“I Don’t Believe You” by P!nk marks her second appearance on the Songs About Divorce playlist. However, on this song, from 2008’s Funhouse, P!nk is now singing from the perspective of the (potential) divorcee, rather than the child. Written and released when she and her husband Carey Hart were separated, “I Don’t Believe You” deals with the very real moment of denial when someone wants you out of their life. It is one of the saddest songs in her catalog, right up there alongside “Family Portrait.” The vulnerability and honesty in the lyrics are chilling. The song fully encapsulates the feeling of falling out of love. In the selected lyrics below, she realizes that he’s given up, yet acknowledges that she hasn’t. Why? Because she believe’s “he’ll come around.” However, even her belief is shaky, as it’s followed by her nervously asking, “right?” The chorus is vulnerable and heartbreaking, yet, in a way, defiant. Fortunately, she turned out to be right. She and Carey remain happily married and have two children.
Looks like you’ve given up, you’ve had enough
But I want more, no I won’t stop,
‘Cause I just know, you’ll come around… right?
No, I don’t believe you when you say don’t come around here anymore,
I won’t remind you, you said you wouldn’t be apart.
No, I don’t believe you when you say you don’t need me anymore,
So don’t pretend to not love me at all
“Side Effects” by Mariah Carey came 10 years after her divorce from Tommy Mottola. On the track, she reflects on her marriage and how she “still deal[s] with the side effects.” In interviews, she always spoke about Tommy’s controlling nature, and how trapped she felt in the relationship. Not only was she deprived of musical freedom, but also personal freedom. The song has a bitter, somber tone yet feels triumphant.
Furthermore, this need for support also comes through in the first verse of the song, where she sings, “I was naive, I just believed everything that you told me. Said you were strong, protecting me, then I found out that you were weak. Keeping me there under your thumb because you were scared that I’d become much more than you could handle…” When she sings “keeping me there,” she means at their mansion – “Sing Sing” as she called it – in Upstate New York, where she lived as Mrs. Mottola. There, was where she was trapped. Even her friends like Da Brat and Jermaine Dupri spoke about this; how she wasn’t allowed to go out and be with friends. She just stayed home, working on music. The song goes on to reference the house more specifically: “Shining like a chandelier that decorated every room inside the private hell we built, but I dealt with it, like a kid I wished, I could fly away.” Referring to the mansion as a “private hell,” and referencing her symbolic song and album Butterfly (which will be reflected upon next week) this line says it all.
However, the bridge is more triumphant: “Forgive but I can’t forget, every day I deal with this, I live with the side effects, but I ain’t gon’ let them get the best of me” as she emotionally ad-libs about finding the “strength to leave,” while at the same time… painfully recalling “waking up scared sometimes, still dreaming about them violent times; still wake up crying.” Though she denies physical abuse, the line alludes to it, which prompted Oprah to ask her the question in 2008. However, Mariah essentially stated that she meant violent in a more verbal way. Let’s hope that’s all it was. Perhaps in an effort to prove she wasn’t going to let those “side effects” get the best of her, she married Nick Cannon shortly after releasing this song on E=MC2 in April of 2008.
The reason the song appears on this playlist is that (like me) Kanye is an only child and his parents divorced, so he and his mother had a very close relationship. Kanye reminisces about his childhood, and recalls a powerful memory:
You never put no man over me,
And I love you for that mommy, can’t you see?
Seven years old, caught you with tears in your eyes,
‘Cause a n**** cheating, telling you lies, then I started to cry
As we knelt on the kitchen floor,
I said, “Mommy, I’ma love you ’til you don’t hurt no more!
And when I’m older, you ain’t gotta work no more!
And I’ma get you that mansion we couldn’t afford!”
Kanye sounds childlike as he raps this verse, and shows unconditional love for his mother. Unfortunately two years after the song’s release, his mother tragically passed away. He gave a gut-wrenching performance of the song at the 2008 Grammy’s the following year, breaking down in tears on the stage. While people often question his character, it’s moments like this one that I can never forget.
“Because of You” by Kelly Clarkson is a song she wrote at age 16. She fought her record label to put the song on her debut album, Thankful, but ultimately didn’t succeed until her sophomore, Breakaway. Like P!nk’s “Family Portrait” and Mariah’s “Side Effects,” Kelly talks about the effects divorce had on her – her parents’ divorce, that is. She speaks on her trust issues, and how carefully she treads the concept of love. She blames this on her parents’ handling of their divorce, and perhaps for not sheltering her from their battles. Ultimately admitting “because of you, I am afraid” …of love. Kelly reflects on how she deals with her own instances of heartbreak perhaps being a result of her parents, singing, “now I cry in the middle of the night for the same damn thing.” However, she vows not to “make the same mistakes” her parents did. And, well, it seems she didn’t – or at least, she learned and matured – because like P!nk, Kelly is also happily married with a child. Come to think of it, all four artists this week are married with children now.
Listen to the full playlist, so far, below: