Friday, January 30, 2009

Break-up songs

Today, as I was doing laundry I was listening to an episode of This American Life called "Break-up" (This American Life is my favorite NPR show. If you don't listen to it, I highly recommend it. My favorite story ever is on this show. Fast forward to 40:15. You won't regret it.)

Anyway, one segment was about what makes a good tragic love song. One woman, Starly Kine, talks about how, after her boyfriend dumped her (isn't dumped such a terrible word?) , she decided to write a break-up song. She wanted to do it right so she consulted Phil Collins and some other pop song writers. During the segment she plays parts of popular love songs and then talks about them. One of the key ingredients for a good song, she says, is extreme corniness. This is because "there's nothing strained or subtle about being crushed by the person you care most about in the world. it's big and gawdy. And it only makes sense that the songs about it are too." Phil Collins says his lyrics aren't intellectual or really very poetic as much as they are blunt. He says you go wrong if you try to too hard. It's supposed to be sort of raw and unmanageable. Don't think too hard about the words, he says, just write what you feel.

For example, there was a guy who got drunk and shot up his girlfriend's car. After he was sentenced the judge asked him if he learned anything from his experience and the guy said yeah, "You can't make a woman love you if she don't." A songwriter read about it in the paper and that's where this song came from(fastforward to 1:15). Perfect break-up song line. I never really liked this song, but now I feel it is significant and, somehow, valuable.

Because things are corny they are often dismissed as cheap. This is not true. Things are corny because they are common; people break up every day. Just because it happens so often does not mean it loses value with the repetition. Or at least, it shouldn't.

Kine cited "Against All Odds," which I have courteously embedded in this blog for you, as her ultimate break up song. It is corny. But I have to say, that I have been singing it to Soapy all day long. Because, even though I never actually had a bad break up, I imagine that if I had, this song would have been my anthem. In fact, I was imagining what I would listen to if Chris ever left me for a fancy touring bike half my age, and I am pretty sure I would listen to this song a lot--right after I torched all his clothes.

I hereby embrace all corniness. Feel free to confess your own favorite tragic love songs.


Katie said...

I love your blogs, they are so thought provoking! I must scour my i tunes library.

A few of my favorite break-up/heartbreak songs are: (note: I seem to be into country music a lot lately, It must be living in Georgia)
Bonnie Rait-I Can't Make you Love me
No Doubt-Don't Speak
Keith Urban-Tonight I Wanna Cry
George Michael (or Michael Buble)-Kissing a Fool
Simon & Garfunkel- 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover :)
Suzy Boggus-Somewhere
Between you and Me
Van Morrison-Ain't No Sunshine
Jewel-Foolish Games

Laura said...

I have the same fear of Matt leaving me for a bike as well. You and I are a lot a like.

Anyways, the break up song that I like is walk away by Ben Harper. You can listen to it here (honestly I have no idea how you link things to your words)

Also the book that I was reading was The Host by Stephanie Meyer. I think that you mentioned that you already read it in one of your posts.

Katie said...

Dear Anna,

I don't often do this since you are so cool and usually so right about things, but I feel I must disagree. It is simply BECAUSE break-ups are so devistating in all those deeply personal ways that the corny songs are nothing more than a mockery of one's feelings. After all, if you had really been left by the one you love, would you want it put forth in about five minutes by a ninth grader or have the words to your painful anthem worked over and over by a genius who can describe your pain so specifically and poetically that even the man who dumped you will understand your feelings and find he can't be without you any longer?

During my senior year of high school we had a new school building; consequently, release time seminary was canceled because the seminary building was next to the old high school and those of us who had registered for seminary during the school day had to fill in the gaps in our class schedules. For one trimester I filled in the gap by being a TA for my mom (English teacher at my high school) during her prep period. Mostly she let me do whatever I wanted, but for a week or so she made me type up pages and pages of poems that her freshman had written. They were terrible. They wrote things down just because they rhymed. And they didn't even rhyme all that well. And they wrote about their boyfriends/ girlfriends in a way that made me scoff at love. Ever since this time I have been completely turned off to overly corny expressions of love.

The moral of the story is: If a high school freshman can write it, it's not worth listening to on the radio. Just take Taylor Swift's "Drew" song, for example.

ali said...

this song makes me laugh.

and this songs' about a breakup but it's actually good (i think).

this song is soooo good too.

and now, katie, i happen to like taylor swifts' "drew" song so don't go bashing on her. :)


Kate said...

Wait, are you talking about Elna Baker's story? OH, man that Babies Buying Babies is SO WAY TOTALLY EXCELLENT.

Anna said...

Kate, you don't know how delighted (but not surprised) I am that you already knew that story. Also, three Katies have made comments on my blog (Kate, you used to go by Katie) and that is a record for me. I don't know how to top this...

Kathy Haynie said...

Are all the Kates and Katies really Kathleens? Katie Lewis is, and so am I! I have a daughter Kathleen and two granddaughters named Kathleen, and the four of us have a theory that you can never have too many Kathleens! So if Katie and Katie and Kate are really Kathleen, then FOUR of us have responded. It's you lucky day!

Anna said...


Julie said...

I'm a huge This American Life Fan. Loved that episode. I listen while I run. You name an episode and I can tell you exactly where I was running when I heard it!!!

hawkeye said...

Great post. I have an mp3 blog of songs about being dumped:

Anonymous said...


The name's Dennis, though most people call me 'Freaky'. :P I'm in my "teens" and kinda lost in the world at the moment...however, I've found the hippie "culture" and discovered that it fits me very well...I'm not trying to fit into it, it just kind of fitted onto me.
I have lots of questions, which hopefully some of the older and wiser people on this board will be able to help answer.
Here's to hoping this board will be able to help me discover more of myself and fuel my beliefs.

Peace out, Dennis from [url=]Payday Loans[/url] website!

Anonymous said...

you have a great blog here! would you like to make some invite posts on my blog?

doktor levitra