The soundtrack to breaking up

My friend Kylie and I were talking last year over coffee.  She was going through a rough (and exhausting) breakup.  I understood how she felt, having experienced my own long, expensive, legal, abusive and frankly quite awful separation back in 2009.  She mentioned a friend of hers had just become single and was sitting at home listening to music, dealing with the emotional tumult of her relationship break down.  I asked what she was listening to.  Aimee Mann was the answer.  'If she's listening to Alanis it's time to stage an intervention', I responded.  We both laughed but began to talk about how important music is to us.

I have written many times about the soundtracks to certain periods of my life.  Whether it's lyrics or music, somehow there is always a song to match what is going on in my life...or my head. Kylie and I agreed that there should be a 'Stages of Grieving Soundtrack' to help women get through a breakup.  It all began with the Kubler-Ross 5 stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance) but frankly there are too many awesome songs about the nuances of this emotional roller coaster, so we've gone with the seven stages model.  This works for friendship breakdowns too.  So for your listening pleasure, or as a useful tool, here is our list of songs by women for women (or men).

Shock and Denial

Whether you saw it coming or it was a complete shock, the moment your heart breaks is surreal.  Everything you knew suddenly is gone and the firm foundation you had is shattered.  Of course sometimes the end comes after a slow realisation that your relationship is a habit that's not very good for you.  Either way the moment it actually all ends is always painful.

Andy's choice: Divorce Song - Liz Phair

Further listening - Lisa Miller - Give back the key to my heart, Sleater Kinney - Good Things, Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Maps, Bat for Lashes - What's a girl to do?

Kylie's choice: Bjork - Bachelorette

Further listening - Breeders - Night of joy, Cat Power - Good Woman, Sinead O'Connor - Nothing compares 2 U, Bat for Lashes - Glass, Solange - Losing you, PJ Harvey - The Dancer

Pain and Guilt

Regardless of who instigated the end of the relationship you can be assured that noone is having a good time.  The vacuum that is left after you both realise it's over is usually filled with pain and / or guilt.

Andy's choice: Over - Portishead

Further listening - Amy Winehouse - Back to Black, Babes in Toyland - Gone, Neneh Cherry - Blank Project, Luscious Jackson - Why do I lie?,  Holly Golightly - Black Night, Lucinda Williams - Changed the locks

Kylie's choice:  PJ Harvey - Rid of me

Further listening - Joni Mitchell - River, Mazzy Starr - Fade into you, Tori Amos - Crucify, Fever Ray - If I had a heart, Blonde Redhead - Elephant woman, PJ Harvey - Shame

Anger and Bargaining

One of the most powerful stages is anger.  Hell hath no fury, and it sure makes for great songs.  Time to turn the volume up and send a big fuck you to whoever is stupid enough to not be part of your life.

Andy's choice: Handsome & Gretal - Babes in Toyland

Further listening: Savages - The Answer, PJ Harvey - Rid of me, Kate Nash - Dickhead, Sonic Youth - Swimsuit issue, April March and The Makers - I'm Alone, Elastica - Stutter, Sleater Kinney - Little Mouth, Sonic Youth - Cinderella's Big Score 

Kylie's choice: Hole - Violet

Further listening - PJ Harvey - Long snake moan, Martha Wainwright - Bloody Motherfucking Asshole, Hole - Plump, Lera Lynn - Only thing worth fighting for 

 Depression, reflection, loneliness  

Another stage that makes for great songwriting.  Heartache, heartbreak, emptiness.  Where did it all go wrong?  Reflecting now that it's all over, how did you not see how unhappy you actually were.  Being made to feel second best (to your significant other) isn't a good place to find yourself.  Neither is repeating old patterns in relationships.

Andy's choice:  Doll parts - Hole

Further listening: Lisa Miller - Hang my head,  Babes in Toyland - All by myself, Kate Bush - This woman's work, L7 - Stuck here again , Detroit Cobras - Cry on, Angie Hart and Bonnie Prince Billy - Little Bridges, Amy Winehouse - Love is a losing game

Kylie's choice:  Joni Mitchell - Both sides now

Further listening - Kate Bush - Running up that hill, This Mortal Coil - Song to the Siren (Tim Buckley cover),  Low - Lullaby, Portishead - Roads, Bjork - Pagan Poetry, Blonde Redhead - 23

The Upward turn

At some point the sun will shine again.  You'll lift your head up (and maybe have good friends holding your hand) and see that perhaps you're better out of the relationship.  

Andy's choice: Express yourself - Madonna

Further listening: Neneh Cherry - Buddy X, Sugarbabes - Stronger, PJ Harvey - Sheela Na Gig, Sleater Kinney - Step Aside, Lily Allen - Fuck you

Kylie's choice: Nina Simone - Feeling Good

Further listening - PJ Harvey - Good Fortune, Sleater Kinney - One Beat, Bjork - All is full of love

Reconstruction and working through

There comes a point where you can stand on your own two feet again.  But you've been cloaked in the sadness, pain and stress of the breakup.  It's time to let the cloak slip from your shoulders and no longer be weighed down by the breakup.  It's time to find yourself.

Andy's choice: Blue Sky - Adalita

Further listening: Amanda Fucking Palmer - In my mind, The Breeders - Off you, Goldfrapp - Happiness

Kylie's choice: Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man - Romance

Further listening - Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Cheated Hearts, Joanna Newsom - Good Intentions Paving Company, Anthony and the Johnsons - One Dove, Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man - Tom the Model

Acceptance and Hope

You've survived and you are stronger.  You are learning to be happy within yourself.  You are alone but not lonely.  In fact, you're a bit awesome.  Time to get back out in the world, smile, and perhaps even strut.  Welcome back...we've missed you.

Andy's choice: Rebel Girl - Bikini Kill

Further listening: The Donnas - Fall behind me, Le Tigre - TKO, M.I.A. - YALA (You always live again), Goldfrapp - Ooh la la, Sonic Youth - Kool Thing

Kylie's choice: Portishead - It could be sweet

Further listening - Heartless Bastards - Only for you, Beth Gibbons and Rustin Man - Mysteries

Some of these songs played a major part of my life during breakups.  I'm sure my old neighbours never want to hear Lisa Miller or Hole ever again!  I also remember a dear friend dancing past me at a party singing the line "Second best is never enough, You'll do much better baby on your own" from Madonna's Express Yourself.  Sometime later that relationship was over, and I smile every time I think about that moment.  Yep - sometimes you're friends can see it coming.

Whether you're heartbroken or not, these songs and performers are awesome.  Kick back and enjoy the tunes.  And remember - Alanis Morrissette is a cry for help.   


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