After a breakup, songs of hope for the future
June 15, 2017 5:04 AM   Subscribe

My four-year relationship with a person I expected to marry ended recently and suddenly. The decision was not mine. The reasons for its end are basically good ones, but I'm still devastated. Help me get through this with music.

I'm 32, and a I have a six-year-old son from a previous relationship. I had been hoping to make a family with my former partner, and now that cannot be. I have plenty of songs about being angry a relationship ended, and songs about being sad.

Now I'm looking to make a playlist with music that expresses acceptance that a relationship could not work out, doesn't vilify the person who left, and that expresses hope for a new future, someday. Do you know any songs like that?

(If you have any other suggestions about helpful media that could help me get through this time of sorrow and fear, I'd gladly accept them as well.)
posted by woodvine to Human Relations (36 answers total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
I've always taken Landslide by Fleetwood Mac somewhat like this, YMMV.
posted by deadwax at 5:14 AM on June 15, 2017 [3 favorites]

Hour Follows Hour by Ani DiFranco is a classic of this genre.

I am also getting a kind of Werewolf by Fiona Apple vibe from your question: "Nothing wrong when a song ends in a minor key."
posted by purpleclover at 5:45 AM on June 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

I like "Hello My Old Heart" by the Oh Hellos. It's the right amount of sad, but then is real hopeful about moving on I think.
posted by LKWorking at 6:02 AM on June 15, 2017

Hello, it is your Musical Response Team here. The Team (me) went through a similar situation 3 years ago and very much feels your pain, and would like to offer both hugs (if wanted) for the pain and the exhaustion and sadness and worry, and also a giant high five for looking forward at the future, and lastly a big assurance that it will get a lot better soon.

Anyway in our toolbox we brought these:

Sweet but sad, take with 1-2 glasses of wine and a sigh: The Last Broadcast by Doves, and also My Last Tango by Nerina Pallot (can only find a live vid but the album version is lovely)

When you are ready for the next step Bjork is here to tell you that even she struggles with partners not being up for working through things, ultimately they do not work out, and it's both sad and beautiful, in the magnificent Stonemilker.

At some point you may wish to transition from the deepest stage of sadness to another version of it, where instead of living inside it you carry it with you and tread slightly more lightly. At that point, Madeleine Peyroux is here with her wonderful cover of Dylan's You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go, which is ideal listened to on headphones when walking on a sunny day, and considering that letting heavy things go can make you feel lighter and let you walk a little faster.

Lastly (for now, I reserve the right to add more later) when you're ready, you will need a massive re-emergence anthem, and for this your Team presents the fabulously perfect bombast of It's Time by Imagine Dragons.
posted by greenish at 6:19 AM on June 15, 2017 [9 favorites]

Bleu's Redhead is, to me, the greatest breakup album of all time. Much of it seems like it's too wallow-y for what you are looking for, but the last few songs document a progress to healing. You Know, I Know, You Know is, perhaps, still the stage of trying to convince oneself that things are going to be OK, and 3's A Charm documents, perhaps, a more lasting attainment of this.
posted by thelonius at 6:25 AM on June 15, 2017

"Heart of the Matter" by Don Henley.

"I Will Always Love You" by Dolly Parton (covered by Whitney Houston).

Some Fleetwood Mac. "Don't Stop," "Sara," and "Storms," maybe?
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 6:26 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

That Particular Time by Alanis Morrissette
posted by DrAstroZoom at 6:46 AM on June 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

In the Indie genre, here are the tunes I've relied on in a similar circumstance:

If only for the line "with every broken heart, we should become more adventurous":
- Rilo Kiley's "More Adventurous"

These aren't explicitly about the end of a relationship but more about hopefulness for a brighter future despite a not-so-shiny present. These were my ANTHEMS of perseverance:

- Mountain Goats "This Year"
- Rilo Kiley "Better Son / Daughter"

And for the "I hope you go find a good life and I wish you well" bittersweetness:
- "California" by Delta Spirit

Sending good vibes your way!
posted by oneaday at 6:55 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

"Wasted Time" by the Eagles.

"Fool (If You Think It's Over)" by Chris Rea (though this one's arguable on the "doesn't vilify the leaver" angle).
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 6:57 AM on June 15, 2017

"Woke Up New" by the Mountain Goats is one of my favorites for this.
posted by duckus at 7:02 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Oh, oh, oh, All Good Things by the Weepies.
posted by purpleclover at 7:20 AM on June 15, 2017

Chiming back in to say that I can relate and sympathize, especially about splitting over good reasons and not vilifying the partner. Most of my favorite "break-up" songs/albums have anger or sadness or bitterness as the key emotion, but actually I sometimes find it hard to relate to those aspects.

One thing that helped/helps me is seeing examples of people surviving [amicable] partings and then facing the memories later in their lives--or people who go on to live a solo life and rock it. Often it's fiction, like a book or TV show character. Often it's older characters, who have a lot of scars and signs of a rich and interesting life. (An example that comes to mind now is the book Lonesome Dove, in which at least one character has to revisit experiences of a past love.)

