The Science And Music Of Heartbreak

Feb 13, 2014

There are a lot of songs about love, but perhaps there are even more songs about loss. That raises a serious scientific question: Why are so many songs written about heartbreak, and what happens to the brains of people who are experiencing a really bad break-up?

Biological anthropologist Dr. Helen Fisher studies what happens in our brains when we are in love and when we are heart broken. She says that Tylenol is helpful, but staring at pictures of your ex and listening to a sad song when your brain is going through massive dopamine withdrawal is not.

Just because we shouldn't indulge, doesn't mean we don't. That is why we turn to music writer Charles Cross for his list of top break-up songs and, boy, is it a doozy.

Charles Cross' Top Five Break-Up Songs:

1. "​I Can't Make You Love Me" by Bonnie Raitt

2. "Rolling In the Deep" by Adele

3. "Walk Away Rene" by Billy Bragg

4. "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morrisette

5. "Most of the Time" by Bob Dylan

We couldn't stop with just five! So the staff of The Conversation came up with lists of their favorite break up songs as well.

Ross Reynolds' Top Five Break-Up Songs:

1. "Divorce Song" by Liz Phair

2. "I Can’t Stop Loving You" by Ray Charles

3. "You’re Gonna Miss Me" by 13th Floor Elevators

4. "Miss You" by The Rolling Stones

5. "The Last Time I Saw Richard" by Joni Mitchell

David Hyde's Top Five Break-Up Songs

1. "Train In Vain" by The Clash

2. "I Don't Want To Get Over You" by The Magnetic Fields

3. "Answering Machine" by The Replacements

4. "Femme Fatale" by Nico & The Velvet Underground

5. "I Want You Back" by The Jackson 5

Arwen Nicks' Top Five Break-Up Songs

1. "Different Drum" by The Stone Poney's with Linda Rondstat

2. "Ever Fallen in Love" by Buzzcocks

3. "Since You've Been Gone" by Kelly Clarkson

4. "Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor

5. "She's Got You" by Patsy Cline

This segment originally aired on KUOW's The Conversation, June 7, 2013.