10 of the best anti-love songs to test your hi-fi system

Love Stinks Album cover
(Image credit: Amazon)

There are plenty of reasons to hate Valentine's Day. The fact it is a fake holiday invented by big business to con us out of our hard-earned cash. The constant reminder it gives us of love lost or wasted. The fact that even when you try your best, it still ends up with you sleeping on the sofa 99 per cent of the time (the last one may just be us). The list goes on...

But there is one silver lining if you're not feeling particularly lovely this Valentine's – it presents the perfect opportunity to indulge in some top-quality anti-love music and test out your hi-fi kit, free from the distraction of overpriced flowers and re-packaged chocolates. 

If you’re alone on Valentine's, recently broken up or generally not a big fan of the whole love thing in general, then you’re in the right place. In this playlist, our team of reviewers share the anti-love songs we adore and regularly use to test hi-fi and audio equipment. Some of the best songs ever written are about heartbreak, after all...

As ever, this list is a work in progress. Make sure to contact us on our forums or via social media if you think we’ve missed any other superb anti-love tracks!

Nazareth – Love Hurts ( Hair of the Dog, 1975)

By Alastair Stevenson

Scottish rock band Nazareth’s cover of Boudleaux Bryant’s Love Hurts is an iconic song and fantastic test track. Detailing the heartache you experience loving someone, Nazareth’s cover is a powerful ballad that’ll really stretch the capabilities of any hi-fi kit. 

The track was originally released on the band’s 1975 album, Hair Of The Dog and is a far cry from the band’s usual heavy rock tone.

Whether it’s vocalist Dan McCafferty’s strained, booming vocals, or the heavy guitar and screaming solo, the song is full of a slow-burning intensity that’ll drive poor kit to sibilance and worse. 

The only downside is that it’s a bit of a downer, so if you’re more in the mood for vengeance than a tear-jerker you may want to give this one a miss.

Buy Nazareth, Hair Of The Dog on Amazon

Ugly Kid Joe – Everything About You (America's Least Wanted, 1995)

By Alastair Stevenson

People often say there’s a thin line between love and hate, and if you’ve crossed over to the dark side then Ugly Kid Joe’s Everything About You is a great test track.

The song was originally released as Ugly Kid Joe’s debut single back in 1991. And while the band’s singer Whitfield Crane has openly said it’s based on a childhood friend, who genuinely just hated everything, it’s since become a staple anti-love anthem in most metalheads' music libraries.

Starting with an up-tempo heavy metal guitar part the track has a playful swagger that tests the precision and dynamism of any system. The growling vocals are delivered with wonderful theatrics and a disdain that's fantastically entertaining, and this, together with the track’s thumping drums and screeching distorted guitars, makes for an incredibly joyful experience if you’re not in the mood for lovey-dovey nonsense. 

Buy Ugly Kid Joe, America’s Least Wanted on Amazon

The J. Geils Band – Love Stinks (Love Stinks 1980)

By Alastair Stevenson

If you’re not big on symbolism or metaphors then The J. Geils Band's Love Stinks is a wonderfully up-front anti-romance ballad and excellent test track.

The title track of the band’s 1980 album, Love Stinks, is commonly thought to be inspired by singer Peter Wolf’s marriage to Faye Dunaway, which ended the year before the song was released.

Narrative aside, the track’s simple but powerful intro, which features a kick drum-heavy percussion line, then breaks into the song’s iconic guitar riff and Wolf’s tongue-in-cheek “love stinks” rallying cry.

Complex it ain’t, but the powerful simplicity of the song makes it a great way to gauge a system’s low-end, bass extension and general ability to deliver impactful audio with plenty of gusto.

If you’re in the mood for a giggle, the song is also used in a particularly memorable scene in Adam Sandler’s The Wedding Singer

Buy The J. Geils Band, Love Stinks on Amazon

All About Eve – Are You Lonely (Touched By Jesus, 1991)

By Alastair Stevenson

No anti-love listicle would be complete without at least one track for the goths, and that’s where Are You Lonely by All About Eve comes in.

The song’s a haunting ballad from the band’s 1991 album, Touched By Jesus. Featuring one of singer Julianne Regan’s finest vocal performances, the song is a haunting anti-love ballad of defiance in the face of loneliness.

Regan’s beautiful vocals, coupled with Tim Bricheno’s iconic high-sustain lead guitar lines and precise acoustic rhythm parts add up to create a fantastic test track.

Buy All About Eve, Touched By Jesus on Amazon

Alice Cooper – Poison (Trash, 1989)

By Alastair Stevenson

Alice Cooper’s Poison is a rocking anthem sure to delight any listener eager to pour cold water on love. Released in 1989 on Cooper’s eighteenth album, Trash, the song’s a rocking pop-metal ballad that not only sounds great but is also a great way to test your hi-fi.

Featuring Cooper’s iconic growling vocals, and one of the catchiest choruses of the era, alongside the suitably over-the-top metal guitar stylings of John McCurry, the song tests any hi-fi set-up’s dynamics.

