Stop me if you’ve heard this, but I went through a breakup recently. It was the first one in many years, and it was an intense relationship, so I wasn’t prepared for the emotional folly that followed. Let’s just say that it didn’t end well, and, truth be told, I never actually HEARD from my ex – he just sort of disappeared, but left me with the blame. Yay! Nothing like wading into the waters and meeting a cowardly ghost-shark first thing.
No big deal, really – I should be thankful it’s over. And despite his sharkness, I’m not afraid of the water. But it took me a lot longer to get over than I expected. I think it’s mostly because A) I’m a journalist, and if you leave me with a thousand questions, I almost can’t recover; and B) I’m an ENFP personality type, and leaving one of us in the lurch with no closure or comeuppance is almost life-threatening.
Couple that breakup with several rounds of sickness, the death of my stepfather and lots of traveling, and you have kind of a delayed response to “just getting the hell over it.” But the breakup – that was the biggest bee in my bonnet. It hurt. Like hell. Still does. Just less sharp, more dull now. Much easier to tolerate.
And as usual, my friends and family came through for me. As usual, my team of sisters and one brother, my parental units, my BFFs, co-worker BFFs, my cats, my backyard birds and the voice of my mother got me through it. As usual, I chose the wrong person – but hopefully there’s an end to that someday. Lord knows I haven’t been in a big hurry to return to the dating world. Not that I haven’t had offers, but every time I think I want to accept, I just haven’t. Not because I want The Jerk back, but because I don’t want to pick The Jerk again, ya know? “We won’t get fooled again” or something.
Anyway— I am especially thankful for another group of friends who helped me through one of the more awful periods of my life – my musical BFFs. In these last few months, my tastes have been all over the place. I didn’t listen to any love songs at all for the first two months — just hardcore rap, smooth hip-hop and “why don’t you just go ahead and get eaten by a bear” songs. This is a departure for a hardcore optimist like me. I kind of hated it, but I also knew it was necessary.
Some true winners emerged from that dark time, and I want to address them here.
- Beast, “Mr. Hurricane.”
I heard this song one morning right after the breakup. I was walking into work, sunglasses on to hide my sleepless eyes, trying to look happy and optimistic. Faking it. Completely and totally faking it – because inside I was so confused, hurt and angry, and wanted to run away from it all. I wanted answers, but my pride (and the voice of my mom from beyond the grave, not to mention all my family/friends) stopped me from calling him to get the answers, which probably wouldn’t have helped my anyway.
I was so overcome by the lyrics, I went back to my car and listened to the song on full volume. I cried. I screamed. Security was NOT called (thankfully). But, just like everyone going through a breakup or new love situation, you think the lyrics are written FOR YOU. It spoke to me. It was a big first step to healing.
“I stopped bein’ the victim
But you weren’t there to see
I never felt bitter
Till you crippled me
I felt like a refugee from the pain
I had to wear that shroud with no shame
Deceit and lies
Were your crying game
I never fell in love so deeply in vain
So I stay a while
Knife in my side
While I slowly died
Defeat from the inside
Now I scream ’til the end of the day
Never again, Mr. Hurricane”
2. Personality Crisis, New York Dolls
Oh dear. Oh dear oh dear. There was something magical that happened the day this song came on. It was like a life raft. It was music to my hears. (Yes, that was on purpose). Punk music in all its iterations is usually very “fuck you”-centric, and this one is no exception. And since I’m convinced that a personality crisis led to some of homeboy’s issues, it was perfect. I have since listened to this about 3 billion times. One day it’s all I listened to – over and over and over again. Perfection. Yes, I kinda lost my mind there for a bit. I don’t think most people would blame me.
“And you’re a prima ballerina on a spring afternoon
Change on into the wolfman, howlin’ at the moon, hooowww
All about that personality crisis you got it while it was hot
But now frustration and heartache is what you got…”
3. Bad Blood, Taylor Swift
Points if you knew Tay-Tay would be on this list… she was made for breakups. I get that now. Immediately after it happened, I had to go to Oklahoma for my stepdad’s funeral. (Of course it all happened at the same time!) So I downloaded a bunch of Taylor that I could listen to on the plane and try to make sense of what the hell had just happened to me. It helped, this song especially. I wanted to have one of those scenes like from a movie – I wanted to get up and sing it to the rest of the passengers, and have them sing the chorus and chant “HE’S AN ASSHOLE (clap, clap, clap-clap-clap)… I wanted an audience to feel what I’d been through — me and Taylor – and it was somehow very soothing. I love you, Ms. Swift. Forever. Thank you for writing what we all feel. (And of COURSE “Shake it Off” was listened to on repeat. The whole 1989 album, really – just this one, I feel like I finally GOT, ya know?)
“Did you have to do this? I was thinking that you could be trusted
Did you have to ruin what was shiny? Now it’s all rusted
Did you have to hit me, where I’m weak? Baby, I couldn’t breathe
And rub it in so deep, salt in the wound like you’re laughing right at me…”
4. No Chump Love Sucker, Red Hot Chili Peppers
A song of immense pride mixed with a healthy dose of hurt. Written from a male perspective, of course, but just perfect when you’re FURIOUS. I heard this one day and basically trashed my office jumping around, throwing things (like boxes of Kleenex, nothing damaging) and scaring my cats. Looking back, I wish I’d videotaped that. Good times.
“I’m through with your bluefish
I’m through with your gash
I’m through being screwed with
By you and your whack attack
5. Eazy-Duz-It, Eazy-E
This unfortunate time coincided with me watching “Straight Outta Compton,” which was also kind of a rebellion, as he didn’t see the need to watch the movie because “he lived it.” OK. I think you missed the point of biopics and are just attempting to sound like a tough guy, but whatevs.
