Music is one of the most powerful tools to use when we are feeling alone and deeply hurt. Proof of this are Miley Cyrus and Shakira. Ushering in 2023 global music, they have conquered the internet with their latest singles, “Flowers” and “Shakira”: Bzrp Music Sessions, Vol. 53″, perfect examples of revenge songs.
What may be considered a true musical genre, has become a staple for musicians who are heartbroken, especially with famous exes. It now seems established that some points in Cyrus’ song are a reversed version of Bruno Mars’ “When I Was Your Man”, which fans have pointed out to be her song dedicated to her by her ex-husband Liam Hemsworth (also read this article)while Shakira’s new song clearly targets Gerard Piqué and his new girlfriend, Clara Chia Marti.
No matter where you are in your breakup,
there’s something definitely powerful about the songs that the artists clearly understood. Shakira proved that revenge is a dish served with a dance beat. Her latest hit, Shakira BZRP Music Sessions Vol 53 (the song is catchier than the title) has already made history as the most viewed new Latin song on YouTube with 63 million views in the first 24 hours of its release.
Aimed at his ex, former Manchester United and Barcelona defender Gerard Piqué (35) and his partner, Clara Chia, the viral breakup track contains jarring lines such as: “I’m worth two 22-year-olds”, “You swapped a Ferrari for a Twingo”, “A Rolex for a Casio”, and “Plenty of gym, but also work your brain a little”. Pique is the footballer, but it is certainly his ex who has a hand in it. However, Shakira is certainly not the first artist to realize the potential that she can have a song to wash away the gossip of a bad breakup and, more importantly, monetize. Here are some of the most famous (and loudest) in recent music history.
Cry Me A River (2002) – Justin Timberlake
JT and Britney were pop’s golden couple, right down to their matching double-denim suits, but the breakup, complete with cheating rumors, gave Timberlake the boost needed to release his second solo single. The song, which is about revenge against a former cheat, featured a Britney lookalike in the video. The former NSync star later introduced the hit during a 2012 concert saying, “Sometimes you think you’ve found the love of your life, but then you realize she was just a bitch.” Ultimately, it took 20 years for Timberlake to apologize to Brit for “being inadequate” and exploiting a “system that legitimizes misogyny.”
Love Yourself (2015) – Justin Bieber
The singer told NME that he often writes about specific people in his songs, especially ex-girlfriends, but curiously added about Love Yourself: “I don’t want people to know who it is.” That didn’t stop everyone from playing detective. The focus is heavily on Bieber’s most famous ex, Selena Gomez, although mom Bieber has always maintained that she liked Gomez, which does not coincide with the darkest line of the song: “My mother doesn’t like you, and she likes them all . But to most investigators, the fact that Gomez has a tattoo on her back that reads “Love Yourself First” in Arabic seems like no coincidence at all.
Can’t Hold Us Down (2003) – Christina Aguilera
After being branded a bitch and facing some lewd accusations from rapper Eminem in his 2000 hit The Real Slim Shady, Xtina decided to take revenge of her own, singing lines like, “So what? Shouldn’t I have an opinion? Should I shut up just because I’m a woman? Call me a bitch because I say what I think” and “You have to talk so much, to compensate for smaller things”, in that anthem to female empowerment that is Can’t Hold Us Down. In 2018, the artist later confirmed that the hit was a response to the rapper’s words, telling Billboard: “It’s amazing to think how badass she was already at such a young age [aveva 21 anni] to arrive at writing Can’t Hold Us Down”.
Better than Revenge (2010) – Taylor Swift
It is definitely one of the queens of “revenge songs”. Proving that the subject of a diss track doesn’t have to be an ex-lover, Swift has built up a significant catalog of hits voicing her grievances against a range of people she feels have wronged her. Katy Perry would end up in her crosshairs for stealing dancers from her (Bad Blood) and all of her, from Kanye to Calvin Harris, would be mentioned in Look What You Made Me Do. However, some of her most arguably nasty lyrics — “she’s an actress, wow / she’s best known for the things she does on the mattress” — are said to be aimed at Camilla Belle, who dated Joe Jonas after her. Given that Swift herself has spoken out against the slut-shamed in the past, many feel Belle deserved an apology anyway.
Forever & Always (2008) – Taylor Swift
Let’s face it, no one has made the revenge song into an art form quite like Taylor Swift. John Mayer has been accused of playing “dark and twisted games” in Dear John, Jake Gyllenhaal has been credited with inspiring We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together but also All Too Well (the latter’s re-release prompted the star of Brokeback Mountain blocking comments on her Instagram), such was the level of slights from diehard Swifties, for a relationship that ended more than a decade earlier, while “a new notch in your belt is all I’ll ever be” is aimed at Harry Styles (I Knew You Were Trouble).
But the singer’s love affair with this real musical genre began when she was just 18 years old and she suffered the shame of being dumped by Joe Jonas with a 27-second phone call. It is interesting to note that the revenge song was also born on that occasion, with the lines “all the tears on her guitar/I’m not bitter/But now I see/Everything I’d ever need/Is the girl in front of me/She’s much better” (all the tears on her guitar aren’t bitter, but now I see all I need, she’s the girl in front of me and she’s much better). Incidentally, the Jonas Brothers’ 2009 song Much Better is believed to be a response to Swift.
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