There’s nothing like a good breakup song to help mend a broken heart, but not every breakup has the same kind of vibe.Though most of us want to come out of the other side stronger, sometimes we just need to spend a day (or a week) in bed.
From The Smiths, who set the standard for broken-hearted hipsters, to Phoebe Bridgers, who’s sarcastic sadness is oh-so-relatable, these breakup jams are the best for every type of heartbreak.
Boy Problems – Carly Rae Jepsen
For the breakup where: Your friends are sick of hearing you complain.
Emotion, Carly Rae Jepsen’s third studio album, is wrought with hip-shaking breakup songs. Few people can pen a heartbreak anthem like the Canadian songstress. While “When I Needed You” and “LA Hallucinations” balk at the idea of changing for a lover, “Boy Problems” is the clear standout. The song all-together dismisses the gut-wrenching pain behind a breakup, which in turn, proves to be the biggest burn of all.
Breakup songs have a history of being self-indulgent and melodramatic, but “Boy Problems” flips that tired trope on its head with lyrics like “I think I broke up with my boyfriend and I don’t really care / I’ve got worse problems.” It serves as a reality check for everyone who’s ever realized that constantly venting about your relationship problems can really, really start annoying your friends.
Motion Sickness – Phoebe Bridgers
For the breakup where: You feel sick to your stomach.
Phoebe Bridgers is known for her gut-wrenching songs, but “Motion Sickness” doesn’t hold back a single bit — from the emotionally exhaustive opening lines “I hate you for what you did / and I miss you like a little kid” to the excruciating burn “You said when you met me you were bored / and you were in a band when I was born.”
Bridgers manages to capture the expansive realm of complicated emotions felt by those who’ve just been dumped. It’s equal parts mind-numbing sea-sickness, sadness, and hate with a frantic dose of humor. With little digs scattered throughout, the California-based singer-songwriter proves that just because you’re down doesn’t mean you have to take it.
Stronger – Britney Spears
For the breakup where: You want to rise like a beautiful phoenix from the ashes of heartbreak.
Britney Spears’ loneliness isn’t killing her anymore. The princess of pop penned one of the early aughts’ most powerful breakup songs by referencing her 1998 hit “One More Time.” “One More Time” wasn’t exactly aspirational. It painted a portrait of desperation and codependency.
Thankfully, 2000 brought a new millennium and a new Britney: one who would find strength in uncertainty and independence in solitude. She’s certainly crying no rivers, and that’s something everyone who’s ever been dumped can look up to.
Somebody Else – The 1975
For the breakup where: You want to have your cake and eat it, too.
The 1975 managed to pen a breakup anthem for narcissists everywhere (and let’s be real: we’re all a little guilty). In their emotional ballad “Somebody Else,” the British rock outfit have no qualms about admitting that it totally sucks to see the person you’ve dumped move on.
With lyrics like “I don’t want your body / but I hate to think about you with somebody else,” they’re unapologetically putting out the very same self-indulgent emotions most of us feel — but would rather not admit — after cutting a significant other loose. In turn, the band has made us all realize we’re a little bit terrible when it comes to matters of the heart.
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together – Taylor Swift
For the breakup where: You’re over the drama.
Taylor Swift knows a thing or two about a breakup. The pop icon has been penning breakup hits from the very first teenage tears that fell on her guitar. While songs like “Dear John” and “All Too Well” paint a stomach-dropping portrait of the dissolution of a relationship, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” manages to tie up heartbreak with a nice bow and throw it in the trash.
There’s some real power in standing up and finally saying you’ve had enough. Plus, when you’re trying to get over an exhausting on-and-off-again relationship, and emotionally draining ballad isn’t really the best medicine.
IDGAF – Dua Lipa
For the breakup where: You’re finally cutting out someone terrible.
Dua Lipa’s powerful breakup jam “IDGAF” is battle cry for anyone who’s ever been treated poorly in a relationship. It’s the restorative anthem we need to remind ourselves, “wait a minute, why are we putting up with this?”
