I bet you think this song is about you.
November 7, 2008 10:16 AM   Subscribe

What songs were (supposedly) written to get back at an ex?

I'm not looking for songs about revenge, but rather songs that were written about an ex-lover/spouse/friend in a not very flattering way, e.g. "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, and "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette.

Thank you hive mind!
posted by suki to Media & Arts (72 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
"Starfuckers, Inc." by Nine Inch Nails, which even quotes from "You're So Vain."
posted by grouse at 10:19 AM on November 7, 2008

The answer to this question is Shellac - Prayer To God.
posted by Jairus at 10:23 AM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oops, misread the OP. Heh. Prayer To God is certainly a revenge song.
posted by Jairus at 10:24 AM on November 7, 2008

Song for the Dumped (video, lyrics) by Ben Folds Five.
posted by Dasein at 10:29 AM on November 7, 2008

Marvin Gaye did a whole album: Here, My Dear. Rumors persist that he recorded a flop on purpose to screw his ex out of alimony payments. (Snopes has the facts.)
posted by hydrophonic at 10:29 AM on November 7, 2008

justin timberlake's "cry me a river" was about britney.
posted by violetk at 10:35 AM on November 7, 2008

Scuttlebut is that all of Mantaray (Siouxsie Sioux's so far only solo album, released around the time of her divorce) but particularly Loveless (scroll down to review), is about sorting out the acrimonious split. I don't know that's getting back at.

John Lennon's How Do You Sleep? certainly is, but I don't think Paul McCartney really counts as an Ex.
posted by crush-onastick at 10:37 AM on November 7, 2008

Don't Think Twice, It's Alright by Bob Dylan.
posted by ludwig_van at 10:38 AM on November 7, 2008

oh, and gwen stefani wrote no doubt's "don't speak" about fellow bandmate, tony kanal.
posted by violetk at 10:41 AM on November 7, 2008

Not about former lover, but an ex-manager: Queen's Death on Two Legs
posted by Oriole Adams at 10:54 AM on November 7, 2008

Dylan's scathing Ballad in Plain D was about the end of his relationship with Suze Rotolo, but he puts the lyrical boots to her family, rather than her: "I look back at that particular one and say...maybe I could have left that alone."
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 10:58 AM on November 7, 2008

"Idiot Wind" off Blood in the Tracks is supposedly Dylan's song about his ex, Sara.
posted by Sculthorpe at 10:58 AM on November 7, 2008

Negative data point: Robert Smith and Michael Stipe said in interviews that "How Beautiful You Are," "Friday I'm in Love" and "The One I Love" were most definitely not about/to/for any real people they had been in any way involved with--even though they sound like rather bitter songs directed against someone specific.
posted by K.P. at 10:58 AM on November 7, 2008

Doesn't Eminem have a bunch of songs about his ex?
posted by Sassyfras at 11:01 AM on November 7, 2008

The very excellent "Drain" by Leticia Wolf was written about her manager's ex.

There's another Timberlake one -- What Goes Around Comes Back Around (not sure of exact title)-- that's about his best friend's ex.
posted by Gianna at 11:10 AM on November 7, 2008

Bloc Party's new album, Intimacy, was reportedly based on the aftermath of a break-up. "Trojan Horse" sports the already infamous lyric "You used to take off your watch before we made love" or somesuch bitterness.
posted by zoomorphic at 11:12 AM on November 7, 2008

Pink - So What
posted by djb at 11:18 AM on November 7, 2008

Sassyfras: yes. I'd suspect "'97 Bonnie and Clyde" to be the closest to the original query, as it depicts Eminem graphically murdering the mother of his child.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:21 AM on November 7, 2008

"Fall Back Down" by Rancid is about lead singer Tim Armstrong's acrimonous breakup with his now ex-wife, Brody Dalle of the Distillers and Spinnerette.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 11:29 AM on November 7, 2008

"Your Dictionary" by XTC. When Andy is bitter, he's very bitter indeed.
posted by Dr-Baa at 11:40 AM on November 7, 2008

The Mamas and the Papas I Saw Her Again. Can you imagine singing that with the people involved? That's pretty messed up.
posted by emyd at 11:42 AM on November 7, 2008

"Idiot Wind" off Blood in the Tracks is supposedly Dylan's song about his ex, Sara.

