“Breaking Up is Hard to Do”: A Journey
Day 1: “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” is one of those oldies that I’ve heard a thousand times, but I never really paid attention to it before. And for something I was expecting to be yet more teen idol pabulum, it’s surprisingly listenable. Sedaka’s voice is a little on the wrong side of chipmunk, but the man sure knows how to throw a song together.
Day 4: Starting to warm to this quite a bit more than I expected. It’s usually easy to dismiss the Brill Building’s efforts with white male singers (cf. Bobby Vee). In this case, it helps that Sedaka is a legitimate songwriter with actual hits to his name, including some of Connie Francis‘s best records (“Stupid Cupid,” “Fallin’,” “Where the Boys Are”). He may not have the looks of a teen idol, but knowing how to write to his strengths was enough to make him a star.
Day 9: A pop song with no hooks can scarcely be called successful. But can a song be too catchy? The answer, clearly, is yes. In Nick Hornby’s music essay collection Songbook, he cites Dave Eggers theory that what makes people want to listen to songs over and over is the song’s puzzle, something slightly different that their brains want to play with. But when a song gets lodged in your head, playing itself over and over, it quickly wears out its welcome. A puzzle is all about the journey; once solved, it either is forgotten or becomes a nuisance. Despite my mild initial enthusiasm over “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” it’s beginning to fall into the latter category.
Day 11: Breaking into my thoughts is apparently quite easy to do. Up to 22 hours of my day are spent with the song on auto-repeat in my brain (I’ve managed to eke out about 2 hours of mostly uninterrupted sleep). Is there ever going to be an escape from it? Hard to say for sure. To block it out, I’ve been listening to as many other catchy songs as possible. Do you have any suggestions for counteracting powerful earworms?
Day 12: DOWN is up. DOOBY is DOOBY. DOWN DOWN is COMMA COMMA.
Day 38: Eventually, weeks after listening to it for the last time, I’ve found relief. I’m tempted to fail it completely, but I’ve had worse stuck in my head (though perhaps nothing more persistent). Still, whatever small pleasure I may have gotten from the song is vanished. I must say goodbye, and sadly I cannot give this love another try – I fear too much for my sanity.
Day 60: Listened to it again for the first time in a few weeks. It’s not so bad! It checks all the boxes that a pop song should, with verses so catchy it doesn’t need a chorus. So perhaps I was being a bit hysterical. Just to be safe, I’ll hand it a 6 – with the caveat that I’ll never listen to it again as much as I did for this post.
Hit #1 on August 11, 1962; total of 2 weeks at #1
75 of 975 #1’s reviewed; 7.69% through the Hot 100