By The Landlord
"I am never writing a breakup record again. I'm done with being a bitter witch," said Adele.
Somehow I don't quite believe her. After all, what is better by way of getting over a relationship, than to write a song? Writing and performing a song is the ultimate way to expunge your poisonous feelings, express your anger, passions and frustrations, then see how your perspective begins to change, a brighter sense of self emerge, yes, life isn't so bad, and I am still attractive aren't I? And I think somebody might like me ... But then of course you might go though it all again. Possibly. If you want to make another good album...
People find quite a variety of ways to break up. A few years ago I met a woman who created an entire all-night festival as part of her healing process. It featured lots of quirky bands, bizarre speakers using obscure source material, and rooms filled with highly provocative, sometimes disturbing art. Visitors were greeted and shown around by people dressed as cyborgs wearing gas masks. The curator herself spent much of the time during a 48-hour performance piece in which, on stage, she wrestled, punched, kicked and swore at a 10ft inflatable effigy of her ex-boyfriend, that, interestingly, also resembled her father. Meanwhile others might take a less creative, but equally dramatic approach. They leap off aeroplanes or bridges (with parachutes or bungee cords hopefully) in order regain that endorphin/adrenaline rush they once has in the first flush of romance. Others just go to a coffee shop, looking moody over their laptop, and hoping to catch the eye of someone new.
The breakup process can go either way. At university I remember an apparently inseparable, attractive super-couple who remained joined at the hip from day one. But in the final year things went wrong. He buried himself in his work and never went out. He got a first class degree on the way to a brilliant career. By contrast, she, though just as smart, went a bit loopy, got drunk every night, had lots of flings and barely scraped a third. But I think she probably ended up married to a rich banker. I hope she's happy now.
Sometimes revenge seems to be the most upbeat way of breaking up. Years ago I was once in a London pub favoured by a an interesting mix of heavy rockers and hardcore lesbians. Some of them were also heavy rocker lesbians. All was very peaceful that evening until one woman entered and joined a bunch of friends at a table. A few minutes later another woman, who turned out to be her ex, and who covered all over categories above, appeared from behind the bar, and began shouting at her: "You fucking bitch...!" She worked in the pub kitchen, and in a flash went away and suddenly reappeared, covering her former lover with a bin bag full of cold pasta with some kind of rather, I thought, tasty, rich sauce. It was spectacular. And a bit of a waste. But that's emotions for you. But I think you could say the relationship was definitely pasta its best.
Around the same time I met a particularly broken-hearted man who said the best way he was going to get over his breakup was to create a new website. Of course at the time I thought nobody could be that crazy....
The lowdown on upbeat
And so, dear readers and music experts, a beautiful, bright, and sometimes brutal world of songwriting is open to you to suggest for this week's rich and sometimes pungent theme. The world of breakups is well known in this genre, but what do we mean by upbeat? The style of the song might express hope and a new turn for the positive in its pace and rhythm, but playing at 160bpm doesn't necessarily make something upbeat. Lyrics, melody, delivery and much more are important, and a slow song can still be upbeat. The key thing is that through all the bitterness and misery, there must be signs of recovery, and something positive.
The upside of downbeat
While this topic is about the positive side of breakups, inevitably there will be a lot of smouldering anger, passion, and resentment, which is a brilliant recipe for songwriting, so don't feel inhibited to nominate songs that are dirty with such ingredients, even if you have to sift, long and hard for a glimmer of golden hope within it.
One interesting twist for songwriters is admitting that it is over before it is officially over. Fiona Apple, who rarely writes and even more rarely performs, always does so with potency and passion. She has spoke of "songs I would write about breaking up with somebody before I broke up with them, months and months before". Gene Ween says: "I wrote most of these songs right before the end. A lot of these songs are about that. Even if it's not direct, you can feel the beginning of the end of the breakup." In this stirring performance with Elvis Costello, Apple however displays a song where the writer hasn't got over it. Brilliant, but definitely not upbeat:
Breakups equally don't only have to be about romantic relationships, but their equally potent equivalent, within the band. Paul Simon famously got Art Garfunkel singing a song about them splitting apart before the latter knew. But it isn't always that subtle. In 1973 Phil Everly smashed a guitar over brother Don's head after Don turned up late drunk and forgot lyrics. The guitar destruction and fight between Noel and Liam Gallagher in Paris, 2009, is also well documented - another smashing relationship. Songs are filled to the brim with attempts to get over a band breakup as well as a personal one. As The Strokes' Julian Casablancas put it: "A band is a good way to break up a friendship."
Every genre is likely to feature this week, but perhaps country might come up particularly strong. Johnny Cash is back in the Song Bar (he loves it here, y'know) and says of that genre: "Of emotions, of love, of breakup, of love and hate and death and dying, mama, apple pie, and the whole thing. It covers a lot of territory, country music does."
Putting perspective to your passionate, but positive breakup songs and compiling a playlist this week is another of The Song Bar's charismatic locals, the awesome AngryIrishPunk. Put forward your songs for deadline this coming Monday 29 February lunchtime 1pm (or until AIP calls time) for the results out next Thursday. And then it's over. Or is it?
New to comment? It is quick and easy. You just need to login to Disqus once. All is explained in About/FAQs ...