I remember reading a quote from Jakob Dylan (can't find the literal source), who, when asked about his dad's musical influence on his own work, said something to the effect that he can listen to stuff like Subterranean Homesick Blues and really groove on his dad's high flying spirit, just like anyone else, but he can't listen to Blood on the Tracks without feeling the crushing pain of his parents' divorce, which permeated that album.

posted by mosk at 11:46 AM on November 7, 2008

The Wrens "Hopeless"?
posted by Asbestos McPinto at 12:07 PM on November 7, 2008

Dwight Yoakam supposedly wrote "I Ain't That Lonely Yet" while sitting on the toilet, and about his recently departed ex Sharon Stone. It's a pretty good song, too.
posted by fourcheesemac at 12:10 PM on November 7, 2008

Ugly Kid Joe - Everything About You
Hot Hot Heat - Goodnight Goodnight

(I originally missed the "at" in "get back at an ex." If you are interested in songs to "get back an ex," I cannot say enough good things about the first story from the 8/15/08 episode of This American Life. Starlee Kine calls none other than Phil Collins to discuss writing such a song. Actually, the second story from the 9/26/08 episode is relevant too.)
posted by Xalf at 12:15 PM on November 7, 2008

Song For the Dumped - Ben Folds Five

Irreplaceable - Beyonce
posted by Midnight Rambler at 12:17 PM on November 7, 2008

I Will Survive from the '80s
posted by davcoo at 12:18 PM on November 7, 2008

Fleetwood Mac's "Go Your Own Way" was written by Lindsey Buckingham about bandmate Stevie Nicks after their breakup.
posted by RingerChopChop at 12:22 PM on November 7, 2008

My favourite answer to this question has to be the Maria McKee vs. Benmont Tench break-up. She wrote A Good Heart (Is Hard To Find) about him, and he wrote You Little Thief about her.

The deliciousness of the situation was crystallised when Fearghal Sharkey recorded both songs and put them first and second on his eponymous first solo album.
posted by benzo8 at 12:24 PM on November 7, 2008

I'd hate to be the guy any of the songs on Exile in Guyville are about...
posted by mkultra at 12:37 PM on November 7, 2008

My personal fave is Tanya Donelly's "So Much Song" from 'Beautysleep'. Absolutely brutal if you imagine the intended scenario of the song being sung to an unsuspecting recent ex in a room full of people.
posted by elendil71 at 12:41 PM on November 7, 2008

"Effect and Cause" by The White Stripes is definitely about Jack White's relationship with Zellweger.
posted by King Bee at 12:43 PM on November 7, 2008

"Hope It felt Good" by Nikka Costa.
posted by sourwookie at 12:44 PM on November 7, 2008

How about a whole album? Richard and Linda Thompson's "Shoot Out the Lights" is (mostly) about the dissolution of their marriage. "Don't Renege on Our Love" and "Walking on a Wire" are particularly poignant (and "Walking on a Wire" is also achingly, beautifully sad and contains one of the slickest guitar solos of all time, IMO).
posted by BitterOldPunk at 12:52 PM on November 7, 2008

"How Do You Sleep?" by John Lennon. About Paul just after the Beatles break-up. (I'd say it counts!)

"Wounded Horse" by XTC on Apple Venus 2 is in the same vein as the previously mentioned "Your Dictionary".
posted by greenland at 1:01 PM on November 7, 2008

Dylan's "Idiot Wind" is pretty scathing and maybe Elton's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" fits the bill.
posted by bonobothegreat at 1:06 PM on November 7, 2008

Weird Al Yankovic's One More Minute says it all.
posted by KRS at 1:20 PM on November 7, 2008

Sister Hazel's album Fortress(track list) is almost entirely about relationships, both good and bad. The songs about exes/breaking up include "Thank You", "Elvis", "Shame on Me", "Give In", and "Save Me".

I particularly like the chorus to "Thank You":

You were the one
Who taught me what I don't need
And I thank you
I thank you for that
You were the one
Who brought me to my senses
And I thank you
Now just leave me alone
posted by owtytrof at 1:27 PM on November 7, 2008

Jessie was supposedly written about Sarah Jessica Parker, although it doesn't have the same bitter tone as some of these other suggestions.
posted by teraflop at 1:32 PM on November 7, 2008

A zillion posts in and nobody mentions Eamon? Granted, it's not Marvin's 'There, There My Dear', but still...

