We hear a lot about this mythical creature "the heartbreaker” in music, but what is a heartbreaker exactly? Scientists disagree on the precise terms, but scientists are usually pretty awful at playing guitar, so they don't know shit. Marina and the Diamonds' new single “How to be a Heartbreaker” from her Electra Heart album, due out this week, aims to break down the rules for us and settle the matter once and for all. Does it succeed?
On her second album, Marina has re-imagined herself into a Katy Perrian/Dr. Luke synth-pop diva in the time-honored tradition of mutant Madonna serpents everywhere, sloughing off one glittery monster facade and worming into a prettier, newer skin. If there's one thing broads like that know a lot about, it's fucking with dudes' heads, which makes her particularly well-suited to outline the rules of heartbreaking.
“Rule number one,” she sings, “is that you gotta have fun.” Sounds reasonable enough. Keep it light. “But baby, when you're done, you gotta be the first to run.” A heartbreaker is, above all, a giant pain in the balls. As soon as you've got dude hooked, you're ghost.
Rule number two is pretty much the same idea reinforced. “Just don't get attached to somebody you could lose.” In other words, only fuck with people lower on the boning totem pole than you, or else you'll get your own shit took.
“Rule number three, wear your heart on your cheek,” she continues. “But never on your sleeve, unless you wanna taste defeat.” I literally have no idea what any of that means. “Rule number four, gotta be looking pure, kissing goodbye at the door, and leave him wanting more.” Don't be a slut, I think is what she's saying here.
Somewhat enlightening, but it still only gives us part of the picture. Looking back throughout the history of songs about heartbreakers— or, more specifically, songs called “Heartbreaker”—helps up fill in the rest of this vague police sketch.
In their song “Heartbreaker” from the 1973 album Goats Head Soup, which you may know by its hilarious-to-children-and-immature-bloggers title “Doo Doo Doo Doo Doo,” The Rolling Stones took a broader societal context, telling the sad stories of a young boy gunned down by NYC cops “in a case of mistaken identity,” and a “ten-year-old girl on a street corner sticking needles in her arm.”
“She died in the dirt of an alleyway,” it turns out. “Her mother said she had no chance.” You know what would have probably given her a much better chance in the long run there, Mom? Not letting her shoot up on the street at ten years old. I don't have kids though, so maybe I'm missing some parental angle here.
Heartbreaking scale: Ten out of ten broken mom hearts, which are the saddest of all hearts to break, so why not try calling yours more if it wouldn't kill you? This song is a true tragedy, although reading through the lyrics at the moment, “Doo doo doo, doo doo, I wanna tear that world apart” kind of makes me think Mick was actually singing about another sort of painful experience (butt stuff).
Dionne Warwick laid it all out on the line for us in this 1982 track penned by The Bee Gees, who later recorded a version of it themselves. Considering the badass harmonized synth lines, which sound like something off that last Justice album, this one stands the test of time pretty well musically. It also holds up thematically; your average person really does go this crazy whenever the roommate they fart next to on the couch every night stops calling them to argue about what to have for dinner.
“Suddenly, everything I ever wanted has passed me by. This world may end, not you and I.”
That's a pretty good summary of what it feels like to be in love, but also to be a prick. The world could end and you don't care, because your boyfriend peaced out? Kind of selfish in retrospect, don't you think? In her defense, apparently Warwick didn't care for the song, even though it turned out to be a big hit. "I cried all the way to the bank,” she later said. I think the lesson we can take from this is that the one cure for heartbreak is snapping yourself off a tall stack of that good Gibbs brothers money.
Heartbreaking scale: This one teaches us more about the heartbroken than the heartbreaker. As far as we know, that dude wasn't so cavalier about the outcome of six billion human lives.
Dolly Parton's 1978 crack at the heartbreaker motif is, appropriately, breaking my heart a little bit as I listen to it right now, because it's so humble and pathetic. “Heartbreaker, wish that I had seen that love was blind. Sweet little love maker, takin' my heart and leave me behind. Heartbreaker, couldn't you be just a little more kind to me?”
Couldn't you just be a little more kind to her, bro? :( Is that so much to ask? That's Dolly Fucking Parton you're fucking with right there. That sort of sentiment rings true when your heart is actually broken though, doesn't it? It's not like you're asking for things to go back to the way there were, because it's too late, you know you know you know, but maybe just a call to check in every now and again? Maybe a kind word from time to time?
BRB, I am literally going to go cry a little bit.
“Played with fire, felt its burn. I would have thought that I would have learned. I melted every time you kissed me. Every time you'd leave, I thought that you would miss me.”
