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Best Anti-Valentine’s Day Songs: 20 Tracks For When Love Becomes Hate

Best Anti-Valentine’s Day Songs: 20 Tracks For When Love Becomes Hate

Recognising the thin line between love and hate, the best anti-Valentine’s Day songs shoot cupid’s poison arrow back at him.


Valentine’s Day isn’t for everyone. Even if you’re in a happy relationship, its focus on love as the ultimate soul’s fulfilment can feel cloying and overwhelming. It also masks the messy truth of humanity: that being heartbroken, happily alone, unconventionally involved, bitterly regretful or simply uninterested in matters of the heart on 14 February are just as common as being moonstruck. If that sounds like you, then read on: these anti-Valentine’s Day songs are just what you need.

The songs in this list all do something different with love’s pull. Here you’ll find songs that recognise that love can turn to a far stronger hate; songs that celebrate independence and fight against expectations (particularly for women) to get partnered-up; surreal takes on the enigma of love; and menacing inversions of tenderness.

This Valentine’s Day, shoot cupid’s poison arrow back at him with this countdown of the best anti-Valentine’s Day songs.

Anti-Valentine’s Day Songs: 20 Tracks For Falling Out Of Love

20: Betty Davis: Anti Love Song (1973)

Betty Davis, the queen of psychedelic funk, celebrated strident and difficult women. On her self-penned 1973 debut album, she roared with confident sexuality on songs such as If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up and Game Is My Middle Name. Anti Love Song, from that same album, has Davis adamant in avoiding the oppressive dynamics of love. “I know you like to be in charge,” she growls, “and with me, you know you couldn’t control me, don’t you?”

19: Carly Rae Jepson: Boy Problems (2015)

The singer of Call Me Maybe and I Really Like You is not all sweetness and light, as this track – which Jepson co-wrote with Sia – proves. Tired of circular conversations with her friends about their relationships, Jepson is frustrated with the idea that love trumps all other aspects of life. “I think I broke up with my boyfriend today and I don’t really care,” she confesses on this anthem among anti-Valentine’s Day songs. “I’ve got worse problems.”

18: David Bowie: Cracked Actor (1973)

Released on the Aladdin Sane album, Cracked Actor was, at the time, one of David Bowie’s heaviest songs – both in sound and subject matter. A newly-famous Bowie had spent an extravagant week, in October 1972, in the Beverly Hills Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. While there, he witnessed the sex work and drug use that surrounded fame, and how vultures descend on those anxious to maintain former glories. This formed the inspiration for Cracked Actor, one of the best David Bowie songs, telling a narrative of an aged thespian and a younger sex worker. While the actor is fully aware that the woman’s flatteries are merely paid lies, he needs them anyway, to fill his own desperate emptiness.

17: Lulu Belle And Scotty: Wish I Was A Single Girl Again (1939)

Myrtle Eleanor Cooper (Lulu Belle) and Scott Greene Wisemen (Scotty) were a married couple, dubbed “the sweethearts of country music” in their pre-war heyday. They were mainly known for their love songs, such as Have I Told You Lately That I Love You?, along with cute novelties like Frankfurter Sandwiches. However, among the more wholesome fare there nestles this defiant gem among anti-Valentine’s Day songs. Lulu Belle laments the lack of romance and consideration her husband shows her, in marked contrast to how he behaved before their wedding. “Now we are married, and oh, what do you think?/He bought a gingham apron and then he showed me to the sink.”

16: Kate Bush: Coffee Homeground (1978)

Release on Kate Bush’s second album, Lionheart, Coffee Homeground was, Bush said, “inspired directly from a cab driver that I met who was in fact a bit nutty. And it’s just a song about someone who thinks they’re being poisoned by another person, they think that there’s Belladonna in their tea and that whenever they offer them something to eat, it’s got poison in it.” When making Lionheart, Bush said she was deliberately looking to “break away from what has previously gone. I’m not pleased with being associated with such soft, romantic vibes.” She has seldom written straightforward love songs anyway, but this Brechtian, darkly humorous tale of paranoia easily sits among the best anti-Valentine’s Day songs.

15: Cardi B: Bodak Yellow (2017)

A defining song of the past decade, Bodak Yellow was Cardi B’s major-label debut. It praises the benefits of a work ethic over the distractions of romance and partying – and when suitors do come, Cardi has no bones about cutting them off, “so don’t get comfortable”. “Every bitch that I don’t like came to my head,” Cardi has said of the inspiration for what still stands as one of the best Cardi B songs. “And I pictured me, slapping it to them.”

