When commitment feels rare and everyone’s lonely, Change of Heart is a Valentine's Week investigation of what makes relationships so hard—and how they can be better.
Sharing music is an intimate experience. With the ages, it has evolved from crate-digging at the record store to the painstaking task of burning a mix CD, and now, thanks to streaming, you can share a sentimental playlist in a few seconds. For many of us, music fills the void of the words we are too afraid to say. The problem with music is that you can't control the memories associated with them. If you could forget that song your former boo played incessantly during late-night food runs, you would, and that duet you two did at karaoke remains practically etched in your brain. Every February, we're inundated with lists of "the best love songs," but if we're being honest, those aren't the tracks that tug at your emotions the most; it's the random songs that spoke to you two in your secret language that resonate the loudest. Once that person has walked out of your life for good, so does your ability to press play. Instead of the typical Valentine's Day playlist, here are 12 songs some VICE staffers hope they never hear again.
Pulp - "Babies"
My ex and I were together for 13 years. We met as teenagers in Virginia, our home state, and moved to New York together after college. We used to road trip up and down I-95 several times a year going home to visit family, and certain bands and albums became a mainstay of these trips: Chameleons, Silver Jews, the Cure. But the one that really breaks my heart is Pulp. We were both huge fans (I still am) and would rip through their best tracks, with me singing along, really hamming it up. He wasn’t much of a singing-in-the-car guy, but whenever “Babies” came on, he’d join in. It’s a fucking great song, super catchy and with great lyrical storytelling, but I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to hear it again without remembering him singing along with me in the dark, in a speeding car. He moved out this summer and I haven’t been able to listen to Pulp at all since. — Rachel Pick, Deputy Director of Social Publishing
Spiritualized - "Ladies and Gentleman We Are Floating in Space"
I still love this song, and Spiritualized is still one of my favorite bands. But finding out your boyfriend was carrying on sexual relationships on the internet with women around the country while you were at a Valentine's Day concert where the band performed the entirety of the album this song is on will definitely taint it for you. I ended up destroying every copy he had of this album, but placed them all carefully back on his record shelf, so for like a year when he tried to play it he'd pull out the record sleeve and pieces of the album would fall out. — Alex Zaragoza, Senior Staff Writer
Travis Scott - "WAKE UP"
Creating sex playlists is one of my biggest hobbies. I probably have five or six such lists in my Spotify right now; I cater my playlist for every single person based on their personality, age, income level, etc… Besides, I update my own playlist every year. (My list in 2020 is called "Am I Even Human If I Don’t Use This.") In 2019, I met Michael, who shared the same passion as me. It was a long-distance relationship to begin with, and we could only see each other once a month. Therefore, sharing sex playlists and imagining each other while listening to it became a ritual for us. Our music taste was so different, so there was only one song I really liked in his playlist: "WAKE UP" by Travis Scott. I listened to it day and night, and it almost became part of my daily routine. Ironically, we broke up within a month, and neither of our playlists were even used once. — Bingdi Chunyu, Data Analyst
Frightened Rabbit - "Good Arms vs Bad Arms"
I’ve been lucky enough in my romantic life where most of my breakups have been more on the kind and respectful side than devastatingly sad or cruel. That’s a good thing for both my heart and my listening habits, as pretty much every relationship I’ve ever had blossomed over the shared love of a band. Now, when I listen to something like Bright Eyes, I think about being a dipshit high schooler, listening to Cassadaga in my first girlfriend’s parents’ van. With The National, I think about walking around Chicago’s Art Institute on an almost Before Sunset-like first date that also involved seeing the band play the Chicago Theatre and ended up being the start of a five-year relationship. But one band that sticks out is Frightened Rabbit. My first conversation with my college ex was about how great their album The Midnight Organ Fight is and we saw them play several times over our two-year relationship. We broke up, met new people, our music tastes changed, and we naturally lost touch over the years. But when Scott Hutchison died by suicide in 2018, we both texted each at the same time and caught up. We’d both changed a lot in the six years since we’d been together. After we talked for a bit, I listened back to Frightened Rabbit's "Good Arms vs Bad Arms" again for the first time in what felt like forever, and I realized that life goes on. — Josh Terry, Writer
Wayne Wonder - "No Letting Go"
It was the fall of 2002. I had just entered my freshman year of high school and a nice guy asked me to be his girlfriend while Wayne Wonder's "No Letting Go" played in the background. It was a beautiful moment, and subsequently, we dated for over a decade. Every anniversary, no matter where we were, we'd play it or make a request for the song to be played.
Now, it's almost 20 years later, and to say the song has stood the test of time would be an understatement. Within the first 30 seconds of the track, everyone is singing along and dancing: aunties, grannies, toddlers—everyone is grooving. Meanwhile, I'm trying my hardest not to sing and dance. Why? Because my ex ruined the song for me! I cannot listen to it and not think of him—trust me, I’ve tried. So if I have a DJ request these days, it would be to NOT play that damn song. — Tracy Hayes, Senior Operations Coordinator
Walk the Moon - "Shut Up and Dance"
I want to make it clear that I have always hated this song, but when it came out, I was dating someone who loved this song. At one point, he sent me a Stephen Universe fan-made music video with this song as the soundtrack. While I have enjoyed Stephen Universe in the past, having that video recommended to me made me feel I was talking to a stranger. Did he know so little about me that he truly believed I could tolerate "Shut Up And Dance" for even one second? Looking back, it was emblematic of all the ways he was wrong for me: He literally only liked media for children, had awful taste in music, and didn't give a fuck about my interests at all (he also cheated on me, but that's not related to the song). Now when I hear this song I'm just reminded of the calendar year I wasted on this awful man, making an already bad song that much worse. — Gita Jackson, Staff Writer
Van Morrison - "Sweet Thing"
My First Crazy Ass Love forever ruined one of the greatest love songs of all time, Van Morrison's "Sweet Thing," a track that to this day causes the most absolutely miserable form of nostalgia to bubble up inside of me. It's eternally tied to my four-year dramafest with a guy in a screamo band who worked at the Tower Records near my high school, where I spent many afternoons rifling through CDs (I am old!). Eventually we became a thing, and he drove me around in his red Nissan playing a cassette tape of Astral Weeks, singing along to "Sweet Thing" ("And I will never grow so old again / And I will walk and talk in gardens all wet with rain") and reader, I just about died.