Buy Alice Cooper, Trash on Amazon 

Ghost – Call Me Little Sunshine (Impera, 2022)

By Harry McKerrell

Strip away the clamorous, industrial backing of one of the Satanic-pop-rock-metallers’ most popular hits and you’d be forgiven for thinking that Call Me Little Sunshine would be far happier finding a place on our list of the best romantic tracks for testing your system. 

Lyrics such as, “You will never walk alone, you can always reach me,” hint at the sort of healthy, supportive union we all crave, while that titular refrain could have been lifted from a ‘60s hit by The Turtles.

The reality, of course, is quite different. Written from the perspective of Mephistopheles – AKA Lucifer, or one of his minions depending on your interpretation of Biblical scripture and German folklore – the track takes on a far more sinister, albeit tongue-in-cheek meaning when the full context is revealed, as the narrator tempts his victim into making a Faustian pact that probably won’t end too well in the long run…

Tobias Forge’s robust, enticing vocals, those creepy, twangy guitar tones and that chugging, relentless drum beat should all come together to evoke that sinister, fanciful tale.

Buy Ghost, Impera on Amazon

Ava Max – Salt (Heaven & Hell, 2020)

By Harry McKerrell

What we have here is the most powerfully self-affirmatory pop anthem since Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive (possibly) – a sassy, peppy number propelled by edgy strings and some clever lyrical flourishes built around the word “salt” – to be “salty”, to cry “salt tears” – you get the idea.

A sharp and snappy slice of dance-pop, this will make your system work to convey its angular, edgy nature and cleverly curated production. Max isn’t a bad vocalist, either, and her voice will really benefit from a set-up that’s willing to bring out every inch of her confident, tonally versatile delivery. If you’ve just been through a break up and you want to stick it to your ex, this is the song for you.

Buy Ava Max, Heaven & Hell on Amazon

The Mountain Goats – No Children (Tallahassee, 2002)

By Kashfia Kabir

And I hope you die / I hope we both die.” Look, sometimes it can be extremely cathartic to sing/shout/yell out lyrics about hating someone you love/loved at the top of your lungs. A singalong staple at The Mountain Goats’ live performances, this is a simple composition of vocals, strummed guitar strings and bright piano notes that tinker along and accompany poetic yet bitter and sometimes darkly comic lyrics. But the vocal lines are all clean, the edges of notes are precise and rhythmically agile, and the dynamics are fluid and melodious. One to keep saved in your back pocket; I promise you that it will be cathartic.

Buy The Mountain Goats, Tallahassee on Amazon

Eve 6 – Inside Out (Inside Out 1998)

 By Tom Parsons

One gets the feeling that Eve 6 have been trying to move on from their debut smash of a single, Inside Out, for the last couple of decades. Well, sorry fellas, but it’s just too good for that. Released way back in 1998 and written when band members Max Collins, Jon Siebels and Tony Fagenson were still at school, it’s a brilliant breakup track that comes from an album that Collins admits was all about a girl who cheated on him and broke his heart.

It’s bitter stuff (“wanna put my tender heart in a blender” is the most famous line with very good reason) but it’s delivered in a bouncy, acerbic, sarcastic way that’s chock full of charm. Even the more raucous crescendo has an easy-going nature to it that might well be an unintended consequence of the radio-friendly dynamic compression of the recording, but that suits the gentle anger of the track regardless.

While your system’s dynamic range is therefore fairly unimportant, excellent stereo focus is essential so that Collins’ vocals hit with the required impact. There should be plenty of impact to the drums and detailed texture to the guitars, but at no point should they be tearing your ears away from the lyrics.

Buy Eve 6, Inside Out on Amazon

Kelis – Caught Out There (Kaleidoscope,1999)

By Joe Svetlik

Before this, Kelis was known as the backing singer on ODB’s Got Your Money, but her explosive first single (released less than a month later) established her firmly on the r'n'b scene. The Neptunes production crackles from the eerie piano opening to the halting beat (with its great use of pauses) and video game-esque effects.

But of course, it’s the chorus that will give any system a workout: Kelis’ screams burn with righteous indignation while in the background it sounds like 8-bit stars fall from the sky, underlying the low-fi, pared-back nature of the production and the fact that, with a voice like that, all the producers really need to do is get out of the way. Much like Kelis’ ex, if the track has any basis in truth.

Buy Kelis, Kaleidoscope on Amazon


Alternatively, check out our best love songs playlist

The best hi-fi systems we've reviewed

All the best stereo amps we've tried and tested

Check out our best speakers guide

Alastair Stevenson
Editor in Chief

Alastair is What Hi-Fi?’s editor in chief. He has well over a decade’s experience as a journalist working in both B2C and B2B press. During this time he’s covered everything from the launch of the first Amazon Echo to government cyber security policy. Prior to joining What Hi-Fi? he served as Trusted Reviews’ editor-in-chief. Outside of tech, he has a Masters from King’s College London in Ethics and the Philosophy of Religion, is an enthusiastic, but untalented, guitar player and runs a webcomic in his spare time. 

With contributions from