Sunday, December 27, 2009

Sing A Song For Love

Aside from all the heartbreak, destruction, life-shattering and tears they cause, breakups suck because they ruin all the songs you've liked for the duration of the time spent with your former flame. You're forced to choose between completely overhauling your iTunes library, or surprise weeping as your suddenly sentient and sadistic mp3 player decides to hit you with "Nothing Compares 2 U" while you're riding the escalator at the mall.

I remember right after my first real holy-shit breakup, which ranks as a complete bag of garbage in the house of my life, that "Hey There Delilah" song was suddenly everywhere. If you've never heard it, it's this earnest little tune about a couple who decide to tough out long-distance. The dude is strumming his acoustic love. It's a little saccharin but generally pretty sweet. Unless, of course, you've been recently dumped, in which case the Plain White Ts (alternate name: the Plain White One-Hit Wonders) are both fucking mind readers and also out to get you.

I was thinking about this, because, like a lot of people who had relationship drama in the mid-2000s, the Imogen Heap song "Hide and Seek" is sort of an emotional anthem. It's a gorgeous song all on its own, but coupled with the heightened state falling in and out of love can produce in a person, it became this ur-song in the pantheon. "Hide and Seek" could be about anything - I sometimes picture a natural disaster in the vein that Roland Emmerich would produce - but when you're dealing with cheating and dumping, like I was, the song is about you and your situation. Duh.

Lately, I've been listening to a bit more Imogen Heap/Frou Frou, and every time it comes on, I'm reminded of both the bad feelings and the road out of Crazy Breakup Junction into Ifeelalittlebetterville. The songs have changed, man! It's sonic evolution! Damn, I sound like I'm about four tokes away from a van ride to Burning Man. But instead of just deleting the shit out of those songs, I took them back. That kind of self-work isn't always successful; I had to relinquish Silverchair's "Straight Lines," which is a decent song that was 100% attached to the ex-boyfriend. But for the most part, music's healing properties can work wonders on single-fied dude or dudette in the throes of a breakup-related meltdown.

I think it's fascinating that you can take a painful song and turn it into a song about empowerment. Transforming a traumatic musical interlude - and yeah, there is such a thing, and some people will never be able to listen to the Muppet Show theme song without bursting into tears - into a personal narrative about triumphing over a terrible time in a person's life and becoming a stronger, more balanced person who hasn't traded her brain for a three-and-a-half minute-long chunk of radio time is awesome. Regardless of what they are, I dare you to make a playlist of the songs that were "ruined" by a breakup or an ex and see how you feel now when you listen to them. I bet you feel a small sense of wonder, as if you can barely remember the person you were when you decided that they were ruined in the first place.

1 comment:

  1. awesome challenge!

    Autumn by Mia Doi Todd
    Good Woman by Cat Power
    Ballad of the Lonely Construction Worker by Cuff The Duke
    I want to Break Free by Queen
    Dry Your Eyes by The Streets
    Mushaboom by Feist

    odly, most of those tracks are from my first break up. I wonder if the more breakups you have, the less songs get ruined