The pop music industry is sustained by matters of the heart. Blooming love, failed love, unrequited love — there’s a song for every shade of romantic feeling. Naturally there are also songs that explore the many facets of cheating. There are guilt-ridden, exhilarated songs sung by the cheaters themselves. There are anthems from the betrayed, hell-bent on revenge. Other tracks are dripping with empathy.Songs about falling in love and experiencing intense betrayal deal in many of the same emotions, caused by a specific cocktail of endorphins and adrenaline. But since each incidence of cheating is unique, so too are the emotions that propel each song.
To paraphrase Anna Karenina: Happy relationships are all alike; every unhappy relationship is happy in its own way. Enjoy these songs, each tortured in its own way.
Sam Smith “I’m Not The Only One”
“You and me we made a vow / For better or for worse / I can’t believe you let me down”
The first cut is the deepest.
– Courtney E. Smith
Gram Parsons & Emmylou Harris “We’ll Sweep Out the Ashes in the Morning”
“We know it’s wrong to let this fire burn between us / We’ve got to stop this wild desire in you and in me / So we’ll let the flame burn once again until the thrill is gone / Then we’ll sweep out the ashes in the morning”
These lyrics could apply to any hot but unwise relationship.
Maroon 5 “Wake Up Call”
“Wake up call / Caught you in the morning with another one in my bed’
This Maroon 5 song is as dark as it is catchy — that is to say, very. Adam Levine sings from the perspective of a man who catches his girlfriend cheating, and then shoots her lover dead. Woof!
Shakira “Don’t Bother”
Don’t bother / I’ll be fine / But she’s waiting / The ring you gave to her will lose its shine
Shakira’s actually the other woman in this song. She’s bitter and sad that her man has just proposed marriage to another woman. And she really likes this guy — enough so that she says “I’d give up all I own / and move to a communist country / if you came with me, of course.”
Justin Timberlake “Cry Me a River”
“You don’t have to say what you did / I already know, I found out from him / Now there’s just no chance / With you and me / There’ll never be”
There’s never been a catchier song about moral superiority.
Amy Winehouse “You Know I’m No Good”
“I cheated myself / Like I knew I would / I told you I was trouble / You know that I’m no good”
Amy’s upfront with her lover about her inability to stay faithful. Still, he clearly heeded forward without warning – and now she’s saying, “I told you so,” but in a very self-loathing way.
“I love my man with all honesty / But I know he’s cheatin’ on me”
You hate to see it.
Hinder “Lips of an Angel”
“Girl, you make it hard to be faithful / With the lips of an angel”
This cheesy product of the mid-2000s is sung from the perspective of a man barely staving off temptation for an ex. Has there ever been a more yearning phone conversation in music history?
Pitbull “Messing Around”
“I’mma tell you straight up, I’ve been messin’ around”
Not all songs about cheating are dripping with anguish. In this exceedingly catchy Pitbull song, the singer confronts his lover about her “messing around” with other people. Then, he admits he’s been doing the same, and maybe they can have fun together. There are no hard feelings in this open relationship.
The Killers “Mr. Brightside”
“Now they’re going to bed / And my stomach is sick / And it’s all in my head / But she’s touching his chest”
The key to interpreting “Mr. Brightside” is in the line, “and it’s all in my head.” The entire song is a neurotic envisioning of his worst nightmare: his lover straying.
John Legend “She Don’t Have to Know”
“And oh I’ll feel sorry for mistake we’ve made / There’s no reason that we should tell her today / She don’t have to know, she don’t have to know”
Hearing John Legend sing about being caught in a cycle of cheating with another woman makes us cringe. Fortunately, this was written long before he got together with Chrissy Teigen.