Friday, August 9, 2013

The Vertigo Shtick Ultimate Pop Breakup Playlist

I had my first big breakup ten years ago this summer. I had my first soul-crushing, earth-shattering, end-of-the-world breakup two years ago this summer. Neither one was much fun, nor especially brief. One left little to no long-term damage or scarring; with the other I was not so lucky. The thing they have in common, however, is that I got through them, largely with the help of that supposedly frivolous cultural element to which I now devote much of my intellectual energy: pop music.

If anyone knows that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger, it's Kelly Clarkson.
I received a tweet the other day from a good, music-related friend who ended a major relationship a month or two ago, and in just four and a half words ("dude breakups suck #stillrecovering) it definitely evoked sympathetic memories of my own relatively recent breakup experience. I remember being both exceedingly grateful to all the artists who have contributed to the vast library of breakup pop and pleasantly surprised at the comprehensive variety of coverage down to specific details in circumstance and emotional experience I was only just learning could exist. So many breakup songs for so many moods, situations, and goals - someone should really catalogue these things someday, I remember thinking (often).

My friend's little cry for help (at least I choose to receive it that way) inspired me to put together a rough collection of songs I found useful in my most recent breakup process, although ultimately I couldn't resist including a few main categories not technically applicable to my friend's specific situation. The list, limited at this time to music available in the US on Spotify and available as a Spotify playlist, is by no means exhaustive; indeed, these 150 tracks barely scrape the surface. But for now, I think they'll do. Of course, I'd be very interested to hear about some of your favorite breakup songs in the comments!

Part One: Blowing Off Steam

How Lady Gaga ends a bad romance.
Regardless of any of the specifics involved in any one particular breakup, it has been all but scientifically proven that listening to pissed off angry music is a crucial part of the post-relationship healing process. Obviously if the breakup was ugly, restorative sessions rocking out to this style of music need neither be defended nor especially discreet (although it is useful to look up your local noise ordinance laws as well as the related regulations in your lease agreement before you blast your home speakers). But even if the breakup was as amicable as can be, or if you were the one to break it off with a well-behaved but unsuitable partner, or, god forbid, you were the one who fucked things up to begin with, it can still be quite useful to blow off steam in the same way - even if, aware of the difference between the emotions and circumstances represented in these songs and your own experience, you keep it to yourself.

1) “Bad Romance” - Lady Gaga*
2) "Since U Been Gone" - Kelly Clarkson*
3) "You Oughta Know" - Alanis Morissette*
4) "Cry For You" - September
5) "Gang Bang" - Madonna
6) "Grow A Pear" - Ke$ha
7) "I Hate Boys" - Christina Aguilera
8) "Not Fair" - Lily Allen
9) "Caught Out There" - Kelis
10) "Happy Pills" - Norah Jones
11) "Regret" - Fiona Apple
12) "Bang Bang Bang" - Selena Gomez & the Scene
13) “Rolling in the Deep” - Adele*
14) “When Doves Cry” - Prince
15) “Experimenting With Rugs” - Florrie
16) “Somebody That I Used to Know” - Gotye feat. Kimbra
17) “Go Away” - Katy B
18) “Adelaide” - Meg Myers
19) “Starring Role” - Marina and the Diamonds
20) "Mr. Know It All" - Kelly Clarkson
21) "He Wasn't Man Enough" - Toni Braxton
22) "Underappreciated" - Christina Aguilera

Part Two: If You Been Done Wrong

Shakira and Beyoncé know a beautiful liar is not worth the drama
Fortunately, not every relationship ends because one or both partners break the rules in injurious ways - I'd like to idealistically go so far as to say a majority don't. But sometimes you get lucky and get to experience one of the oldest and most celebrated interpersonal dramatic conflicts of the human race; these include (but are not limited to) cheating, emotional or physical abuse, and...did I say cheating? Anyway, being done wrong in a relationship is something of a double-edged sword: on the one hand, it feels shitty as fuck; on the other hand, it's easier to get over a situation that's much more morally black and white than someone you really care(d) about and who didn't misbehave.

23) “You Got Balls” - Kimberly Cole
24) “Say You're Sorry” - Sara Bareilles*
25) “Bobblehead” - Christina Aguilera
26) “Breakin' Dishes” - Rihanna
27) “Ring the Alarm” - Beyoncé
28) “Something's Going On” - September
29) “Bust Your Windows” - Jazmine Sullivan
30) “How Come You're Not Here” - Pink
31) “Circle the Drain” - Katy Perry
32) “Don't Want You Back” - Backstreet Boys
33) “Hope She Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player)” - Marsha Ambrosius
34) “Makes Me Wonder” - Maroon 5
35) “Money Makes the Girl Go Round” - Jessie and the Toy Boys
36) “Naomi” - Shoshana Bean
37) “Shut Your Mouth” - Bodyrox feat. Luciana
38) “Beautiful Liar” - Beyoncé and Shakira
39) “Cry Me a River” - Justin Timberlake
40) “Ricochet” - September
41) “Devil Wouldn't Recognize You” - Madonna
42) “Heartless” - Kanye West
43) “Rose Colored Glasses” - Kelly Rowland
44) “I Told You So” - Solange
45) “Son of a Gun” - Janet Jackson feat. Missy Elliott and Carly Simon

