Love music and break up music seems to often times be synonymous to one another in contemporary ballads of the heart. In even the most heartfelt ode to one’s lover and their life together, it is not at all uncommon to hear a song with a somber but beautiful tone, as if in recognition of that looming possibly of an inevitable break up, a scenario that has played out so very many times in the past. Though it seems that in the sensitivity of the female voice, this is a genre predominantly inherent to said gender, male vocalised love albums have been on the rise as of late, with the trend of contemporary bluegrass.
For example, The Avett Brothers are capable of making album upon love album comprised entirely of sweet sappy, but rocking songs, as evidenced by “Emotionalism” and “I and Love and You”. Up until their aforementioned former album, there was the thematic presence of a forlorn lover named Jenny; “Jenny and the Summer Day” and “My Last Song to Jenny”, to name a few. The also follow a close formula to songs with the prefix “Pretty Girl From…” in which they ascribe various lost anonymous love connections from locations across the globe, such as “Chile”, “Matthews”, and “Cedar Lane”. These are always crowd favourites whose requests often go unheard to the Brothers who rarely break their set list. Others in this contemporary genre include The Lumineers and the illustrious Mumford & Sons.
Switching gears for a moment, we have the vast collection of shaky break up songs from alt-rock queen Polly Jean “PJ” Harvey from Dorset, England. Even in the early nineties, songs like the title track on her Rid of Me album, describes a young woman, assumedly herself, who refuses to accept the rejection of a former lover. The song features a very gruff and discordant chorus that just comes out of nowhere, which was replicated by female alt-rock vocalists for the next 2 decades. Dry also contains a number of somber ballads of the break up variety, although the ones that stand out completely are “Dress”, “Oh, My Lover”, and “Plants and Rags”, all of which recount the events of her constant rejections from love. However, by the time Stories from the City, Stories form the Sea came out, it seems the early angst had subsided into a happier maturity, to the point at which songs not only became radio friendly, but could even be heard softly murmuring from the speakers of shopping centres across the UK.
Who many might see as a newcomer to the game, Russian-born Regina Spektor has been bringing her own unique flavour to the love song genre for over a decade. Consistently putting out quality love albums on the average of every other year, her introspection on love is often times manifested in the stories of other people. She morphs the biblical story of the famous warrior who kept all his strength in his hair, aptly named Samson, into a modern love song about a girl who is self conscious of her own red hair, therefore lets her cut his own locks off to make her feel better. “Ode to Divorce” and “Fidelity” is a bit of her break up music that showcase her surprisingly quirky and uplifting takes on heartbreak, while “Your Honour” is an absolutely magnificent song about how men fighting for their women often times has an opposite effect on boosting their affection towards the pugilists. Accompanied by a pounding piano and the occasional delicate whispers, she has the ability to make even the bleakest of subjects upbeat.