Disappointment in love — a relationship that ended, unrequited love, even a relationship that couldn’t be — can turn to resentment. Love turning into hate can be a coping mechanism. It can be levelled at the ex- or putative partner, or at the whole notion of love in general. Such bitterness may be transient or it may abide, turning the brokenhearted into a fleeting wreck or into an enduring cynic. The songs in this post address the bitterness experienced by those fucked over by cupid.
Bright Eyes – A Perfect Sonnet.mp3
Conor Oberst has been dumped and he is bitter. Listen to his delivery: agitated at first, then rather livid, and all that in quivering pain. He yearns for love and resents those who have it: ” But I believe that lovers should be tied together and thrown into the ocean in the worst of weather, and left there to drown in their innocence”, and then, even better: ” I believe that lovers should be chained together and thrown into a fire with their songs and letters, and left there to burn in their arrogance.” But you cannot stay that embittered forever, and in the song’s surprising denouement, Oberst discovers just that. A fantastic song which shows that the premature and inaccurate hype about Oberst as the “new Dylan” was not entirely without merit.
Ben Folds Five – Selfless Cold and Composed.mp3
Ben Folds has written what I consider to be the best love song of all time (oh yes), “The Luckiest”. Yet, Ben is much better doing embittered. Take “Trusted”, where he does terrible things to her in her dreams, “Landed”, where the reign of the telephone tsar comes down, or the obvious “Song For The Dumped”. Here Ben seeks acrimony in a relationship that is ending when all he gets is sterile rejection. He wants to break plates, and she just smiles “like a bank teller, blankly telling me: ‘have a nice life’.” He wants confrontation, demanding that she invest some emotion into the breakup: “You’ve done me no favour to call and be nice, telling me I can take anything I like. You don’t owe me to be so polite. You’ve done no wrong…and you’ve done no wrong — Get out of my sight.” And all that to a cool, understated melody!
Hello Saferide – Valentine’s Day.mp3
What better day to execute a break-up with somebody who doesn’t love you back than on Valentine’s Day? Annika Norlin (Hello Saferide’s real name) is going to give him fish fingers, if they really must have a Valentine’s dinner. But much rather she’d dine with “the coolest girl” (which would be herself) and then go to a club and “find a kid who’s ready to play” — a statement of contempt, of course, not of promiscuity. “Got a feeling this is going to be Valentine’s year. Roses are red and violets are blue, sugar is sweet and I’m leaving you.” Goodbye, chump.
The Smiths – How Soon Is Now (Peel session).mp3
Early ’70s folk-rockers America had a song for all the lonely people who thought that love had passed them by. Morrissey upped the ante by telling us how it actually feels to be young and abandoned by love. Shyness (of a criminally vulgar kind, naturally) is the problem here, of course. So anyone afflicted by that condition will find instant empathy with Mozzer’s experience: “There’s a club, if you’d like to go. You could meet somebody who really loves you. So you go and you stand on your own, and you leave on your own, and you go home, and you cry and you want to die.” But here’s the upside of your situation, my despairing friend: if you remain single, your heart won’t be broken. Be glad and of good cheer for that.
Jeff Buckley – Hallelujah (live).mp3
Buckley appropriated Cheerful Len’s song on his Grace album, to the point that it is now fully Buckley’s, with Jeff’s tweaked lyrics now more well-known than those of Cohen’s original (even though I prefer Len’s holy ghost to Jeff’s dove). This version is a live recording from the Olympia in Paris, released posthumously in 2001. Some might claim that “Hallelujah” is a love song. To me, it evokes betrayal and pain. “She broke your throne and she cut your hair” (degradation and emasculation), and yet the singer assented to his, voicing a feeble hallelujah, a response that suggests unconditional adoration. That worship turned sour, the relationship became conditional, and one dumped the other. So the singer concludes: “All I’ve ever learned from love was how to shoot somebody who outdrew you. And it’s not a cry that you hear at night, it’s not somebody who’s seen the light — it’s a cold and it’s a broken Hallelujah”. Cynical.
