Last week, I listed four songs that looked at divorce from four very different perspectives. To recap, there was Christina Aguilera’s “I’m OK” in which she reflected on memories of her abusive father, as well as Jason Mraz sharing his own recollections of his parents’ divorce on “Love For a Child.” Nas played the blame game on “Bye Baby,” while Toni Braxton and Babyface took us through the many emotions that both sides feel during the divorce process, on “The D Word.” Keeping that structure in mind, the playlist continues with two songs from the child’s perspective, and two from contemplative perspectives, male and female, of imperfect marriages. “Look What You’ve Done” by Drake shows us that not all songs resulting from divorce are sad. This rap ballad is an ode from Drake to his mother and uncle. In the first verse, Drake reminisces on his relationship with his mom. He was raised in a single-parent household after his parent’s divorce and highlights the struggles that existed between him and his mother as a result. However, the song is not bitter, but rather, sweet. Looking back, Drake acknowledges all that he and his mother have lived and gone through and is proud of her in this very loving dedication. The song is especially meaningful for me, as there are a number of lines in the verse that I can relate to having grown up with similar experiences. The same can be said for the second verse, about his uncle. With the absence of his father, his uncle took on a father figure role in Drake’s life. The repetition of the chorus works well to reinforce how grateful he is for his uncle, just as it did when following the verse about his mother. Truly, the song illustrates the effects a broken home can have on a child growing up. In many cases, it would be a lot more damaging for everyone involved if the unhappily married couple stay together. For Drake, it made him very close to his mother and caused him to look to his uncle as a male role model, rather than his own father. However, what is most notable about this song is that it also shows how to positively overcome the situation.
“Family Portrait” by P!nk creates quite the juxtaposition with the last track, but it is a necessary exhibition of the spectrum of effects that divorce has upon children. What makes “Family Portrait” so especially heartbreaking is that P!nk wrote the song from the point of view of her younger self. It’s as if she has given her childhood a voice. Without a doubt, her words resonated with listeners, giving a voice to countless other children of divorce. One particular focus of “Family Portrait” is how the child feels as though he or she is in the middle of the two fighting parents, and sometimes even feels like the divorce is his or her fault. She shows this through lines like, “I told dad you didn’t mean those nasty things you said,” and “I promise I’ll be better, daddy please don’t leave.” She deals with the very difficult question that if her father leaves, does that mean he doesn’t love her? Or, the insecurity that develops in relationship to love: “I don’t want love to destroy me like it did my family.” (A fear that becomes all too real for P!nk, but more on that in the weeks to come.) There are so many emotions that P!nk punches through in this song that it’s a wonder she is able to perform it on tour. For me, the most emotional moments of the song are when she sings, “I don’t wanna have to split the holidays, I don’t want two addresses, I don’t want a stepbrother anyways, and I don’t want my mom to have to change her last name” and then pleads, “Daddy don’t leave, turn around please… Remember that the night you left, you took my shining star…” The delivery is so childlike, so innocent, yet so heartbreaking.
“Mine” by Beyoncé features Drake, as well, and could be considered a controversial selection. However, it has not been chosen to feed into the divorce rumors I so adamantly spoke against last week… but rather, to help refute it. My favorite part of “Mine” is its piano-driven ballad introduction that features some of the most honest, candid lyrics in Beyoncé’s catalog, sung quite emotionally. I also think it’s no coincidence that she chose to open her VMA performance with this track, and end it with “Blue” and “XO” followed by a touching family moment on stage. “Mine” is clearly referencing imperfections in her marriage to Jay-Z. There’s no telling when this momentary trouble occurred, but she does sing, “I’m not feeling like myself since the baby, are we gonna even make it?” so it can be assumed it was recently. However, one cannot ignore what follows: “Oh, because if we are, we’re taking this a little too far…” which is eventually followed by the more uptempo portion of the song, in which she sings lyrics like, “we should be married,” and “fuck what you heard, you’re mine, you’re mine.” It was courageous of Beyoncé to share this vulnerable, confessional track, ultimately showing the world that not all marital issues need to end in divorce. As she sings in “Pretty Hurts,” “perfection is the disease of a nation.” Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s marriage is an example of a relationship that should be looked upon with admiration by the public for working through their imperfections, rather than ridiculed for said flaws.
“Papers” by Usher, ironically, was written and recorded before he was divorced, and apparently before he was even considering it. Regardless, the lyrics to the song are still very heartfelt and come from a very real place. In it, he sings about how his marriage has changed him as a person – and not for the better. He was discontent with becoming “the man that I never thought I’d be,” he sings. He also references a falling out he had with his mother, and other drama in his life, which ultimately leaves him feeling like he’s “ready to sign them papers.” Divorce papers, that is. By the time the song was released, he was in fact divorced. While I appreciate the honesty and introspective nature of the song, I do feel it was a bit tactless of Usher to attempt to capitalize off his divorce by releasing the song to ignite conversations around its controversial subject matter.
Listen to the Songs About Divorce playlist, so far, here: