In the tradition of Merry Subversive Christmas, my list of songs for the holiday season, I present you a new list: anti-love songs for Valentine’s Day. This isn’t about resentment over being single, rather it is merely providing a few alternatives to the bombastic ballads and acoustic declarations of love that are saturating the airwaves.
Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy a good love song as much as the next person, but sometimes enough is enough. Nothing pushes the stop button on a bile-inducing ballad like a good break-up song. So, here are five anti-love songs that I am currently digging on. Feel free to provide your own additions and remember to spread the love this Valentine’s Day.
“Satin in a Coffin”- Modest Mouse
Modest Mouse’s 2004 mainstream breakthrough, “Good News for People Who Love Bad News” spawned the feel good hit “Float On,” but that song was hardly a reflection of the album’s dark and moody vibe.
“Satin in a Coffin” is perhaps the album’s darkest moment with the creepy chorus: “Are you dead or you sleeping?/God I sure hope you are dead.” That’s enough to kill any romantic evening. Isaac Brock’s lead vocal is full of emotion and sells the bitter sentiment of the song completely. Musically, the song is a beautifully disjointed combination of banjo, guitar, standup bass and pump organ.
“Sexed Up”- Robbie Williams
Williams has sung more than his fair share of affecting ballads and “Sexed Up” follows the pattern of its predecessors in terms of production and sound. Over sweetly strummed guitar and pleasant piano Williams sings as if he is wooing, but listen closely, for this is all a disguise.
The chorus brilliantly subverts the formula of clichéd love songs with Williams belting out: “Why don’t we break up/There’s nothing left to say/I’ve got my eyes shut/Praying they won’t stray/And when I’m sexed up/That’s what makes the difference today/I hope you blow away.” The glossy packaging of the song makes its acidic moments sting all the more.
“Divorce Song”- Liz Phair
This is more a real representation of love and all of its imperfections, than an anti-love song. I include it here because Phair’s lyrics encapsulate that painful feeling of knowing you are in a dysfunctional relationship, but at the same time are unwilling to get out.
“And the license said/You had to stick around until I was dead/But if you’re tired of looking at my face I guess I already am/But you’ve never been a waste of my time/Its never been a drag so take a deep breath and count back from ten/And maybe you’ll be alright.” As a singer Phair probably wouldn’t get passed Simon Cowell, but her ache comes across in every word and that’s rare. Phair reminds us that it is possible to be angry, spiteful and frustrated and still be in love.
“Married With Children”- Oasis
Oasis’ Noel Gallagher tosses the word love around quite a bit in his songwriting. With songs like “Let There Be Love,” Who Feels Love?” and “She is Love” it feels as if he desperately looking for the next “All You Need is Love.”
Hidden away on Oasis’s first album “Definitely Maybe,” “Married With Children” is the exact opposite of all those songs with lyrics that are snide and pissy. “I hate the way that you are so sarcastic/And you’re not very bright/You think that everything you've done’s fantastic/Your music’s shite it keeps me up all night.” The song’s extra bite comes in a verse of realization that being with someone you may hate is better than being alone.
“Smile”- Lily Allen
The song’s narrative is simple enough with a guy crawling back after cheating on his girlfriend, but the song avoids the usual self-pitying. Musically, the song is upbeat and fun and masks the hurt of some of the song’s lyrics.
The sing-a-long chorus is satisfyingly cheeky and oddly empowering: “At first when I see you cry/yeah it makes me smile, yeah it makes me smile/At worst I feel bad for a while/but then I just smile/I go ahead and smile.” Catchy and danceable aren’t usually the words you associate with a break-up song, but its hard not to groove on Allen’s “Smile.”