Top 5 Break-Up Songs

#5: The Eraser – Thom Yorke

please excuse me but i’ve got to ask
are you only being nice
or do you want something
my fairy tale arrow pierces
be careful how you respond
so you don’t end up in this song
i never gave you any encouragement

and it’s doing me in
doing me in
doing me in
doing me in
doing me in

the more you try to erase me
the more, the more
the more i appear
the more, the more
the more you try to erase her
the more, the more
the more that you appear

you know the answer so why do you ask
i am only being nice
because i want someone, something
you’re like a kitten with a ball of yarn

and it’s doing me in
doing me in
doing me in
doing me in
doing me in

the more you try to erase me
the more, the more
the more i appear
the more, the more
the more i try to erase you
the more, the more
the more that you appear

no, you’re wrong, you’re wrong
you’re wrong, you’re wrong
you’re wrong, you’re wrong
you’re wrong

such a fascinating song. what a hook. “the more you try to erase me, the more that i appear”. this is such a heartbreaking aftermath of a relationship. when the two ex-lovers have had some time to try to move on, yet their skin hasn’t hardened and their hearts haven’t closed up completely. it’s like you can almost tell this is just when the bitterness and anger really sets in. they’re trying to be done with each other and trying to move on but it’s not working. whatever is left of their love has turned into pain and it won’t leave. the music here just kills me. it’s the most electronic song on my list; listening closely i can only make out five basic tracks. during the chorus, this is what i can pick out:

1. the beat. straight from a computer.
2. the piano line. pretty basic, the same all the way through.
3. this is harder to hear, but some more electronic sounds/notes adding to the piano chords.
4. the vocal line singing the lyrics.
5. the vocal layering. aside from how brilliant the electronic-icity of this song is, this is what i think makes the music of this tune stand out for me. i love it because it makes the song stand out by being almost completely hidden. it doesn’t show off. i’m so taken by the main vocal line and the piano part that i forget that underneath it all is this absolutely beautiful mix of so many different tracks of the singer’s voice. it sounds like waves upon waves of thom yorke’s voice just flowing in and around and through the rest of the song. so gorgeous. and it hides itself so well, just underneath everything so it’s obvious to hear, but then you forget about it immediately when any other part of the song is heard. but it’s still there, propelling the song on in such a smooth way. it’s such a perfect contrast to the rigid and almost blemished electronic part of the song. you can hear static noise throughout the electronic parts, like you’re listening to the song on a fuzzy radio station. it’s a bit of a rough and imperfect noise, but combined with the seamless, fluid vocal layering, it hits the perfect spot. such a phenomenal song.

#4: Smoke – Ben Folds Five

leaf by leaf and page by page
throw this book away
all the sadness all the rage
throw this book away
rip out the binding and tear the glue
all of the grief we never ever knew
we had it all along

now is smoke

the things we’ve written in it
never really happened
all the things we’ve written in it
never really happened
all of the people come and gone
never really lived
all of the people come have gone
no one to forgive…

smoke

we will never write a new one
there will not be a new one
another one, another one

here’s an evening dark with shame
throw it on the fire
here’s the time i took the blame
throw it on the fire
here is the time we didn’t speak
it seemed for years and years
here’s a secret
no one will ever know the reasons for the tears

they are smoke

we will not write a new one
there will not be a new one
another one, another one

where do all the secrets live
they travel in the air
you can smell them when they burn
they travel

those who say the past is not dead
stop and smell the smoke
you keep on saying the past is not dead
come on and smell the smoke
you keep saying the past is not dead
stop and smell the smoke

