Posts Tagged ‘Phil Collins’

In Which I Write a Break-Up Song

July 23, 2011

I’ll start with the disclaimers:

1)   I have neither musical talent nor aspirations, although I can do some things with words.

2)   I’ve never actually dated anyone (though I’ve tried); therefore, I haven’t really broken up with anyone.

The inspiration for this came from an episode of This American Life, in which reporter Starlee Kine recounted a post break-up experience where she decided that in order to move on from the relationship, she needed to write a break-up song. Starlee has about as much musical talent as I do, so she enlisted the help of some musician/songwriter friends for the project. And since this is This American Life, she interviewed Phil Collins, as well. Collins wrote “Against All Odds (Take A Look At Me Now),” Starlee’s favorite break-up song.

Starlee wrote several potential songs, and she discovered that the songs were worse when she tried to make them smart and sophisticated. Trying to be clever ended up burying the emotions she wanted to express. The direct, simple, heartfelt lyrics were the best. Some people think this kind of writing is the easiest kind to do. These people are not writers and have probably never tried to be.

As I listened to Starlee’s story, I started thinking about what kind of break-up song I would write, if I ever had occasion to do so. Seemingly out of nowhere (translation: I knew exactly where it came from, but didn’t want to admit it, even to myself), the concept for my break-up formed in my head. It got the point where I stopped Starlee’s story before it was over because I had to write my song, which still was officially ex nihilo. (Remember that bit about hiding behind cleverness? Me too.)

The concept behind the song—or the lyrics, since it’s not really a song unless it’s sung (again with the clever)—was this: I would rather be hated than forgotten. Given my personality, though, it’s more likely that the opposite would occur. You know, were some hypothetical girl ever to actually break up with me, I assume that’s how it would turn out.

You probably want to see the lyrics, right? I mean, that’s what I would expect from a title like the one I used. Maybe you have even scrolled down to find them, skipping all my procrastinatory (That is so a word!  Take that, spell-check!) blathering where I seem to be establishing context but am really just delaying the inevitable moment where I finally decide to post the lyrics or not. Shame on you. I’m good at blathering. It’s probably the best part of this whole post. Maybe I shouldn’t post them at all, just to teach you a lesson, imaginary reader. (You do not want to know how long I could go on like this.)

But I won’t do that. I’m a nice guy. So maybe I don’t really want to be hated. Or something like that. I think it worked for the song, anyway. Let’s see what you think:

Too Much to Ask

You watch me through the window

Both of you

Laughing while I’m crying

Because it’s something to do

You call me on the telephone

While I’m staring at the receiver

We sit there breathing in silence

Two of you, one of me

Until you just can’t keep it in


Is that too much to ask

To know that you still hate me

To know I’m on your mind

To know you won’t forget

You’ll run into me

Pretend it was an accident

I’ll smile when you introduce us

Like it’s no big deal

Since we’ve both moved on

Your happiness hurts more than my pain

And you know it


You’ll send me an invitation

Because it’s the right thing to do

We can both agree to that

You’ll ask me for my blessing

Say it like you mean it

As if it really matters

What I think about you


And I can see you when you hear this

When you know just who you are

When you hear me saying thank you