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The 10 Best Songs About Cheating and Infidelity

~ FEBRUARY 2023 ~

The music world is never going to run out of great love songs.

For as long as songs have existed, writers have been trying to crack the code of the most powerful human emotion in the world. However, there are also just as many acts like Pearl Jam and The Killers that discuss the sting of infidelity, flipping love on its head with a painful blow to the gut.

As much as songs about devotion are wholesome to listen to, there is a slew of spurned artists who want to talk about being played for a fool. Although there’s a lot of anger in every one of these songs, each artist included handles the concept of infidelity in different ways.

Here, we explore anthems of lamented unfaithfulness that come out as an angry howl, but there are also those who wallow in sadness. Infidelity goes both ways, and there are more than a few relationships in the songs below in which the singer is the one running around.

Whereas most love songs detail the joy of finding the right person, material that is focused on infidelity plays with the raw emotion generated when the singer knows that relationships are heading towards the ash heap. While the songs may sound captivating on the surface level, there are bound to be a few uncomfortable counselling sessions after the music ends.

10 best songs about infidelity:

10. ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ – Marvin Gaye

Motown’s status as a hit factory didn’t arrive by accident. From the minute that Barry Gordy started the label out of Detroit, some of the greatest names in music were putting out phenomenal love songs like Smokey Robinson and the Miracles and The Temptations. When they were on the opposite end of love, Marvin Gaye wasn’t going to shy away from the topic.

Though ‘I Heard It Through the Grapevine’ had been shopped around to countless artists before Gaye, his syrupy voice works wonders on this track, painting a picture of hearing his girlfriend running around with someone else. While there’s definitely some anger in Gaye’s voice, the core emotion here is just disappointment, having to hear from a friend of a friend instead of his lover.

This is practically the equivalent of a mother being disappointed in her child, which is always miles worse than just being angry. In terms of heartbreak, this is pretty tame by breakup standards. The next few entries won’t be as kind.

9. ‘Hey Joe’ – Jimi Hendrix

Infidelity and the blues often go hand in hand. Although there are plenty of blues belters talking about a woman who had done them wrong, there are always those songs that want a bit of revenge as well. Some might try to make their old flame miserable, but Jimi Hendrix settled for murder as well.

While Hendrix’s classic is all about his guitar skills, his cover of this song by the Leaves is perfect coming out of his voice. The song starts off talking about a man hearing that his old lady had been messing around with another man. After being given the runaround, Joe shoots his girlfriend and runs for the border before the police can find him.

In the aftermath of the Vietnam war, Hendrix’s words also took on a slightly different meaning, with the old lady being a stand-in for Lady Liberty, who turned her back on the troops coming home from war. While Hendrix was talking about the eye of an unfaithful lady, this song doubled as a middle finger to the big wigs down in Washington.

8. ‘Tangled Up in Blue’ – Bob Dylan

It’s always tricky trying to bring across heartache in a song. Writers only have a few minutes to get their point across, and in that timeframe, the listener needs to relate to you and feel the same sting that you feel when your significant other runs out on you. When Bob Dylan writes about heartache, you’re going to be getting the full picture.

After the end of his marriage to his wife, Dylan called ‘Tangled Up In Blue’ a song that he had to live in before it was written. Across every verse, Dylan details every aspect of his relationship, from the rocky start to growing further apart from each other. The entire lyric sheet almost reads like a diary, as if Dylan is writing about the different places his eyes have seen before finally realizing that she was the one that got away.

Dylan has written a fair amount of political songs over the years, but his wit isn’t restricted to the corrupt leaders of the world. This was a much different Dylan than ‘Blowin’ in the Wind’, and this is the ultimate tale of a rock and roll infidel. They start off as strangers, become friends, grow into lovers, become enemies, and then go back to being strangers again.

7. ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ – Eagles

For classic rock artists, the life of a traveling musician often involved being unfaithful on the road. Even though Glenn Frey had mentioned having a girlfriend during his time with the Eagles, the rules of the road always won out in the end. However, it was, ironically, during a pause from touring that Frey would find a fitting pastiche to tackle infidelity in song.

During a break from the road, Frey got the inspiration for ‘Lyin’ Eyes’ after hanging out at a restaurant and seeing women flirting with older men at the bar. The only catch: these ladies were already spoken for. Frey supposes that after marrying young, these ladies would flirt with guys every night and then go back home to their husbands as if nothing had happened.

The situation is definitely grey in some spots, but Frey empathizes with the subjects in the song, talking about how they are chasing their dreams with these men and how they make them feel young again. They might want to be faithful to their partners back home, but those eyes tell a different story once alcohol enters the system.

6. ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’ – Billy Paul

In the 1970s, ‘Me and Mrs. Jones’ might have been one of the most controversial songs in soul music. Here we had this smooth and silky love song, and it’s about going out with a married woman? Although the monocles may have been popping back in the day, no one took into account the tone of this track.