you keep saying the past is not even past
you keep saying

we are smoke

this is the one song on my list that really has expresses some bitterness. i don’t know why, but this tune makes me think about a divorced couple more than any other kind of relationship. a love that has turned bitter and resentful after so long. and this is end of it, at least as much as there can be an end to that kind of disastrous affair. three of the songs on this list feature some incredible word picture; this is the first one: the idea of the relationship as a book, being ripped up and torn to shreds only to be burned and turned into smoke. so sad and so angry at the same time. one thing that gets me is that it feels like a love that’s not only bitter, but a love that’s regretted as well. this pair is trying to forget their life together. “all the things we’ve written in it never really happened, all of the people come and gone, never really lived.” this is a guy that wants to leave behind everything that he had with his woman, wanting to forget everything and burn the book. i think the part that always brings to my mind the idea of a failed marriage is the second verse. these lines are the ones that really, really get to my heart. they’re speaking of old memories, old scars that never fully healed, all the big and little things that contributed to the end of their love, and they’re saying let’s be done with them. the language here is so intimate; that’s why it’s so sad. “here’s an evening dark with shame…here’s the time i took the blame…here’s the time we didn’t speak it seemed for years and years. no one will ever know the reasons for the tears.” these words kill me. to have something so intimate between two humans yet so painful. how tragic. i love the role that smoke plays in these lyrics; just brilliant. smoke is such a vague thing, you can’t catch it, can’t hold on to it. when you walk into a smoky room, you’re immediately aware of it, yet with time your senses almost completely forget about it. but even as you seem to forget about it, it’s still around you and you are always just so vaguely aware of it. what a sad way to think of lost love. love that’s turned bitter, and wanting to be done with it but you never really can be because it’s turned into smoke. you’ll always have a bit of it with you. the music in this song is phenomenal too; it evokes such a perfect sentiment with the lyrics. first off, from a completely non-heart-related standpoint, i love the bass line in this song. ben folds always has such terrific bass lines in his songs; this tune is no exception. his piano is just great here too. just three simple chords, and they convey so much. it’s weird, one minor and two major, yet still the major chords bring such a sad sound. and the drums have such a perfect sound in this tune. i hear so much of the brushes on these drums, the kind you hear in really smooth jazz pieces. they have such a fluid sound, almost a silky sound. when i hear these drums i always think of a jazz trio in a smoky bar. this kind of drum sound so strongly elicits the thought of smoke in my head, even when i hear it in other tunes, so it just fits flawlessly into this song. this tune offers so much. so so good.

#3: Brothers On A Hotel Bed – Death Cab For Cutie

you may tire of me
as our december sun is setting
cause i’m not who i used to be
no longer easy on the eyes
but these wrinkles masterfully disguise
the youthful boy below
who turned your way and saw
something he was not looking for
both a beginning and an end
but now he lives inside
someone he does not recognize
when he catches his reflection on accident.

on the back of a motorbike
with your arms outstretched trying to take flight
leaving everything behind
but even at our swiftest speed
we couldn’t break from the concrete
in the city where we still reside
and i have learned
that even landlocked lovers yearn
for the sea like navy men
cause now we say goodnight
from our own separate sides

like brothers on a hotel bed,
like brothers on a hotel bed,
like brothers on a hotel bed,
like brothers on a hotel bed.

you may tire of me
as our december sun is setting
cause i’m not who i used to be

heartbreaker. starts out soft and slow, with just a gorgeous piano part introing the song, and so so quietly in the background what sounds like an out of tune jack in the box or circus toy. it’s creepy, but it’s so quiet you can’t hardly hear it unless you turn the volume way up. then the chords in this song, oh my goodness. c#minor will always be one of the saddest chords for me, forever. all the chords and notes just fit so well, they’re put together perfectly for the tune. such a haunting melody. and his words, absolutely gorgeous words. this song feels like so many different emotions. i’ve never heard such a heartbreaking analysis of old, stale love. such a sad thought, not even love lost, but love forgotten, or even worse, regretted. love that still exists in a way but is now resented, and yet without upfront bitterness. “the youthful boy…who turned your way and saw something he was not looking for, both a beginning and an end.” what a line. a boy finds a girl whose love offers a beginning, a new life with her, and an end, the end of his own free life, the end of his dreams and hopes and his own personal desires. such a sad thought. change is such a sad thought in a relationship. it’s inevitable, but it’s so sad. “but now he lives inside someone he does not recognize when he catches his reflection on accident.” it always seems like to me, when a relationship of a friend goes sour or in a movie or something, a line that is often spoken is “what happened to the man i married” or “you’ve changed”, “you’re not who you used to be”, etc. change in relationships is such a sad concept to me. maybe because it never seems positive. it always seems to be accompanied with heartache and sorrow; the drifting apart of two people. it’s like these two people know their love is almost completely gone, but they stay together because it’s too late to do anything else. this song also makes me think of a married couple. a couple together for too long, and now have no other option but to stay together. and their love is full of regret. the line that gets me the most: “but even at our swiftest speed, we couldn’t break from the concrete…” their love never really took off like they thought it would. it couldn’t ever soar; such a sad thought. they gave it a go and they couldn’t do it. that line paired with the hook just kills me. “now we say goodnight from our own separate sides, like brothers on a hotel bed.” that is one of the most well-put word pictures i’ve ever heard in a song. there is so much distance between brothers sleeping on a hotel bed, and so much distance between these old lovers. it’s so defeated. they tried, it didn’t work, and now they can do nothing else but what they know. such great writing here.