Part Three: Venting

Take a note from Adele and turn your sorrow into treasured gold.
Venting is related but not identical to blowing off steam, and it happens a bit later in the breakup process. While blowing off steam is, ultimately, a necessary action regardless of circumstance (because no matter what, every breakup-ee has steam to blow off), venting involves a varying degree of pretend depending on how secure you are in either your decision to break it off or your moral superiority in terms of your actions pre- and post-breakup relative to those of your ex-partner, and on how ready and willing you are to put the relationship behind you. I'm going to guess that for most people who would, at this point in a breakup, be feeling enough things to still be using music as medication, there is still a healthy ways to go toward getting over this breakup, so for those folks, this phase is less emotionally accurate than "fake it til you make it."

46) “Fuck You” - Cee Lo Green
47) “Trick Me” - Kelis
48) “Hit 'Em Up Style (Oops!)” - Blu Cantrell
49) “Kiss N Tell” - Ke$ha
50) “Lonely” - Britney Spears*
51) “Machine Gun” - Sara Bareilles
52) “Irreplaceable” - Beyoncé
53) “Part of Me” - Katy Perry
54) “Don't Hold Your Breath” - Nicole Scherzinger
55) “Hole In the Head” - Sugababes
56) “Backstabber” - Ke$ha
57) “Let Me Be” - Britney Spears
58) “Judas” - Lady Gaga
59) “Whatcha Think About That” - The Pussycat Dolls feat. Missy Elliott
60) “Shame” - Jill Scott feat. Eve & The A Group
61) “What About Us?” - Brandy
62) “Don't Go Knockin' On My Door” - Britney Spears
63) “Thinking Of You” - Ke$ha

Part Four: Mourning

Consider: the now happy Mariah Carey overcame much worse shit than you
The penultimate period of the Kübler-Ross model is, less than encouragingly, called "depression." There are a few things to note about this fourth of five psychological stages of grief: for one thing, a whole lot goes on before you even reach this phase ("Denial," "Anger," and "Bargaining" in this model). It isn't uncommon for those reaching the fourth stage of grief after a breakup to fret about how little progress they feel they have made toward moving on, which of course just contributes further to the depression at hand. In fact, the other main point to note here is that depression is the last stage before "Acceptance," meaning that once you get this far, the finish line is deceptively close at hand. There are opposing camps as to whether indulging your depressed mood with similarly attuned music is a help or a hindrance in terms of getting through this period, and certainly this will vary from individual to individual. But I've found, through my own experience and those of people around me, that it tends to be astonishingly effective to simply give your grief full shrift at least a moderate amount, even if your most adamant rational predictions suggest otherwise.

64) “How Come You Don't Call Me” - Alicia Keys
65) “Eclipse” - Robyn*
66) “Inside Out” - Britney Spears
67) “Love is a Losing Game” - Amy Winehouse
68) “You Were Meant for Me” - Jewel
69) “Can't Get Over” - September
70) “Ambulance” - Coco Morier
71) “Some Things Never Seem to Fucking Work” - Solange
72) “Back to Black” - Amy Winehouse*
73) “Brown Eyes” - Lady Gaga
74) “Foundations” - Kate Nash
75) “Good Enough” - Shoshana Bean
76) “Love Is Gone” - David Guetta feat. Chris Willis
77) “Gone Daddy Gone” - Gnarls Barkley
78) “Gone” - N*SYNC
79) “Lovefool” - The Cardigans
80) “This Love” - Maroon 5
81) “Hurricane” - Bridgit Mendler
82) “Get Over U” - Neon Hitch
83) “Merry Happy” - Kate Nash
84) “Take A Bow” - Rihanna
85) “Anytime You Like” - Robyn
86) “Basket Case” - Sara Bareilles
87) “Russian Roulette” - Rihanna
88) “Broken-Hearted Girl” - Beyoncé
89) “We Belong Together” - Mariah Carey
90) “I'm Through” - Ingrid Michaelson
91) “She's Out of My Life” - 98°
92) “Don't Think Twice, It's All Right” - Bob Dylan
93) “Dancing On My Own” - Robyn

Part Five: Thoughtfulness

At least Katy Perry puts it on before deciding it doesn't fit.
Let's be honest: the worst part about going through a breakup is that point at which your friends and family transition from providing unquestioning comfort and support to starting to challenge you to rise above your emotions with logic, rationality and intellect. Inevitably this point comes a good several weeks or months before you're ready to hear it, and that means for the next several weeks or months you're in a somewhat lonely place emotionally, having to hide your remaining grief and sadness and anger and restrain yourself from decking the next person who utters something like "be the bigger person" or "nobody can make you feel bad unless you let them" or, my parents' favorite, "get over it!"

