Should we be writing break up songs?
I guess I want to be a little more specific than ‘break up songs,’ but should we be writing songs that make references either explicitly or indirectly to the actions of romantic partners? It’s one thing to write something expressing loneliness or unrequited love, but it’s totally another thing to write songs in the vein of the misogyny early 2000s pop punk bands. I’m sometimes torn on the situation because I’m primarily interested in storytelling and I feel like all stories are valid in one way or another. So it boils down to the presentation of the story. I think if David Berman and Jeff Rosenstock and Laura Jane Grace can all write songs that are obviously about break ups without needing to call someone a ‘bitch’ or a ‘slut’ to get the point across then Taking Back Sunday and whoever else can probably do it too?
I’ve been thinking about this lately because my partner recently reminded me that their ex had written a song about their relationship. It’s particularly hateful and makes a lot of insensitive and fucked up comments about mental health. I don’t know what it feels like to know a song is definitely about you, and that there have been people singing along to it. It probably doesn’t feel very good. And I’m sure that my partner’s ex has the right to his feelings, I wonder if there was a more sensitive way to write a song about them?
When I was in my first band in high school I wrote this song about a relationship that didn’t work out the way I wanted it to. I went back and listened to it today and I don’t think there’s anything explicitly in the lyrics about the person it was directed at. But what I remember happening is that I wrote this song and my band played it and someone along the line said to this person, “Oh Greg’s band wrote this song about you.” I shouldn’t have told anyone what the song was about to begin with but when that person was (understandably) pretty upset about it, instead of apologizing I just dug my heels in and confirmed it. I was an angry and depressed 16 year old and was telling myself that I didn’t care about others feelings, which of course wasn’t true but it was too late. I’d like to think that if I ended up in the same situation now I’d handle the whole thing differently. But in retrospect I made that person feel really shitty, even though I think I was entitled to being initially upset. I guess the thing about these kind of songs is that it makes moving on from the situation pretty tough, because then I had to play that song with my band every weekend. I mean, I don’t think there was one show where that song wasn’t played. And I didn’t do myself any favors because even though I knew I had really bummed this person out, I wrote ANOTHER one. A pretty explicit song actually.
And did I learn my lesson? Nope. I did the same thing in college (although it was super indirect and the object of the song told me that they thought it was pretty cool but it doesn’t matter). I’m at a point in my life now where I’ve graduated to writing about more interesting topics, or at least I’m less mean.
The whole point I’m trying to make here is that mean songs maybe just aren’t cool? Maybe just be nice? Or like, if you’re sad about getting dumped you don’t have to be a fucking misogynistic prick about it probably.