Second only to that feeling I get when my phone isn’t in the pocket I normally put it in, the worst day-to-day feeling I experience is the one where I forget my headphones. I live in my favorite music. I have one of those hyperactive imaginations that creates music videos and emotional scenes with cleverly contrived dialogue, except the characters aren’t really characters. They’re people in my actual, real life. Some people who write say that writing is their escape. It isn’t mine. Writing is my reality. It’s struggling, and it’s every day. Music is my escape. Hell, music is my escape from writing.
But I’m never really free of writing, am I? Even when I’m lying in bed, listening to an old favorite song or a fresh iTunes purchase, I’m always writing a scene even if I’m not putting pen to paper or fingers to keys. My creativity is non-stop, and although music is kind of an escape, it’s also an excellent motivator. Music is especially an excellent motivator in getting me to write convincingly about unrequited love.
If in the past three-ish years, I have ever considered you a friend, you understand that I have wrestled with unrequited love for… a while (read: the majority of my life). But I don’t let it get the best of me. I accept impossibility and create epic playlists, turning the pain of unrequited love into something awesome… something to turn up to the maximum volume in my car and just drive with. So, let me give you a little taste of that. Here are seven tunes of unrequited love that will change your life. I guarantee it.
Edit: OK, apparently I can’t actually guarantee that a group of subjective songs will change your life. That’s “legally misleading.” But I hope that this playlist is fun for you to listen to, read about, and maybe—just maybe—you’ll allow it to change your life. There you go.
1. "Nicest Thing" by Kate Nash
Of course I kick this off with one of the saddest songs ever written, apart from any song from the 1950s and 60s about teenagers dying in car wrecks set to really up-tempo beats. The song is a litany of things that the speaker wishes her beloved knew about her or thought of her. It’s heartbreaking because it’s raw and real. I don’t know how many other people have prayed for someone to silently and completely know them, but I can’t imagine it’s a small number. The most devastating lyric in Nash’s song comes toward the end: “Basically/I wish that you loved me.” We understood it was all she wanted for the past three minutes we’ve followed her journey, but to hear her expressly admit it… well, let’s just say they’re not idle tears. Listen for yourself.
2. "Untouchable Face" by Ani DiFranco
This song is the song for when the object of your unrequited love is both just not into you and in a relationship with someone else. There’s probably nothing more frustrating than the title of this song. It’s so easy to blame yourself when you have a thing for someone who already has a relationship. But just remember… feelings are unable to be controlled, and they’re never “wrong.” Actions can be wrong. Feelings are, however, annoyingly, always right. This song perfectly encapsulates that dilemma. Slight warning ahead: Some explicit language throughout this selection.
3. "I Fall to Pieces" by Patsy Cline
It wouldn’t be a playlist by me without a selection from the mid-twentieth century. I chose this song for a few reasons. Firstly, I’m just in love with Patsy Cline’s voice. It’s mellow, yet passionate, and totally perfect. Second, I feel it. When you’re so in love with someone who has decided they’ve changed their mind about you, well, falling to pieces sounds like a pretty good plan. I know I’ve been there more times than I’d be proud to admit. And thirdly, on my beloved “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” goofy character Xander Harris (Nicholas Brendon) calls this song “the music of pain” and listens to it after he is rejected for a date to the junior prom. Poor Xander. I think this song must have helped.
4. "Stray Heart" by Green Day
Again, it wouldn’t be my playlist without a Green Day selection. This song isn’t exactly a story of unrequited love, but there are elements of it. The chorus repeats, “Everything that I want/I want from you/but I just can’t have you.” Ouch, am I right? I imagine the speaker of this one gets a happy ending, but since a lot of the time, I’m not so lucky, this is a favorite to blast in the car. Better to vent through music than to bottle it up, they say. I don’t really know who “they” are that say it, but I’d like to thank them. Anyway, this song has some great drums, so even if you’re happy in love, I’d suggest giving it a listen no matter what.
5. "Jealousy" by Natalie Merchant
Personally, this song hits a little close to home. It’s in that same vain of “Oh, no, I love someone who loves someone else,” but there are details in this one that really get to me. Listen to it. It hurts when you’re not sure that the hyper-intelligent object of your affections is with someone who’s read as much as you have. But I digress. Merchant has such an iconic, beautiful voice, and you won’t regret two and a half minutes of her song.
6. "All I Have to Do Is Dream" by The Everly Brothers
Admittedly, when I set out to devise this playlist, I said I wasn’t going to have more than one “classic oldies” song on it. I should have known I was lying to myself. The Everly Brothers, with their melodic voices and melancholic lyrics, are just too hard to resist. This song is for those of us who are so caught up in imagining a world where our unrequited love finally works out that we miss out on the world around us. It’s a tough go of it, but remember… we’re not alone.
7. "Almost Lover" by A Fine Frenzy
Okay, perhaps this is a little bit of cheating, as this song isn’t about unrequited love, exactly. Instead, it’s more about love that never reaches its full bloom. I’ve had that. I’ve had that more times than I care to admit. There are times when you meet someone who’s absolutely wonderful. For me, in the most recent case, he was a smart guy who understood all of my jokes and had the most beautiful, melodic laugh I have ever heard in my life. But he was about thirty shades of unavailable, so that didn’t work, even though I think we liked each other. This is the song for “relationships” like that one. It’s for when you can’t be with somebody, but you’re not bitter about it. You wish them luck in spite of the pain you’re feeling now. And that’s the place I’m trying to arrive at right now.
Romantically, I have not been the luckiest person. I’m not particularly ashamed of that. And on those rare days where I do feel embarrassed to be unlucky (or even invisible) in love, I take comfort in the fact that there will always be poets and songwriters out there who understand the way I’m feeling. You should take comfort in it, too.