There’s no easy way to approach the topic of abuse. And yet it’s such an alarmingly common theme in some relationships. Abuse doesn’t always have to mean physical abuse where the victim is left bruised and bloody. In fact, the more insidious and less noticed abuse is the emotional and mental kind. It’s so easy to let that kind of abuse slip by because there usually aren’t any physical signs.
Below are some songs that tackle the topic of abusive relationships. Some of these songs were inspired by true events that the artists have experienced. However, some of these songs tackle the issue in a more general sense, perhaps to let the public know that abuse doesn’t have to be as obvious as a bloody nose at the end of the day.
Katy Perry – Hot N Cold
Let’s start off with a more lighthearted song by pop singer Katy Perry. Hot n Cold is a song about her lover’s mood swings, which affects their relationships. He frequently changes his mind for no apparent reason, thus leaving her confused about what he wants and where the relationship is going. While not explicitly abusive, it’s this type of behavior that can leave a partner emotionally exhausted.
Lyrics about abuse: ‘Cause you’re hot then you’re cold
You’re yes then you’re no
You’re in then you’re out
You’re up then you’re down
You’re wrong when it’s right
It’s black and it’s white
We fight, we break up
We kiss, we make up
James Morrison feat. Nelly Furtado – Broken Strings
Sometimes love is such a powerful force that we’re willing to go through so much pain just to be with the one we love. Broken Strings captures this sentiment as the two characters in the song admit that their love is far from perfect. Their relationship is filled with deceit and lies, and yet they can’t seem to let each other go. So they go on playing on “broken strings” because they’re two broken people who can’t seem to be apart from each other.
Lyrics about abuse: You can’t play on broken strings
You can’t feel anything that your heart don’t want to feel
I can’t tell you something that ain’t real
Oh the truth hurts
And lies worse
How can I give anymore
When I love you a little less than before
Ellie Goulding – Something in the Way You Move
This catchy, electropop song might be blasting away at your favorite club, but its lyrics aren’t as fun. In the narrator sings about a guy she can’t help but be attracted to. Unfortunately, the guy she’s into is sure to leave her feeling broken and in tears. And yet there’s something about him that draws her in. It might not be an abusive relationship per se, but it’s more of knowing that the relationship isn’t headed in a good direction before it has even begun.
Lyrics about abuse: There’s something in the way you
Push me closer, further
Break me just enough
Your lies always seem so true
There’s nothing left for me to lose
There’s not one thing I can do to change your ways
But I can’t sit back and take the lonely days
When our eyes meet, I can only see the end
And tonight the rain pours again
Bon Jovi – You Give Love a Bad Name
Bon Jovi dated actress Diane Lane in the mid-80s, so there were bound to be rumors that the song is about her. Well, whether she inspired the song or not, there’s no doubt that the song is about a relationship you would never want to be in. In the song, Bon Jovi sings about a woman he loves who is really bad for him. He doesn’t really go into specifics, but you can tell how toxic their relationship is when he starts comparing her to a loaded gun!
Abusive lyrics: An angel’s smile is what you sell
You promise me heaven, then put me through hell
Chains of love got a hold on me
When passion’s a prison, you can’t break free
Beyonce – Jealous
Being taken for granted over and over again can sometimes be considered as abuse. Why? Because it corrodes your relationship and leaves you feeling like you don’t matter to the person who means the world to you. In Jealous, Beyonce describes her relationship with a man who always seems to break her trust. She comes up with creative ways to make him feel loved, and he repays her with betrayal and broken promises.
Abusive lyrics: I wish that you were me
So you could feel this feeling
I never broke one promise,
And I know when you’re not honest
Now you got me yelling
That’s because I’m jealous
The Police – Every Breath You Take
We were all once duped into thinking this song is super romantic, but it’s actually about an ex who turns into a stalker. If you really listen to the lyrics, you’ll see that the singer isn’t actually in a relationship with the woman he loves. And yet he dreams of her every night and watches her every move. This might just be the first song on the list that can legally be considered abusive!
Abusive lyrics: Since you’ve gone I been lost without a trace
I dream at night I can only see your face
I look around but it’s you I can’t replace
I feel so cold and I long for your embrace
I keep crying baby, baby, please
Oh can’t you see
You belong to me
My poor heart aches
With every step you take
Pearl Jam – Better Man
Better Man is a haunting song about a woman who’s trapped in an abusive relationship with her husband. Every night, she dreams of the days when he used to be a better man. And even though she considers finally leaving him, she believes that she can’t find anyone better than the man she has married. And so she comes back to continue the cycle.