14: Ella Fitzgerald: Always True To You In My Fashion (1956)

Originally written by Cole Porter, for the 1948 musical Kiss Me, Kate, Always True To You In My Fashion is a fantastic example of wordplay, spoonerisms and lyrical dexterity. Ella Fitzgerald purred her way through this list of acceptable excuses for infidelity when she recorded the song for The Cole Porter Songbook, her seminal first release on Verve Records. The album expanded Fitzgerald’s audience beyond jazz afficionados, and her ambitious, versatile vocals here are a perfect match for one of North America’s greatest songwriters.

13: Deerhunter: Agoraphobia (2009)

Bradford Cox, of Deerhunter, is one of the few rock stars who publicly identifies as asexual. “No one acknowledges asexuality as an actual thing,” he said in 2016. “People so often say to me: ‘Well, you just haven’t met the right person.’ As if asexuality is like having braces, they’ll come off eventually.” Cox has said that his asexuality allows a sharper focus on aesthetics, away from the world of passion. Like many of the best Deerhunter songs, Agoraphobia has a cryptic, hallucinatory quality that stands completely apart from the flesh world.

12: Madonna: Till Death Do Us Part (1989)

Madonna famously described her marriage to Sean Penn as a “rollercoaster”, and her first album after their split, 1989’s Like A Prayer, walked barefoot through its detritus. Till Death Do Us Part, her disturbing take on a moribund marriage, is not directly autobiographical. Rather, it folds into Madonna’s wider mediations on Catholicism throughout Like A Prayer; she has said the song envisages what might happen when an unhappy couple are forced to stay together because of religious pressure.

11: Talking Heads: Love → Building On Fire (1977)

The first commercially released song by Talking Heads – and later included in reissues of their debut album, Talking Heads 77 – this mysterious little number is a fascinating glimpse of an important band in its infancy. It already features one of frontman David Byrne’s lyrical hallmarks: that because love is never straightforward, to deal with it in a lyrically straightforward way is, by definition, to misrepresent it. So, here love tweets like a bird; it is a face; it is a building on fire; it can’t be defined at all. While later and more famous Talking Heads songs, such as Once In A Lifetime, question the dream of a beautiful house and beautiful wife, Love → Building On Fire is more abstract – almost deconstructing the idea of love itself.

10: Public Image Limited: This Is Not A Love Song (1983)

“Love is two minutes and 52 seconds of squelching noises,” John Lydon (when part of the Sex Pistols) famously said. He did not mellow as the 70s became the 80s and he formed a new band, Public Image Limited. One of the best anti-Valentine’s Day songs of the decade, This Is Not A Love Song “was a sort of response to that constant request from the record company for those HITS”, Lydon wrote in 1999. “Someone said, ‘Why don’t you write a love song?’ Ha, I said, love song – ehh, well, this is not a love song!” The irony being that, of course, This Is Not A Love Song became one of those HITS – Public Image Limited’s biggest, reaching No.5 in 1983.

9: Lesley Gore: You Don’t Own Me (1963)

The teenager Lesley Gore sang for millions of young girls on You Don’t Own Me. Its simple requests – don’t tell me what to do or say, don’t treat me like your private property, don’t show me off for the sake of your own ego – still resonate today. “My take on the song was: I’m 17, what a wonderful thing, to stand up on a stage and shake your finger at people and sing ‘you don’t own me’,” Gore has said.

8: Kraftwerk: The Model (1978)

Precise, clinical, technical – the words most commonly associated with Kraftwerk definitely suggest anti-Valentine’s Day songs. And when Kraftwerk did come to sing of a woman, on their The-Man Machine album highlight The Model, they projected those cold qualities directly on to the titular model and her suitor. One of the best Kraftwerk songs, The Model is lyrical ice, emphasising the cultural construction of beauty, with emotion turned on or off for money or a camera lens. There’s also a notable 1987 cover by Big Black, whose powerful guitar-based version sits perfectly within their own sordid, nihilistic back catalogue – highlighting again just how brutal The Model’s take on human relationships really is.

7: Prince: Strange Relationship (1987)

The narrator of this song, a standout on Prince’s 1987 album, Sign O’ The Times, is emotionally abusive, someone who wants to control his partner. He says, “I just can’t stand to see you happy” and that “I didn’t like the way you were, so I had to make you mine”. Prince’s lyrics are usually strongly feminist in the way they celebrate a woman’s right to sexual and emotional pleasure, so to hear him voicing lines such as “I took all the self-respect you ever had” is dark and disturbing. Prince has given the world some of the best love songs ever written, and that fact alone gives this anti-love song unique power.

