I forgot what video I was watching, but after a quick glance at the comments, I read, “best break-up song”. What makes a song a good break-up song though? Does it really have to be all Taylor-Swift-writing-about-every-boyfriend?
Rather than critique what a break-up song might mean for some people, I decided to share a bit of my own experience. It already strikes me as very odd, because I have only had two break-ups in my life, but I still wanted to write about them.
The First Love
In the first case, I didn’t have my heart broken, and I was the one who broke up with my first boyfriend, Danny. It was tough, because I hated hurting his feelings, and I remember running out of my room and crying and feeling absolutely terrible. Yes, I hadn’t done it in person. At the time I was only fourteen, I was fairly vulnerable and we had a rather long relationship that lasted over a year.
I didn’t have a break-up song at that time, but I remember my friends joking that Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson was a little more than just my favourite song at the time. However, I wanted to disagree. Danny wasn’t gone, and I didn’t think that the lyrics really fit my situation. He didn’t leave me or anything, and the lyrics “How come I’d never hear you say, I just wanna be with you” were not true… Danny enjoyed my company, and he was very loving, he just wasn’t the right guy.
He loved Linkin Park. I suppose In The End reminded me of him from time to time, but I am overall thankful that he introduced me to their music.
My second boyfriend was Kiah. He loved The Beatles, and every little chord someone played of Yesterday or humming of anything like Yellow Submarine and Octopus’ Garden, as chirpy as they were, made me upset. I had made him a mix CD for his birthday, and obviously filled it with songs that reminded me of him.
Somewhere Only We Know by Keane was on it. I think it was this particular part that struck a chord with me:
And if you have a minute why don’t we go
Talk about it somewhere only we know?
This could be the end of everything
So why don’t we go
Somewhere only we know?
One time, I remember hugging him while the song Iris by Goo Goo Dolls was playing from a speaker somewhere. These two songs are the ones I remember well. They make me think of the heartbreak as a whole, from the moment my hand left his, to the feeling of the tears running down my cheek, to the way my heart broke, then was patched together again within a week, then torn apart, then glued back, then… permanently perforated, ready to break, almost numb. Our on-off relationship was stupid, but all I know is that he still loved me when he broke up with me for the last time.
I don’t remember what other songs I put on the CD. However, I know that for the longest time, and for the twelve months it took me to get over him, every single song reminded me of him. And now I barely remember what they were. Those songs stuck with me and reminded me of those times, but they never stuck that way with me forever.
Kiah was my last ex-boyfriend.
After I broke up with Kiah, one of my friends started making moves on me, but I was oblivious for a while. Once I found out what he was trying to do, I avoided him and tried to get him to back off. We were friends, but after his company and his behaviour became uncomfortable, I stopped talking to him.
It was honestly a very emotional time, because I constantly forgave him and he would continue hurting me. I’m one to easily forgive people, and it wasn’t helping me, but I couldn’t stand the guilt he made me feel.
I never associated any songs with this friend after that, but when I listen to Pearl Jam, I remember he gave me a lot of their music and spoke all about their songs. I remember being enthralled by the ones I hadn’t heard, being practically inspired to play Nothingman on guitar and perform it one week for my music class.
I sucked. It wasn’t a song in my vocal range, and I had to sing it a fair bit higher, my knee shook throughout the performance. I listened to the song today and I chuckled a little. I listened to Jeremy recently, too, and cringed; it’s inspired by the suicide of Jeremy Delle, a fifteen-year-old schoolboy who shot himself in front of his classmates. I had depression at the time, and this friend of mine occasionally mentioned the song Jeremy… but I never bothered to read the lyrics or the meaning. Now I wonder what message he was trying to send.
I saw Pearl Jam perform at Big Day Out earlier this year. I didn’t think they were that good. And I hadn’t followed their music since I stopped talking to my friend. I left after Pearl Jam played Rearviewmirror, which, coincidentally, goes like this:
But I’m not about to give thanks, or apologise
I couldn’t breathe, holdin’ me down
Hand on my face, pushed to the ground
Enmity gauged, united by fear
Forced to endure what I could not forgive…
Saw things, saw things
Saw things, saw things
Once you were in my rearview mirror…
I stopped talking to my friend Zack last year, just months after we got back in touch.
In a nutshell, feelings were involved, and I felt suffocated.
I introduced him to so much music, and I remember that he particularly liked Foster The People. He loved it, and said Houdini made him think of ninjas, and a lot of their other songs reminded him of me.
No song reminds me of him.
“We are never ever getting back together”
Tristan and I bonded a lot over music. The first song that likely reminds him of me, which I guess is my song, is Evil Woman by Electric Light Orchestra. For a handful of reasons – I’m evil, I dance to it all the time, it’s the song that makes me dance, and it was sheer coincidence that when we were at a club, it played over the speakers and all his dreams came true. Heh, nah, that last phrase was ridiculous.
I’ve made a handful of playlists for him, mostly to introduce him to new music. We met at a festival at university, and I was surprised that he hadn’t heard of any of the bands playing. Occasionally, now, we’ll message each other with songs we might like, but it is sometimes followed by “… this song reminds me of you [puzzled/amused look]”.
And interestingly, Somewhere Only We Know now reminds me of Tristan instead of Kiah. It’s not something I want to detail, but there were brief periods of time that we didn’t talk to each other, and that song sometimes left me nostalgic.
Tristan once told me that any one song can remind you of anything – you just interpret it differently every time, or you’re in a different state of mind. I guess it’s a good thing that I have mostly forgotten about the link between heartbreak and the songs I used to associate with it. I suppose you gotta get closure somehow, even if it is through the words and music of someone else.