Great songs that discuss unequal emotional labor?
July 30, 2015 2:10 PM   Subscribe

Strongly overcome with the desire to compile a playlist that discuss and highlight emotional labor and when it's unequal. Can you help?

When I was answering this other AskMeFi Question, I realized that one of my favorite songs, Jolin Tsai's "The Greatest Artist" consisted of lyrics that directly discussed unequal emotional labor.

There are particular lyrics that stick out to me from this song:
"He loves you, [for being] easy-going; loves you, [for your] convenience/ Yeah, you dare to be angry but don’t dare to voice it"
"Wake up, don’t be a philanthropist anymore/[because] you actually don’t love him that much"
"You need to learn how to give up your unwillingness [to see other women take away the boyfriend], and renounce your maternal instinct [the tendency to give and sacrifice]"

In the spirit of the amazing emotional labor discussions that have taken place this month, does anyone have songs that they would recommend?

I'm looking for those that fit the following criteria:
- catchy, great songs (doesn't have to be pop)
- discusses themes of emotional labor that were discussed in the thread
- discusses unequal relationship dynamics
- something you would feel strongly enough to put into a 'calling out emotional labor' playlist
posted by yueliang to Media & Arts (53 answers total) 41 users marked this as a favorite
"As Cool As I Am" - Dar Williams is like the quintessential feminist song about being forced into a corner, i.e. being a Cool Girl (definitely a form of emotional labor).
posted by easter queen at 2:13 PM on July 30, 2015 [6 favorites]

Response by poster: To specify further - I'm not necessarily looking for songs that would be focused on cheating. There are a lot of songs that talk about cheating, but the song I highlighted specifically talked about excessive maternal and emotional labor. If this is a repetitive question, please let me know mods, but I think I'm asking for something really specific?
posted by yueliang at 2:14 PM on July 30, 2015

"Please Please Me" — The Beatles
posted by John Cohen at 2:19 PM on July 30, 2015

I'm Not the Doctor by Alanis.

For extra credit I'll add Where Have All the Cowboys Gone by Paula Cole which is more about actual labor but fits the theme, I think. [i just noticed this video has some suicide imagery, fyi]
posted by peep at 2:22 PM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

Little Babies by Sleater Kinney
posted by dinty_moore at 2:27 PM on July 30, 2015 [8 favorites]

About a Girl by Nirvana
posted by tofu_crouton at 2:30 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Kate Bush, This Woman's Work could not possibly be a more direct answer. I'll post more as they come to me.
posted by vers at 2:34 PM on July 30, 2015 [15 favorites]

Vienna Teng's The Tower (lyrics)
posted by esker at 2:39 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

The National, Sugar Wife.
posted by vers at 2:43 PM on July 30, 2015

Ani DiFranco's Origami (live version on youtube)

Lyrics here.

There are most certainly other Ani songs that address this.
posted by strivesc at 2:46 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

This made me think of "Not Pretty Enough" by Kasey Chambers.
posted by Cheese Monster at 2:47 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Jane Siberry, The Taxi Ride. "You did not think this without help from me. It's a long, long, lonely ride to find the perfect lover for your lover."
posted by vers at 2:56 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

I believe this was mentioned in at least one of the linked threads but "Asking for Flowers" by Kathleen Edwards is a song quite directly about unequal emotional labor in a relationship.

Lyrics: "Asking for flowers/ Is like asking you to be nice/ Don't tell me you're too tired/ 10 years I've been working nights"
posted by mountmccabe at 2:58 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

"Stand by your Man"?
posted by Blue Jello Elf at 3:14 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have you seen the Crone Island playlist on spotify that grew out of the emotional labor thread?
posted by ActionPopulated at 3:21 PM on July 30, 2015 [7 favorites]

One's On the Way - Loretta Lynn
posted by castlebravo at 3:30 PM on July 30, 2015

The quintessential imbalanced emotional labor song has to be "He Thinks He'll Keep Her."
posted by Pater Aletheias at 3:38 PM on July 30, 2015 [10 favorites]