So after watching the movie, I was like “THIS IS WHAT I NEED.” Angry music that has nothing to do with love. Angry political music. Real people music. It led to my mind being kind of steered back to more important things, and I immersed myself in old-school rap of all sorts afterward.
Who knew Slick Rick, NWA, Public Enemy and the like could be so soothing.
“Rolling through the hood, cold tearing shit up
Stick my head out the window and I say what’s up
To the (omitted) on the corner cold bumping the box
But you know that’s an alibi for slanging the rocks…”
- Beyonce, “Sorry.”
This is a more recent addition, and damn I wish I’d heard it sooner. It would have been No. 1 on this list. It could have been so good for me. But I got it a few weeks ago, and it still works. I don’t care if this whole Bey-Jay thing is fake beef or not. It’s powerful, and it’s meaningful, and most people can relate. Most women, for sure. When I listened to the lyrics to this song, I felt BETTER. And I do every time I hear it. Thank you, Beyonce, for being strong. Even if it’s not real. Also, I want to be Serena when I grow up and I so wish I was on this bus with these beautiful women. They look like they’re having fun and I NEED FUN!
“Middle fingers up, put them hands high
Wave it in his face, tell him, BOY, BYE
Tell him, boy, bye, middle fingers up
I ain’t thinking ’bout you…”
- Fuel My Fire, The Prodigy
This one has gotten me through a few breakups. This one was no different. Pure bitterness with a great beat. Also an awesome song to take with you on the elliptical machine, when you’re running on pure fury and pain. And yes, L7 wrote it—but this version is better, I think.
“I’ve got a word of thanks
that I’d like to say
for the way that I feel today.
Got stacks, got stacks
stacks of chips on my shoulder
in everything I do cuz I made, I made
I made the mistake … the mistake of trusting you
Yeah, people like you just fuel my fire
Yeah, people like you just do
You liar… You liaaaaar”
- For the Time Being, Edie Brickell
After a dressing-down I received at the hands of a friend of the ex – to which I never responded, because it was all lies and bullshit anyway, and why engage? – I heard this randomly. I’ve liked the song since I saw the movie “The Way Way Back.” But it fit the moment well. And still makes me laugh when I hear it. The impassioned response I got was, looking back, pretty hilarious. (But again, I never heard from him, just her.) There’s so much more to this story, but I learned my lesson about blogging unhinged.
“It must be nice to be full of good advice to say
It must be sweet, but I’ll call you if I need it
I’m doing alright for the time,
Fine for the time being
I’ll need professional help if it does get any worse than this
I’ll be out on a ledge if it does get any worse than this
I’m doing alright for the time,
Fine for the time being
You think you know me well
You think you know me well
But you don’t know me at all.”
9. Bulletproof Soul, Sade
Ms. Adu has been a part of my life since I was a wee tot. The album “Love Deluxe” is still in my top 10. This song developed new meaning for me, 25 years or so after I’d first heard it. I was still really hurting and listening to a lot of mopey stuff. This came on one day and it was like that beautiful woman was sitting next to me, patting my hair, singing soft words of encouragement. I love you, Sade, you brilliant badass beauty. And I DID leave like a lion, TYVM!
“You were trigger happy baby
You never warned me let me free
It’s not that complicated
But you’re going to need a bullet proof soul
Think you got it but you got all the trouble you need
I came in like a lamb
But I intend to leave like a lion.”
10. Electric Relaxation, A Tribe Called Quest
Coinciding with this terrible time in my life were the deaths of some of my favorite musicians – David Bowie, Phife Dawg, Merle Haggard, and of course, Prince. But Tribe was there for me during all this. Well before the breakup, I’d been on a huge Tribe kick. For the last year or so, it’s been on a regular rotation. The smooth, relaxing beats were medicine to me during the hard times. Dawg’s death just led me to listen to them more. It took my mind off the bitterness and gave it room to explore. It gave my brain a reprieve. And the joy – the pure, simple, melodic joy that is this song – was the best thing for me. I thank Tribe so much for this. Tribe made me chill the fuck out. Tribe led to peace. RIP, Phife.
“Relax yourself girl, please set-tle down
Stretch out your legs, let me make you bawl
Drive you insane, drive you up the wall
Staring at your dome-piece, very strong
Stronger than pride, stronger than Teflon…”
- 28,000 Days, Alicia Keys
I heard this in a commercial or something while I was working the SEC Tournament in Nashville. I fell in love instantaneously. It was like a lifeline. Like Alicia was shouting “HEY STUPID, GET YOUR PRIORITIES IN ORDER!”
I had a one-day hotel stay at the airport in Orlando after the tournament, then I would meet my Best Good Friend Renae and her son Oliver for our trip to Disney World. This was after a nine-day stretch of SEC tournament basketball and travel… a few weeks after all this mess.
That night, sick as a dog but somehow OK, I felt like myself again for the first time. I was excited about seeing my people, happy with how things had gone at the tournament, and not thinking about Mr. Hurricane. I danced around my hotel room, playing this song on my little iPad speakers, acting it out, flailing, being an idiot. I realized that life is, indeed, too short to just throw it away. I’ll leave that to him. He can be self-destructive as long as he wants. Thank God he didn’t pull me down with him. I swear to God this song fell into my lap at the exact right moment. God works in mysterious ways, huh?
“Back from hell with my angel wings
Ain’t no fear in my voice
Cause I’m making a choice
The devil ain’t no friend of me
And that clock on the wall is telling me
There’s only 28 thousand days
Who would you love? Where would you go?
What would you celebrate?
I’m telling you that life’s too short to just throw it away
So have the time of your life, so have the time of your life…”
And that’s what I intend to do from now on, Ms. Keys. Thank you.