Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Love Me Baby - A Guide To Heartbreak Music Part I

So your eyes meet theirs, a connection is made and you start seeing each other. Life is easy, you have a silly smile on your face, nothing is important, you can face any problem the world throws at you, you are in love like Bright Eyes "The First Day Of My Life", with fluffy kitten flying high above rainbows on a unicorn s' back...

But then one day, you learn that he's throwing you away for a 15-year-younger-model (or 15-yr-older if he's into cougars), or you've found texts of a sexy nature to another woman on his cell or worst of all, you finally realise he actually kills the fluffy kittens at night ( Sorry male reader, I'm sure ladies do terrible things to you too, so feel free to apply the scenario that best fits your own story)

At times like these we are all allowed to wallow in self pity and what do most of us do? We turn to music to soothe our pain. After all, if rich creative beautiful sexy cool people can have a broken heart, it's only normal we do too.

But what makes a good 'heartbreak song'?

1. first observation: we tend to forget any notion of taste when we have a heart in 1000 pieces. Some of the biggest torch songs have been written by those heavy metal bands in the late 80s and early 90s. Yes I'm talking about choruses as big as the band's hair, guitar solos on mountain tops and lyrics that are so very profound, every one of us can identify with it. My favourite in that genre is probably "You Don't Know What You've Got 'Till It's Gone" by Philly blues-rock-glam metal combo Cinderella

2. the lyrics: I admit I'm already a sucker for good lyrics but when I need to feel sorry for myself after a break-up, I'm always on the look-out for the perfect lyrics that fit my mood and "oh my god that's EXACTLY how I feel' moments. Music (art in general) is a powerful identification mechanism - we are never alone to feel the way we do, and it helps...
There are many contenders in this category , depending on how you feel: angry, sad, resigned, despaired, pretending to be fine, missing that horrible person who broke your heart,...or all those emotions at the same time.

Here's a selection for your perusal (this post is sponsored by Kleenex by the way)

>> For the delusionals amongst us, who still want to believe something is possible, the Penelope's of modern times will recognise themselves in this poignant Emiliana Torrini song ( esp, if like me you love red Chanel lipstick)

>> when you feel proper despair, tears rolling down your cheeks, forlorn and miserable,when you have reached rock bottom of sadness, there is nothing better (or worse?) than Soap & Skin's Fall Foliage

>> OK, OK, boys too can be left heartbroken, unrequited love is more often their playground though, they don't do despair like the ladies do. Here's to you Maxi Hecker

>> Then there's those songs, like Cat Power's Good Woman, where the lyrics just hit you straight to the throat, you play it strong, you're ok, even though you're devastated but yeah this was the best decision, right? RIGHT?

We'll cover many more themes in the next installment of A Guide To Heartbreak Music, feel free to leave your best songs in the comments

3. it's not just the lyrics, though, the way our singer means those words, the music, the silence, the whispers followed by screams... all contribute to the general effet. Take my mum, she doesn't speak English and is not fond of music, but one day I sat her in the sofa, asked her to close her eyes and played her the Jeff Buckley version of  Lilac Wine. She was in shock, she told me " I have no idea what he says but how he suffers, it makes me sad..."

4. There's also the personal element: songs or artists that meant something to your story and they hurt now, they really do. If they can have poetic lyrics and melodies full of regrets and melancholy you have a real winner.
This one is very personal so again, leave your own tracks in the comments section
Richard Hawley, always and forever..."Soldier On"

Next time, we'll go into other Heartbreak territories but that's it for now. Looking forward to hearing your best songs and opinions on this very grave subject.

I will leave you with  Peggy Lee's words

"...Then I fell in love, with the most wonderful boy in the world.
We would take long walks by the river or just sit for hours gazing into each other's eyes.
We were so very much in love.
Then one day, he went away. And I thought I'd die -- but I didn't. 
And when I didn't I said to myself, "Is that all there is to love?"

Is that all there is, is that all there is
If that's all there is my friends, then let's keep dancing.."


  1. I'd say Gotye with his "Somebody I used to know" is a definitely perfect break up song (I played it quite a lot for the past months).
    "Runaway" from The National that makes me very nostalgic, but perhaps there's a personal element in it.
    And finally "Marching Bands of Manhattan" from Death Cab, which is also very personal.

  2. Thanks Segolène, not too familiar with Gotye, will check that track out!

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