The Wedding Present had loads - My Favourite Dress (ex that slept around - the line 'a stranger's hand on my favourite dress - that was my favourite dress' is heartbreaking), Give My Love To Kevin,

Think the daddy of them all is...well, probably most of Elvis Costello's back catalogue, but I Want You is on the verge of unbearable.
posted by mippy at 1:59 PM on November 7, 2008

Willie Nelson's Sad Songs and Waltzes, memorably covered by Cake.
posted by immlass at 2:02 PM on November 7, 2008

Oh yes - You Don't Send Me by Belle and Sebastian. Featuring backing vocals from the person it was written about!
posted by mippy at 2:02 PM on November 7, 2008

The tango "Sin palabras," by Mariano Mores and Enrique Santos Discepolo.
posted by dr. boludo at 2:07 PM on November 7, 2008

Paul McCartney's new song, "Nothing Too Much, Just Out of Sight," is supposed to be about Heather Mills.
posted by scody at 4:02 PM on November 7, 2008

Aimee Mann's That Just What You Are, might be about an ex, but I am not totally sure.
posted by howiamdifferent at 4:12 PM on November 7, 2008

I've heard it alleged that "My Favorite Mistake" by Sheryl Crow is about Eric Clapton, but I dunno how reliable that is.
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 4:14 PM on November 7, 2008

Come On by Lucinda Williams.
posted by Rain Man at 4:14 PM on November 7, 2008

(It's That's Just What You Are, actually)

Also, Janet Jackson's Son of a Gun
posted by howiamdifferent at 4:18 PM on November 7, 2008

"Wild World" was written by Cat Stevens about the end of his relationship with actress Patti D'Arbanville.
posted by lemonwheel at 4:25 PM on November 7, 2008

Bratmobile - "Cheap Trick Record"
Gang of Four - "Damaged Goods"
Sebadoh "Freed Pig" (although it also paints the singer in the same negative light, really)
Smog - "What Kind of Angel"

Still mulling over this one... good question!
posted by tugena13 at 4:34 PM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

mippy: "A zillion posts in and nobody mentions Eamon? Granted, it's not Marvin's 'There, There My Dear', but still..."

Eamon's "gurl", Frankee, responded right back...
posted by benzo8 at 4:48 PM on November 7, 2008

You're So Vain by Carly Simon
posted by beachhead2 at 5:10 PM on November 7, 2008

Oops. That's what I get for posting in the middle of toddler bath time. Ignore me.
posted by beachhead2 at 5:11 PM on November 7, 2008

Frankee: "F&@# You Right Back"
Stevie Wonder: "Superwoman/Where Were You When I Needed You"
English Beat: "I Confess"

Not quite revenge, but a definite slap in the face from the perspective of the supposed "other woman":

Meshell Ndegeocello's "If That's Your Boyfriend (He Wasn't Last Night)".

And there's a tune that just popped into my head...I can't remember the artist, but the lyrics were something along the lines of:

"If you and I
Had never met
You and I would
Have less to forget"

I think the song was even titled "My Ex," but...
posted by t2urner at 5:55 PM on November 7, 2008

hmm possibly 88 lines about 44 women by i don't know who and am too lazy to look up
reportedly Jenny Owen Youngs' song Voice On Tape was written about Regina Specktor
Ani Difranco -- Napoleon reputedly not about an ex lover but about Suzanne Vega, friend, being big for her britches? Ironically I believe Patty Larkin then wrote a song about Ani Difranco in the same vein. I think it's called Wolf at the Door and has the line "you can hang your sweaty little black leather dress right here on my guitar"

hmmm also TV on the Radio -- Freeway from OK Calculator "out on the freeway i saw you wasted nobody wants you to fall except for me"

oh i'll come up with more.

how about Waylon Jennings -- Just Stay Here And Drink

or like any one of the Mountain Goats million and a half songs -- No Children comes to mind "I hope that our few remaining friends give up on trying to save us/i hope we come up with a fail safe plot to piss off the dumb few that forgave us/i hope the fences we mended fall down beneath their own weight/and i hope we hang on past the last exit/i hope it's already to late/and i hope the junkyard a few blocks from here someday burns down/and i hope the rising black smoke carries me far away and I never come back to this town/again/in my life/i hope i lie/and tell everyone you were a good wife/and i hope you die/i hope we both die!

that is like...some hurtful words right there. not only do i hate you enough that i hope you die. goddamnit i hope we BOTH die. there ya go. awesome song.