94) “Eh, Eh (Nothing Else I Can Say)” - Lady Gaga
95) “Ex-Girlfriend” - No Doubt
96) “Holding You Down (Goin' In Circles)” - Jazmine Sullivan
97) “Narcissus” - Alanis Morissette
98) “Not Like the Movies” - Katy Perry
99) “Ordinary People” - John Legend
100) “Best Friend” - Madonna
101) “Trouble For Me” - Britney Spears
102) “Release Me” - Agnes
103) “No Bueno” - Nadia Oh
104) “Impossible” - Christina Aguilera
105) “Freestyle” - Queen of Hearts

Part Six: Therapy

Dancing on your own is the best medicine (but you have to do the Robyn fists)
Therapy is, relatively speaking, a rather enjoyable post-breakup phase, for two reasons: first, because you're generally making noticeable progress toward the land of "over it," and secondly because therapy always makes you feel good - that's why shrinks make the big bucks. Therapy hits numerous different spots healing from the breakup and prepares you for the final (and enormously fun) phase soon to come. Therapy is where you come to terms with your ex-partner and pinpoint your final, rational, even-handed judgment on his or her respective "fault" in the failure of the relationship, and the moral standing with which you feel justified viewing him or her henceforth attributed; you also get to decide how much to forgive and to (at least nominally) wish your former partner well, which is incredibly uplifting to begin with and even more so if there is much to choose to forgive (this helps right the power imbalance caused by a misbehaving partner). Better still, a good deal of therapy has nothing to do with your ex-partner at all, but rather yourself and yourself alone. Even though you're not quite ready to march out the door and leave the whole mess behind you, it's a slow-drip but profound adrenaline buildup to simply start packing your emotional bags.

106) “Cold Turkey” - Shoshana Bean
107) “Gonna Get Over You” - Sara Bareilles
108) “Why Should I Be Sad” - Britney Spears
109) “Funhouse” - Pink
110) “Get Over You” - Sophie Ellis-Bextor
111) “Walk Away” - Christina Aguilera
112) “Love Kills” - Robyn
113) “I Forgive You” - Kelly Clarkson
114) “My Favorite Mistake” - Sheryl Crow
115) “Werewolf” - Fiona Apple
116) “I Used to Love Him” - Lauryn Hill
117) “One Love” - David Guetta feat. Estelle
118) “Uncharted” - Sara Bareilles
119) “Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)” - Kelly Clarkson
120) “Your Woman” - White Town
121) “You're Gonna Love Again” - NERVO
122) “Enjoy the Silence” - Susan Boyle
123) “Figure It Out” - Dave Aude feat. Isha Coco
124) “You & I” (deadmau5 Remix) – Medina
125) “Sweet Dreams My LA Ex” - Rachel Stevens
126) “Activate My Heart” - Natalia Kills
127) “Any Moment/Moments In the Woods” - Joanna Gleason (Into the Woods)
128) “There's a Fine, Fine Line” - Stephanie D'Abruzzo (Avenue Q)

Part Seven: Forward March

Next time it rains, strut fiercely a la Britney. "Here I go-wah, on my own-ah!"
Finally! That stage you thought would never come: you're actually, truly ready to be "over it." You may not be quite "over it" one hundred percent, of course, and that's okay. If you're not able to take on faith that you will in fact reach "over it" totality in the not-too-distant future, it is perfectly acceptable to make peace with the idea that you may never be completely "over it," and that 80-90% is still doable for you. The reality is that you will reach 100% at some point, and probably sooner than you think; fortunately, for those who've made it to this final stage of the breakup process even with 10-20% relationship residue still lingering about, that future achievement of completion will simply come as a thrilling, unexpected bonus. In the meantime, this is the part you get to unabashedly embrace the sometimes juvenile and often trite rush you get from strutting fiercely through the rain listening to "Stronger" by Britney Spears, dancing wildly to Peaches' "Fuck the Pain Away," and letting it all out after drag queen bingo at the nearest gay bar to "I Will Survive." Yes, you will, baby.

129) “All Cried Out Redux” - Jill Scott feat. Doug E. Fresh
130) “Fuck the Pain Away” - Peaches
131) “Get Myself Together” - Robyn
132) “Believe” - Cher
133) “Wide Awake” - Katy Perry
134) “Me, Myself and I” - Beyoncé
135) “Soldier of Love” - Sade
136) “Always Be My Baby” - Mariah Carey
137) “Tears Dry On Their Own” - Amy Winehouse
138) “Stronger” - Britney Spears
139) “Pick Yourself Up” - Dianne Reeves
140) “Glitter and Be Gay” - Dawn Upshaw
141) “Do My Thing” - Estelle feat. Janelle Monáe
142) “I Took a Little Something” - Florrie
143) “Dance Again” - Jennifer Lopez feat. Pitbull
144) “Brand New Bitch” - Anjulie
145) “Brave” - Kelis
146) “Cool” - Gwen Stefani
147) “Don't Tell Me” - Madonna
148) “212” - Azealia Banks
149) “I'm Beautiful” - Bette Midler
150) “I Will Survive” - Gloria Gaynor

* Denotes artist with particularly deep breakup catalogue

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