Chris Isaak – Wicked Game.mp3
Mr Isaak has a genuine grievance: somebody cruelly led him on (or so he claims) to believe real love was on its way, and then yanked the carpet from under his feet. “What a wicked game to play, to make me feel this way. What a wicked thing to do, to let me dream of you. What a wicked thing to say, you never felt this way. What a wicked thing you do, to make me dream of you.” Damn, this is brutal.
Carly Simon – You’re So Vain.mp3
This song merits inclusion for providing the greatest insult in music history: “You’re so vain, you probably think this song is about you”. Oh, and it is about Warren Beattie.
Colin Hay – I Don’t Need You Anymore.mp3
A song from Hay’s 1987 solo debut album, the title pretty much gives away the gist of the song. The woman who broke his heart wants him back. He isn’t falling for that: “When first I knew you’d gone, the wind grew colder. But after the pain had gone I felt much older [crap rhyme, but bear with him]. You had my very soul and my completeness, and now I find you here. You leave me speechless.” So, no, she may not sleep on his floor.
Nils Landgren – I Will Survive.mp3
Along the same tack, a lovely, jazzy cover version of Gloria Gaynor’s great counter rejection song. Everybody surely knows the lyrics from disco night, but this verse cheers me up no end: “It took all the strength I had not to fall apart, kept trying hard to mend the pieces of my broken heart. And I spent oh so many nights just feeling sorry for myself. I used to cry, but now I hold my head up high. And you see me, somebody new, I’m not that chained up little person still in love with you. And so you feel like dropping in and just expect me to be free! Now I’m saving all my lovin’ for someone who’s loving me.”
Etta James – Cry Me A River.mp3
And to compete the trilogy of scorning people who broke your heart — and what response could be more bitter than that — Arthur Hamilton’s “Cry Me A River” (not to be confused with Justin Timberlake’s musical assault with intent on Britney Spears), performed here by the great Etta James. And what an ass Etta is rejecting here: an idiot who thought love was “too plebeian”? Well, the sorry intellectual fraud doesn’t object to being plebe now that he wants to win back the woman whose tears over him have just dried. But no go, Joe. “Now you say you’re lonely; you cried the long night through. Well, you can cry me a river, cry me a river — I cried a river over you.”
Carpenters – Goodbye To Love.mp3
Can one be gently embittered? If so, then Karen Carpenter shows us how. She does not blame the concept of love for her disillusionment, nor the people who didn’t want her. She has just decided that she is giving up on it. “All the years of useless search have finally reached an end. Loneliness and empty days will be my only friend. From this day love is forgotten…I’ll go on as best I can.” A decidedly self-pitying disposition which may well stand in her way when, as she hopes, “there may come a time when I will see that I’ve been wrong”. Anyway, never mind her, but check out that guitar solo…
Inara George – Fools In Love.mp3
Joe Jackson has a way of being bitter about love, as he was in this song, covered by the wonderful Inara George (a half of The Bird And The Bee) on this fine acoustic version. It’s a cynical song about how people in love are “pathetic” creatures. “Fools in love gently hold each other’s hands forever. Fools in love gently tear each other limb from limb.” So with that attitude it seems rather inopportune that “this fool’s in love again”.
Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris – Love Hurts.mp3*
I referenced this song in the second part of this series; it seems the prefect song to end it with. Originally recorded by the Everly Brothers and covered by many artists, Gram Parsons’ version is the best, capturing the disillusionment of love persuasively. Emmylou’s harmonies, so beautiful that you want to fall in love with her, serve to emphasise Parsons’ melancholy. Our man takes a dim view of love: it has pissed on him and burnt him, it has depressed him: “Love is like a cloud, holds a lot of rain… love is like a stove, burns you when it’s hot.” Love sucks so much that it is a myth: “Some fools think of happiness, blissfulness, togetherness [Gram and Emmylou sing that word, heartbreakingly, as though that is what they really want anyway]. Some fools fool themselves I guess, but they’re not fooling me. I know it isn’t true, know it isn’t true. Love is just a lie made to make you blue.” Oh yes, love does indeed hurt.
And on that cheerful note, we conclude this series. Phew!