Breakup Songs


Kristin Devine

Kristin has humbly retired as Ordinary Times' friendly neighborhood political whipping girl to focus on culture and gender issues. She lives in a wildlife refuge in rural Washington state with too many children and way too many animals. There's also a blog which most people would very much disapprove of

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39 Responses

  1. A personal favorite of mine, the video is really the stickler for the breakup story of the song since the duo was in fact not on speaking terms at the time and would dissolve shortly thereafter.

  2. fillyjonk fillyjonk says:

    I was always partial to “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor). But I’m a kid of the 1970s, and while I’ve never had a particularly awful or tragic breakup, I’ve often come out of them feeling that kind of nuclear-winter feeling (not ‘cos of anything he did or said, just my own feeling of THAT WAS MY LAST CHANCE AND I BLEW IT) and it has helped me.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin in reply to fillyjonk says:

      I love that song too, and even the remake by Cake (which I don’t always like remakes, but that one appeals to me for some reason).

      Something about I Will Survive applies in all sorts of situations, too.Report

  3. Avatar Em Carpenter says:

    Oh, a personal favorite genre!
    “Goodbye My Lover” for a breakup with someone with whom I have no animosity. But not the James Blunt version, the one by Chloe.
    “Don’t Speak” from No Doubt when it’s a break up you see coming but don’t want to admit.
    “Habits” from Tove Lo when dealing very badly with a break up. Self-destruction anthem.
    “Cup of Coffee” from Garbage, for the crushingly depressing break up.
    “You Oughtta Know” for the angry break up, it’s amazing and I don’t care what that idiot Jezebel writer said.
    “In the Summer’s When You Really Know” by Jets to Brazil is the doomed summer romance theme song.

    Really just so many. An embarassment of riches indeed. Nothing stokes creativity like sadness, rejection and resentment.Report

  4. Avatar Aaron David says:

    Dear Chicago (one of the prettiest breakup songs of all time)

  5. Avatar Fish says:

    Oooh, that Roxette song is a killer.

    “Hard Habit To Break” by Chicago is a favorite, as is the less-well-known “Niagara Falls” (though looking back at the lyrics now, that one comes across as a little stalkery).

    “You Were Meant For Me” by Jewel. “When The Thought of You Catches Up With Me” by David Ball. “Nothing Compares 2 U” by Sinead O’Connor. “Something I Can Never Have” by Nine Inch Nails.

    Just so, so many by George Strait.

    “Can’t Cry Anymore” by Sheryl CrowReport

    • Avatar Em Carpenter in reply to Fish says:

      Ooooh, Something I can Never Have! A personal favorite.Report

    • Avatar atomickristin in reply to Fish says:

      Several of those I considered and then passed on, thanks for mentioning them!!

      I remember at a school dance once they played “Hard Habit to Break” and one of my friends was crying over a breakup.

      The memories…Report

  6. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Everybody knows this guy for Hallelujah. But this is one of the best breakup songs *EVER*.


  7. Then there’s the simple “The hell with you”:

  8. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    I knew that my then girlfriend (and wife-to-be) had an excellent voice and loved to sing early on. I remember being in the back bedroom/office working on a math problem when I realized that the music I was humming along to was her, singing “Long Long Time” loudly and well while she vacuumed.Report

  9. Avatar atomickristin says:

    Just wanted to mention that while this article appears to have come out of nowhere, I had actually planned to write a couple funny breakup articles this month as an antidote for my romance novel posts last month. Then I got interested in some other things and dropped the concept, but the music lingered on.

    there is a method to my madness, occasionally.Report

  10. Avatar Fish says:

    Many, many years ago, a work friend of mine showed up one morning and was clearly in distress. We asked her what was wrong and she told us that she and her long-term boyfriend had broken up. Now, I don’t know what exactly came over us (well, me)–my defense will be that I knew there was no way they would remain broken up–but I determined that the best way to deal with this situation was to play every sad breakup song I could think of. We were actually openly mocking this poor woman, who we claimed to be friends of, and who we claimed to care about. I don’t know what the hell was wrong with us that we thought this was the correct course of action.