As these things go, it turned out he was a pathological narcissist who deflowered middle schoolers on the side and would do things like carve into his chest with an X-acto knife when I went to a birthday party without him. (Don't worry, he's now married with several children and I have seen a therapist about this. Plus, this was well over a decade ago.) Not a sweet thing!
But you know what? I think I ruined Talking Heads' "This Must Be the Place (Naive Melody)" for him. And that might be the greatest form of revenge of all, because that song is even better. — Hilary Pollack, Deputy Culture Editor
King Princess - "1950"
King Princess' 2018 EP Make My Bed was full of love songs that queer 20-somethings needed. That's probably why my ex and I couldn't stop singing the lyrics to “1950,” which are bold, sentimental, and self-aware of their own sappiness, much like my infatuation with her at the beginning of our relationship.
When I hear “1950” now, the hangover of love-drunk days sets in and the lyrics hit harder than ever. I remember singing “So bold, make ‘em know that you’re with me,” and “I’m surprised when you kiss me,” and treasuring the song’s metaphors for the way queer people have had to hide our love throughout our history.
“1950” is now stamped with the stinging resentment of a relationship that drove me farther from my sanity than the original L Word was from realistic lesbian representation. However, when you filter out the sadness and heartbreak, what's left is the reminder that queer love is an enchanted garden from which many timeless and essential love songs have grown. — Jaime Silano, Music Services Manager
Logic - "Flexicution"
Let me preface this: I am by no means a “Logic fan;” I would be more accurately described as a “Logic hater.” However, during the summer of 2016, when I was working at a record label, I was given tickets to see him, G-Eazy, Yo Gotti, and YG. I don’t like any of those artists besides YG, but free is free, so I invited my then-girlfriend to join. Unfortunately, we arrived late and missed YG, entering during the dreaded Logic set. During the set, I discovered that my girlfriend was indeed a Logic fan, and for weeks after, she would imitate this “Oh god, oh, oh my god” refrain that he repeats throughout this song. Hard to call something “ruined” when you already didn’t like it, but the whole experience (plus our breakup a few months later) certainly didn’t make me more inclined to give the song a chance! — Avery Mencher, Rights & Clearances Coordinator
Cake - "I Will Survive"
Everyone has an ex who loves the band Cake too much, and if you don't, I'm sorry, you're the Cake Ex. That ex in college played me a few songs from this $7.99 Pulp Fiction poster of a band, but Cake’s greatest offense to me remains their gentrified cover of “I Will Survive.” The Cake Ex’s greatest offense, meanwhile, was cheating on me with what I can only presume was a trumpet full of weed. Let the record show Gloria Gaynor herself called this her least-favorite cover. The off-tempo vocal delivery is uninspired, the outro sounds like a shreds video, and the haphazard percussion only confirms there were several fedoras present at the time of recording. “Short Skirt Long Jacket” only gets a pass because it’s in a good friend’s karaoke setlist. As for all you Cake Exes, I wish you a blessed life with your soul patch and/or mate. — Jill Krajewski, Senior Social Editor
Ty Dolla $ign - "Horses in the Stable"
The fact that this is the song someone ruined for me should be a pretty good indicator of how serious we were about each other. In the words of Darius Lovehall in Love Jones: It wasn't a love thing, we were just… kicking it. When we got back to his place after a long night of bar-hopping, he took control of the aux cord. IN HIS DEFENSE, when Ty Dolla $ign's Free TC came on, he rushed to change it to something less sleazy, but something in me stopped him. In a split-second decision, I told him to keep the album on. Great songs and even greater artists had been ruined for me before, and I couldn't stand the thought of never being able to listen to someone like Miguel or Ro James again. So, Ty Dolla $ign was my sacrifice and we were just roaming free. — Kristin Corry, Staff Writer
Gotye - "Somebody That I Used to Know"
"Somebody That I Used to Know" makes me cringe every time I hear it. The song always struck me as an especially eerie breakup song, but my ex was a huge fan...and when the person you’re with loves something, you learn to tolerate and maybe even like it. On the last day of a trip my ex and I took to Los Angeles, we decided to sightsee. After driving through the death trap that is Mulholland Drive, my ex volunteered to tackle the drive down back to our hotel. Not even five minutes into the drive, we careen into a guardrail and my life flashes before my eyes. After gathering my nerves, we switched seats and I got back into the driver’s seat. The radio was on, but we sat in complete silence. Soon enough, the song starts playing on the radio and makes our awkward silence even louder. Since I’m not one to ignore a sign from God, we broke up as soon as we got back to New York. — Jay Williams, Video Publishing + Growth