Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day, so we’re going to celebrate in this week’s edition of What’s Going On by looking at five classic anti-love songs. Songs that are so sad or scathing that you would never want a lover to play them for you and vice-versa. We’ll be back next week with a rundown of the hottest new releases.
Kelis – With its bouncy and stuttery Neptunes production and Kelis screaming the refrain “I hate you so much right now”, “Caught Out Out There” is the single that launched Kelis into stardom. But perhaps just as importantly, it quickly became one of the greatest and most brutal kiss-off songs of all time. Kelis doesn’t hold back as she verbally kicks her cheating lover to the curb. The vibrant and surrealist music video shows Kelis interrogating her man in a variety of different settings and concludes with a neighborhood of women joining the singer in a march against trifling men, driving home the girl power message.
Soft Cell – Originally recorded by Gloria Jones in 1964, “Tainted Love” became a global smash during the early 80s new wave boom thanks to Soft Cell. The duo consisting of musician David Ball and vocalist Marc Almond took their synthpop cover of the Northern Soul classic all the way to the top of the UK charts in 1981 and cracked the US top ten with it in January of the following year. In karaoke bars around the world right now, someone is singing along to the tale of a relationship turned toxic and realizing that you’ve given it all that you can give.
Robyn – Heralded by Rolling Stone as one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time and adopted as a gay anthem, Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own” is the ultimate sad banger. The crown jewel in the Swedish singer’s rebrand from 90s pop idol to critical darling, “Dancing On My Own” is a big glittery dance number all about being trapped in the same nightclub as the former lover that you still long for and their new girl. The lyrics tug on your heartstrings and paint an incredibly mortifying picture all while the music compels you to get on the dance floor.
Joy Division – Of course, we couldn’t do a list like this without including Joy Division’s 1980 post-punk classic. Written about the trouble in the band’s late-frontman Ian Curtis’ marriage, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” is the ultimate anti-love song. Perhaps most tragically, “Love Will Tear Us Apart” would be released as a single a month after Curtis died by suicide. It would go on to be named by NME as the Song of the Year in 1980 and even bigger, the best single of all time in 2002.
The Darcys – Canadian duo The Darcys have proven themselves to be masters of reinvention. Going from art-rock to neo-psychedelia to maximalist pop and everything in between, there’s no sound or genre that Jason Couse and Wes Marskell can’t conquer. One of their more poignant songs is their 2019 single “Hurt.” The stunning ballad is all about dealing with a lover that keeps coming, won’t respect your boundaries, and knowing that it’s going to hurt. There’s also a stripped-down piano version of the song that was released, just to further hit listeners right in their feels a little more.