Breakups are a part of life; for many of us, music serves as a therapeutic escape from heartbreak. Countless songs have been written about the end of a relationship, but some have become timeless anthems for the broken-hearted. Whether it’s anger, sadness, or acceptance that you’re feeling, there’s a song out there for you. Here’s a list of some of the best breakup songs of all time.
For No One by the Beatles
“For No One” is a melancholic ballad by Paul McCartney, included in the Beatles’ 1966 album “Revolver.” It is considered a timeless classic and one of McCartney’s finest compositions because of its relatable lyrics about heartbreak and feeling unimportant.
Purple Rain by Prince
“Purple Rain” is an iconic song by legendary musician Prince, first released in 1984. It’s known for its memorable chorus and powerful ballad that blends rock, funk, and soul. The song deals with love and loss paired with raw emotion and soulful delivery, making it the perfect breakup song.
The song has received numerous accolades and awards. In 1985, the song won Grammy Awards’ Best Rock Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.
I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt
Unrequited love? Listen to Bonnie Raitt’s “I Can’t Make You Love Me.” This 1991 soulful ballad is about the painful realization that you can’t change another person’s feelings.
Skinny Love by Bon Iver
Bon Iver’s “Skinny Love” is a melancholic indie folk song about heartbreak and loss. The song’s memorable chorus, “Come on, skinny love just last the year / Pour a little salt, we were never here.” and introspective lyrics, along with the raw vocals of Justin Vernon, make it a powerful breakup anthem.
Skinny Love was a commercial success, reaching the top 40 on the US Billboard chart, and was nominated for a Grammy Award. Since its release, many artists like Birdy and Ed Sheeran have covered Skinny Love.
I Have Nothing by Whitney Houston
“I Have Nothing” is a ballad by Whitney Houston, released on the “The Bodyguard” soundtrack. Composed and written by David Foster and Linda Thompson, it expressed heartbreak and loss and became one of Whitney Houston’s biggest hits. In August 2021, the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) certified “I Have Nothing” a 2x Multi-Platinum hit.
I Heard It Through the Grapevine by Marvin Gaye
“I Heard It Through the Grapevine” is a classic 1968 soul and R&B song by Marvin Gaye. The song has become one of the best breakup songs of all time because of its powerful vocals, upbeat tempo, and relatable lyrics.
The song has received several accolades, including being inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
The Scientist by Coldplay
Coldplay’s “The Scientist” is a ballad released in 2002. It is about heartbreak, regret, and wanting to go “back to the start.” The song received widespread critical acclaim and is one of Coldplay’s signature songs. Like many breakup songs on our list, many artists have covered this.
Survivor by Destiny’s Child
“Survivor” by Destiny’s Child is an empowering anthem for women celebrating resilience and determination. It became a commercial success, reaching number one in several countries and winning a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
Thinkin Bout You by Frank Ocean
“Thinkin Bout You” is a 2012 song by Frank Ocean. This tune is about missing someone and wondering if an ex-lover still feels the same way. One of the most memorable lines in the song is, “It won’t ever get old, not in my soul, not in my spirit, keep it alive.”
It’s considered a standout track from Ocean’s debut album “Channel Orange” and is widely regarded as one of his signature tracks, praised for its songwriting and production.
All Too Well (Extended Version) By Taylor Swift
The 10-minute extended version of Taylor Swift‘s “All Too Well” is one of the rawest breakup songs you’ll ever hear. It details a burgeoning relationship, the eventual heartbreak, and remembering it “all too well.” Paired with a melancholy melody that builds up as the song progress and Swift’s songwriting prowess, the song blasted at the top spot on the Billboard Hot 100 songs chart.
Swift directed the music video and won a Grammy for Best Music Video.
Exile by Taylor Swift and Bon Iver
Another breakup song you should add to your playlist is the melancholic duet of Taylor Swift and Bon Iver. Released in 2020 as part of Swift’s eighth studio album, “folklore,” the song speaks to the pain and regret of a failed relationship.
It has received widespread critical acclaim for its raw, emotional lyrics and the powerful chemistry between Swift and Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon. The song’s most memorable part is, “I think I’ve seen this film before and I didn’t like the ending.”
Jolene by Dolly Parton
“Jolene” by Dolly Parton is a classic country ballad about a woman’s plea to keep her man from being taken. It was released in 1973 and quickly became a hit, reaching the top ten on the country charts and becoming one of Parton’s most well-known songs.
Somebody Else by the 1975
The 1975’s “Somebody Else” perfectly captures the feeling of not wanting someone back but hating to see a former lover with somebody else. It is also about disbelief that an ex can move on.
Cry Me a River by Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me a River” is a pop and R&B song rumored to be about Britney Spears.
Its lyrics reflect heartbreak and betrayal, making it a popular breakup song. Its most memorable line is, “You were my sun, my earth, but you don’t get another chance.” It received numerous awards, a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, and topped the charts worldwide.
Slow Dancing in a Burning Room by John Mayer
Mayer’s expressive vocals and guitar work in “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” perfectly capture the emotions about a failing relationship. The song’s most memorable line is, “We’re going down and you can see it.”
Everytime by Britney Spears
Britney Spears’ haunting ballad “Everytime” is also the perfect tune to listen to, especially when you regret hurting a former lover. Some people speculate that the song is about Justin Timberlake.
