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Mariah Carey's "Infinity" and a Taxonomy of the Breakup Song


Mariah Carey's new song "Infinity," a brutal diss of Nick Cannon, is the newest addition in a long line of breakup songs. Probably the first thing the cavemen did after inventing fire, language, and the hottest diet of 2014 was sing a song about how their baby left them and isn't coming back. About half of Shakespeare's sonnets are about breakups and the rest are about... I don't know, clouds?

There are many categories of breakup song. There's the weepy acoustic guitar request to return, there's the strident get-out-the-door banger, and there's every song Taylor Swift ever recorded. The problem that most breakup songs face, of course, is that they're inherently corny.

"Infinity" is the Corny Break Up Song writ large -- in it, Nick Cannon is compared to both a Frito and a free throw -- which got us wondering: What are the categories of the breakup song and how corny -- on a scale of one Frito to five -- are they?

The "Done With You"
"Infinity" clearly falls within this category. Mariah is out the door and isn't coming back. The Done With You is maybe a self-defeating genre of breakup song because the songwriter has gone to the trouble of 1. writing the song (or, let's be real, paying someone to write it) 2. paying for producers and studio time and 3. officially releasing the song. All that for the sake of someone that you no longer care about? What happened to a text? Or, better yet, no text and a "new phone who dis" auto response when they try to contact you?

Hallmarks of this genre include telling the broken-up-with to get his stuff and leave, saying that you never loved them, and using door metaphors to indicate finality.

Other Examples: "Tyrone" by Erykah Badu, "Irreplaceable" by Beyonce
Best "Done With You" Example From the Taylor Swift Catalog: "Mean
Corniness Level: 5 Frito bags out of 5

The "I Hope You Die"
The opposite of "Done With You." It's basically the difference between not picking up your phone and answering only so you can scream "Fuck you!" and hang up. Probably the best version of this is the "Who Shot Ya"/ "Hit Em Up" diptych -- Biggie and 2pac were friends initially -- because it's not out of the question that they literally took steps to have each other murdered. That is beef.

Other Examples: "Cry Me a River" by Justin Timberlake, "The Warning" by Eminem 
Best "I Hope You Die" Example from the Taylor Swift Catalog: "Picture to Burn"
Corniness Level: 2 Frito bags out of 5

The "You're Insane"
"You're So Vain," by Carly Simon, defines this category. It turned out not to be a breakup song at all -- it's in fact about the famously gay record producer David Geffen (though Simon later denied this) -- but it gave voice to multiple generations of people who wanted to point out a fatal flaw in their ex-partner by, you know, singing. The major points people always hit in these songs are usually about the lover's stupidity or let's say "casual" relationship with reality. It's the smartest genre of breakup song because responding to it in any official capacity basically proves its point. That's why "You're So Vain" is the perfect example; if anyone got mad about it, well...

Other Examples: "Idiot Wind" by Bob Dylan, "Lost Ones" by Lauryn Hill
Best "You're Insane" Example from the Taylor Swift Catalog: "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"
Corniness Level: 1 Frito bag out of 5

The "Please Come Back"
We all know about this one. Even sadder than the sad breakup songs, these are the ones that make your friends start researching straitjacket prices and taking away your car keys after you've had one drink. Classic features of these songs are basically anything that you can picture sobbing about while scrolling through your ex's old profile pictures on Facebook. The best example in this genre is the album Paula by Robin Thicke. It's like, dude...

Other Examples: "I Want You Back" by the Jackson 5, "Baby I Need Your Loving" by the Four Tops 
Best "Please Come Back" Example from the Taylor Swift Catalog: "All You Had to Do Was Stay
Corniness Level: 6,000 Frito bags out of 5

The "I'm Sad but It's OK"
Without this category, Bob Dylan would straight up not exist. He would still be Robert Zimmerman, he would still live in Minnesota, and your freshman roommate would have to find a different person to have really annoying opinions about. These are songs that seem like they're actually part of the healing process, right before you get way too drunk and leave a voicemail telling you're ex that you're moving on and then waking up covered in tears and, well, Fritos.

Other Examples: "Someone Like You" by Adele, "Hey That's No Way to Say Goodbye" by Leonard Cohen 
Best "I'm Sad but It's OK" Example Using a Taylor Swift Song Catalog: "Tim McGraw
Corniness Level: 3 Frito bags out of 5

The "No, I Break Up With You!"
One time, this girl I was dating called me. I was driving with my dad, talking about how we needed to break up probably. She was like, "Hey, how are you?""Good, good..." and she said, "Um," and I by one sentence beat her to "I don't think this is working." My dad high fived me and bought me a bunch of beer to bring to a party. Anyways, by the time I got back to town she had told all of our friends that she had broken up with me and that I was lying. What were we talking about again?

Other Examples: "Heard it Through the Grapevine" by Marvin Gaye, "Fuck You" by Cee-Lo Green
Best "No, I Break Up With You" Example Using a Taylor Swift Song: Taylor has never preemptively broken up with anyone.
Corniness Level: 2 Frito bags out of 5

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