Psychologists explain why we love breakup songs like Taylor Swift's

Perhaps never before have so many been so longing for something so steeped in heartbreak.

Taylor Swift's legions of devotees have been eagerly awaiting her new album, “The Tortured Poets Department,” in hopes of gaining insight into her infamous six-year private relationship with actor Joe Alwyn — and in particular, her perspective on its demise.

Swift delivers. In a song titled “Fresh from the slammer,” the 14-time Grammy Award winner sings about spending “Years of labor, locks and ceilings / In the shadow of how he felt.” Another song called “Goodbye, London” she says, “I stopped CPR, after all there was no point / the ghost was gone, we would never recover.” (She also devotes several songs to her short-lived situation with fellow singer Matty Healy of the English band The 1975.)

“Songwriting is something that really gets me through my life, and I've never had an album where I needed more songwriting than on 'Tortured Poets'.” Swift admitted in front of an audience in Melbourne, Australia, when her Eras tour played there in February.

Embracing a breakup album may seem like a macabre thing to do. But psychologists and cognitive scientists say songs about relationships gone bad can do listeners a lot of good.

“When people have a romantic breakup, they feel very alone in their experience,” he says David Sbarra, a professor of psychology at the University of Arizona who studies how divorce and separation affect health. “They feel very isolated and find the unique individual circumstances that characterized their break-up particularly devastating.”

A breakup song can change that, said Sbarra, the conductor a deep dive in the emotional authenticity of Olivia Rodrigo's lyrics about a doomed relationship on her debut album 'Sour'.

“Songs play a powerful role in normalizing our experience, by making us feel like we're not this weird, unusual, distorted kind of person,” he said.

Almost everyone who has reached their late teens has experienced the demise of a romantic relationship and endured the full range of emotions that come with it.

“The songs validate their emotions, validate them and remind the listener that they are not alone,” he says Bill Thompson, a psychologist at Bond University in Queensland, Australia, who studies why music is important to people. “The emotions associated with breakups are universal. They are a natural part of being human, even if they are painful.”

Thompson said the concept of a love song — and by extension, a breakup song — may be written in our genes. Birds They are known to serenade potential mates mice, humpback whales and other species use vocalizations to attract their mates.

“So among our ancestors, music may have played a role in mate selection and courtship,” he said. “It is possible that the prevalence of songs about love and courtship is a remnant of this ancestral function.”

The Sumerians of Mesopotamia invented a love song around 2000 BCE, and scholars of ancient Egypt have discovered love songs inscribed in pottery and written on papyrus sheets. But it's not clear when the first break-up song came about.

Why breakup songs caught on is less of a mystery, experts say.

“Breakups certainly inspire a rich source of emotions,” said Arianna Galligera licensed clinical social worker and director of Stress, Trauma and Resilience Program at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “For many people, listening to music helps them sort through their own emotional experiences.”

Sometimes a breakup song can be cathartic. Here, Taylor Swift shows off her strength during a performance at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood in August 2023.

(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Sadness is often the primary emotion in a divorce song. But it is certainly not the only one.

The 10 minute version of Swift's “All Too Good” evokes a series of strong feelings, including “sadness at the end of the relationship, nostalgia about the past romance, regret that the relationship failed, anger at being dumped, resentment that the boyfriend moved on to other young women, contempt for his infidelity, and the fear of being hurt again,” Paul Thagarda philosopher and cognitive scientist at the University of Waterloo, writes in his forthcoming book “Dreams, Jokes, and Songs.”

“I think it's a fantastic song,” Thagard said in an interview. “The reason it's such a fantastic song is that it conveys a lot of different emotions.”

There is no rule that says the emotions in a breakup song have to be negative. If a relationship was a bad fit – or even toxic – then so be it appropriate to celebrate when it comes to an end, Galligher said.

Likewise, a grief-filled divorce song can resonate with a listener in a rock-solid relationship dealing with a different kind of loss.

“Grief is not exclusive to divorce,” Galligher said. “Sometimes it can be helpful to listen to a song that is ostensibly about a breakup, but it helps you tap into something within yourself that knows sadness.”