6: Nancy Sinatra And Lee Hazlewood: Some Velvet Morning (1967)

“Phaedra is of course a Greek goddess, and she had a sad ending and beginning,” Lee Hazlewood said, in 1999, of this song. “By the time [Phaedra] was 17 she was gone, she was a sad-assed broad. So bless her heart, she deserves some notoriety, so I’ll put her in a song.” Some Velvet Morning is but one of many twisted anti-Valentine’s Day songs from singer-songwriter Hazlewood and his collaborator Nancy Sinatra, from the stomping dumper’s anthem These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ to the angelic Sinatra drugging and robbing Hazlewood in Summer Wine. Sinatra has said how important the unconventional tone of those records was to her. “The world was serious,” she said in 2021. “Our country was embroiled in a nasty, immoral war in Vietnam. People were dying and it was colouring the lives of every single young American… It didn’t feel right to be making music that didn’t reflect at least a piece of that.”

5: ABBA: The Day Before You Came (1982)

“To me, when you read that lyric and take the music away it’s just someone saying what they did that day – ‘I read a book’, ‘I watched TV’, ‘I took the tube’, whatever,” ABBA’s Benny Andersson said in 2017. “It doesn’t say what it really is. But when you put that lyric onto that music you realise something not good has happened.” That “something not good” has been the subject of speculation ever since The Day Before You Came’s release. Though lyricist Björn Ulvaeus has said he intended the song as a chronicle before “a highly charged encounter with a man”, other interpretations have suggested it reads as the day before the woman’s murder, or even as the day before a Kafka-esque arrest takes place behind the Iron Curtain. Whatever the song means, it remains one of the best anti-Valentine’s Day songs for the way it turns on its head the traditional sweet anticipation cliché of a love song into something altogether more sinister.

4: Tori Amos: ’97 Bonnie And Clyde (2001)

One of the most notorious anti-Valentine’s Day songs, ’97 Bonnie And Clyde, written by and originally performed by Eminem, is a murderous fantasy of the rapper killing his ex-wife, Kim Scott, and disposing of her body, while telling his infant daughter that now “it’s just the two of us”. Tori Amos, when she heard the track, said it was “a song that depicts domestic violence very accurately, right on the money”. She chose to cover it as part of her Strange Little Girls album, but treated the whole song completely differently, losing the upbeat feel and the black humour Eminem included at Kim’s expense. “I did not align with the character that he represents,” Amos said of Eminem’s narrator. “There was one person who definitely wasn’t dancing to this thing, and that’s the woman in the trunk. And she spoke to me… [She] grabbed me by the hand and said, ‘You need to hear this how I heard it.’”

3: Randy Newman: I Think It’s Going To Rain Today (1968)

“The music is emotional – even beautiful – and the lyrics are not,” Randy Newman said in 2017 of I Think It’s Going To Rain Today. “The honest truth is the song bothered me because of the darkness – it felt sophomoric, too maudlin.” In a catalogue full of sardonic, satirical, scathing songs, I Think It’s Going To Rain Today stands out as one with very little levity at all. Even the line about “human kindness overflowing” sounds as bleakly sarcastic as possible. One of the best Randy Newman songs, it accurately evokes the self-destructive end-of-the-world feeling of heartbreak: not only anti-love, but anti-hope for the future as well.

2: Kelis: Caught Out There (1999)

Perhaps the most cathartic song of the 90s, Caught Out There came complete with a video featuring Kelis leading a parade of fed-up women, all waving placards and chanting, “I hate you so much right now!” At the start, Kelis dedicates the track to “all the women out there that have been lied to by their men, and I know y’all been lied to, over and over again”, amplifying the voices of all those wronged in relationships, and giving strength to women to be alone. “I think it’s set the tone for my entire life,” Kelis said of the song in 2010. “When a man is assertive and clear, he’s a leader and we should all follow him. When a woman has the same traits, she’s a bitch.”

1: Fleetwood Mac: Go Your Own Way (1977)

Described as “the ultimate breakup song”, Go Your Own Way was written by Lindsey Buckingham about the messy dissolution of his relationship with his Fleetwood Mac bandmate and partner, Stevie Nicks. “I sort of was coming to terms with the fact that I may not be over this person and, at the same time, I’m aware that I’ve got to accept what’s happened and move on,” Buckingham said of Go Your Own Way. Nicks absolutely detested performing the song with Fleetwood Mac, and particularly despised the line about “packing up, shacking up”, implying her infidelity (“He knew it wasn’t true,” she said). The rawness of when love turns to hate has never been bettered than in this standout among the best breakup songs, and it is the perfect track to top our list of the best anti-Valentine’s Day songs, too.

Still in an anti-Valentine’s Day mood? Check out our best breakup albums.

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