I love songs about cheating. Love them. I don’t love cheating or being cheated on (firmly anti, for the record), but the songs, man. They’re always full of so many feeeeelings. And so many different kinds of feelings! The obvious feels are sad, mopey, teary ones, but you also get rageful, anxious, and regretful feels. But no matter the feeling expressed, it is always expressed SO INTENSELY and with SUCH CONVICTION.
And you guys know how I prefer the feelings of others to my own.
But I’m not the only one who loves songs about the unfaithful and the suffering they bring. Low down dirty cheaters love them, too. And because they love making cheater-centric lists, the folks at Ashley Madison released a list they have dubbed the “Top Ten Cheating Anthems.”
This list is sadly lacking. Besides “Creep” and that Hank Williams song, I don’t wanna hear it.
I mean, SHAGGY? SHAGGY? “It Wasn't Me” is literally the laziest song ever written about cheating.
It wasn't you? Well, you certainly have a lot of detailed information about what happened, it’s almost like you were the--.
OH. I see what you’re doing here. It WAS you, OK, I get it.
Anyway, you can look through the list and tell me if I’m wrong or not. Maybe those ARE the best songs about cheating cheaters ever, but I think we can do better.
Now, the term “cheating song” can mean a lot of things. In any affair, there are at least three people involved. These are:
- The “cheater”
- The “cheated”
- The “other”
There of course can be more than one of each of these in any possible cheating scenario, but this is the basic model.
Songs are usually sung from one of these points of view, and are usually about the beginning, middle, or end of an affair.
The beginning could include the desire to cheat, the suspicion that one’s partner is cheating, or the desire to steal someone else’s husband/wife/partner.
Songs about the middle usually deal with all the emotions that come with having an affair or the discovery that an affair is afoot. This could include shame, fear of being discovered, lust, excitement because you get off on the wrongness of it all, etc. When told from the perspective of the “cheated” this could include feelings of betrayal, sadness, despair, or being deep in a river called DA NILE.
Note: I don't know if my horrible denial/"da Nile" pun made it past Emily, but if it did, I blame all the coffee.
And then we come to the end of an affair, and the songs that whole thing inspires. These are obviously best when written by the “cheated” as they have a lot of really cutting things to say at that point and I live for witty bitterness.
Jesus, let’s get to the songs already.
Speaking of biting wit, Leonard Cohen has that on lockdown in this little tune. Apparently, his wife cheated on him with his brother, which is some cold ass shit.
Most cutting witticism:
And you treated my woman to a flake of your life/and when she came back she was nobody's wife.
Also: He VERBALLY SIGNS the song "Sincerely, L. Cohen." Brilliant.
In spite of the fact that I can’t stand the use of the word “daddy” in a sexual context, I think this song is really friggin’ hot. I don’t even like Springsteen that much, but I love the LONGING he captures here. This is an example of really well done "other" song.
This song is fucking brutal. Not only is the husband cheating on his wife, he mocks her singing ability AND he stabs her. The song is cruel, almost to the point of being comical, and I’m always like, “What the hell just happened?” whenever I listen to it, which I like.
Oh, so beautifully sad. I dare you to find a better song about being hopelessly in love with a married woman (or man).
Most beautifully sad lyric:
It was good what we did yesterday/and I’d do it once again/the fact that you are married/only proves you're my best friend.
Now THIS is how you deny an affair. Shaggy should take some notes. There is such hysteric paranoia within this song, and isn’t a broken spleen AND knee a much better excuse than “It wasn’t me”?
Speaking of Moz and Co., have you seen this brilliance?
If you've ever needed to know something that you didn't want to know, this song is for you. Mick really wants his girlfriend’s parents to be the ones that have been sleeping in his bed and eating off his plate, but we all know that’s not what’s going on.
Mick Jagger really has no leg to stand on when it comes to infidelity, but I still feel kind of bad for him and his cracking voice, until I listen to “The Spider And The Fly” again.
When I first heard this song, I was dancing (on my own, natch) and I was like, “Damn, this is a good dance song,” and then I was all, “Oh, that’s messed up.”
Because even though you could argue she’s doing the “right thing” by making the cheater fess up to his cheating ways, she’s really kinda braggy and condescending about it.
Which is tacky, but I still love this song and music video.
This song makes me tear up EVERY TIME I HEAR IT. At first you think it’s just about a breakup (well, not just any breakup, it’s about the breakup of Corin Tucker and Carrie Brownstein), which is sad enough, but then you get to the end and Tucker punches you in the gut with, “Don’t say another word about the other girl."
Look, I know this song was made famous by Kenny Rogers, but I like Roger Miller’s voice more (there’s also a Leonard Nimoy version, if you’re into that kind of thing, but there's a loud screeching sound at the beginning of the video).
ANYWAY. This is the musical tale of a woman running around on her disabled war-veteran husband. Listen to it all the way through and see if the very last lyric doesn't make you cry.
I dare you.
This is another really good song as told by the “other.”
It’s a pretty classic tale: married man cheats on wife, tells mistress he’s leaving said wife, except now there’s a baby, wife finds out about affair, goes all “Jolene” and begs mistress not to steal the father of her baby because she finally knows what true happiness is.
But it’s okay (ish) because the mistress knows she’s just the mistress here.
The thing about this song is I never know if I feel worse for the wife or the mistress.
This is pretty straight forward. Robert Johnson shoots his baby because she “didn't come home until the sun was shining bright.”
I think he really did it, too; Robert Johnson was terrifying. Sold his soul to play guitar and whatnot.
Now, according to Wikipedia, this song is about songwriting and/or a “capricious lover,” but I've always thought it was about a prostitute. Either way, this chick is really jerking Paul Simon around.
Note: I almost switched this one out for this. A real Sophie's choice, if there ever was one.
Costello has a whole bunch of songs about infidelity in his catalogue. This song is my favorite though, because it starts out sooooo sweeeeet, and then it becomes super hostile and vicious. It's really more about possession than love, with the protagonist demanding to know the details of the affair, including the “things you did that we did, too.”
Even the guitar sounds menacing.
This one is interesting because it’s a real life denial of an affair. Band czar Kevin Barnes didn't even bother to change the conniving “other” woman’s name. There is a real Eva in Athens, GA, whose main crime is her apparent lack of soul power.
The whole thing is a little “the singer doth protest too much,” which makes me think that something did indeed happen with Eva, but history is written by the winners, so I guess Eva will forever be known as “that hipster who couldn't get Kevin Barnes to sleep with her.”
Ashley Madison got one right.
What do you guys think? Is my obsession morbid? Did I miss your favorite “cheating anthem”?
Oh, and here’s a Spotify list for you.