She remembered a time when it was Adele's “Someone like You” came on the radio as she drove to a memorial service.

“I was in a perfectly functioning relationship, very happy together, and I found myself tapping into the sadness and grief of the song about the loss of my friend,” she said. “It was very helpful to access those emotions.”

When the breakup is new and the pain is raw, a song can serve as “a virtual empathetic friend” by affirming and validating a listener's emotions, helping them process their feelings, and reminding them that he's not alone, Thompson said.

“The advantage is that you do not receive unwanted advice,” he says. “Music is just there for you and supportive.”

Thagard agreed: “No judgment comes from a song.” (Unless you're one of those the unfortunate men who broke Swift's heart.)

Additionally, binging on breakup songs may be part of “a habituation process” that reduces the intensity of feelings associated with a romantic breakup, Sbarra said. Some people may find that necessary before they are ready to talk about their breakup with someone else.

“Sometimes people need to spend some time thinking about their own feelings,” Galligher said. “Having a little solitude to be introspective can be very useful, and then you look for connection with others.”

But despite everything breakup songs have to offer, it's still possible to have too much of a good thing. Research has shown that listening to sad music can make sad people feel even sadder by encouraging them to do so dwell on their grief.

“You do have to take your temperature to determine whether this ultimately helps or hurts you,” Sbarra said.

That said, listening to breakup songs can be a healthy way to distance yourself from a painful event.

“It's not you,” he said. “It's Taylor Swift.”

Related Posts

  • Science
  • July 18, 2024
  • 2 views
  • 2 minutes Read
NASA cancels lunar rover mission due to skyrocketing costs and launch delays

NASA has announced that it is canceling its Viper lunar rover project due to high costs and launch delays. The Viper rover was to explore the moon's south pole in…

  • Science
  • July 18, 2024
  • 2 views
  • 8 minutes Read
In 'Omnivore,' Noma chef René Redzepi explores the future of food

To deserve three Michelin stars and that your restaurant is voted the best in the world five times may be enough for most chefs, but René Redzepi has set its…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You Missed

Why Abbott Labs Shares Take a Big Hit After Strong Earnings Rally

  • July 19, 2024
Why Abbott Labs Shares Take a Big Hit After Strong Earnings Rally

What It Was Like to Spent a Year in NASA's Mars Base Simulation

  • July 19, 2024
What It Was Like to Spent a Year in NASA's Mars Base Simulation

Pelosi has told House Democrats that Biden may soon be convinced to withdraw from the race

  • July 19, 2024
Pelosi has told House Democrats that Biden may soon be convinced to withdraw from the race

18 Silk and Great Value plant-based milk alternatives recalled in Canada due to listeria deaths and illnesses

  • July 19, 2024
18 Silk and Great Value plant-based milk alternatives recalled in Canada due to listeria deaths and illnesses

Trump Bitcoin Conference Fundraising Tickets for Nashville Soiree Hit $844,600 Max

  • July 19, 2024
Trump Bitcoin Conference Fundraising Tickets for Nashville Soiree Hit $844,600 Max

Solar parks with rainwater management reduce runoff and erosion, research shows

  • July 19, 2024
Solar parks with rainwater management reduce runoff and erosion, research shows

Food aroma research could help explain why meals in space taste bad

  • July 19, 2024
Food aroma research could help explain why meals in space taste bad

The mindset, technology and tools holding back e-commerce

  • July 19, 2024
The mindset, technology and tools holding back e-commerce

Writer Shalom Auslander catalogs his lifelong battle with self-contempt in ‘Feh’ : NPR

  • July 19, 2024
Writer Shalom Auslander catalogs his lifelong battle with self-contempt in ‘Feh’ : NPR

Canadian Jacob Shaffleburg, Colombian Richard Rios and Copa America stars set for transfers

  • July 19, 2024

Trump speaks at RNC amid Biden election questions

  • July 19, 2024
Trump speaks at RNC amid Biden election questions