#2: Slow Dancing In A Burning Room – John Mayer

It’s not a silly little moment
it’s not the storm before the calm
this is the deep and dying breath
of this love we’ve been working on

can’t seem to hold you like i want to
so i can feel you in my arms
nobody’s gonna come and save you
we pulled too many false alarms

we’re going down
and you can see it too
we’re going down
and you know that we’re doomed

my dear we’re
slow dancing in a burning room

i was the one you always dreamed of
you were the one i tried to draw
how dare you say it’s nothing to me
baby you’re the only light i ever saw

i’ll make the most of all the sadness
you’ll be a bitch because you can
you’ll try to hit me just to hurt me
so you leave me feeling dirty
cause you can’t understand

we’re going down
and you can see it too
we’re going down
and you know that we’re doomed

my dear we’re
slow dancing in a burning room

go cry about it why don’t you
go cry about it why don’t you
go cry about it why don’t you

my dear we’re
slow dancing in a burning room

don’t you think we oughta know by now
don’t you think we should’ve learned somehow

this is so close to the #1 spot it’s ridiculous. there is almost too much and too little to say about this song. it hits every right note, musically and lyrically. that old c#minor is back, and it’s used even better here than in #3. also, f#minor makes an appearance during the bridge, and it’s such an appropriate place to stick another absolutely despondent chord. the chords in this song speak such volumes; every piece of this tune is just exquisitely put together. the progressions are so great, and the guitar playing only adds. the guitar in this song is so incredibly perfect. the tones john mayer uses here for the solo, for the rhythm guitar, for the hook, they just burrow their way into my heart and communicate their own personal ideas about this whole relationship. that’s when you know the music is right; when the lyrics say something and the music says more. he uses such restraint in the guitar too; the solo is so short and so strong. it could’ve been minutes longer; instead it’s kept short and sweet and powerful. love it. and the control used for the rhythm guitar… perfect. musically, this is a tune i listen to as the model of how i want to play one day. there is something so subtle about john mayer’s playing here; it’s just so right in every way. it’s never over the top, he adds what he needs to add and holds back what he needs to hold back. this is rhythm guitar at it’s finest. when you add the bass to what magic he’s already done with the guitar, it blows this song through the roof. i don’t know what it is about the bass in this song, but i’ve never heard anything more fitting. it’s quiet, powerful, and so well-done. it’s just the right mix of plucky and smooth. just once or twice, turn the chorus up and listen hard for the bass. incredibly beautiful. during the bridge too, absolutely sensational bass playing. i love when music sounds remarkable not because of the amount of notes or how fast it’s being played, but because of the care and soul put into each note and how well it all flows. i gotta say something about the vocal layering here too; #5 featured some great stuff but this is the real deal. everything great about the vocal layering in #5 is just cranked to 11 here, it is so incredibly well-done. listen to the chorus again, and listen only to the background. so subtle. i can’t explain it, but the layering here just sounds so enchanting. during the chorus and bridge especially, the background vocals add such emotion to this tune. extraordinary. and then his words. this is one of the most romantic and beautiful songs i’ve ever heard, even though it is about such melancholy. the main idea of the song, two lovers who know their love is ending and giving it their final bow, absolutely breaks my heart. a relationship is ending and almost by no fault of either lover. it’s such beautiful imagery, two lovers saying goodbye amidst chaos and disarray. the way john mayer puts his words together here just stuns me. this song too has such an intimate feel, yet for some reason i don’t think of married lovers, i just think of a couple that has been together for awhile, gave it a real try, maybe even harder than most do, and it’s still coming down around them. the second verse is one of the most beautiful verses in music i’ve ever heard. “i was the one you always dreamed of, you were the one i tried to draw…” it’s as though they both idealized the other so much, thinking it would be The Relationship, the one everyone searches for, and then the next line reveals some of their pain. “how dare you say it’s nothing to me, baby you’re the only light i ever saw.” the intimacy of these words is perfect though, especially when he uses bitch. it’s the most un-derogatory use of this word i’ve ever heard. it’s almost sweet, if the word can be that. it’s sweet to me in that there is an intimacy to it; he knows her well enough to know how she’ll treat him as their dance ends and as what’s left of their love turns to anger or bitterness. it is a painful intimacy, yet it’s an intimacy nonetheless. it’s a painfully beautiful way to use such an ugly word. but as far as imagery goes, i will always come back to this tune for it’s hook. “slow dancing in a burning room”. such a tragic picture of love ending. and so much more so because he prefaces it with “my dear” in the chorus. the loving language used in this song makes me think that there are so many “what ifs” or “if onlys” in this relationship. what if he had done this more often, if only she hadn’t torn him down, what if she had loved in a different way, if only he hadn’t said that thing that hurt her so much. the “what ifs” and “if onlys” really get me. there is still love here, but it’s dying, and this is their final goodbye, their last dance before it all ends. breaks my heart. such a perfect song.