God - Tori Amos
posted by gemutlichkeit at 3:39 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I surprised I'm the first person to suggest the original: RESPECT
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:41 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Why Don't You Love Me by Beyonce.
posted by chaiminda at 3:46 PM on July 30, 2015 [4 favorites]

It's a Woman's World - Squeeze (acoustic | original)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 3:47 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Thin Line Between Love and Hate, the Pretenders
Shelter from the Storm, Bob Dylan
The Milkman of Human Kindness, Billy Bragg
Valentine's Day is Over, Billy Bragg
She Cracked, the Modern Lovers
posted by frumiousb at 3:49 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

Speaking of the Pretenders, Private Life is from the viewpoint of a woman who seems to Have. Had. Enough.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:09 PM on July 30, 2015

Bjork comes to mind.
"Hyperballad" and "Army of Me"
posted by evilmonk at 4:18 PM on July 30, 2015

Different Days, Jason Isbel

"Had a girl back home and we shared her single bed
When I whispered in her ear, she believed every word I said
If she didn't believe, she didn't dare give me slack
Or it was "Baby, I love you, get off of my goddamn back"
Time went by and I left and I left again
Jesus loves a sinner but the highway loves a sin
My daddy told me, I believe he told me true that:
"The right thing's always the hardest thing to do"
Ten years ago I might have stuck around for another night,
and used her in a thousand different ways,
but those were different days
Those were different days"

Also has the great line
"Seems like, these days, you couldn't run away at all
Even if you did, what you got to run away to
Just another drunk daddy with a white man's point of view"
posted by MsMolly at 4:23 PM on July 30, 2015 [2 favorites]

I guess I should clarify that my suggestion is in the category of songs discussing emotional labor, but not necessarily from an empowered woman's point of view. I read Isbell's song as being sung by a guy who's looking back on the inequality he perpetuated in the past, which may or may not fit what you want for this playlist.
posted by MsMolly at 4:25 PM on July 30, 2015

I know there are a great many songs where a man laments her leaving in a way that always makes me think "Yeah, she left because all you think about is you." These are songs where the man sings about how much he needs her, how much he misses her, how much it will hurt him if she goes. The obvious assumption is her needs do not matter at all. She should stay solely to avoid hurting him. It never crosses his mind to wonder what he should do for her, what he can do differently, why she isn't happy or what he might try to do to make her want to stay.


Chicago: Hard Habit to Break
KC and the Sunshine Band: Please don't go
Kenny Rogers: You Picked A Fine Time to Leave Me Lucille
posted by Michele in California at 4:33 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

"For Daddy" by Emmylou Harris.
posted by xeney at 4:43 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

My mom and I used to laugh about this old country song when I was little: Put Another Log on the Fire by Tompall Glaser
posted by cecic at 4:46 PM on July 30, 2015

Good Intentions - LaBelle
posted by fuse theorem at 5:38 PM on July 30, 2015

Madonna, What it feels like for a girl
posted by Ms Vegetable at 5:40 PM on July 30, 2015

"The Girl Stands Up to Me Now" by Jonathan Richman? "The girl stands up to me now/More than she did before/I used to win all the arguments when she felt inferior."

And nth-ing "Little Babies".
posted by Ralston McTodd at 5:50 PM on July 30, 2015

Up on Cripple Creek, which describes the perfect woman who does everything for him, tears up the money when he gives her some and appears to be The Other Woman to boot. She wants nothing from him and is just endlessly giving.
posted by Michele in California at 5:56 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Pete/Peggy Seger, I'm gonna be an engineer

the last verse:
Well, I listened to my mother and I joined a typing pool
Listened to my lover and I put him through his school
If I listen to the boss, I'm just a bloody fool
And an underpaid engineer
I been a sucker ever since I was a baby
As a daughter, as a mother, as a lover, as a dear
But I'll fight them as a woman, not a lady
I'll fight them as an engineer!

posted by leahwrenn at 6:32 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

Emily Haines - The Maid Needs a Maid
posted by eponym at 6:34 PM on July 30, 2015

Superwoman by Karyn White

I fought my way through the rush hour trying to make it home just for you
I want to make sure that your dinner will be waiting for you
But when you get there you just tell me
You're not hungry at all
You said you'd rather read the paper
And you don't want to talk
You like to think that I'm just crazy
When I say that you've changed
posted by KateViolet at 6:54 PM on July 30, 2015

