single guitar making this ballad absolutely soul-destroying in its bare unadorned message and simple, concrete imagery. Hay’s scratchy vocals sound like a man just barely choking back tears. “If I lived ‘til I could no longer climb my stairs, I just don’t think I’ll ever get over you.”

Full of Grace – Sarah McLachlan

This is a song you absolutely want to open up a vein to. Probably should be avoided even if you haven’t just broken up with someone but it happens to be winter. How depressing is it? It’s the song playing in the background after Buffy stabs Angel in the heart and sends him straight to hell. “It’s better this way?” Wait until you’re in a better place before listening. In fact, avoid all of Surfacing. Actually, no Sarah McLachlan at all until you’re back in a stable relationship with all the sex you can handle.

They Can’t Take That Away From Me – Diana Krall

This bittersweet song really just serves to remind you of all the stuff that was taken away from you in the break-up, including your complete series of Freaks and Geeks episodes and your copy of Breakfast at Tiffany’s. And what are you left with? The way she wears her hat? I’ll trade you the way she wears her hat and the way she sings off key (please gods, the way she sings off key) for a breakfast burrito and bus fare.

If You Could Read My Mind – Gordon Lightfoot

Lightfoot has a knack for writing lyrics that make you want to kill yourself. And it’s not just the stupid lyrics. The guitar part is actually quite musical and well written, but Lightfoot’s lyrics about paperbacks in a drugstore extend his weird metaphor so far the listener thinks he’s about to fall off a cliff. “I walk away like a movie star who gets burned in a three way script. Enter number two. A movie queen to play the scene of bringing all the good things out in me.” Huh? When you discover you have not, in fact, fallen off a cliff, you’ll want to throw yourself off one after the truly moving “I don’t know where we went wrong but the feeling’s wrong and we just can’t get it back.”

Hey Jealousy – The Gin Blossoms

Fueled by songwriter Doug Hopkins alcoholism and depression, this song is much bleaker than its poppy melody suggests. The Gin Blossoms would end up dumping him shortly before the release of the song, and his subsequent suicide. Don’t listen to it. You’ll just end up getting drunk and crashing your ‘74 Charger into her front lawn at three in the morning. To add insult to injury, she’s not going to come to the front door, but her husband who’s six inches taller and thirty pounds of pure muscle bigger than you will, he’ll be armed with a baseball bat, and before you have the chance to explain that you just want to talk his wife into doinking you one last time ‘cause, you know, you guys went out twice in high school, he’ll counter all your points with the Louisville Slugger. New miserable experience indeed.

Come Pick Me Up – Ryan Adams

She stole all your records and screwed all your friends behind your back. Still, you wish she was here right now. What the hell is wrong with you? Like Sarah McLachlan, Adams is probably best avoided until you’re on stable ground. If you do choose to indulge while still raw from the breakup, you’ll likely find yourself passed out under a pool table in a seedy bar in a pool of your own vomit, passed out on a lonely highway outside a bunch of car dealerships in a pool of your own vomit, or trying to pick up grad students on the NYU campus with your knowledge of the biographical details of Sylvia Plath. Also, you’ll be in a pool of your own vomit.

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