#1: I Just Don’t Think I’ll Ever Get Over You – Colin Hay

i drink good coffee every morning
comes from a place that’s far away
and when i’m done i feel like talking
without you here, there is less to say

i don’t want you thinking i’m unhappy
but what is closer to the truth
that if i lived ’til i was one hundred and two
i just don’t think i’ll ever get over you

no longer moved to drink strong whiskey
i shook the hand of time and i knew
that if i live ’til i could no longer climb my stairs
i just don’t think i’ll ever get over you

your face, it dances and it haunts me
your laughter still ringing in my ears
i still find pieces of your presence here
even, even after all these years

and i don’t want you thinking that i don’t get asked to dinner
cause i’m here to say that i sometimes do
even though i may soon feel the touch of love

i just don’t think i’ll ever get over you

and if i lived until i was one hundred and two
i just don’t think i’ll ever get over you

this is my favorite break-up song ever. first of all, a gorgeous acoustic guitar part played throughout the whole tune. quiet, nothing over the top. fits the sentiment perfectly. this is such a soft-spoken song; the lyrics aren’t forceful, they’re just the truth told in a tranquil way. the music is the exact same way. i love the complement between the music and lyrics here. they are both so similar; calm, slow, communicating so much emotion and so much love. in reality, i think this is more of a love song than a break-up song. i think because the kind of love it speaks of. it’s a chin-up kind of love, a down-and-out but not giving up kind of love. this is love that’s held on to. he doesn’t have her anymore but he’s still holding on to her love. so beautiful. two noteworthy lyrical parts to this song. one is this line: “without you here, there is less to say.” there is no way to better articulate that idea. it’s the perfect description of the perfect relationship. but it’s so sad because she’s gone, and he doesn’t have this perfect relationship anymore. it’s only enhanced because he did have her at one point, and now all he can think of is what he’s lost. this could be as much about a lover that has passed away as a lover that’s left him. there is no trace of bitterness here, no sign of an emotional struggle between two people. just a part of this guy’s life is gone. he can’t fill it anymore because it was made to fit this one woman, and she’s not with him. so sad. the fourth verse is really the killer though. the whole thing is beautiful, but this line: “i still find pieces of your presence here”. wow. goosebumps every time i hear him sing it. i think this song hits me in a deep place because the closest i’ve been to this is a long distance relationship(which isn’t even close to this kind of sorrow), but that still is so emotionally draining in this way. how much more so is a relationship like this? love that’s left but he’s still clinging onto it. he can’t let go of it. but the idea of being years past this lover and still finding pieces of her after so long. such a gorgeous idea. she’s gone in person, but the idea of her, her presence, still lives with him, still haunts him. this is a lost love that was perfect in every way. there is no sadder idea to me than knowing something this intimately, this closely, knowing that it fits us perfectly, and yet not being able to keep it. losing something that completes us. there is beautiful sadness and beautiful love mixing in these words. all he wants is to have her back. he had what everyone searches for, and now he doesn’t. such sorrow, such despondency. and he’s still holding on to her through all of it.

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1 Comment

Filed under Music, Spain, Top 5

One response to “Top 5 Break-Up Songs

  1. Pingback: Top 10 Favorite Ben Folds (Five) Songs | Jon Jeff

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