Take care.
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 7:20 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

A deep cut from a forgotten artist, but I Control the Sun by Lisa Loeb. It's bouncy and upbeat and about being awesome and powerful and in control of your life and yeah there's someone you can't have but you've got to get on running your own awesome shit. It does end on a slightly sad and doubtful note which has rankled a little but on balance it's served me well.
posted by yellowbinder at 7:29 AM on June 15, 2017

Other people have already mentioned the Mountain Goats, but I'd suggest the entire Tallahassee album. I think acceptance is a huge part of the whole album - the songs acknowledge the irreconcilable problems in the relationship in question but don't vilify the other person ... You might have to reach a bit for the "hope for the future" part but I think it's possible. There's something deeply sad but beautiful in the album as a whole that I think could resonate with you.
posted by DingoMutt at 8:19 AM on June 15, 2017

The cure is, of course, The Cure. If you're past the angry/sad stage just jump straight in to the Wish album. Best of luck to you.
posted by prize bull octorok at 9:14 AM on June 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

You and I Both - Jason Mraz (bonus: video is fun and entertaining)
posted by yawper at 9:23 AM on June 15, 2017 [1 favorite]

Take good care of yourself! (((hugs)))

"Pictures of You" by the Cure.

There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to feel you deep in my heart
There was nothing in the world
That I ever wanted more
Than to never feel the breaking apart
All my pictures of you

posted by honey badger at 9:38 AM on June 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

All I Want by Toad The Wet Sproket was the beautiful, sad, hopeful song that got me through the hardest break up of my life.
posted by WalkerWestridge at 9:41 AM on June 15, 2017

I'd suggest the entire Tallahassee album. I think acceptance is a huge part of the whole album - the songs acknowledge the irreconcilable problems in the relationship in question but don't vilify the other person

Whoa, whoa, whoa. Tallahassee includes "No Children" ("I hope that you die/I hope we both die"), "Have to Explode" ("Name one thing about us two anyone could love"), "Game Shows Touch Our Lives" ("People say friends don't destroy one another/What do they know about friends?") and "Old College Try" ("The way those eyes I've always loved illuminate this place/Like a trash can fire in a prison cell/Like a searchlight in the parking lots of hell"). There's a whooooole lot of loathing going on in that album, it's just that the narrator is implicated, as well.

Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right," might be a little too ambivalent for you, but maybe not. Susan Tedeschi did a bluesier cover I also like.
posted by praemunire at 10:19 AM on June 15, 2017

'Moon River' by Andy Williams
'We Had Today' OST 'One Day' by Rachel Portman (instrumental)
'The Lovers are Losing' and 'Love is the End' by Keane
'Exitlude' by The Killers
posted by norwegianleather at 11:07 AM on June 15, 2017

'Blue Skies' by Noah and the Whale. I recommend this song to everyone going through anything sad. And be sure to watch the video. It is uplifting.
posted by poppunkcat at 2:03 PM on June 15, 2017

This version of Better Things by Ray Davies and Bruce Springsteen.

Better than I've Ever Been by Cindy Bullens is great too.

Jack's Mannequin song Swim is another good choice.
posted by Ostara at 2:38 PM on June 15, 2017

"Nowhere Fast" by Blackalicious is explicitly about this.

Sadly, its unavailable on YouTube...

It follows the artist from "yesterday" where he's hurt by a sudden breakup, "today" where he's struggling with his self worth and occasionally dwelling on his pain, and "tomorrow" where he accepts that focusing on what might have been is an illusion that leads nowhere, being grateful for the good memories and excited about improving himself and looking forward to finding a healthy relationship. It's worth the dollar to download for sure.
posted by windykites at 2:54 PM on June 15, 2017

"Pictures of You" by the Cure.

I thought about this too but wasn't sure if it fit the "acceptance that it didn't work out" bit--the lyrics are a bit pine-y.

If you like The Cure, Disintegration is one of the best break-up albums out there. All of the songs meld together to paint a vivid picture of someone's mental or emotional state. I listen to the whole album, in sequence, for maximum catharsis :)

It might be nice to add some instrumental tracks to your playlist. Sometimes you don't need someone else's words to process. There's an instrumental demo version of "Pictures of You" that is a nice balance between contemplative/mournful and upbeat.

The Cure also did "Letter to Elise" (ticks the "accepting the split" if on the sad side, especially the Unplugged version) and "Maybe Someday" (hopeful, moving on from the past, not restricted to relationships).
posted by Sockin'inthefreeworld at 3:01 PM on June 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Radiohead's last album was heavily influenced by the separation and eventual death of Thom Yorke's longtime partner Rachel Owen -- it features one track that is among the most beautiful and spiritually uplifting of their entire catalog:

Desert Island Disk

Now as I go upon my way... So let me go upon my way
Born of a light, born of a light
The wind rushing 'round my open heart... an open ravine
With my spirit wide, totally alive, and my spirit light...
Through an open doorway, across a street... to another life
And catching my reflection in a window
Switching on a light, one I didn't know
Totally alive, totally released...
Wakin', wakin' up from shutdown, from a thousand years of sleep
Yeah you, you know what I mean...
Stand in' on the edge of you, you know what I mean...
Different types of love... are possible
posted by Rhaomi at 4:27 PM on June 15, 2017

