Friday top ten: About a girl (or boy)
I’ve written before about how a very large majority of great music and art comes from a dark place and is rather moody and downright depressing at times. More often than not, that dark place is the end of a relationship, or thinking wistfully about the girl, or boy (though usually in music it’s the girl), that got away. And it’s not difficult to figure out why, really. A harsh breakup runs the gamut of emotions – sadness, desperation, despair, anger, regret, confusion, etc – so it’s probably kind of hard NOT to write a great song with those emotions as your starting point. As proof here’s a top ten that you can get down and wallow in for hours thinking about that person in your life. Happy sad listening to you.
Lucky You – The National: You probably know my love for this band, and they have taken the melancholy wallow song and raised it to new heights. The protagonist of this song either sees the writing on the wall (or has just been given his marching orders) and shifted into creepy, desperate stalker mode: “You own me / there’s nothing you can do / Lucky you.”
Black – Pearl Jam: Eddie Veder sings in the voice of someone completely blindsided and devastated by the loss of his love. Clearly, he didn’t see this one coming. “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life / I know someday you’ll be a star / In somebody else’s sky / but why can’t it be mine?” Though in Veder style the word “Why” is pronounced “Why-hi-Why-hiiiiiii.” The music mirrors the swirling confusion and plaintiveness of the lyrics.
Idiot Wind – Bob Dylan: I could have basically filled this playlist up with songs from Blood on the Tracks and been done with it, but that would be cheating. Instead, I chose to include the Mount Rushmore of breakup songs. In seven minutes, Dylan spits invective, anger, and confusion, before finally coming around to a grudging acceptance and respect. At one point he’s unable to even “touch the books you’ve read.” By the end he admits that she’ll “never know hurt I’ve suffered or the pain I’ve raised above / and I’ll never know, the same about you / Your holiness or your kind of love / and it makes me feel so sorry.” Whoa.
Love Hurts – Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris: This is music and emotion and its raw, gnarly core. The musical equivalent of a Breaking Bad episode, but wrapped in the ungodly sweet vocal harmonies that those two shared. “Love hurts / loves scars / love wounds / and mars / any heart / not tough nor strong enough / to take a lot of pain / take a lot of pain.”
U2 – So Cruel – After the breakup, the dust is settling, now here comes the anger. “I’m only hanging on / to watch you go down.” “I disappeared in you / you disappeared from me.” “The men who love you / you hate the most / they pass right through you like a ghost.” Let’s just back away slowly and give the Irishman some time alone, shall we?
Please, Please, Please Let Me Get What I Want – The Smiths: Ah, the ultimate song of longing and desperation. The saddest part is that, despite the narrator’s pleas, we know that he won’t find happiness. Why? Because it’s a Smiths’ song and if he did “it would be the first time.”
I Sill Miss Someone – Johnny Cash: After breakup, he’s trying to move on, but just can’t because he sees “those blue eyes everywhere.” Taking the cliché that he’s probably heard a thousand times from well meaning friends trying to cheer him up, he realizes that there is “somewhere for me somewhere / And I still miss someone.”
Pale Blue Eyes – The Velvet Underground: Probably the saddest song of the bunch, because Lou Reed has lost not only a lover, but his best friend. She was his “mountaintop” and his “peak,” but someone he couldn’t keep. Later in the song we find out why because while “it was good what we did yesterday / and I’d do it once again / the fact that you are married / only proves you’re my best friend / but it’s truly, truly a sin.”
True Love Waits – Radiohead: Sometimes it’s not the breakup that is the most painful part, but rather the moments of desperation just before you realize the end is coming or that you just can’t imagine life without the person you are with now. Thom Yorke promises to “drown my beliefs” if only she’ll stay, and then reminds us that “true love waits / in haunted outtakes.” Even after she goes, he’ll still be waiting.
About Today – The National: I thought I’d bookend this one with another National tune. This one is all about the moment of the breakup (or at the moment when you realize that it is over), when the other person just walks away and you “just watch them.” All that is left is to wonder how close you are to losing them for good while you lay there, powerless to do anything about it.
As always, here’s the Spotify playlist for your listening/subscribing/wallowing pleasure.
Um, happy Friday everybody?