Heard enough of silly love songs?

Valentine's Day is meant to celebrate love - from the excitement, novelty and happy honeymoon period to the candlelit dinners, cuddling and romantic getaways.

Of course, love can end, and while so very many songs laud the elevating effect of a new relationship, some of the best love songs are all about broken hearts and/or triumphant victories over disappointing partners. Who knew there were so many elegant ways to dismiss a negligent lover?

We know, and below we share some of popular music's best tributes to the post-relationship blues.


Kelly Clarkson

You have your King of Rock. Your Queen of Soul. And Your Pissed-Off Princess of Peppy Pop Break-Up Songs. Kelly Clarkson has earned the latter title with an infectious raft of done-me-wrong tunes. And there are so many different break-up Kellys to choose from! You could go with Really Angry Kelly, circa 2007's "Never Again." That's from her CD "My December," which was so dark, it made Clive Davis' tinted glasses steam right up with fury. "Never Again" is a fierce song that makes you want to kick someone's butt.

Or, if you're in a slightly less irate mood, you could go with Spunky Kelly. You could crank up 2011's "Stronger," which is all about taking a negative and turning it into a positive - and doing it with a dance beat!

- Kristina Dorsey


David Nail

Breakup songs, like love ballads, can be full of cliches. But David Nail finds out "what 'I don't love you' feels like" on a Sunday afternoon ride on a beautiful day. Just when he was expecting small talk at a red light, "she just looked me in the eye, said it's over, didn't try to lie or pick a fight."

That would take anyone by surprise, right?

"It ain't the middle of the night/and it ain't even raining outside/It ain't exactly what I had in mind/For goodbye."

- Tim Cotter


Vince Gill

Being dumped is bad enough, but when you not only don't see it coming and think things are going great, well, that's the worst. So this guy rushes home from work after thinking all day about his wife and finds ...

"A note on the table that told me goodbye/It said you'd grown weary of living a lie/Your love has ended but mine still remains/But nobody answers when I call your name."

That last line, as sung by Gill, will make a grown man weep.

- Tim Cotter


Rhett Akins

Sometimes it's over before it really gets going. Woman is dating two guys, tells them she'll pick one of them by tonight. When one guy doesn't hear, he takes a drive by her place where he finds the other guy's truck in the drive.

"That ain't my shadow on her wall/Lord, this don't look good at all/That's my girl, my whole world/But that ain't my truck."

"That Chevy 4x4 says it all." Sure does.

- Tim Cotter


Porcupine Tree

Steven Wilson, the genius songwriter/producer who headed up PT, is fond of ambiguous lyrics and cheerfully encourages listeners to luxuriate in their own interpretations. On first listen to "Lazarus" - one of the most gorgeous songs I've ever heard - I assumed it was just another boy/girl breakup deal. Then I heard it again and it occurred to me the breakup wasn't romantic; the girlfriend had died and the dude is grief-choked and having a rough time.

Next, in one of those "Don't Fear the Reaper" twists, I realized the girlfriend is speaking to Sad Dude from beyond the grave: "My David, don't you worry/This cold world is not for you/So rest your head upon me/I have strength to carry you ..." She's encouraging him to join her in the Beyond!

Finally, I read somewhere that Wilson introduced "Lazarus" at a concert and explained it's David's MOTHER that's dead and speaking to him. Missed that one and any subsequent creepy inferences. But to me, "Lazarus" will always be a beautiful lament to those most final of breakup situations.

- Rick Koster



This song is so great on so many levels that it can almost take my breath away. If you're driving alone on a color-splashed October day and you blast this through a fine stereo system, the slowly coalescing components build from a delicate, shimmering melancholy to a sense of wonder and awe over how a relationship that seemed so magical and perfect can go so suddenly wrong. The band's signature and sonic atmospherics and Steve "H" Hogarth's distinct voice captures the oddly beautiful quality of anguish. This is profound music of loss so transcendent it gathers like a storm-wave and just crushes you. Even emotionally devastated, though, you can't help but be overwhelmed by the intensity of the feelings.

- Rick Koster



Four decades on - thanks to a coda appearance in the final episode of "Breaking Bad" - this is suddenly a hip song. Which sorta pisses off the true believers, who have loved it passionately since the criminally underrated Pete Ham wrote it back in 1972. On the other hand, the new royalties influx is good for the surviving 'fingers, right? (Ham committed suicide 1975 because of management/record business shenanigans - as opposed to anything having to do with Dixie Armstrong, the real-life, estranged girlfriend in "Baby Blue.")

The breakup was apparently Pete's fault: "Guess I got what I deserve/Kept you waiting there too long, my love," he sings. Everything about "Baby Blue" is miraculous: the chord blueprint, the melody and harmonies, the connective guitar riff, the staccato rhythm shift on the angelic chorus ... Genius.