As the fifth single off Lipa’s critically acclaimed debut, the song begs listeners to use their heartbreak as a source of power and pushes the importance of self-love with lyrics like “I cut you off / I don’t need your love / so you can try all you want / Your time is up.” Also, belting out the lyrics “I don’t give a [expletive]” is about as healing as it gets.
Album of the Year – The Good Life
For the breakup where: Your worst traits got the best of you.
Tim Kasher has penned what’s quite possibly the best opening album line in history: “The first time that I saw her I was throwing up in a ladies room stall.” While the entirety of The Good Life’s 2004 LPAlbum of the Year reads like the diary of a depressed alcoholic going through a torturous split, the title track is particularly poignant.
“Album of the Year” paints a picture of a flawed human forming and failing in a relationship. Eventually, he does find that little morsel of resolve. Isn’t that what we all want?
Harvard – Diet Cig
For the breakup where: You’ve been Turkey Dumped.
It’s no secret that Thanksgiving break — the first time new college students return home from school — is a hotbed for breakups. Good news is that your high school sweetheart was probably terrible. DIY Punk outfit Diet Cig want to let college freshman everywhere know that their former high school flings can shove their pretentious Ivy League sweaters in their you know what because your new college girlfriend is so boring.
The most poignant lyrics are everything we ever wanted to say after our first breakup: “[expletive] your Ivy League sweater / You know I was better.”
Landlocked Blues – Bright Eyes
For the breakup where: You don’t want to let go, but you know it’s the right thing.
Since Fevers & Mirrors launched Bright Eyes into cult fame, Conor Oberst has been churning out some of the most heartbreaking songs in modern indie rock. “Landlocked Blues” is among one of the most gut-wrenching, detailing the ever-looming pain and uncertainty in a slow-moving breakup.
The most poignant line may be when Oberst struggles to make sense of his split: “I keep drinking the ink from my pen / And I’m balancing history books up on my head / But it all boils down to one quotable phrase / If you love something give it away.”
Haunting – Sulene
For the breakup where: You can’t stop thinking about them.
Maybe you’ve moved on or maybe you haven’t, but that has no effect on whether or not the memories of your relationship are painful. “Haunting” by Brooklyn-based newcomer Sulene, who’s best known for her guitar work in Nate Ruess’ live band, captures the emotion of being unable to shake the memories of an ex.
Between the minimal verses and the buzzing synths of the chorus, “Haunting” is a tug and pull between loneliness and pain. It perfectly captures the random pangs of sadness when you’re almost entirely over a breakup, but the good memories can flood back in an instant.
Sun In An Empty Room – The Weakerthans
For the breakup where: You’re moving out.
John K Sampson of the Weakerthans is known for his literary prowess. Though “Sun in an Empty” room was inspired by the Edward Hopper painting of the same name, it still paints the final, most-painful moment of a breakup: the minute you walk away for good.
There are few songs that capture what it feels like to move on, both physically and emotionally. “Sun in an Empty Room” reads the a long-term relationships white flag. The furniture has been returned to Goodwill, the walls are smudged with newspaper prints after wrapping up dinner plates in the Sunday crossword. It’s bittersweet.
Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now – The Smiths
For the breakup where: You just want to wallow.
There’s a pivotal part of breakup where you’re miserable and you don’t want to feel better. Sometimes it’s important to stay in your pajamas all day and eat an inordinate amount of Ben & Jerry’s. Losing the sadness means you’ve truly let the relationship go. No one knows this better than Morrissey, who is the poster child of wallowing in pain.
“Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now” isn’t explicitly a breakup song, but it does beg the question: “Why do I give valuable time / to people who don’t care if I live or die?” That’s not a bad point, though it’s hard to see when you’re busy indulging your misery.
Potential Breakup Song – Ali & AJ
For the breakup where: You’ve been totally taken for granted and are on the brink of shutting the whole thing down.
Leave it to The Disney Channel to create one of the most indecisive breakup bops of all time. “Potential Breakup Song” is as cheeky as cheeky gets. It’s filled with thinly-veiled threats and the highest level of sass. With lyrics like “You’re not living / ‘til you’re living with me,” Aly & AJ gloss over the familiar feeling of being taken for granted.
“Potential Breakup Song” is as powerful as it is fun to sing along to. Moral of the story is: if someone forgets your birthday, they deserve to be gone.
