Music must be administered to heal a broken heart. The exact dosage and length of each course varies per patient; however, there are a couple of uniform guidelines:
- Any non-gospel Al Green song fits any phase of treatment, and conversely also can be administered to reinforce the happiness of a functional relationship. This is commonly referred to as “The Reverend Green Paradox.”
- No song that includes a literal reference to breaking up is a good breakup song (Exception: See Rule #1). This is particularly true of anything written by Greg Kihn or Neil Sedaka.
Here are some suggestions to get you through the stages of breakup grief:
Stage 1: Denial
Pretty much every single song ever written deals with love so basically any song will do provided it reassures you that she still loves you, but here’s my recommendation: Play the hell out of that song you two loved. She wants to hear it, she just doesn’t know it, right? You two don’t have a song? Fine. Play Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believing,” because if you just stay positive she’ll come back. Or…
“Two Of Us,” The Beatles: The Fabs have a song for every occasion. Here’s a bit of a deep cut for your denial stage.
Stage 2: Anger
Okay, you’re past the Steve Perry stage and really feeling what that mean mistreater did to you. It’s time to work up to a good boil:
“You Oughta Know,” Alanis Morissette: Yes it was a monster hit and yes it’s about some dude from the television show Full House, but this is the greatest “pissed off about a breakup” song of all time.
“I Don’t Care About You,” Fear: This is the chorus you’ll need for those tough nights.
Stage 3: Bargaining
Everything is negotiable, right? Sure, you said some horrible things during the Anger stage, but she’s bound to take you back if the price is right.
“Please Please Please Let Me Get What I Want,” The Dream Academy: I’m sure many prefer The Smiths’ original but I like this version, probably best known from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.
“I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That), Meat Loaf: Nobody goes over the top like Meat. This isn’t the bargain you want to cut? There’s always “I want you / I need you / But there ain’t no way I’m ever gonna love you.”
Incidentally, if you know what “that” is that Mr. Loaf won’t do please tell me. Until I hear otherwise I’m going to assume that it has something to do with the butt.
Stage 4: Depression
Oh lord, we could be here all day. Depression and popular music are peanut butter and chocolate. Here are a couple of deeper cuts, though:
“If You Could Read My Mind,” Johnny Cash: J.C. puts so much heart into Gordon Lightfoot’s classic.
I never thought I could feel this way
And I’ve got to say that I just don’t get it.
I don’t know where we went wrong,
But the feeling’s gone
And I just can’t get it back.
Goddamnit. There’s something in my eye.
“You Made Me the Thief of Your Heart,” Sinead O’Connor: If you are looking for a literal “depressed” song you can always go with The Smiths or The Cure, but if you’re looking for a good musical wallow it doesn’t get much better than this.
“In the Darkest Place,” Elvis Costello and Burt Bacharach: Look, we’re all adults here. Why not pour a Seven and Seven and take your dark night old school, back to a sound that is more hi-fi and shag carpet than intergooglewebtubes?
Stage 5: Acceptance:
I’m going conventional here, but hear me out. The majority of lyrics to songs that were popular when I was of prime pop music consumption age flew completely over my head. It’s a rather strange bit of business that adults with real problems write songs that are purchased mostly by clueless teenagers. Only in retrospect do I understand just how true and touching these lyrics are.
“Heart of the Matter,” Don Henley: Everything you need to know about moving on after getting dumped – “I think it’s about forgiveness…even if you don’t love me anymore.”
“One,” U2: I prefer Johnny Cash’s version, but your entire breakup playlist can’t be J.C. (note: Yes it can). When U2 isn’t wallowing naked in their hundreds of millions of dollars or saving the World, Bono can really cut to the bone. “One” includes the three greatest “it’s time to move on” lines in modern music: “And I can’t be holding on / To what you got / When all you got is hurt.”
If I can’t play Johnny’s version then at least I can class the joint up with R.E.M.
Congratulations! You’ve worked through the five musical stages of breakup grief. Time to reclaim your sense of humor about the whole mess.
“Happy Trails,” Van Halen:
Okay, people, there’s a starter kit for you. What are your breakup songs? I’m listening.