Soundcheck: The Five Stages of Heartbreak in Song

Printby: Evan Gibson
Contributing Columnist

I’m sure many of you have seen or heard of “The Five Stages of Grief’” model developed by psychiatrist and author Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The theory was inspired by the author’s work with terminally ill patients and consisted of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It has since evolved to encompass many other tragic life events such as, you guessed it, BREAKUPS. And anyone who has ever had the heart-wrenching displeasure of being part of a no holds barred “She broke my heart, so I broke his jaw” type of breakup will surely agree that it is nothing short of tragic.

Unfortunately, we can’t go around breaking the jaws of former flames gone cold no matter how deserving they may be.  But never fear.  You don’t have to “go it alone” because I’ve got your back. I’ve selected songs for each of the 5 stages of “heartbreak” that are sure to cheer you up, or at least prove that you aren’t alone and there are musicians out there who were just as pissed off or depressed as you are.  You could obviously put on a Hank Sr. record and have a perfectly fine pity-party just like your parents and grandparents have for years, but I want to showcase some more modern material. So let’s get to it.  Here are my picks (in no particular order) to help you through those drunken, tear-soaked-pillow kind of nights or whatever stage of heartbreak you may be in.

DEPRESSION– American Aquarium- “I Hope He Breaks Your Heart”

“I Hope He Breaks Your Heart” off the band’s Dances of the Lonely, is definitely a crowd favorite. It’s one of those songs that you just can’t help but sing along to. I recently had the pleasure of seeing these North Carolina natives perform this song live at Cain’s Ballroom in Tulsa and they did not disappoint in front of the sold out crowd. Front man, B.J. Barham, delivers the lyric in a rousing yet almost mournful style and the band adds a slight blues feel to it throughout.

Lyrics- “I hope he breaks your heart, I hope you cry all night, and I hope you feel the way I do now! I fell hard and I fell fast, I should have known it would never last. The best things in my life they always end too soon.”

ANGER– Reckless Kelly- “Crazy Eddie’s Last Hurrah”

In this song, Reckless Kelly takes the cake and makes breaking jaws seem like child’s play!  I must say, though, that Crazy Eddie just narrowly beat out Ray Wylie Hubbard’s dark and sinister jam, “Rock and Roll”, for this stage of heartbreak.  Formed in Bend, Ore. and led by the Braun brothers, Willy and Cody, Reckless Kelly has been a fixture in the Texas music scene since moving their headquarters to Austin in 1997.  Disclaimer: Please do not try to recreate this or any other song listed in this column.

Lyrics- “Well her boyfriend was sure nice to me. He said calm down, would you like a drink? And then I shot him full of holes from his nose to his knees and polished off my little sweet pea! And I’m never getting’ over Jolie.”

DENIAL– The Cadillac Three “I’m Rockin’”

When I began looking for a song for the denial portion of the five steps of heartbreak I automatically thought of “I Don’t Remember Loving You” by John Conlee but alas, I am trying to keep it modern. But, if you’ve never heard this great song by Mr. Conlee I suggest you give it a listen.  

The Cadillac Three, formerly The Cadillac Black (but that’s a whole other story), are quickly becoming one of my favorite bands and really bring the noise considering they are just a three-piece with Jaren Johnston (lead vocals, guitar), Neal Mason (drums, vocals), and Kelby Ray (dobro, lap steel, vocals). “I’m Rockin” is a rocking little track by the group who describes their sound as “Country Fuzz” and is perfect for those nights when you want to pretend like your backstabbing ex didn’t rip your heart to shreds.

Lyrics- “If she asks about me oh I’m rockin’, won the lottery everybody’s talkin, money in the bank, gas in the tank, a little hottie riding shotgun in my new mustang, well if she’s asks about me… whoa I’m Rockin’!”

BARGAINING– Randy Rogers Band- “One More Goodbye”

Selecting a song for the bargaining stage was admittedly the toughest of all the five stages for me but this Randy Rogers Band ’07 hit should do the job nicely. This song is for those late nights when you find yourself texting your ex because you are really lonely and most likely really drunk. Just don’t blame me when the drunkenness is replaced by a headache and extreme regret.

Lyrics- “I know we’ll regret, if you let me in. We can ask forgiveness tomorrow if you stay in my arms until then. We don’t have to be alone, I don’t care if it’s wrong. How ‘bout one more goodbye.” 

ACCEPTANCE– Turnpike Troubadours- “Gone Gone Gone”

You did it!  You are finally over that good-for-nothing, lying, cheating, loser ex of yours. You have reached the acceptance stage and are ready to move on to the next loser, er, I mean lover. “Gone, Gone, Gone” off Turnpike Troubadours’ latest album “Goodbye Normal Street” is my pick for this stage because of the great lyrics. In fact, the whole album showcases lead singer Evan Felker’s amazing songwriting ability. However, I didn’t pick “Gone, Gone, Gone” based solely on the lyric. It’s more in the way Felker delivers the lyric that gives the listener a feeling of acceptance and hope for the future.

Lyrics- “Well the suns gonna rise in the East and I’m bound to stumble on a Saturday night. Passion is painful but it’s free, love is a mean hateful business sometime. You can call me a fool, you can call me alone, call me gone gone gone.” 

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