Although Billy Paul mentions meeting with Mrs. Jones every day at the same cafe, he realizes that he’s doing something wrong. This woman probably has a life with her family, and this passion that’s burning inside for her is not going to end well, especially when Mr. Jones finds out.

The song may be about heartbreak, but Paul sells it every time he hits the chorus, being so consumed with emotion that he sounds like he’s on the verge of tears. They may have had a thing going on, but it’s too much to have to say goodbye.

5. ‘You Oughta Know’ – Alanis Morissette

In a world filled with grunge rockers, Alanis Morissette was the queen of alternative ’90s rock. While she might not have been the first female on the alternative scene, her poetic way with words on Jagged Little Pill launched her to the top of the world in 1995. And wrapping it all together was a song about Uncle Joey from Full House.

After actor Dave Coulier dated Morissette in the ’90s, Morissette wrote a scathing song about how Coulier dumped her. While most artists try to hide their emotions, Morissette leaves everything on the table, from asking him if his latest flame is perverted like her and how much it hurt seeing how quickly she’d been replaced.

The anger is almost a little too strong in some places, hoping that Coulier feels the pain whenever Morissette runs her nails down someone else’s back. Relationships come and go in rock ‘n’ roll, but Morissette made it crystal clear that you messed with the wrong girl.

4. ‘Better Man’ – Pearl Jam

Out of all the bands from Seattle, no one wrote stories quite like Pearl Jam. Although Nirvana and Soundgarden had their share of story-driven songs, Eddie Vedder was keen to write about other people’s lives, like the disaffected kid in ‘Jeremy’ or the breakup on ‘Black’. It’s one thing to be burned by love, but ‘Better Man’ talks about relying on it like a crutch.

In the first verse, we get a clear picture of a relationship that isn’t well, as a man comes back from another woman’s house as his wife pretends to be asleep in the next room. This man deserves to be called out for his infidelity, but all this woman can do is roll over and lie to herself, claiming that she still loves him.

While the chorus is one of the biggest gut punches in grunge, the fact that it sounds like a traditional ballad is a bit jarring when you hear it for the first time. The song mentions that she doesn’t want to feel this way, but she’ll be back all over again to please her man. This woman is in the middle of a toxic relationship, but sometimes the heart wants what it wants to hear.

3. ‘You Make Loving Fun’ – Fleetwood Mac

Fleetwood Mac’s Rumours is practically a crash course in breakup songs. Since everyone in the band was breaking up with each other, every song reflected a different time in their own heartbreak. While Lindsey Buckingham lashed out in anger and Stevie Nicks wished her love peace, Christine McVie had no problem writing a simple love song… for the wrong guy.

Even though McVie’s songs on the record were more optimistic, ‘You Make Loving Fun’ was actually written for the man that she was cheating on John McVie. While McVie had given smokescreen answers about who the song was about, the recording sessions got more than a little heated, including some times when her boyfriend would show up at the studio and have to hide from John.

The bitterness didn’t end there. Even when doing the backing vocals for the song, Buckingham and Nicks were known to get into screaming matches with each other over how the song should be sung. For a tune that defines laid-back ‘70s pop rock, it took a lot of pain to actually get there.

2. ‘Mr. Brightside’ – The Killers

Being cheated on has drawbacks long after you’ve broken up. If you’re the one that’s been cheated, you can move on with your life and find someone else, but the paranoia never fully goes away. It’s like a festering wound, and it’s on full display on ‘Mr. Brightside’.

Then again, there doesn’t even seem to be any cheating going on in this song. Although Brandon Flowers mentions finally getting his love life on track, he’s imagining his girlfriend being unfaithful, thinking that her kissing a guy at a party meant something more than platonic. For the rest of the song, Flowers spirals, choosing to look at the bright side of the relationship even though he’s convinced that any future with this girl is over.

This all might be going on in his head, but that innocent kiss at the beginning said more than any explanation would have. Flowers may be a bit jealous in this song, but while he might be ready to move on, his heart isn’t quite there yet.

1. ‘Jolene’ – Dolly Parton

Whenever you hear a song about cheating, nine times out of ten, it’s talking to the unfaithful partner. They were the ones who made the decision to leave, and they deserve the scorn that this song deserves. On ‘Jolene’ though, Dolly Parton is begging and pleading with the woman who her husband has been cheating on her with.

While Parton’s man might be in the centre of this song, she’s more concerned about her replacement, crying out for her not to take her man away from her. With just an acoustic guitar behind her, Parton sees this man as one of the best things that ever happened to her, and to have him stripped away like that would break her heart in two.

Even though Parton did everything she could to keep her man, the song ends with a bit of a question mark. Either Parton finally got her man to come to his senses, or the Queen of country music is left picking up the pieces of her shattered heart.

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