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  • Deborah Straszheim

Breakup Songs that Hit Home


When I hear a song that resonates with me, I listen to it probably 30 times. Perhaps songwriters do this often; ask themselves why a song works.

The latest is “Lovin’ Lately,” by Big & Rich, featuring Tim McGraw, No. 21 on the Billboard Country Radio Music Chart this week.

I’ve always liked Big & Rich, an independently recorded duo, for their harmonies. But a couple of aspects of this song stood out to me right away. First, the duo sings together from the opening of the first verse, rather than having one member lead the song. Harmonies are front and center immediately.

The song uses traditional country instruments like the mandolin, but many don’t join until the chorus. So the sound builds along with the song's message. McGraw also begins singing at the chorus.

The lyrics are simple. But they deal with two highly-relatable aspects of many breakups: The realization that you were not as irreplaceable as you thought, and the temptation to find out what an ex-lover is doing.

There’s something uniquely painful about feeling duped and discarded by a partner. I’m not talking about cheating here, but about the realization that at some unknown time, your partner silently wrote off the relationship or started looking at other options, while remaining in your bed. Thus, he or she was later able to walk away with surprising ease.

The song describes the humiliation and disillusionment that often follows: “I guess you finally got the best of me, I guess you thought I’d never see, you know it’s so hard to believe how we came down, like we were nothing, baby...”

The bridge of the song then moves on to an internal tug-of-war many of us know well; the temptation to check up on an ex. “I don’t want to know, but I gotta know, I don’t want to know, I gotta know.”

This has always been a struggle for people, but it seems particularly common today, in the age of social media. On the one hand, you know that looking at what your former partner is doing will only bring you pain. So it is self-destructive.

On the other, I believe some people do it for the opposite reason - to be freed. The thinking goes something like this: If I learn all of the painful details, perhaps I will be so hurt and disgusted that I will no longer care. So they run toward information they know will be devastating in an effort to end their suffering.

Everyone relates to music through the lens of their own experience. But that’s the point. Whether you’ve been duped, discarded, checked on an ex or thought about it, there’s a part of "Lovin' Lately" that hits home.

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