Domestic violence is everywhere.
And the pandemic era lockdows only made it worse.
But it is a difficult topic, so we mostly ignore it.
More people are talking about it these days, but still far too few.
And in the past, bringing it up publicly was almost unheard of.
But there were exceptions. A few brave artists dared to write and perform songs about domestic violence.
They helped shed some light on the issue of abusive relationships. And songs like these will continue to do so until the taboo disappears altogether and the perpetrators are brought to justice.
Keep reading for some great songs that dared to tackle the difficult and taboo issue of domestic violence. These songs have helped victims cope and have helped bring awareness to their plight.
Table of Contents
- 1 Songs About Domestic Violence
- 1.1 He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) by The Crystals
- 1.2 Love the Way You Lie by Eminem ft. Rihanna
- 1.3 Cherry Wine by Hozier
- 1.4 Luka by Suzanne Vega
- 1.5 Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
- 1.6 Delilah by Tom Jones
- 1.7 Shoot by Sonic Youth
- 1.8 Pulling Teeth by Green Day
- 1.9 Run for Your Life by The Beatles
- 1.10 Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy
- 1.11 Don’t Leave Me Now by Pink Floyd
- 1.12 Sleep by Stabbing Westward
- 1.13 Behind the Wall by Tracy Chapman
- 1.14 The A Team by Ed Sheeran
- 1.15 Face Down by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
- 1.16 Independence Day by Martina McBride
- 2 Songs About Abusive Relationships: Final Thoughts
Songs About Domestic Violence
All of the following songs about abusive relationships tackle this issue head one, butt hey all do it in their own way and style. I tried to include songs in many genres, but know I left some out. If you know additional songs that should be on this list, please let me know in the comments below.
He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) by The Crystals
He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) is a song by the female American vocal group The Crystals. The song was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King in 1962.
The lyrics describe a woman’s experience of domestic violence, as she rationalizes her partner’s abusive behavior as a sign of love. It was inspired by the real-life story of Little Eva Boyd, the singer of the hit song The Loco-Motion. She was herself a victim of domestic violence.
The song faced a lot of backlash for its controversial content at first and was subsequently banned from many radio stations. As time went on and the issue of domestic violence gained more awareness in society, things changed.
Today, He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) is seen as a powerful, thought-provoking song about the tragic normalization of abuse in relationships.
Love the Way You Lie by Eminem ft. Rihanna
Love the Way You Lie is a 2010 song performed by Eminem and Rihanna. It is featured on Eminem’s seventh studio album Recovery. Eminem wrote the song in collaboration with Skylar Grey and Alex da Kid, who also produced the song.
Love the Way You Lie focuses on the issue of domestic violence and its consequences. The lyrics depict the turmoil of a couple involved in an abusive relationship.
The song’s powerful storytelling resonated with audiences, launching it to the top of the charts in numerous countries. In the United States, it held the number one spot on the Billboard Hot 100 for seven consecutive weeks.
In addition to its commercial success, the song received critical acclaim for its honest portrayal of domestic violence. It allowed for conversations around the issue of domestic violence to be brought to the forefront, providing a much-needed platform for such discussions.
The music video for the song also focuses on the turbulent relationship of a couple caught in a cycle of abuse. It stars Megan Fox and Dominic Monaghan and was directed by Joseph Kahn.
Cherry Wine by Hozier
Cherry Wine is a song by Irish musician Hozier, released as a single in 2014. It is included on his self-titled debut album. The song was written by Hozier himself and produced by Rob Kirwan.
The song tackles the difficult topic of domestic abuse and the cycle of violence. The lyrics describe a relationship that is both beautiful and destructive, with the singer expressing his love for his partner while also acknowledging the pain and suffering that their relationship causes.
Ultimately, the song is a plea for understanding and compassion, urging listeners to break the cycle of violence and seek help if they, or someone they know, is in an abusive relationship. This article goes into more detail on the meaning of the Cherry Wine lyrics.
The song was well-received by critics and audiences alike, with many praising its haunting melody and poignant lyrics. It was also a commercial success, reaching the top 20 in several countries, including Ireland, the UK, and the US.
The music video for Cherry Wine was directed by Irish filmmaker Dearbhla Walsh and released in 2016. It stars Irish actor Saoirse Ronan, as a woman in an abusive relationship.
The video is shot in black and white and features Ronan performing a contemporary dance that expresses the emotions of the song. The video also includes a message at the end encouraging viewers to support domestic abuse charities and seek help if they need it.
Luka by Suzanne Vega
“Luka” is written and performed by American musician Suzanne Vega. She released the song was released in 1987, as the second single from her second studio album, Solitude Standing.
The song tells the story of a young boy named Luka who lives in an abusive household. The lyrics never explicitly mention domestic violence, but they describe the pain and trauma of domestic abuse from Luka’s point of view.
We hear him try to hide the abuse he endures by explaining away things other may have heard. The lyrics suggest that Luka’s neighbors are perhaps aware of his situation, or at least suspect it, but choose to ignore it.