Third Eye Blind - Motorcycle Drive By

I don't believe you, you're so serene
Careening through the universe
Your axis on a tilt , you're guiltless and free
I hope you take a piece of me with you
And there's things I'd like to do
That you don't believe in
I would like to build something
But you never see it happen
And there's this burning
Like there's always been
I've ne ver been so alone
And I've, I've never been so alive
And there's this burning
There is this burning
Where's the soul I want to know
New York City is evil

The surface is everything but I could never do that
Someone would see through that
And this is our last time
We'll be friends again
I'll get over you, you'll wonder who I am
And there's this burning
Just like there's always been
I've never been so alone alone
And I've, and I've never been so alive
So alive
posted by Cygnet at 4:41 PM on June 15, 2017

The Old Apartment by Barenaked Ladies.
posted by bendy at 8:12 PM on June 15, 2017

Lorde's recent Green Light is a great anthem for fresh starts.
posted by Miko at 8:53 PM on June 15, 2017

All will be Well by the Gabe Dixon Band.
posted by nalyd at 9:08 PM on June 15, 2017

In addition to being one of the finest albums of my lifetime (seriously, after listening to this the first time, I bought several copies and sent them to friends around the country without warning or explanation), Josh Ritter's The Beast in Its Tracks is perfectly suited to your request. Written several months after a painful divorce, the album features Ritter's insight into himself, his ex-wife, and his dissolved marriage, all delivered with the gentle, humble, and ultimately hopeful thoughtfulness that characterizes his music. Just listening to these songs as I write this makes me tear up, and they might do the same for you. If so, I hope they're not the tears of pain or bitterness, but those of release, healing, moving on, and hope; that's the kind of music this is.

Preemptive TL:DR- If three songs is too many for now, or you don't feel like reading a bunch of lyrics, just give Hopeful a try; I find the rhythmic acoustic guitar to be immensely soothing.

In Joy to You Baby, he wishes joy to himself, his ex-wife, his new lover, and everyone else, too:

"There's pain in whatever/We stumble upon
If I never had met you/You couldn't have gone
But then I couldn't have met you/We couldn't have been
I guess it all adds up/To joy to the end"

In the brilliant New Lover, he writes:

"I don't know who you're with these days, might be with someone new
And if you are, I hope he treats you like a lover ought to do.
But whoever makes you happy, it don't really matter who
I've got a new lover now, I hope you've got a lover too."

and then acerbically admits to his own bruised heart with a twist:

"I hope you've got a lover now, hope you've got somebody who
Can give you what you need like I couldn't seem to do.
But if you're sad and you are lonesome and you've got nobody true,
I'd be lying if I said that didn't make me happy too."

And finally, on Hopeful, my favorite song among an album of genius compositions, he sums up a song's worth of greatness with the repeating, mantra-like words:

"The word is as the world is
Everybody’s gonna hurt like hell sometimes"
posted by EKStickland at 10:18 PM on June 15, 2017 [2 favorites]

Ah, I've been working on this playlist for a while. Let's see...

First I went through this list and chose the more positive ones, some with a wistful tinge. Some of these don't specifically have words about relationships but have the right feeling, I think—they're about starting over or realizing it's time to move on. I've got like 219 more songs in this playlist I've been making for a couple months, so I'm sure I've got some other good ones here. If nothing else, I make a pretty kick-ass breakup playlist! Some of these do talk about the other person or about the hope that the other person will realize what they're missing, but in general, they're about internal realizations or transformation as relationships end and hope for a better or different future for everyone involved. Some of them hope for the peace of being alone for a bit. Anyway, there's some stuff! Some songs may fit your theme better than others, but I've found it all cathartic in some way, so hopefully you will too!
posted by limeonaire at 11:42 PM on June 15, 2017 [4 favorites]

Came in to hugely recommend Josh Ritter's The Beast In Its Tracks, too. This album to me is the epitome of what you're looking for.
posted by fairlynearlyready at 7:33 AM on June 16, 2017 [1 favorite]

The problem I had after a breakup wasn't finding music about breakups, it was it being inescapable, in that 50% of pop music is apparently about the end of relationships. The other 50% is, of course, about the start of them. Tame Impala's Yes I'm Changing is a nice hope-for-the future breakup song, though.
posted by Jon Mitchell at 5:47 PM on June 16, 2017

this post on captain awkward might be useful: songs for the dumped. (comments section on that site tends to be good as well)
posted by JBD at 7:27 AM on June 18, 2017

and a poem that's good for post-breakup:

The time will come
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other's welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was your self.
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror.
Sit. Feast on your life.
Derek Walcott
posted by JBD at 7:34 AM on June 18, 2017 [2 favorites]

The Mountain Goats, “Woke Up New”
posted by Going To Maine at 11:06 PM on September 4, 2017

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