Ok, so I forgot. It’s Valentine Weekend. Lord, where have I been? (How about Atlanta, DC, Lancaster, Dallas, and a few other places over the past few weeks!) Sorry I failed to put something up here on the blog about everyone’s favorite topic: love.
Anyway, I’m late. So, I thought I’d do the next best thing and post yet another favorite heartbreak song here on the blog. Heartbreak songs is another one of those “fun” research topics of mine. Next to women’s shoes, that is.You can tell a lot about a culture by the music it produces. You can also tell a lot about a generation by the music it listens to. You can tell a lot about a generation of women by listening to their break up songs.
You’ve had your chance and proved unfaithful
So now I’m gonna be real mean and hateful
I used to be your sweet mama, sweet papa
But now I’m just as sour as can be.
–”I Used to Be Your Sweet Mama,”
I’m old school girl who grew up on break up songs like “Frankie and Johnny” and “Killing Me Softly With His Song” and “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” and “Cry Me A River” and the feminist national anthem of them all, “I Will Survive.”
Breaking up ain’t what it usedta be.
Gone are the mournful elegies of a previous generation, filled with melancholy and sadness, where women sat around singing about what went wrong, who was wrong, and why things went wrong.
A new generation of achey breakey love songs have come on the scene where it’s all about revenge, ridicule, and women claiming their own agency. To hell with crying. Or so it seems.
Lord have mercy…you younguns’ done taken breaking up to another level. It’s not enough to survive. How about a little revenge to make things go down easier? LOL. Take Jazmine Sullivan’s “Bust The Windows Out Your Car.” Sure, Frankie shot Johnnie, says the song, when she caught him cheating on her with another woman. LOL. But women in my and my mother’s generation probably wouldn’t have thought to rhapsodizing about busting the windows out his car. Don’t get me wrong. It’s not like we don’t know about bustin’ out windows. (Cough. Cough.) It’s just not something a real lady would ever admit to doing. Shooting is classy, but bustin’ windows is…well…you know…common. LOL.
Rihanna’s “Take A Bow” is another one of those songs by a young female artist that I enjoy a lot. The woman in the song sees right through her man’s many guises and deceptions. With photos of Rihanna’s black and blue bruises from a beating by her teen idol boyfriend Chris Brown circulating around the Internet these days, it appears that the real flesh-and-blood singer lacks the guts and good sense of the song’s protagonist. This recent beating was not Brown’s first time hitting Rihanna, according to some reports,. Here’s hoping and praying that the singer has the good sense to let this be Brown’s last bow in her life.
Forget all the sad, lovey dovey, mushy “I miss you” songs. If today’s urban sounds tell us anything it’s that today’s young women don’t believe in suffering in silence. They put it all out there.
Exhibit One: “Call Tyrone” (my favorite!).
I nearly ran my car off the road the first time I caught neo-soul diva Erika Badu singing her no nonsense anthem. Down home earthy, gutsy, raw and, oh so, very, very sassy. Talk about a woman’s song. Talk about a down home blues song. Talk about a woman flicking her nose at bougeoise notions of femininity and womanhood, demanding respect and declaring her own autonomy. Like a good break-up song, “Call Tyrone” is cool and smooth, free of shrill, jilted hysteria. Straight talking. Indignant. No nonsense. As with all blues women singers, whose main topic is always love, if they have to choose between singing a perfect note or expressing raw emotion. Emotion wins. Can’t you just see tough talking blue singers of old like Bessie Smith, Ma’ Rainey, and Alberta Hunter rolling over in their graves and giving each other hi-fives as they hear young women like Badu in “Call Tyrone” continuing the bawdy tradition of women singing the blues ?
I’m gettin’ tired of your s*&t
You don’t never buy me nothin’
See everytime you come around
You got to bring jim, james, paul, & tyrone
See why cant we be by ourselves, sometimes
See I’ve been having this on my mind
For a long time
I just want it to be
You and me
Like it used to be, baby
But ya don’t know how to act
You gotta love Badu’s last line of the song - “But you can’t use my phone“– that’s gotta be the smartest, most perfectly timed, send-off dis in women’s break up music. IMO. A real jab to the male solar plexus. A line that belongs on a Valentine’s Day card –to your ex. I believe in love. I really do. But I also believe in a woman knowing when it’s time to call it quits and take back her self.