Each year, over 100,00 people apply for a divorce in the UK, with the most common reasons found to be lack of commitment, infidelity and irreconcilable differences.
Divorce is, inevitably, coupled with a grieving process, and studies have shown that there are five stages of grief – denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. It’s hardly surprising that there are so many stages, especially with divorces predicted to take 67 weeks to be finalised, on average.
To get through a sad time in their lives, many will turn to music that matches their mood to help effectively regulate and modulate their emotions.
Ahead of National Divorce Day on 8th of January, we set out to find out - what are the most popular songs for those going through a divorce?
How did we find out?
We analysed global Spotify playlists containing the words “divorce”, “divorce party”, “divorcee” and “divorced” to find the 100 most common tracks featuring in playlists created by users going through a divorce.
Our music team also used their expertise to delve into each top song's characteristics to find the energy, danceability and positiveness to understand the connection between the most popular songs and the five stages of grief.
What was the verdict?
How You Remind Me, Nickleback
In 1,364 playlists, ‘How You Remind Me’ by Nickelback is the most featured song in global divorce-themed playlists. The song is relatively high energy (76%) and high tempo at 172 beats per minute (bpm), yet its danceability and positivity scores are mid-range at 45% and 54%, respectively.
The Canadian Rock band coincidentally tops the list as the most featured artist overall, with 4,507 songs making it into the playlists of divorcees around the globe.
Anger, the second stage of grief, is perhaps one of the most intense emotions, which explains why it’s reflected in most of the songs in the top 10 list, with a study finding that extreme music matches and helps to process anger rather than cause it.
Kryptonite, 3 Doors Down
In second place is ‘Kryptonite’ by 3 Doors Down, which appears in 1,288 playlists. The American Rock band’s track has even higher energy (86%) and danceability scores (55%) and the same level of positivity (54%), yet a lower tempo at 99bpm, which means it’s likely to elicit a less positive response.
This song has elements of denial, which, when going through a divorce, is a perfectly natural process that’s used as a defence mechanism to stop you from being too emotionally overwhelmed. According to research, behavioural patterns include minimising or justifying problems, issues or unhealthy behaviours or avoiding taking responsibility for them.
Listening to songs about not moving on and wanting to get back together can also make it harder, with psychologists revealing that an overreliance on heartbreak songs can evoke feelings of sadness and nostalgia.
Everything I Hate About You, Three Days Grace
Meanwhile, in third place is ‘Everything I Hate About You’ by Three Days Grace, featured in 1,159 playlists. The track’s characteristics reflect anger, with its high energy (83%), as well as depression, as it has the lowest tempo of all the songs featured in the top 10 at 89bpm, low positivity (45%), low danceability (50%) and is produced in the F minor key, which means it’s more likely to invoke sadness.
Listening to sad songs with sad or aggressive lyrics and high energy can exacerbate feelings of aggression, particularly for listeners with a low preference for genres like Alternative Metal.
Although, one survey found that rock was the top music genre to help combat feelings of depression, which shows that listening to rock songs is actually a good stepping stone to acceptance that allows listeners to express emotions.
Everlong, Foo Fighters
Bargaining is the fourth stage of grief, reflected in the fourth most popular song for those going through a divorce – ‘Everlong’ by the Foo Fighters. Found in 1,120 playlists, the song is about a deep connection, with a high energy score (88%), a high tempo (158bpm), but low danceability (41%) and positivity (36%), and performed in B minor, which is indicative of its denial, yet begging nature.
The bargaining phase is related to heavily focusing on past events, often resulting in feelings of guilt, shame and anxiety.
Tracks that feel like someone is trying to win someone back or that the singer is reflecting on their past relationship may trigger unwanted emotions and influence our thinking, resulting in the listener acting out of desperation.
Lips Of An Angel, Hinder
Completing the top five is ‘Lips Of An Angel’ by Hinder which has elements of denial with lyrics like “sometimes I wish she was you”, as well as depression, with a low positivity score of 25 percent.
While the majority of the songs reflect the first four stages of grief, others found in the top 10, such as ‘Higher’ by Creed and ‘Fake It’ by Seether, have more positive characteristics as they’re written in 'Happy' major chords with a higher tempo, suggesting they belong in the playlists of those looking to channel the final stage - acceptance. This rings true with one study in particular, which found that songs with a higher tempo can elicit a more positive psychological response.
Interestingly, rock and alternative metal music are the most featured genres overall.
Common characteristics of rock music are distortion, dissonance and intense subject matter, which may explain why this appears to be the genre of choice for those going through turbulent periods in life.
But, with historical figures showing that the majority of divorces were among opposite-sex couples, and rock found to be a genre that is consumed more by males, is our song ranking indicative of a male-majority listener?
It's clear that music, whatever you choose to listen to, can have a huge influence on our mood and behaviour, and it can be a very useful tool for helping us get through tough periods of our lives, including divorces.