Breaking up with your sweetie is kind of like defusing a bomb — always tense and often explosive. In chronological order, here are 10 case studies in romantic disengagement, done country style.
“When You Leave Don’t Slam the Door,” Tex Ritter (1946, No. 3)
It all starts with dirty dishes and staying away too long. By the time Ritter has enumerated all his partner’s flaws, it’s pretty clear that the honeymoon is over. And he won’t be holding the door open for her as she exits.
“I’ll Go Stepping Too,” Flatt & Scruggs (1953, didn’t chart)
Running around and having fun with other charmers is a game two can play, sing this dyspeptic duo. To twist the knife of separation just a little, they add, “Now every time you come in late, we begin to fight/And you tell me there are more fish in the sea/But the bait ain’t what it used to be, and I’ve got news for you/Now after this when you step out, I’ll go stepping too.” Take that! Emmylou Harris recorded a killer version of this song in her 1980 album, Roses in the Snow.
“Hello, Mexico (And Adios Baby to You),” Johnny Duncan (1978¸ No. 4)
For a guy (or a certain kind of gal), is there any romantic fracture that sun, sand, tequila and senoritas can’t mend? Duncan doesn’t think so. “You’ll be hard to forget, but I’m willin’ to bet/I’ll get through it/And in time I’ll learn to love that little dead worm/More than you.” Best of all, he has an infinitely refillable prescription.
“Here’s a Quarter (Call Someone Who Cares),”
Travis Tritt (1991, No. 2)
Has any spurned lover ever listened to this song and not felt his or her broken heart leap up and do cartwheels? It’s just so deliciously mean and vengeful. “You say you were wrong to ever leave me alone/Now you’re sorry, you’re lonesome and scared/And you say you’d be happy if you could just come back home/Well, here’s a quarter, call someone who cares.” God, doesn’t that feel good?
“Blame It on Your Heart,” Patty Loveless (1993, No. 1)
Loveless gets to be a bit of a nag here, but you can’t blame her. She’s had it up to here with this loser. “Well, all I wanted was to be your one and only,” she explains. “And all I ever got from you was being lonely/Now that dream is laid to rest/’Cause you have failed the test/So blame it on your lying, cheating, cold dead-beating/Two-timing, double dealing/Mean mistreating, loving heart.” Is that plain enough, or do you require a translation?
“A Broken Wing,”
Martina McBride (1997, No. 1)
Now you see her, now you don’t. This is a gentler but no less emphatic breakup than the others. After being routinely demeaned by her mate — almost to the point of being spiritually crushed — McBride takes flight. And we stand on the sidelines and cheer her on. “One Sunday morning, she didn’t go to church/He wondered why she didn’t leave/He went up to the bedroom, found a note by the window/With the curtains blowin’ in the breeze.” Don’t expect this wounded eagle to turn into a homing pigeon.
Jo Dee Messina (1998, No. 1)
Messina waited long enough for this scoundrel to commit to a solid relationship — and he still wants more time. Well, screw that! She’s hitting the road, and no last-minute pleading is going to delay her. “Don’t think all those tears are gonna hold me here/Like they’ve done before/You’ll find what’s left of us in a cloud of dust/On Highway 4.” She’s heading out to a heavily-traveled road.
“How Do You Like Me Now?!”
Toby Keith (1999, No. 1)
Count this lyrical snakebite as a close second in venom to “Here’s a Quarter.” This brainy cutie scorned him in high school, belittled his musical aspirations and married one of his social betters. Now that she’s been abandoned, he envisions her weeping in her bedroom and listening to him on the radio as he amasses both fame and fortune. “When I took off to Tennessee/I heard that you made fun of me/Never imagined I’d make it this far/Then you married into money, girl/Ain’t it a cruel and funny world/He took your dreams and tore them apart/How do you like me now?” Magnanimity? Maybe some other time.
“Kiss This,” Aaron Tippin (2000, No. 1)
The lady Tippin depicts in this barroom brouhaha becomes increasingly less ladylike as she confronts the lout who’s done her wrong — and who then has the gall to try to kiss his way back into her good graces. “Why don’t you kiss, kiss this,” she proposes before inviting him on an anatomical tour. “And I don’t mean on my rosy red lips/Me and you, we’re through/And there’s only one thing left for you to do/You just come on over here one last time/Pucker up and close your eyes/And kiss this goodbye.” Jeez! Women can be so vindictive.
“Before He Cheats,”
Carrie Underwood (2006, No. 1)
Sometimes you’ve just got to smash something. In Underwood’s case, it’s basically everything. She can’t make her boyfriend stop cheating, but perhaps she can nudge him toward focusing on the consequences. “I dug my key into the side/Of his pretty little souped-up four-wheel drive/Carved my name into his leather seats/I took a Louisville Slugger to both headlights/Slashed a hole in all four tires/Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats.” Or maybe he’ll just park in a safer place. You know how men are. To them, it’s not cheating. It’s embracing diversity.