    Before long, she was laughing along with us (maybe laughing through her tears, but whatever. In for a penny…). And sure enough, they did get back together, and eventually got married (blending five kids together into one gigantic household) and have been together now for 10+ years.

    Thus is the healing power of music. Or mockery. Or something…what was I talking about, again?Report

  11. Avatar Pinky says:

    To me, the ultimate breakup song is Dave Mason’s “We Just Disagree”. It’s a beautiful song with great instrumentation, but the killer is the lyrics, conversational and almost stream-of-consciousness. It’s weird; I don’t associate the song with any particular breakup in my life, but more like with every breakup ever. I think I felt that way before I even knew what a breakup felt like.

  12. Avatar Mike Dwyer says:

    So many good ones to choose from so I will just select two of my more recent favorites. Of course they are country, because seriously, what genre does break songs better?

    “Record Year” by Eric Church – This one is in the wheelhouse I like of the dumpee making it clear they will survive the breakup and be better off in the long-run.

    “Song for Another Time” by Old Dominion – This one is really cool for the gazillion references to other songs and also because it covers the breakup where the couple doesn’t really want to breakup by has to. Those perhaps suck the most.

  13. Avatar jason says:

    It’s a little old school, but I’ve always been a fan of “Victim of Changes” by Judas Priest.Report

  14. Avatar Slade the Leveller says:

    I’ve got 2. No one writes better breakup songs than Linus of Hollywood. This one is his best, though.

    If you’d be a dear, make yourself disappear, I’d be thankful (thankful baby)
    I’ll be dancing around to the sound of you driving away
    Don’t forget to take your mood swings
    Don’t forget to take your nasty attitude (what a beautiful day!)

    The other one is the Ben Folds Five’s Song for the Dumped. What guy hasn’t been there?

    I wish I hadn’t bought you
    Right before you dumped me
    On your front porch
    Give me my money back
    Give me my money back
    You b***h
    I want my money back
    And don’t forget to give
    Me back my black t-shirt


  15. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Sting’s “I’m so happy that I can’t stop crying” is one of the odder divorce songs. Yay. Divorce.


  16. Avatar Anne says:

    Thanks for this post Kristen, love it. Someone says break up songs and I think of an album Soot Out the Lights – Richard and Linda Thompson by the time the album was released they were divorced. Its almost painful to listen to knowing what they were going through. Explicit break up songs on it include Don’t Renege on My Love, Walking on a wire, Man in Need, Did She Jump or Was She Pushed the rest really aren’t break up songs but in my mind they all are.Report

  17. Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but is it weird how Howard Jones music was something of a backdrop for growing up in the late 80’s early 90’s, but I never knew the guys name until I was well into college?Report

  18. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    I love “Long Long Time!” Sometimes I wish there were more songs like that, but I guess its uniqueness is part of what makes it great.

    Here are some classic Japanese break-up songs I’m pretty sure you haven’t heard. Most of you will have to take my word for it that they are break-up songs, but who listens to music for the lyrics, anyway?

    Cactus Flower, by The Tulips, a folk group from the 70s.

    Tainted Bonds, by Yutaka Ozaki, on a Japanese YouTube knock-off site because it’s not on the real YouTube. A friend of mine said it’s “like Springsteen, but not,” which I guess is kind of fair. Still a great song, sadly released just after Ozaki died in a suitably rock-and-roll fashion, at least by Japanese standards.

    O My Love, by Mayumi Itsuwa. Not really sure what genre I’d call this. It’s not actually enka, but it’s enough like enka that most Japanese people under 40 think Itsuwa is an enka singer.

    I Have No Words, by Off Course. 60s rock band that kind of reminds me of REO speedwagon, though maybe only because the lead singer has a similarly high-pitched voice.

    The Way Back Home, by Hiromi Iwasaki. Standard late-Showa Japanese symphonic pop. I love the bridge at 0:40.

    Shipwreck, by Akina Nakamori, wherein a breakup is compared to a shipwreck. More symph pop. Great song, but also worth watching the video for the dissonance between her delicate frame and powerful voice. The original version, by Tokiko Kato, is also great.Report