Angry Johnny and the Killbillies -- Won't Get me Outa Your Mind (and like everything else their wrote)

Maybe the Blow -- Hey Boy

CocoRosie - Werewolf
Cowboy Junkies - Cause Cheap is How I feel
Dresden Dolls -- Backstabber (though I think that might be about an early fan or supporter of some sort)
Erykah Badu -- Tyrone
Fiona Apple -- Many options here. Extraordinary Machine. Paper Bag. Get Gone
gadjits -- sassy induced bulimia, (reputedly)
Harvey Danger -- maybe Little Round Mirrors? maybe Wine Women and Song?
Tim Buckley -- I never asked to be your mountain
Pharcyde -- Otha Fish (in the sea)
Refreshments -- Blue Collar Suicide

ok i think i'm bored now. and i probably missed the point anyway.
posted by Soulbee at 6:02 PM on November 7, 2008

um ok Roger Alan Wade -- Gone Back to Whoring
Storm Large and the Balls -- I want you to die ("i want you to die/because you're alright")
White Buffalo -- Today's Tomorrow, Tomorrow's Today

ok now i'm done.
posted by Soulbee at 6:07 PM on November 7, 2008

Babes in Toyland: "Bruise Violet" supposedly about Courtney Love

PJ Harvey, "M-Bike"

Tori Amos "She's Your Cocaine"

Hole "Rock Star" the version on Live Through This is basically getting back at/making fun of the whole Olympia riot grrl scene thing
posted by citron at 6:22 PM on November 7, 2008

Jennifer Lopez: "Ain't it Funny" and "My Love Don't Cost a thing" ... pretty sure they're about Puff Daddy aka P.Diddy aka Puffy aka Diddy aka Sean John aka Sean Combs.
posted by veronicacorningstone at 6:47 PM on November 7, 2008

Not sure who these songs were pointing to but they seem to be aiming at somebody (warning, the first two have NSFW lyrics):

Avant: Separated
Trina: Here We Go
Bobby Womack: If You Think You're Lonely Now
posted by fuse theorem at 7:56 PM on November 7, 2008

Veruca Salt's album Resolver is one long, angry rant about Nina Gordon (ex-bandmate) and Dave Grohl (who dumped Louise Post for Winona Ryder... apparently she found out when he announced it on television. Nice!).

Used to Know Her and Disconnected (can't find video clip) are both great examples of bitterness coming out in song.
posted by indienial at 10:36 PM on November 7, 2008 [1 favorite]

More Ben Folds: You don't know me at all.

Also Jet: Look what you've done. I always assumed this was about a breakup - but it's not as clear cut as I thought.
posted by kjs4 at 10:53 PM on November 7, 2008

Dixie Chicks -- "Not Ready to Make Nice" (a fuck you song to all their ex-fans and the perfect song with which to enjoy just a little righteously felt vengeance after this election).
posted by fourcheesemac at 8:09 AM on November 8, 2008

The Libertines' self-titled second album has lots about the breakdown of the relationship between Peter Doherty and Carl BarĂ¢t. See particularly Can't stand me now
posted by Helga-woo at 8:45 AM on November 8, 2008

"Leaving Miss Broadway" by Kevin Gilbert, about Sheryl Crow. Lyrics at official Kevin Gilbert site (annoying Flash-based scrolling widget - WHY do people do that? Grr); lyrics with back story at a fan's blog.

"But the man who really loved you, and believed you all along
Has seen the truth and shuddered and is singing you this song ..."
posted by kristi at 12:06 PM on November 8, 2008

Seconding Elvis Costello. Most of This Years Model album. Lipstick Vogue:

Don't say you love me when it's just a rumour
Don't say a word if there is any doubt.
Sometimes I think that love is just a tumour;
you've got to...cut it out.

And the timeless classic You're Breakin' My Heart by Harry Nillson:

You're breakin' my heart
You're tearin' it apart
So fuck you.
posted by artdrectr at 1:06 PM on November 8, 2008

Soko - My Ex Boyfriends
posted by Akeem at 3:38 PM on November 8, 2008

Changed the Locks by Lucinda Williams. I can't find the source, but I remember her saying it was written as revenge therapy in at least one interview.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2008

Ur So Gay - Katy Perry
posted by magnetsphere at 9:45 AM on November 10, 2008

Sleater-Kinney's "Burn, Don't Freeze," which also follows the awkwardness-of-playing-your-break-up-song-with-your-ex theme that's developed in this thread.
posted by ifjuly at 7:01 AM on November 30, 2008

Porcupine Tree's "Hatesong:"
This is a hate song just meant for you
I thought that I'd write it down while I still could
I hope when you hear this you'll want to sue

Not exactly Steven Wilson's best lyrics, but what are you gonna do.
posted by One Second Before Awakening at 3:35 PM on December 14, 2008

Ex-Factor by Lauryn Hill, from the album The Miseductaion of Lauryn Hill is a great song, the kind you're looking for!
posted by mooney at 2:40 PM on February 10, 2009

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