I Want You Back – The Jackson 5
For the breakup where: You want them back.
Not every breakup song has to be absolutely miserable. The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” is a full-fledged singalong wreaking of the desperation found in a brand new breakup. Never has begging for a second chance been so joyous (perhaps because the Jackson 5 were a little too young to have felt heartbreak firsthand).
The song’s melody and instrumentation are completely devoid of misery despite lyrics evoking images of sleepless nights and tear drops. As a result, it feels like falling in love for the first time. Out of every ending comes a new beginning.
Green Light – Lorde
For the breakup where: You want to feel okay about finally moving on.
Lorde’s second album Melodrama landed her a Grammy nomination, and her poignant first single “Greenlight” gave fans more than just some funky dance moves. “Greenlight” is the story of the singer’s very first heartbreak and highlights the very complex feeling of needing permission to finally move on.
To sum it up, no one puts it better than Lorde herself: “I realized this [song] is that drunk girl at the party dancing around crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess. That’s her tonight and tomorrow she starts to rebuild. And that’s the song for me.”
My Friend’s Over You – New Found Glory
For the breakup where: You need a little help from your friends.
There’s nothing like a little pop-punk to ease a broken heart. “My Friend’s Over You” was New Found Glory’s breakout hit. The Drive Thru-records banger finds itself at home in the ranks of early-’00s TRL and Carson Daly’s painted fingernails, but that doesn’t make the message any less powerful. It’s mean-spirited enough to epitomize pop-punk of the era.
“My Friend’s Over You” reminds us that relationships are temporary and our friends are a chosen family we should never abandon (even if your significant other isn’t so great to begin with). Does everything really need to be that serious?
New York – St. Vincent
For the breakup where: You really wish you could vent to your friends while waiting for the MTA to get their stuff together.
Alt rock queen St. Vincent inadvertently wrote one of the most relatable breakup songs by drawing inspiration from the most random corners of her life: texts from her friends, the death of David Bowie and Prince, and living in New York. That doesn’t make this song any less serious for a city-dwellers dealing with heartbreak.
The singer’s best lines are something we’ve all deeply felt when our best friends shipped off from the city of hard knocks and left us to a string of terrible Tinder Dates: “New York isn’t New York without you” and “You’re the only[expletive] in the city who can handle me.”
Bratty B – Best Coast
For the breakup where: You can’t even remember why you broke up.
Sometimes breakups stem from the most ridiculous fights. Maybe you laughed at the wrong TV show or forgot to buy milk on your way home from work. Once you’ve come out the other side, it’s hard to remember what you were even fighting about in the first place.
Best Coast’s upbeat hit “Bratty B” begs all argumentative lovers to stop sweating the small stuff and just make up already. The most relateable lyrics? “I’m sorry I lost your favorite t-shirt / I’ll buy you a new one, a better one.”
Sorry Not Sorry – Demi Lovato
For the breakup where: They don’t realize who they’re messing with.
While it’s hard to condone antagonizing an ex-boyfriend, sometimes it just feels good to know you’ve won the breakup. Demi Lovato’s hit “Sorry Not Sorry” proves that living well is the worst punishment, but a healthy dose of pettiness is just what the doctor ordered.
“Sorry Not Sorry” takes the pain of a breakup and hypes you up with lyrics like “payback is a bad [expletive] / and baby I’m the baddest / you’re [expletive] with a savage” and “it’d be nice of me to take it easy on ya, but nah.” Never before has being bad been so fun.
F.U.R.B. – Frankee
For the breakup where: They’re talking trash.
If you’re not a Brit, you may have missed Frankie’s sass-filled 2004 breakup clap-back “F.U.R.B.” Though the R&B singer is American, her hit peaked at No. 1 on the UK charts and only meandered around the latter half of Billboard’s Hot 100.
“F.U.R.B.” lands a spot as one of the best breakup song because it’s a direct clap-back at Eamon’s single “[Expletive] It (I Don’t Want You Back)” (though Eamon denied any involvement with Frankee). Either way, the expletive-filled jam says what we all want to say after getting dumped: “[Expletive] you right back.”