- Rick Koster


Justin Hayward

Achingly resplendent tune written by Jeff Wayne with Gary Osborne and Paul Vigrass - as, of all things, a Lego jingle! Wayne later decided to include a new version of the song on his "Musical Version of the War of the Worlds" concept album - and hand-picked the Moody Blues' Justin Hayward to sing it because, understandably enough, he wanted "the guy who sang 'Nights in White Satin.'"

The thing is, Hayward is one of the finest love-song composers in world history - and it was quite a shock when I learned he didn't actually write this. The images of fall are worthy of Frost, the references to the now-lost paramour are haunting and wistfully sad, and Hayward pulls it all off as though the tune described the melting of his own heart.

- Rick Koster


Liz Phair

Sometimes we hear a song exactly when we need it. That was the case when a good friend gave me a "Ladies Rule!" mix CD (remember those?) as I attempted to extricate myself from a very silly relationship - one which had failed to inspire me for ages and systematically sapped the joy from my otherwise decent life. This track by riot grrrl Phair - known for her frankness and deadpan delivery - provided much needed fuel for this girl to start "standing six-feet-one/Instead of five-feet-two," just like the singer herself, who clearly didn't suffer many shenanigans at the hands of anyone. Perspective becomes everything, and suddenly mediocrity is no longer acceptable. We set the bar higher. We leave.

As Phair notes, "And you sell yourself as a man to save/But all the money in the world is not enough."

More important, relationships often come down to simple truths like these: "And I loved my life/And I hated you."

Sometimes we just need to hear someone else say it.

- Marisa Nadolny


The Shins

Where Liz Phair makes a simple case for leaving an unsatisfying situation, The Shins expand upon just what the price of that freedom really is. Bemoaning a "fatal flaw in the logic of love," singer James Mercer's narrator opts instead for a lonely and maddening solo journey.

Mercer sings, "Untie me, I've said no vows/The train is getting way too loud/I gotta leave here my girl/Get on with my lonely life/Just leave the ring on the rail/For the wheels to nullify."

How's THAT for sad, sad song? Coupled with Mercer's trilling, melodic vocal and lonesome Country-Western-style guitar work, and you've got a weeper that will help the listener go through all the stages of grief within the three-minute duration of the song.

And in one of rock-dom's ultimate signoffs, Mercer elegantly but firmly closes the door on this relationship forever: "You love a sinking stone/That'll never elope/So get used to the lonesome/Girl, you must atone some/Don't leave me no phone number there."

And THAT's how you break up with someone.

- Marisa Nadolny


Sinead O'Connor

I've never been married and therefore I've never been divorced.

But if allowed that view from the crowd, I can gather that O'Connor's sad, bitter and beautifully sung "The Last Day of Acquaintance" is one of rock history's more frank depictions of the end of a marriage. The song's power is not just the scald in O'Connor's voice in lines such as "Two years ago there seemed so much more/But I don't know what happened to our love," but also the banality of it all: "I'll meet you later in somebody's office… We'll meet to finalize the details."

- Stephen Chupaska

"F--- YOU"

CeeLo Green

Although CeeLo revealed to the UK music mag NME, that his retro-Motown 2010 hit, co-written with Bruno Mars, was an F-bomb dropped on the music industry, most people who sing along to "F--- You" probably have another target in mind. It, of course, features prominently the best English word, itself an essential part of the best "say, why don't you go away" expression in the language, and there's a pleasing universality to that. Yes, it smacks of a novelty song, but giving it a listen after hearing it on the radio a million times in the past three or so years, "F--- You" is still a catharsis you can dance to.

- Stephen Chupaska


Elvis Costello and the Attractions

Elvis Costello's "Blood and Chocolate" is one of pop music's best examples of spite and resentment as fuel for great music. It's his most bile-soaked album and the second cut, "I Hope You're Happy Now," is a classic teeth-gnasher with Costello wishing a former lover all the worst with her new boyfriend over a snarling organ line from Steve Nieve. But there's also evidence of Costello's caustic humor: "I hope that you're happy now like you're supposed to be/And I know that this will hurt you more than it hurts me." You'll laugh to yourself if you've been there.

- Stephen Chupaska


Hot Club of Cowtown

Why sit around and mope? Put on some high-spirited western swing and smirk over "I had someone else before I had you," first performed in 1925 by Ben Bernie & His Orchestra and covered by a legion of Western swing bands, including Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, and old-timey jazz outfits.

The recording I love is by the Austin-based Hot Club of Cowtown. The lyrics say it all:

"I had someone else before I had you,

And I'll have someone after you're gone.

Sweethearts and street cars don't worry me,

There'll soon be another one along."

"If you don't like your bunk,

Just pack up your junk.

Won't take you long because you're standin'

in the middle of your trunk."

"No need to stay.

Leave any day.

I've got a swinging door right in my heart,

And it swings either way."

There! Feel better now? If that doesn't work, add a dose of another old-timey standard: "How Can I Miss You If You Won't Go Away." So there …

- Milton Moore


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