AskMen.com recently compiled a list of their top ten breakup songs, including the not-really-about-a-break-up “No Woman, No Cry,” “Achy Breaky Heart,” the freaking Cake cover of “I Will Survive,” and the heinous “I (Just) Died in Your Arms” by Cutting Crew. They had the decency to put “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac at No. 2, but most of the list is pretty dreary–even for breakup songs! So I thought I’d make my own.
5. “Full Color Love Affair” by The Shimmer Kids Underpop Association
Why: A mellow song about the not-so-mellow experience of being dumped for another person. It perfectly captures the beaten-down tone of self-loathing and hatred that accompanies this experience.
Key lyrics: “When I saw you in the library, well then I knew that it was all over, ’cause he was showing you that book by e.e. cummings. And I had on my favorite shirt, but it didn’t seem to make a difference ’cause all the poetry in Paris will never hide my shortcomings. And if our paths cross in a little while, if I should see you at a party, maybe you’ll apologize…but you’ll still be a bitch.”
4. “Recommendation” by Mirah
Why: This is a good one for the defiant, I-am-so-getting-over-you-but-I-still-want-you stage of a breakup. It’s a brilliantly compact song about things that you can only write down in letters and the agony of an uncertain ending drawn out by tense long-distance correspondence. In the end Mirah decides that she’s doing “Fine. Just fine.”
Key lyrics: “You drove so far, but now you know how rough it is to let me go. Let me recommend that you think twice, and I always give the best advice.”
3. “True Affection” by The Blow
Why: A perfect expression of that painful sense that you’re drifting out of each other’s leagues. As always, The Blow combines heartfelt vocals with electronic blips to great effect. There’s such a sadness to this song in its recognition of how sometimes genuine affection isn’t enough.
Key lyrics: “True affection floats. True affection sinks like a stone. I never felt so close. I never felt so all alone.”
2. “I Don’t Want to Get Over You” by The Magnetic Fields
Why: Perhaps the most miserable and pathetic breakup emotion is the terrible knowledge that you’re not ready for the person to leave your life, despite the fact that they’re clearly moving on. This one just comes out and says it: I’m not ready for this, I don’t want anyone else, I feel like sulking around and smoking clove cigarettes, etc. Stephin Merritt’s sad, dead vocals are basically the sound of being dumped.
Key lyrics:” I could make a career of being blue, I could dress in black and read Camus, smoke clove cigarettes and drink vermouth like I was 17. That would be a scream, but I don’t want to get over you.”
1. “Landslide” by Fleetwood Mac
Why: So this is pretty obvious. It’s kind of the go-to song for major life changes, but there’s a reason why it’s so popular among the depressed and broken-hearted. Stevie Nicks is at once vulnerable, honest, and willing to acknowledge that things have to change, though not without some hesitation. Everything about it is perfect for post-breakup sadness.
Key lyrics: “I’ve been afraid of changing ’cause I’ve built my life around you.”