In an age of passive awareness through social media, people can still count on music to send a message. Even with emojis, ghosting, and other forms of passive-aggressive communication in contemporary society, songs remain fine ways to let someone subtly know how you feel.
Each of the songs listed below can be used to send indirect messages. They might not be perfect matches, and receivers might be just be confused about why they’re getting song recommendations instead of answers. But ultimately, we think it’s worth it. At least there’s music to enjoy! Here are eight songs that send passive-aggressive messages and when to use them.
For: Telling someone to get over you
Elle King has a passionate, husky, voice with a believable quality. In this case, that voice can be used to communicate the need to make somebody leave. In “I Told You I Was Mean,” King tells a story about a girl looking for fun. Her protagonist is bored and needs a brief distraction. What she didn’t need was somebody blowing up her phone with indecipherable emoticons. She clearly stated her desires and intentions; no amount of boom box serenades is changing this.
For: Telling someone you will never agree with their politics
Now is one of those unfortunate times in which social media feeds fester with politics. Those who dare to debate in these public forums (yet, still sheltered behind their screens) often seem to project an air of absolutism. Disagreements result in arguments that will never end until somebody gives up or passes out. However, 2/3 Goat’s “Burning Bridges” can free you from such political entrapment. Use this song to let people know that no matter what memes they post, no matter what clever phrasing they us, you will never agree with them. You came to eat popcorn and watch the fires burn.
For: Telling someone you they should block you
At the end of a relationship, gracious and levelheaded people have the potential to part amicably. They can theoretically wish each other well and then move on with the rest of their lives. Those people do not need this song.
“Genghis Khan” delves into a complicated relationship. The singer is not looking for anything serious, but he also don’t like sharing. It includes the explanation, ”’cause I don’t really want you girl, but you can’t be free, ‘cause I’m selfish I’m obscene.” Miike Snow’s danceable and catchy tune lets unofficial bae know that you will probably never like any of the cute pictures they post with someone else. The sight of such things might inspire you to get a little bit Genghis Khan.
For: Telling someone you like them (even if you aren’t their type)
Mitski Miyawaki’s “Your Best American Girl” likely speaks to a specific narrative of girl wondering if could work out between her and a boy with a different background. She is reaching towards someone whose “mother wouldn’t approve of how my mother raised me.” But she wants a chance anyway. In a general sense, this song can work as an anthem for a person who likes a person he/she doesn’t usually go for. It’s a way to let share an adventurous spirit and a willingness to take a chance on somebody new. Sending a link to this song is probably classier than sending vague texts and X-rated pictures at odd hours.
For: Telling a friend they did you wrong
Sophia Bastien’s rich voice, sweet harmonies, and smooth rhythm let you know that “we ain’t cool.” She lets a person know that she notices them “looking down on me on your way up” and that “if that was me I would tread carefully.”
This song lets a person know that they may have moved on and traded out all their old friends, but they may regret it. Because “your new friends, they follow you for the way you dress,” and they are all just a bunch of admirers. This song lets a person know that they are going to regret losing all their real friends. So don’t come crawling back.
For: Asking someone to consider going out (preferably to somewhere cheap)
The low melodious tones of Puddles Pity Party covering Tom Jones’ “I (Who Have Nothing)” sends a message of emotional connection outweighing material goods…all while dressed like a clown. The song addresses the idea that a person may not be able to buy the world, or a nice meal at a restaurant, but their love is true and that should count for something. Puddles’ golden voice alternates between vulnerability and theatrical drama. It’s persuasive.
For: Letting people know you are bored and lonely
If someone is having an emo day and wants to world to know they are sad and insecure, this is the song. Local H brings gritty strained vocals and a simple guitar rhythm to express some serious angst. They lead with lines like, “feeling lonely and the cable’s down” to a rousing chorus of “what’s wrong with me.” This song communicates loneliness and the need to go out and get a drink with somebody stat.
For: Telling someone they owe you an apology
LOLO’s “Not Gonna Let You Walk away” uses a resolutely strong voice supported by a smooth background of “ohhs” and a simple bluesy-bright guitar tone to send a message. The song says that it’s over, and while the singer has accepted this fate, she still expects an apology. LOLO is willing to forgive, but only when the other person finally admits doing her wrong. Otherwise she’s not just going to let ‘em walk away. And since her tactics are ambiguous in the song, we think it’s best to just apologize.