MUSIC
Columns
Opinion articles written in the style of their author. These texts are to be based on verified facts and must be respectful towards people, even though their actions may be criticized. All opinion articles written by individuals from outside the staff of EL PAÍS shall feature, along with the author’s name (regardless of their greater or lesser renown), a footer stating their office, academic title, political affiliation (if any) and main occupation, or the occupation related to the topic being assessed

Shakira, Justin Timberlake and other artists who vented their rage in song

Anger over a breakup is a primitive and universal feeling that has inspired many successful lyrics. Those written by women may be better known, but men have also shown themselves adept at musical revenge

Skahira, during a musical performance

“I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner. It was a slap in the face how quickly I was replaced, and are you thinking of me when you fuck her?” The song was called You Oughta Know and it and launched the musical career of a 20-year-old named Alanis Morissette, who was “angry and devastated,” as she explained in successive interviews, after being betrayed by her ex. The Canadian-American singer never confirmed his identity, but her boyfriend at the time, Dave Coulier, known for his role in the popular TV sitcom Full House, explained that he was driving when he heard the song on the radio and thought: “ Oh no. It can’t be me.”

It was 1995 (three years after Renault launched its Twingo car model; more on this later), and the actor immediately went to a record store to buy the complete album, Jagged Little Pill, out of curiosity. More than 33 million people did the same. Alanis was not alone. The universal feeling captured by the song caused thousands of girls in similar circumstances, but without a record label to back them up, to stop crying and start singing everything their exes should know.

In 1967 (seven years before the first Casio watch came out), Aretha Franklin had given women a song so they could learn to demand respect. But it was a man who wrote that great feminist piece, even if it was without realizing it. Otis Redding wrote the lyrics because he was annoyed with his wife, who, in his opinion, did not receive him with due enthusiasm when he returned home from his tours. Franklin took over the song, made it her own, and added the catchy spelling r-e-s-p-e-c-t- in her timeless voice.

Men too have written spiteful songs. Justin Timberlake dedicated Cry Me A River to Britney Spears. In 2012, he introduced the song at a concert by saying, “Sometimes you think you’ve found the love of your life, but then you realize she was just a bitch.”

In Melody, the Rolling Stones sang: “My nose is on her trail I’m going to catch her by surprise Then I’m going to have the pleasure To roast that child alive.” Music expert Anabel Vélez notes that the entire album Blood on the Tracks by Bob Dylan “is about a breakup.” And even though it was not about love, John Lennon “was also comfortable” dedicating a song of resentment to Paul McCartney: The only thing you done was yesterday And since you’ve gone you’re just another day How do you sleep? Ah how do you sleep at night?”

Now, Shakira’s latest song has made it possible for millennials to find out what a Twingo was, what a Casio was, and also who Paquita la del Barrio was (a Mexican singer and actress). And audiences who are from the same generation as Shakira are busy sharing deep thoughts on feminism and parental relationships on their social media accounts. The intensity of the analysis – “Gerard Piqué's favorite number and shirt number is 3; the song lasts exactly 3 minutes and 33 seconds,” writes Melany Mora on Twitter – is amusing, because the lyrics aren’t exactly subtle – anger over a breakup never is – but the success of the song (38 million views on YouTube in 19 hours) shows how profitable morbid curiosity can be.

Piqué's infidelity has worked as a mitigating factor in society’s view of the Colombian singer, who is facing trial in Spain over alleged tax crimes: there are more cuckolds in the world than tax inspectors. And the fact that the rich also cry, that they bleed in the same places as other mortals, may provide a sense of relief. After all, spite comes cheaper than magnanimity.

However, it should be remembered that Dave Cooley, the self-acknowledged star of You Oughta Know, managed to maintain a good relationship with Alanis Morissette. “When my sister was dying of cancer,” he explained in an interview, “she drove from Toronto to Detroit with her guitar to sit next to her and sing songs for her in the hospital. That’s the kind of human being he is, a lovely person.” Who knows, maybe the she-wolf and the rookie will one day go to the end of the world together in search of other northern lights so that others can comment on it. And then there are those who will always take reconciliation, even if it is someone else’s, as a personal betrayal.

Sign up for our weekly newsletter to get more English-language news coverage from EL PAÍS USA Edition

More information

Recomendaciones EL PAÍS
Recomendaciones EL PAÍS