This song was part of her fourth studio album, “In the Zone.”
Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright by Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is known for its cynical and accepting tone in the face of a breakup. It is one of Dylan’s most covered and acclaimed works, earning induction into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999.
Ain’t No Sunshine by Bill Withers
A breakup song list wouldn’t be complete without Bill Wither’s soulful “Ain’t No Sunshine” hit. It has a sad melody and relatable lyrics, which most people experience after a breakup.
In 2003, “Ain’t No Sunshine” was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, solidifying its place as a classic and timeless song in popular music history.
Ex-factor by Lauryn Hill
Lauryn Hill’s “Ex-Factor” is considered among the best breakup songs of all time due to its raw emotions and powerful delivery. It also has relatable lyrics about a toxic relationship and a partner that constantly reminds you that “it ain’t working anymore” but hurts themselves when you try to walk away.
“Ex-Factor” is part of Hill’s debut album “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill.”
I’d Rather Go Blind’ by Etta James
Etta James’ “I’d Rather Go Blind” is one of the most emotional songs you should listen to. This soulful ballad talks about wanting to be blind rather than seeing someone you love to be with someone else.
Don’t Speak by No Doubt
“Don’t Speak” by No Doubt captures the exact feeling when the person you love is breaking up with you. Instead of listening to their explanation, you’d rather say, “Don’t speak. I know just what you’re saying.”
You Oughta Know by Alanis Morissette
Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill” wouldn’t be complete without “You Oughta Know.” This ultimate bad breakup song of all time is about betrayal, anger, and pain in the wake of a former lover who has cheated. Paired with Morissette’s raw and angsty singing style and powerful lyrics, “You Oughta Know” is also an excellent song for moving on.
New Rules by Dua Lipa
“New Rules” explores breaking away from a toxic relationship and moving on. Most importantly, it reflects the message of setting boundaries and taking control of one’s emotional well-being after a breakup.
The song has received numerous accolades, including a Grammy nomination for Best Dance Recording. “New Rules” also reached number one on the UK Singles Chart.
Go Your Own Way by Fleetwood Mac
“Go Your Own Way” steers away from the usual sad, melancholy melody. It has an upbeat tempo and catchy chorus, telling your partner they “can go on their own way.”
Fun Fact: Lindsey Buckingham wrote the song reflecting the breakdown of Buckingham’s relationship with bandmate Stevie Nicks.
It became a hit for Fleetwood Mac, reaching the top 10 in several countries. In 2004, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.
Back to Black by Amy Winehouse
Amy Winehouse’s 2006 hit “Back to Black” shows the harsh aftermath of a lover ending the relationship to return to their ex, leaving you to go “back to black.” In Winehouse’s case, she turned to alcohol after Blake Fielder-Civil left her to be with his ex.
“Back to Black” was a commercial success, reaching the top 10 in multiple countries and earning Winehouse several awards, including five Grammy Awards in 2008.
Since U Been Gone by Kelly Clarkson
Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” is a staple in many breakup playlists because of its catchy tune and powerful lyrics. Even if you are not a Clarkson or a pop fan, you’ll catch yourself singing along when you hear its chorus!
Un-Break My Heart by Toni Braxton
With Spanish guitar in the melody and Toni Braxton’s sultry and deep voice, “Un-Break My Heart” is a timeless classic about a woman pleading for her lover to “un-break” her heart and say that he loves her again.
Dancing on My Own by Robyn
Robyn’s 2010 hit song “Dancing on My Own” captures what it feels like to see an ex and their new lover, and there’s nothing you can do but dance on your own.
Maps by Yeah Yeah Yeahs
“Maps” is a 2003 alternative rock song by Yeah Yeah Yeahs that is considered a classic of the 2000s indie rock genre. Although the lyrics are simple and repetitive, its line, “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you,” captures the desperation of wanting someone to stay.
Stay by Rihanna feat. Mikky Ekko
Speaking of wanting someone to stay, listen to Rihanna and Mikky Ekko’s 2013 song. This ballad, backed by a melancholy piano, is about wanting a lover to stay even though you are unsure why.
I Will Always Love You by Dolly Parton
Another classic Dolly Parton hit is “I Will Always Love You.” The song was first recorded in 1974 but became a hit for Whitney Houston in 1992. The song has won awards, including a Grammy and an Academy Award nomination.
We Belong Together by Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey’s 2005 hit song “We Belong Together” is about regretting breaking up with a lover and begging them to return because you “belong together.”
Somebody That I Used to Know by Gotye featuring Kimbra
“Somebody That I Used to Know” by Gotye featuring Kimbra is a hauntingly beautiful indie pop song released in 2011. Its unique blend of stripped-down acoustic guitar, haunting vocals, and the layering of sounds make it one the best breakup songs for those who want to wallow in their sorrows.
Someone Like You by Adele
A list of the best breakup songs wouldn’t be complete without Adele! Her song, “Someone Like You,” brings a relatable emotion when a person you love settles down and you haven’t still moved on.
Wrecking Ball by Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus’ 2013 hit song Wrecking Ball is not only famous for its controversial music video, but it also offers a relatable breakup anthem, especially for those who just wanted to break their ex’s walls but ended up getting wrecked instead.
Want a more uplifting breakup song from Miley? Check out her new song, “Flowers.”
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Featured Image Source: Photo by Drazen Zigic – Getty Images | Canva Pro
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