Heartbreak is a universal condition—almost everybody's been brutally dumped or cheated on or humiliated when love goes unrequited. There are so many different ways to hurt! And so many different ways to soundtrack that hurt. Valentine's Day is traditionally a holiday when lovestruck jerks get to rub their happiness in everybody else's faces. But history has proven that love sucks eggs, so here are songs...
... For the apocalyptically heartbroken: Skeeter Davis, "The End of the World"
Sometimes breakups can throw your whole world off its axis—reality stops making sense, as illustrated by Skeeter Davis: "Why does the sun go on shining?/Why does the sea rush to shore?/Don’t they know it’s the end of the world/'Cause you don’t love me any more." Perfect for wallowing in your own melodrama.
... For the dumpers: Haim, "The Wire"
Rejection sucks, but rejecting someone also sucks. Haim's "The Wire" is the most uplifting kiss-off imaginable, with sunshiny hand-claps and lyrics about fumbling through a breakup monologue: "Well I know I know I know I know/That you're gonna be okay anyway."
... For the cheatin' hearts: Loretta Lynn and Conway Twitty, "After the Fire Is Gone"
They know it's wrong for them to meet! But the fire's gone out at home, and there's nothin' cold as ashes after the fire is gone.
... For those despairing behind convincing facades: Bernadette Carroll, "Laughing on the Outside"
It's embarrassing to be sad in public! That's what makes the sentiment "I'm laughing on the outside/Crying on the inside/Cause I'm so in love with you" so relatable. Plus: excellent whistling action.
... For those caught in the eye of the storm: Charles Bradley, "Where Do We Go from Here"
First off, RIP to the Screamin' Eagle of Soul, who was truly the master of all matters concerning love and heartbreak. If your relationship's going to shit, this one's for you.
... For those who need to scream-sing: Heart, "What About Love?"
Do not underestimate the healing powers of the power ballad. The badass sisters of Heart know how to cross-examine a fickle lover, as proven by the lyric "Don't you want someone to care about you?" Well, don't you?
... For the desperate: Tom T. Hall, "That's How I Got to Memphis"
I often prefer to lick my wounds to whiskey-soaked country songs, like Tom T. Hall's "That's How I Got to Memphis." I don't love that it's about a guy following his ex to another city—obviously she wanted to get the hell away from you, dude—but his desperation is relatable for anybody who's ever held onto the last thread of an unraveling relationship.
... For when you're "fine": Gwen Stefani, "Cool"
"Cool" is peak Gwen, the undisputed queen of public breakups, who wrote many a screed about her ex, No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal, while they were still in the band together (also see: "Ex-Girlfriend"). But "Cool" is about being friends with your ex, and letting the nostalgia coexist alongside the lingering heartbreak ("I'll be happy for you if you can be happy for me"). It's very mature.
... For the bitter: The Magnetic Fields, "You Love to Fail"
Feeling bitter is okay too! It's totally valid to seethe in some self-righteousness (at least for a while). If that's your jam right now, you might find yourself silently fist-pumping to the lines "You only play the games that you know you can lose/You love to fail, that's all you love."
... For the waiters: Shannon and the Clams, "Corvette"
If you've ever wasted your time waiting around for someone to give two figs about you, the sultry doo-wop of Shannon and the Clams' "Corvette" might hit a nerve with you.
Lastly, a bonus for those of you who are blissfully in love: Donnie and Joe Emerson, "Baby" (Warning: They sing the word "baby" 25 times in four minutes).
Here's the Mercury's full achy, breaky Valentine's Day playlist on Spotify: