34 of the Best Breakup Songs for the Newly Single
We’re all about pain play between consenting adults. But only the most diehard masochist could think breaking up feels good. It’s a special brand of pain that even superhuman celebrities can’t escape.
Don’t tell the celebs, but we’re kind of grateful for that. Heartbreak has given us some of the best (and saddest) songs of all time. We can’t even imagine what wallowing would look like without a weepy soundtrack to back it up.
Whether you’re anguished, angry, or ready to rebound, this list of the best breakup songs will help you feel your feels and remind you you’re not alone.
1. “Skinny Love” — Bon Iver
Have you ever felt starved for love, even with a partner lying next to you? “Skinny Love” is the breakup song for you. Justin Vernon wrote this hit while weathering a broken heart in a cabin in the winter woods. When you’ve worn through Bon Iver’s original version, give Birdy’s amazing cover a try.
2. “Visions of Gideon” — Sufjan Stevens
We felt Elio’s pain when this song played at the end of Luca Guadagnino’s iconic gay movie Call Me By Your Name. And so did Sufjan Stevens, who sings the words we all try to tell ourselves after a devastating breakup: “I have loved you for the last time.”
3. “Go Your Own Way” — Fleetwood Mac
What happens when the people breaking up are part of the same band? If you’re Fleetwood Mac’s Lindsey Buckingham, you write a rock-and-roll hit and torment your former lover by making them perform a song about how awful they are. “Go Your Own Way” is still a banger after more than 40 years, so we think Stevie Nicks would agree that the song was worth the pain.
4. “Don’t Speak” — No Doubt
Another gem that came about as the result of a failed romance between bandmates, “Don’t Speak” transformed from a love song to a breakup song after bassist Tony Kanal ended his seven-year relationship with Gwen Stefani. Fun fact: Tensions between members of the band were so high that they almost broke up before filming the music video for “Don’t Speak.” But they pressed on, treating the filming as a form of therapy, and over the next two decades, the video racked up more than a billion views.
5. “Maps” — Yeah Yeah Yeahs
Yet another song about an interband breakup. With lyrics like, “Wait, they don’t love you like I love you,” this one’s super relatable.
6. “Cruel World” — Phantogram
Is it time to put him out of his misery? This empowering song from Phantogram reminds us that sometimes you just have to walk away, even if it leaves you a little more jaded than you were before.
7. “Somebody That I Used to Know (feat. Kimbra)” — Gotye
Believe it or not, “Somebody That I Used to Know” didn’t start off as a duet. But Gotye couldn’t shake the feeling that the song was incomplete until he added the perspective of the relationship’s other half, making this best-selling breakup anthem a perfect listening choice for both dumpers and dumpees.
8. “Norman fucking Rockwell” — Lana Del Rey
No one relishes pain quite like Lana. Most of her discography could fit comfortably on this list, but lines like “Goddamn, man child / You fucked me so good that I almost said, ‘I love you’” really make us feel seen. He’s just a man, after all — be like Lana and find a new one!
9. “All Too Well” (Taylor’s Version) — Taylor Swift
If there’s one hit we’d describe as THE breakup song, it’s “All Too Well.” Pressed for time? The original 2012 version clocks in at a modest five and a half minutes. But if you want to know what getting your heart destroyed by Jake Gyllenhaal feels like, spring for the 10-minute version. Or better yet, watch the short film.
10. “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together (Taylor’s Version)” — Taylor Swift
If you’re looking to put the final nail in your relationship’s coffin, turn on Tay Tay’s sassy song about moving on (at least for tonight). She’s the undisputed queen of breakup songs, and Jake was clearly a perfect muse.
11. “Flowers” — Miley Cyrus
Missing his romantic gestures? Take a page out of Miley’s book and buy some flowers for your own damn self.
12. “Lose You to Love Me” — Selena Gomez
Next time you’re beating yourself up about all those red flags you ignored, remember that it happens to the best of us. As long as it gets you closer to loving yourself, it was worth it in the end.
13. “thank u, next” — Ariana Grande
Many listeners initially misinterpreted “thank u, next” as the pop superstar’s coming-out announcement, but the “she” the song is actually referring to being in love with is Ari herself — and self-love is a message we’ll always get behind.
14. “when the party’s over” — Billie Eilish
Billie is a musical powerhouse, but this moving song about moving on gets its message across with little more than piano and pure emotion.
15. “Call Out My Name” — The Weeknd
This song may or may not be about Selena Gomez leaving The Weeknd for Justin Bieber. What we can say for sure is that it’s the perfect tune to belt out while your cheeks are wet with angry tears.