Abusive lyrics: She lies and says she’s in love with him, can’t find a better man
She dreams in color, she dreams in red, can’t find a better man
Hozier – Cherry Wine
This song is best listened to with the music video featuring the talented Saoirse Ronan. The song is about an abusive relationship where the woman is the abuser, and the man is the victim who can’t find it in himself to leave her. The song was also released to promote awareness of domestic violence, with its sales going to anti-domestic violence charities.
Abusive lyrics: The way she shows me I’m hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine
Red Jumpsuit Apparatus – Face Down
This song is about a woman in an abusive relationship, and the singer is speaking to both the abuser and the victim. The singer talks about how she covers up her bruises with makeup as her boyfriend swears that he’s sorry and that she loves her.
Abusive lyrics: Do you feel like a man when you push her around?
Do you feel better now as she falls to the ground?
Well, I’ll tell you, my friend, one day this world’s gonna end
As your lies crumble down, a new life she has found
Green Day – Pulling Teeth
Here’s another less conventional song about abuse where the victim is the man. He’s stuck in a relationship where he always needs to reassure the girl of his love for her before she starts beating him again. However, despite wishing he could get out of the situation, he still believes she takes good care of him.
Abusive lyrics: I’m all busted up
Broken bones and nasty cuts
Accidents will happen
But this time I can’t get up
She comes to check on me
Making sure I’m on my knees
After all she’s the one
Who put me in this state
Christina Perri – Jar of Hearts
Possibly one of the most heartfelt songs in this list because of its autobiographical nature, Jar of Hearts tells the story of an ex flame looking to rekindle a failed relationship. Christina Perri recalls the toxic nature of their relationship as she rebuffs his advances.
Abusive lyrics: And who do you think you are?
Runnin’ ’round leaving scars
Collecting your jar of hearts
And tearing love apart
You’re gonna catch a cold
From the ice inside your soul
So don’t come back for me
Who do you think you are?
Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Jordan – Stone Cold Dead in the Market
Catchy and morbid at the same time, Stone Cold Dead in the Market is a cautionary tale about what a woman might do when she gets fed up with abuse. The lyrics are told from the abusive husband who lies stone cold dead in the market because his wife bashed his head in with a rolling pin, a pot, or a frying pan – the dead man’s not quite sure on account of his bashed-in head.
Abusive lyrics: Last night I went out drinking
When I came home, I gave her a beating
So she catch up the rolling pin and went to work on my head
Till she bash it in
Tracy Chapman – Behind the Wall
This haunting song is performed with no instrumentation to really highlight the lyrics. The singer in this song hears the screaming of a woman behind the wall as she is beaten by her husband. She tells of how the police refuse to interfere with domestic affairs as the woman cries helplessly. In the last verse, the ambulance arrives to take the woman away as the police tell everyone to go back to sleep.
Abusive lyrics: Last night I heard the screaming
Then a silence that chilled my soul
I prayed that I was dreaming
When I saw the ambulance in the road
And the policeman said
“I’m here to keep the peace
Will the crowd disperse
I think we all could use some sleep”
Carrie Underwood – Church Bells
This song of revenge might deter potential abusers not to push their partner’s buttons. Church Bells tells the story of a poor young woman name Jenny who marries a rich gentleman. It turns out that her husband is an abusive drunk. So she slips some poison into his drink and makes sure he never beats her again.
Abusive lyrics: No law man was ever gonna find
And how he died is still a mystery
But he hit a woman for the very last time
Eminem feat. Rihanna – Love the Way You Lie
While violent and abusive, Love the Way You Lie is a song that reflects many abusive relationships. Unlike some songs on the list where the victim either gets revenge, escapes, or stays helpless, the victim in this song admittedly forms a love-hate relationship with her abuser. Both Eminem and Rihanna have had their fair share of abusive or toxic relationships, which is what lends an authentic feel to this song.
Abusive lyrics: I can’t tell you what it really is
I can only tell you what it feels like
And right now there’s a steel knife in my windpipe
I can’t breathe but I still fight while I can fight
As long as the wrong feels right it’s like I’m in flight
High off her love, drunk from her hate,
It’s like I’m huffing paint and I love her the more I suffer, I suffocate
And right before I’m about to drown, she resuscitates me
She fucking hates me and I love it
There is no excuse for abuse in any relationship. If you or someone you know is in an abusive relationship, make a call to an organization that handles these issues before it’s too late.