Feeling more in the mood for the Grinch than Cupid? If so, this one’s for you.
The Valentine’s blues hits those single folks and couples who are unlucky in love. There’s no substitute for someone to hug. But there is an enjoyable way to wallow — musically.
For years, songwriters and crooners have lyrically expressed the downside of romance, squeezing memorable musical whines out of love’s sour grapes.
Topics like “Blues in the Night,” “Mood Indigo” and “Stormy Weather” were ’30s and ’40s fodder for what became jazz standards. It’s questionable if there’d even be a blues or country genre without jilted lovers, betrayed hearts and love gone sour. But it’s rock in all of its varied forms over the past 50 years that have thrust “Big Bad Love” (Alanis Morissette) into an inner circle of hell, upping the notch to more vituperative, in-your-face attitudes.
Add to the mix melancholic, self-effacing, angst-ridden melodies that make breaking up bearable, and you have rock-solid bottom gold.
If you’re enjoying a fine romance, you may want to stop here.
But if you’re not, you might want to read on to add grist to your hard-hearted emotions, perusing the depths of your loneliness, heartache and bitterness through song.
“Nothing could be sadder than a glass of wine alone./Loneliness, loneliness, it’s just a waste of your time,” the Stones sang in “Cry to Me” on their 1972 album, Exile on Main Street.
Use this as your guide, then sift through your CD collection (and albums, if you still have them) or trawl through Napster (if you still can) and put together a play list. Then crank up your stereo, kick back, and wallow.
Should I Stay Or Should I Go?
To set the mood, you might want to start by cuing up the Derek and the Dominos’ classic “Layla.” Not only is this still one of the most recognized rock songs around, but it also tells part one of a true tragic love story. The angst expressed by British blues man Eric Clapton was inspired by his love for Beatle George Harrison’s wife, Patti, whom he later married. Part two of the story: they divorced.
Not knowing what you want. Doing the wrong thing. These are common motifs in the anti-love "genre".
Chart-topping, heart-stopping teen pop queen Britney Spears expresses second thoughts about a breakup in her tune “Baby One More Time”: “My loneliness is killing me/I must confess I still believe/When I’m not with you I lose my mind.” Oops.
On the other side of the love coin, and two decades earlier, Pat Benatar questioned, in “Love Is a Battlefield,” a lover’s similar indecision: “You’re makin’ me go. Then makin’ me stay. Why do you hurt me so bad. It would help me to know.”
Knowing when to get out is a good thing and can be empowering. If you’ve left a relationship that was extremely hard to leave but you knew in your heart of hearts that getting out was the right thing, give Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love” another listen. Or you might want to check out Britney’s boyfriend Justin and his fellow boy band compadres in ’NSync — their answer to such shilly-shally jerking around? “Bye, Bye, Bye.”
Rage Against the Ex
Once the evening has gotten into a good groove, you might be ready for a taste of rage. Eminem would be a good place to start — he might not have exclusive rights to the subject, but he certainly has a lot of it that he doesn’t keep pent up. Slim Shady looks for answers in “Kim” — “How could you? Just leave me and love him out of the blue?” — and finds them in violent fantasies, which sparked some court action by the rapper’s wife. But she can’t be all that bad, apparently, as the two reconciled months later, wiping the slate clean.
For a female take on jealous fury, Alanis Morissette’s scorned lover in “You Ought to Know” might do the trick. You’ll probably want to sing along at key moments like “don’t you forget about me, Mr. Duplicity.”
In this category, there’s also the revenge motif. “When I think of it, my fingers turn to fists,” sings Fiona Apple in “Limp,” whose title pretty much says it all.
I Confess, An English Beat
To wind down a quiet evening of angst, anger and perhaps thoughts of alimony, you might want to turn to the confessionals.
These come in several different flavors, including: wanting to 'fess up (out of guilt or perhaps as payback), not wanting to 'fess up (though you should) and 'fessing up to simply using somebody.
In “Confessions,” Destiny’s Child asks her man, “Because I just came clean, what you feel about that baby/I’m just guessing/are you through with me?” It’s tough to tell through the way she puts it, but it seems like breaking up might be what she wants.
Much more clear is the disturbing yet almost comical gist of Shaggy’s “It Wasn’t Me.” Having been caught “red-handed” “with the girl next door,” the singer turns to his mentor, who tells him to simply deny it. Of course, you have to listen to the whole song to get the kicker — “Gonna tell her that I’m sorry for the pain that I’ve caused. … You may think that you’re a player/But you’re completely lost.”
From Crosby, Stills and Nash’s free-love anthem “Love the One You’re With” to Marilyn Manson’s more current “User Friendly,” singers have admitted to their lovers they’re simply not in love. You might also try Tina Turner, who added her piece to this less-than-feel-good message with “What’s Love Got to Do With It?”
Bill Withers’ “Use Me” — which is being used in a Pringles commercial! — delivers the unexpected. When told he is simply being used by his woman, the singer comes clean in a delicious admission of enjoyment. “Oh, I want to spread the news, if it feels this good getting used. You just keep on using me, 'til you use me up.”
Chances are he’ll be needing an anti-love song list very soon.