The song’s music video features scenes of Luka playing in an empty apartment, which highlights the isolation and loneliness victims of domestic violence often feel.
Vega was inspired to write the song after meeting a young boy named Luka who lived in her apartment building. She felt his name had a certain “innocence and vulnerability” to it. The real Luka was not abused, however.
Upon its release, Luka received critical acclaim and achieved commercial success. It became Vega’s highest-charting hit, climbing up to number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart. The song also got Vega a Grammy nomination for Record of the Year in 1988.
Over the years, Luka has been praised for its poignant lyrics and its ability to address a difficult topic with sensitivity. The song’s success helped raise awareness about child abuse and domestic violence, with Vega often using her platform to support organizations and charities working to combat these issues.
Ultraviolence by Lana Del Rey
Lana Del Rey released Ultraviolence on her third studio album of the same name, in 2014. She wrote the song along with Dan Auerbach of The Black Keys, who also produced the album.
The lyrics of the song depict a tumultuous and violent relationship, with Del Rey singing about being willing to do anything for her lover, even if it means engaging in destructive behavior.
The title of the song is a reference to the term “ultra-violence” from the novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Fans and critics have praised the song’s haunting melody and Del Rey’s emotive vocals.
Many consider Ultraviolence among Del Rey’s most powerful and provocative songs. It debuted at number 70 on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart, but never climbed any higher than that. It also charted in several other countries, including the UK, Australia, and Canada.
Delilah by Tom Jones
Welsh singer Tom Jones released Delilah in 1968. The song was written by Barry Mason and Sylvan Whittingham and tells the story of a man who comes home to find his lover, Delilah, in bed with another man.
He then kills Delilah in a fit of rage and is sentenced to death. Despite the dark subject matter, Delilah became one of Tom Jones’ most popular songs and a staple of his live performances.
A big reason for the success are the catchy melody and Jones’ powerful vocals. The song reaching the top ten in several countries, including the UK, US, and Canada.
Despite its popularity, the song has also been the subject of controversy, due to its violent lyrics and portrayal of domestic violence. Some have criticized the song for glorifying violence against women. Defenders point out that it is a work of fiction. Either way, it is certainly one of the darker songs about secret love affairs.
Shoot by Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth released Shoot in 1995, on their album Experimental Jet Set, Trash and No Star. Bassist Kim Gordon take lead vocal duties on this track, singing about a woman who is in an abusive relationship and decides to leave by pointing a gun at her partner and demanding money and the car keys.
The song’s music is characterized by its heavy use of distortion and dissonance, which was a trademark of Sonic Youth’s sound.
The song was met with mixed reviews upon its release. Some critics praised song’s powerful emotional impact and the band’s willingness to tackle difficult subject matter. Others criticized the song for its graphic depiction of violence and questioned whether it was appropriate to include such content in a song.
Despite the controversy, Shoot remains a popular song among Sonic Youth fans and has been included on several of the band’s compilation albums.
Pulling Teeth by Green Day
Green Day included Pulling Teeth on their 1994 debut album Dookie. The band uses dark humor and ironic lyrics to describe a man who is in an abusive relationship with his girlfriend and is unable to leave. The song’s title is a reference to the phrase “pulling teeth”, which is used to describe a difficult or painful task.
The song was well-received by fans and critics alike. They enjoyed its catchy melody and appreciated the band’s attempt to tackle difficult subject matter in a humorous way. Pulling Teeth has since become a fan favorite and has been included on several of the band’s compilation albums.
Run for Your Life by The Beatles
Run for Your Life is a song from The Beatles’ 1965 album Rubber Soul. John Lennon is mostly responsible for the song, though Paul McCartney shares writing credit.
The lyrics are written from the perspective of a possessive and jealous man who threatens to kill his significant other, if he catches her with another man. The tone is extremely threatening and he refers to her as “little girl”.
The song has been criticized for promoting violence against women. Many see it as one of the band’s weakest songs. But that did not stop it from achieving commercial success. Run for Your Life cracked the top ten in several countries, including the UK and US.
If you want more from The Beatles, we have several articles on this site analyzing the lyrics to their songs. Here is our analysis of the Blackbird lyrics.
Smack My Bitch Up by The Prodigy
You can’t get much more upfront and obvious about a song’s meaning that this title. The Prodigy released Smack My Bitch Up on their 1997 album The Fat of the Land.
As you can imagine, controversy followed the song from the beginning and the band was heavily criticized for promoting violence against women. Just the title alone was called misogynistic, not to mention the actual lyrics. Of course, the lyrics consist of nothing more than these two lines repeated over and over:
Change my pitch up!
Smack my bitch up!
Despite, or more likely because of, the controversy, Smack My Bitch Up was a huge succes. It got continuous airplay and climbed into the top ten in several countries, including the UK and US.
The song’s music video did equally well, and generated equally as much controversy, with its scenes of drug use, violence, and nudity.
Don’t Leave Me Now by Pink Floyd
Don’t Leave Me Now is a song from Pink Floyd’s 1979 masterpiece The Wall. I personally prefer Dark Side of the Moon and Animals, but also can’t put up much of an argument against The Wall being their best album.