I think Loretta Lynn's One on the Way is really complicated, because it's often about class resentment between women. but the list of working class labour might be useful. here
posted by PinkMoose at 7:47 PM on July 30, 2015

This might not be what you want for a playlist, but the song that came to my mind when I read the emotional labor thread was "There's a Hole in the Bucket, Dear Liza."
posted by Knowyournuts at 8:19 PM on July 30, 2015 [3 favorites]

How 'bout Merle Haggard - Mama Tried (YT, Wiki)?
posted by Jack Karaoke at 9:24 PM on July 30, 2015

Alice Cooper's Only Women Bleed. (People tend to assume it's about menstruation, but it's not.)
posted by needs more cowbell at 10:04 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

Train in Vain as sung by Annie Lennox or Kristy McColl (Did you stand by me? No not at all)
posted by chapps at 11:11 PM on July 30, 2015 [1 favorite]

maybe a leap and a bit abstract, but for me Calling All Angels by Jane Siberry and K.D. Lang is about reaching out for strength.
posted by chapps at 11:21 PM on July 30, 2015

Bobby Conn - Baby Man
Nina Simone - The Assignment Song
St. Vincent - Now Now
posted by hydrophonic at 11:43 PM on July 30, 2015

Sinead O'Connor. Last day of our acquaintance:

this is the last day of our acquaintance
I will meet you later in somebody's office
I'll talk but you won't listen to me
I know what your answer will be
I know you don't love me anymore
you used to hold my hand when the plane took off
two years ago there just seemed so much more
and I don't know what happened to our love
today's the day
our friendship has been stale
and we will meet later to finalise the details
two years ago the seed was planted
and since then you have taken me for granted
posted by saucysault at 12:53 AM on July 31, 2015 [2 favorites]

Shania Twain, "That Don't Impress Me Much", on the tangential side!

you think you're special... don't get me wrong yeah I think you're alright, but that won't keep me warm in the middle of the night
posted by lokta at 5:08 AM on July 31, 2015

Imogen Heap - Just For Now
posted by l8erm8 at 7:05 AM on July 31, 2015

Aretha Franklin, "I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)"
posted by kirkaracha at 7:14 AM on July 31, 2015

Annie Lennox - Thin Line Between Love and Hate

It's five 'o' clock in the morning and you're just getting in
A knock upon the door, a voice sweet and low says 'Who is it?'
She opens up the door and she lets you in
And never once does she say 'Where have you been?'

She says 'Hold it, are you hungry? Did you eat yet?
Let me hang up your coat now.' And all the time she's smiling,
Never raises her voice - it's five 'o' clock in the morning
And you don't give it a second thought.

I mean it ends with the guy in the hospital but still, it's about the consequences of NOT taking your part in the emotional labour.
posted by HypotheticalWoman at 8:57 AM on July 31, 2015 [1 favorite]

Second Hand News - Fleetwood Mac
Divorce Song - Liz Phair
I've Done Everything For You - Rick Springfield (the bigger hit) or Sammy Hagar (the original)
Everything She Wants - Wham!
What Difference Does It Make? - The Smiths
posted by SisterHavana at 8:27 PM on July 31, 2015

Richard Thompson, Read About Love:
So why don't you moan and sigh
Why do you sit there and cry?
I do everything I'm supposed to do
If something's wrong, then it must be you
I know the ways of a woman
I've read about love
posted by terooot at 12:25 PM on August 1, 2015 [1 favorite]

I bet the entire new Bjork album (written about her divorce) is full of examples, but "stonemilker" off of it fits the bill.
posted by natasha_k at 5:51 PM on August 1, 2015 [2 favorites]

Mary Chapin Carpenter - He Thinks He'll Keep Her, from her album Come On Come On.

Everything runs right on time, years of practice and design
Spit and polish till it shines. He thinks he'll keep her
Everything is so benign, safest place you'll ever find
God forbid you change your mind. He thinks he'll keep her.

posted by Wretch729 at 8:17 AM on September 25, 2015

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