It's hard to say where this falls on the "If you can't beat 'em, join 'em" spectrum, but comic, actor, and musician Tim Heidecker's 2019 album What the Brokenhearted Do may be the most inspired example to date of how to respond to Internet trolling. Heidecker makes no secret of his leftist politics in his social media posts or on his albums Too Dumb for Suicide: Tim Heidecker's Trump Songs and Cainthology: Songs in the Key of Cain. For reasons best known to themselves, some folks who didn't care for Heidecker's dislike of Donald Trump began spreading a rumor that Heidecker's wife had gotten so sick of his leftist ways that she left him, with someone going so far as to fake divorce papers and post them online. Heidecker's response was curious but inspired: he wrote an album of breakup songs about a man struggling with divorce, even though Heidecker was and remains happily married.
What the Brokenhearted Do may have started as some sort of joke (no great surprise coming from the co-creator of Awesome Show, Great Job!), but by the time he finished, Heidecker had created a superb homage to the downbeat side of '70s soft rock. Jonathan Rado of Foxygen helped Heidecker record What the Brokenhearted Do, and while the two have incorporated some subtle elements of parody in these songs (the Neil Young guitars in "Finally Getting Over" and the mention of "this place that Billy Joel sang about" in "Funeral Shoes"), in both melody and lyrics most of this music sounds sweetly bummed out enough that it could easily pass as the real thing, especially the masterful "I Don't Think About You Much Anymore." Heidecker's voice is good, not great, but his phrasing and sense of drama is superb, and his delivery points to the likes of Harry Nilsson, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne, and James Taylor as he struggles with the anger, frustration, and depression of a man suddenly alone. "When I Get Up" sounds jaunty on the surface, but it's a knowing study of the nature of depression when you take a second look. And the production and arrangements approximate the sounds of the era with a knowing skill and affection. Heidecker has walked a similar musical path on 2016's In Glendale and in his recordings with Davin Wood, but What the Brokenhearted Do is his finest album to date, moving past parody or homage into a place that comes within throwing distance of the masters of this particular sound. Heidecker's spouse may have to leave him for real if he's ever going to top this.