In Don’t Leave Me Now, Pink, the protagonist of The Wall, finds himself devastated at the idea of his wife leaving him and him being alone, despite their relationship being completely dysfunctional and emotionally abusive. And despite the fact that they have both been unfaithful.
The song was never released as a single and few count it among Pink Floyd’s best. But there is no denying its emotional impact and its success in conveying the pain of a failing relationship, despite the disfunction and abuse.
Here is a link to the official audio for “Don’t Leave Me Now” by Pink Floyd: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Xt13Rixpzs
Sleep by Stabbing Westward
Sleep is probably the least-know song on this list, but also the darkest. It was included on Stabbing Westward’s 1995 album Wither Blister Burn & Peel. The lyrics describe a girl being sexually abused by her father.
Supposedly, the song was inspired by an ex of lead singer Christopher Hall, who was abused by her father as a child. The girl in the song escapes deep into her dreams to escape the reality of her father on top of her.
The song is beautiful and brutal at the same time. If you’re not familiar with Stabbing Westward, many of their songs evoke pain and suffering in a similar manner.
Behind the Wall by Tracy Chapman
Behind the Wall is an acapella song written and performed by American singer-songwriter Tracy Chapman. She released it on her 1988 self-titled debut album. The song deals with the issue of domestic violence.
The poignant lyrics depict the fear and helplessness of a woman who is experiencing abuse. Through vivid imagery and storytelling, the song highlights the lack of support for victims and the apathy of society in general toward this issue.
Upon its release, Behind the Wall received critical acclaim for its powerful message and Chapman’s evocative delivery. The song has been praised for raising awareness about domestic violence and encouraging conversations about this often-ignored topic.
The A Team by Ed Sheeran
The A Team is a song by English singer-songwriter Ed Sheeran. He released it as the lead single from his 2011 debut album +. The song tells the story of a young woman trapped in a cycle of addiction and domestic violence.
The lyrics depicting the harsh reality faced by many women in similar situations. They shed light on the daily struggles of an abused woman, addressing topics such as drug abuse, violence, and poverty.
Sheeran’s soulful voice and acoustic guitar work provide a somber backdrop to the lyrics, giving the song an emotional depth that resonated with listeners and wowed critics. They especially praised Sheeran’s moving storytelling and songwriting.
The A Team peaked at number three on the UK Singles Chart and helped launch Sheeran’s career internationally. The song also received various awards and nominations, including a nomination for Song of the Year at the 2013 Grammy Awards.
Face Down by The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus
Face Down was written by lead vocalist Ronnie Winter of the American rock band The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus. The band released the song as a single in 2006 and included it on their debut album Don’t You Fake It.
The Face Down lyrics tell the story of a young woman suffering from domestic abuse, from the perspective of a third party who seems to have a crush on the woman in question.
Winter explains that the lyrics are deeply personal and based on the domestic abuse he and his brother suffered from when they were growing up. He wrote the song hoping it might help other children, who find themselves in a similarly horrific situation, cope
Face Down received positive reviews from music critics, who praised the song’s powerful message and The Red Jumpsuit Apparatus’ passionate delivery. The song also enjoyed commercial success, topping out at number 24 on the Billboard Hot 100. It remains the band’s most successful song.
Independence Day by Martina McBride
Independence Day was written by Gretchen Peters and first performed by country music artist Martina McBride, who released it as the 3rd single from her 1994 album The Way That I Am. Peters later recorded her own version for her 1996 album The Secret of Life.
The lyrics were written from the perspective of an eight year old girl who sees her mother suffer domestic abuse at the hands of her father, until she finally has enough and takes back her own independence on the 4th of July, which is Independence Day in the United States (for you international readers).
She sets her house on fire while her husband is inside, regaining her personal independence from her abusive spouse on the same day her country gained its independence from an abusive English king (yes, I’m biased).
Independence Day peaked at number 12 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles & Tracks chart, and it also garnered several award nominations:
- Country Music Association – Song of the Year (1995)
- Academy of Country Music – Song of the Year (1995)
- Grammy Awards – Best Country Song (1995)
While it did not actually win in any of these categories, the song has become one of Martina McBride’s signature songs and a classic in the country music genre.
Songs About Abusive Relationships: Final Thoughts
All of the songs about domestic violence above have helped bring more awareness to the issue and the suffering of the victims. They have also helped the victims of abusive relationships deal with their ordeal.
If you, or someone you know, are suffering from domestic violence, know that you are not alone. There are many people out there willing to help. Here are some organizations that can help you out.
- United States: National Domestic Violence Hotline (1-800-799-7233)
- Canada: ShelterSafe
- UK: Women’s Aid UK (0808 2000 247) for women and ManKind Initiative (01823 334244) for men
- Ireland: Women’s Aid (1800 341 900) for women and AMEN (046 902 3710) for men
- Australia: 1800RESPECT (1800 737 732) for women and One in Three Campaign for men
If you liked this list of songs, we have many other similar lists. Another one to check out is our list of songs about eating disorders here.