He didn't miss you though, did he? Classic heartbreaker move right there. What have we learned here? A heartbreaker is a motherfucker. You're better off without him, Dolly bb.
Heartbreaking scale: All of the </3s.
I kind of don't believe Robert Plant has ever gotten his heart broken in his life, on account of the fact he was, like, 19 when he joined Led Zeppelin, and you don't break up with a dude in Led Zeppelin. The next couple decades of homeboy's life, he dragged around a ghost tail of abandoned pussy that looked like one of those depression-era lines Russian dudes waited in for bread. "And You Will Know Us By The Trail of Groupie Skeez" was actually the working title of Led Zeppelin II.
“One thing I do have on my mind, if you can clarify please do, it's the way you call me by another guy's name when I try to make love to you,” goes the iconic lyric from this one, which doesn't sound so much heartbreaking as weird and unbelievable, because the dude in the song is fucking an imaginary person who doesn't exist. For all the jokes about this mid-sex name confusion, and countless examples of it in movies over the years, this wrong-name scenario has never happened to anyone in the real world, unless you count referring to the person you're fucking as "Jesus Christ" as you're about to come.
Heartbreaking scale: Zero heartbreaks, except for the millions of pimply guitar nerds masturbating themselves to sleep after failing to master Jimmy Paige's guitar solo on this one over the years.
The most heartbreaking thing about this one is thinking about how smoking Mariah used to be back in the day. The day was 1999, to be more precise. This one is on some Stockholm Syndrome shit, sung from the girl's perspective of coming back, again and again, to a dude that keeps doing her greasy. Speaking of greasy dudes, Brett Ratner directed this video, which features Mariah and her ethnically diverse group of girlfriends spying on Jerry O'Connell and some girl putting makeup on her tits. In what has to be literally the worst casting decision of all time, O'Connell's heartbreaker POV is rapped in the song by Jay Z.
“Boy, if I do the things you want me to, the way I used to do, would you love me, baby?” she asks. The lesson she's trying to convey here, if I understand it correctly, is to not stop giving your man regular head if you don't want him to revoke your access to the Benz?
Heartbreaking scale: Not that heartbreaking, because it sounds like all of the people involved in this story are horrible, and they probably deserve it.
This one is weird, because it's got that whole 80's-film-montage-soundtrack damage, where apparently every love song had to double as motivation for winning a track meet or a dance competition or whatever. “You're the right kind of dreamer, to release my inner fantasy. The invincible winner, and you know that you were born to be.”
None of my girlfriends over the years ever called me the invincible winner. Was I doing something wrong?
Paradoxically, while this song has the shittiest lyrics of the bunch here—all “Souls on fire” and “My desire” and a raft of other cliches—it's also the best song on the list. Like with Plant, I kind of find it hard to believe that any dude in his right mind ever broke up with Patty B, so I guess this one doesn't actually break my heart either, but it does serve as a good example of how stupid we all sound when we talk about our emotions.
Heartbreaking scale: 5 out of 10, but only because I had to watch way too many girls "give it their all" singing this one at Rock Band video game parties back whenever it was that we all used to think that was a fun thing to do.
The Andrews Sisters
The Andrews Sisters recorded this blazing joint with the Harmonica Brothers back in 1948 (which sounds like a euphemism, I don't mind telling you). If nothing else, it serves as pretty good evidence that the slut-shaming game was unfuckwithable back in your Nana's day.
“Heartbreaker, the cutest gal in town. You heartbreaker, boys follow you around. You think that you are having your fling, making hearts dance just like puppets on a string. You heartbreaker, you'll be the lonely one when all your fun is through.” Burn.
The most generically named band in the world with the most generically titled song in the world adds up, surprisingly, to a pretty decent song. Pretty boilerplate heartbreaking stuff here: dude feels bad for himself when girl leaves, sits around at home, wishes she would come back, goes out, doesn't see her, has a lock of her hair for some reason (which literally no one but people in songs do). “There's a voice in the back of my head that says you're always gonna be alone,” that one guy from that one band Girls whose name I can't remember at the moment sings here. Maybe throw out the exes' head shavings for a start? Just spit-balling ideas for you.
Feeling a little heartbroken watching this one and thinking about how vocalist Lovefoxxx isn't singing this one about me—but, wait a minute—What the fuck is she singing at like 1:27? “Won't you come with me. Shed that foreskin”?? That seems like kind of a whole thing to go through for a date, but you know how it is when you're heartbroken: you're down for whatever.
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