Songs of Love and Hate

Photo: "Waverly Place" from the collection of the George Eastman House.

Any attempt to compile a list of the ultimate break-up songs is bound to fail. Like any compilation or list of songs on a specific theme, it is highly subjective and will in all likeliness result in fierce disagreement and exclamations like “What?? You totally forgot that Carpenters song. I listened to it like aaallll the time, when Zoë and I split up. For the third time.”

Yes, break-ups are a universally shared experience, and yes, we’ve all been there, but then again, there is never the exact same place. Break-ups, just like so many other things, follow the Anna Karenina principle: Happy families are all alike but every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. Patterns of failing relationships may therefore be all too familiar, but each and every experience of it is unique and incomparable. Of course then, every compilation of break-up songs is also specific to the specific feelings, a specific person has at a specific point in time. When I compiled this list, I looked at another playlist I compiled about a year ago, when I experienced the anguish of a broken heart. Many of the songs in that playlist would probably not resonate with me today in such a particular situation, but they gave me comfort back then and are still telling of the way I felt back then.

The broken heart is pop-culture’s favorite topic of choice and almost every song can in some way be representative of what we are going through when a beloved one closes the door on us. The pool of songs that could be included in this playlist is infinite, so I set myself the limit of 2 and a half hours. I tried to include a variety of feelings, from the helpless pleas of Jacques Brel’s Ne me quitte pas, the accusing lyrics from I will survive, over to Bob Dylan’s forgiving Don’t think twice, it’s all right.

Maybe this playlist will give you comfort in times of agony. Maybe it won’t resonate with you at all. Maybe you have your own. Maybe you don’t. Maybe it doesn’t matter and maybe, just maybe, it will make you remember that time you and Zoë broke up. For the third time.

Feel free to drop us suggestions for what should have been inclued or other thoughts on this playlist !

Filed under Endings
Max Tholl
Author

Max likes reading, writing, music gigs, cats, and pickled beets – though not necessarily in that order. He hails from Luxembourg, is terrible at board games, a mediocre cook, but can hum the Turtles theme song in four different languages. Max was an editor for The European where he met Lars. Follow him on Twitter & Instagram.