16. “Stay (feat. Mikky Ekko)” — Rihanna
These days, Riri has A$AP Rocky to keep her warm (we’re only a little bit jealous). But she’s been wronged just like the rest of us, and “Stay” is the perfect show of solidarity for the broken-hearted.
17. “Down Hill” — Drake
Sometimes you just can’t make it work no matter how hard you try. Drake knows the feeling.
18. “Cry Me a River” — Justin Timberlake
The only person we could possibly forgive for stepping out on Justin Timberlake is Britney Spears. Whether or not Brit was actually unfaithful to JT, we’re grateful he gave us the perfect words to clap back with when an undeserving lover comes looking for pity.
19. “Stronger” — Britney Spears
Justin Timberlake may have been one of Brit’s casualties, but she’s endured her own hefty share of heartache. When you’re ready to shake off the sadness and embrace your inner bad bitch, “My loneliness ain’t killing me no more” is the perfect affirmation to shout-sing at the bathroom mirror.
20. “You Oughta Know” — Alanis Morissette
Alanis perfectly captured the anger stage of post-breakup grief in 1995’s “You Oughta Know.” Fun fact: This song may or may not be about Alanis’ relationship with Dave Coulier, aka Joey from Full House.
21. “Dancing On My Own” — Robyn
Some breakup songs are meant to be enjoyed in the company of a pint of ice cream and your coziest blanket. Others, like queer icon Robyn’s electropop hit, will put you in the mood to dance away your sadness at the club. You may not be the one he’s taking home, but if you follow Ice Cube’s advice and put your back into it, someone else definitely will.
22. “Since U Been Gone” — Kelly Clarkson
Ever had a breakup that felt more like a happy ending than a tragedy? “Since U Been Gone” captures that sense of relief with lines like “I can breathe for the first time,” offering a reminder that it’s OK to cut ties when things don’t feel right.
23. “Irreplaceable” — Beyoncé
If “Irreplaceable” isn’t on your breakup playlist, you must not know ‘bout Bey. Next time he does you wrong, just remind him you can have another him in a minute.
24. “Survivor” — Destiny’s Child
Breakups might make you feel like dying. But Queen Bey and crew gave us a survival soundtrack more than 20 years ago, and it still resonates with anyone who needs a reminder that they have the strength to move on.
25. “Back to Black” — Amy Winehouse
If you’ve ever watched your lover go right back to his ex after ending things with you, you know the pain that inspired Amy to write this song. Fun fact: Beyoncé recorded a version of “Back to Black” with Outkast’s Andre 3000 that’s also well worth a listen.
26. “Hello” — Adele
Adele says the person she’s speaking to in “Hello” is herself. But it clearly wouldn’t tear us apart if you added this power ballad to your breakup playlist. In fact, we’d highly recommend it.
27. “Someone Like You” — Adele
Make no mistake, the person Adele is speaking to in “Someone Like You” is definitely not Adele. This song documents the ultimate dagger to the heart — looking up the one who got away only to find he’s moved on and married someone else.
28. “I Will Survive” — Gloria Gaynor
Need to hype yourself up after a breakup? Queue up Gloria Gaynor’s disco-pop classic at the karaoke bar. If you’re feeling especially salty, Cake’s 1996 cover drops in an F-bomb to spice things up.
29. “Un-Break My Heart”
Don’t you just wish you could press rewind and pretend the breakup never happened? Toni Braxton can relate.
30. “Nothing Compares 2 U” — Sinead O’Connor
The legendary Prince may have penned the lyrics to the 1990 classic “Nothing Compares 2 U,” but it was the emotional delivery of another queer icon, Sinead O’Connor, that made it the heartbreak song we know and love.
31. “I Will Always Love You” — Whitney Houston
Fun fact: Before The Bodyguard made Whitney’s version famous, “I Will Always Love You” was a two-time Billboard Hot Country Songs chart-topper, written and performed by none other than Dolly Parton.
32. “Jolene” — Dolly Parton
Clearly no stranger to broken-heart songs, the Queen of Country also blessed the world with this 1973 classic, begging Jolene not to take Dolly’s man just because she can.
33. “You’re So Vain” — Carly Simon
Carly Simon wrote this 1971 soft-rock hit about all men, not one particular self-absorbed ex. Fun fact: “You’re So Vain” appeared on a B-side with a song called “His Friends Are More Than Fond of Robin.” Carly, we have questions.
34. “Long Long Time” — Linda Ronstadt
On an episode of The Last of Us that went down in queer TV history, Nick Offerman gave us the gay romance we needed but didn’t deserve. And it all started with his heartfelt rendition of Linda Ronstadt’s beautiful song about enduring and unrequited love.
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