Sig's Pick Six: Cynical Relationship Songs

This Week’s Topic: Since Valentine’s Day has just passed, I figure it would be a good time to touch upon “Six Cynical Songs About Relationships.”

“You Can Make Him Like You” – The Hold Steady
This is a song about the fickle, status-hungry nature of some women, who are reminded that, “if you get tired of the car he drives/there’s always other boys/and you can make them like you.” In the words of the songwriter himself (Craig Finn): “Someone last night told me last night they think this song is mean, but I just think it’s true.”

“Self-Esteem” – The Offspring
What keeps a person in a bad or abusive relationship? According to The Offspring, the answer is a lack of self-worth. The protagonist in this song may ask, “When she’s saying that she wants only me/then I wonder why she sleeps with my friends,” but will not show her the door because, in the end, he’s “just a sucker with no self-esteem.”

“Brilliant Disguise” – Bruce Springsteen
There are times when a relationship goes so bad that one or both parties is/are left questioning whether or not he/she actually ever really knew his or her partner. “Brilliant Disguise” is Springsteen’s ode to the facades that people can put up for long periods of time, as well the distrust that can spring from one partner’s own insecurities. Basically, “Now you play the loving woman/I’ll play the faithful man/But just don’t look too close/into the palm of my hand.”

“That’s What You Get” – Paramore
With its powerful riffs and upbeat rhythm, “That’s What You Get” seems like a happy-go-lucky song at first listen. However, its real meaning is revealed once diving down into the lyrics; this song espouses that “what you get when you let your heart win” is really just a whole lot of hurt.

“Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” – Bob Dylan
Told from the perspective of a guy leaving a bad relationship, this is probably the least cynical of all the songs in this list. It is also likely the most mean-spirited (in a wonderful way). “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is early Dylan at the top of his game, with nifty lyrical couplets like, “So it ain’t no use in callin’ out my name, gal/Like you never done before,” and, “Goodbye’s too good a word, babe/So I’ll just say fare thee well” that really cut right to the anger of the protagonist.

“Black” – Pearl Jam
“Black” lies on the opposite side of “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right.” Instead of willingly (and happily) leaving a relationship, the narrator in “Black” cannot move on from the remnants of a past love and pines for a reunion. This is a song that just builds and builds to its emotional/musical climax, in which Eddie Vedder basically pleads “I know someday you’ll have a beautiful life/I know you’ll be a sun/In somebody else’s sky/but why, why can’t it be/why can’t it be mine.” Simply powerful.

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