When someone says, "let's start a music podcast," that path can take multiple forks in the road. You can end up with a music podcast that's like a thousand others, only you think because you and your high school friend are on it, it's special. Or, your music podcast can be so arcane that only fans of 80s Hairband Grunge, quai-blue grass, jazz fusion, bubble gum rock will listen.
Then you have bright, lively, clever, and outspoken music journalists who devise the most devious and awesomely ear worthy music podcast developed since Song Exploder.
Here's the premise of the Songs My Ex Ruined podcast. It's a podcast about songs people can never listen to again because their terrible exes destroyed them forever. Now, that's inspired because of the anatomy of music, and how we consume it.
Consider that we may see a movie a few times (Star Wars, Harry Potter) and read an excellent book several times. But songs we can listen to thousands of times. Over and over and over. We ascribe songs to specific events in our lives. People remember the song playing when they kissed their first romantic partner, or when a boyfriend or girlfriend broke up with them. Songs can enrage us, engage us, make us feel sorry for ourselves, or just force our bodies to move on a dance floor as if we're out of control.
So that's the emotional F5 tornado that Songs My Ex Ruined taps into every episode.
The podcast, which began in November 2022, just celebrated its 50th episode last week with guest Allison Wolfe, founding member of Bratmobile, a punk rock band from the 90s and early aughts.
What's so good about this podcast? Besides the premise. First, it's the co-hosts.
Courtney E. Smith is the editor of Eater Dallas. She's a journalist of 20 years who was born and raised in Texas, with bylines in Pitchfork, Wired, Esquire, Yahoo!, Salon, Refinery29, and more.
Melissa Locker is a writer (Time Magazine among others, for nine years), editor and producer. She is the co-founder of Nevermind Media, which produces this podcast. The podcast network specializes in music podcasts, and is an all women team.
Locker and Smith are experienced music journalists with an impressive depth of knowledge on artists, songs, trends, and reactions. The co-hosts work well together on the show like peanut butter and jelly, each complementing the other. They're funny, and they're perceptive. In the first episode with Avery Trufelman (great first guest, by the way) Trufelman explains a song by the group Grizzly Bear called "Yet Again" and relates the tempo and crescendo to an orgasm.
The co-hosts point out that orgasm can be a wildly different experience for people based on a lot of factors. The co-hosts then describe one possible orgasm as "quietly beautiful, like an Edith Wharton novel." That's awesome. I believe even Ms. Wharton would laugh if she were alive today.
The November 8, 2023, episode with T.J. Alexander about her excursion into goth culture in college allows listeners to understand more about indoctrination into college life, especially for those from rural areas. She had started dating an older guy who was into goth music and who loved the band Type O Negative, especially the song "Love You to Death." Alexander explains how she outgrew her first boyfriend on campus and his ridiculous claims about the 1922 film Nosterfu and a Type O Negative album he claimed could be played perfectly in sync with the movie. Spoiler alert: He was full of shit.
In case you're wondering, it's not only women on the podcast as guests. On the December 7, 2023, episode with podcaster Ronald Young, Jr., he discusses his relationship with a younger woman who was crazy for rapper Lil' Wayne and would rap his lyrics incessantly everywhere.
Other notable guests include musicians Marnie Stern, K. Flay, Sadie Dupuis, and Abigail Barlow; comedians Kyle Gordon, Ivy Le, and Gianmarco Soresi; authors Lane Moore, Nabil Ayers, and TJ Alexander; and podcaster Jane Marie.
The show is using the occasion of its 50th episode to launch a newsletter and Patreon, where listeners can vie for a shot to tell their own stories about songs that were ruined for them.
That's the beauty of this podcast. It's like renewable energy. You've never in danger of not having enough material. Everybody has a story to tell linking music to a breakup. Remember the 1981 single from The Greg Kihn Band, The Breakup Song, where Kihn celebrates the quality of breakup songs in rock's earlier times, as the narrator laments both his recent breakup and the fact that they don't write good breakup songs anymore
Songs My Ex Ruined scores a big recommendation from me. First, it's terrific for music fans who get a listen to a wide variety of musical genres and artists, from Spice Girls to Justin Bieber, Modest Mouse to Magnapop.
Second, the music is the launch point for deeper discussions of relationships -- sustaining, ending, and reinvigorating them.
Third, the co-hosts are a delight to listen to and are adept interviewers, handling episode guests with skill, sensitivity, humor, and curiosity.
Finally, the concept sparks our memories from months, years, or decades ago and how we felt at one point in our lives -- sad, disenchanted, confused, heartbroken, or relieved.
About the Creator
I am a South Jersey-based author who is a writer for the Ear Worthy publication, which appears on Vocal, Substack, Medium, Blogger, Tumblr, and social media. Ear Worthy offers daily podcast reviews, recommendations, and articles.