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14 Songs for Victims of Love on Valentine’s Day

Chris Ware/Hulton Archive, Getty Images

Stretching back to early childhood, Valentine’s Day has filled me with anxiety and dread. Every year my classmates and I dedicated way too much time to decorating shoe boxes with bits of paper lace and construction paper, followed by a forced march around the room to stuff said boxes with Star Wars Valentines.

Well, that’s what the rich kids did — kids with names like Chuck and Julie — and often they added a box of those chalky little heart-shaped candies that I swore were antacids. The rest of us passed out generic, slightly-defective “Harpy Valatine” cards from the discount store, purchased by thrifty parents who swore second graders wouldn’t know the difference.

Every year the Chucks made off with the Julies, the latter mesmerized by free candy and “You Obi-Wan My Heart” platitudes, and I remained a victim of love. Damn you, Julie! And here we are again, another Feb. 14 approaching. The Chucks and Julies are all grown-up now and so are we, but Valentine’s Day remains divided between the love-haves and the love-have-nots.

You know what I say? I say it’s time for the victims of love to take this holiday back. Love is heartache, not chocolate boxes and candy antacids. Let’s drop the needle on some good “victim of love” tunes and embrace this monstrosity of a holiday.

P.S. If you’re reading this, Julie, give me a call. I have a box of candy hearts with your name on it.

“Victim of Love”

Charles Bradley



Was there any doubt that we’d kick this list off with the great Charles Bradley? Come on!


“I’m Too Afraid to Love You”

The Black Keys



We don’t really think of the Black Keys as the love song type, but they are blues to their core and nobody does heartache like a bluesman. “I’m just one wishing / That I was a pair / With someone / Oh somewhere.”  Go get it, Dan!


“I Just Threw Out the Love of My Dreams”




Sometimes we’re the victims of our own stupidity in the love department. Who doesn’t have a “one that got away” story? Weezer certainly does!


“Love Will Tear Us Apart”

Joy Division



One of the great post-punk tracks and a cornerstone of synth pop, Joy Division‘s “Love Will Tear Us Apart” sadly doubles today as the inscription on singer Ian Curtis’s tombstone.


“Love Rears Its Ugly Head”

Living Colour



Living Colour should be remembered as one of the great alternative bands of the late ’80s and early ’90s. They rocked hard but with a hint of funk and a good dose of pop. Smart lyrics and killer vocals from Corey Glover made what was a great thing even better.


“Love in Vain”

Robert Johnson



Though it’s been covered dozens of times, no version matches Robert Johnson’s 1937 original. I doubt his message got through to Willie Mae, the woman named in the song, as “Love in Vain” wasn’t released until 1939 — the year after Johnson’s death.


“No One Will Ever Love You”

The Magnetic Fields



From the Magnetic Fields‘ classic 69 Love Songs, consider this a must-have for anyone gearing up for some drunken introspection.



Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires



What if they threw a Valentine’s Day and nobody came? I say we all take Warren Zevon‘s advice via the great Jason Isbell and Amanda Shires and mutiny. Who’s with me?


“Only Love Can Break Your Heart”

Neil Young



If this track from 1970’s After the Gold Rush is right, then I must love this song, because my heart breaks every time I hear it. Thanks, Neil.


“Love Is a Losing Game”

Amy Winehouse



How good was Amy Winehouse? That woman sang with the kind of soul that comes from heartbreak. What a loss.


“Love Will Shoot You Down”

The Waterboys



Mike Scott’s Waterboys have been kicking around since the late ’70s, though their heyday was the mid-80s. This track, from 2007’s Book of Lightning, is a more straightforward rocker than the older stuff, but it’s a killer cut.


“Love Is Lost”

David Bowie



David Bowie‘s 2013 The Next Day proved that love was far from lost for the Thin White Duke. The album is a worthy addition to his brilliant catalog.


“I’m the Man Who Loves You”




A day without Wilco is a day wasted. Few do longing better than Jeff Tweedy.


“Last Night I Dreamt That Somebody Loved Me”



There’s no better way to end a playlist for the victims of love than with the king of the sad sacks. Morrissey is the Charlie Brown of the music universe, forever sitting by his mailbox, waiting for a Valentine.


Next: The Perfect Breakup Playlist

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