Cooper Neill/Getty Images for BT PR

It's not you, it's me: The 25 best songs about breakups

What better way than to throw on some music to help the healing. Here are 25 songs, spanning various styles (no country, which is pretty much all about lost love) for those who just fell out of love.

 
1 of 25

"It’s Over," Roy Orbison, 1964

"It’s Over," Roy Orbison, 1964
Hulton-Deutsch Collection/Corbis via Getty Images

When the great Roy Orbison sings, we should listen. Orbison had said the song was about knowing something is over before it's actually over — especially a relationship. It also happens to be one of Orbison's most beautiful songs and among the great rock ballads that perhaps doesn't get enough recognition amid his catalog.

 
2 of 25

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Marvin Gaye, 1968

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine," Marvin Gaye, 1968
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

One of the most recognized songs of all time, there are several versions out there, but Gaye's is the one that stands out among all. While the tune has that memorable soul sound, it's a gut-wrenching song about someone finding out that his lover is getting it on with somebody else, and he heard it from a party other than the significant other. Ouch.

 
3 of 25

“River," Joni Mitchell, 1971

“River," Joni Mitchell, 1971
Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns/Getty Images

For anybody who has broken off a relationship around the Christmas holiday, then this is the song to play. Mitchell speaks of Christmas time, and legend tells that it could be about her moving on from a late 1960s-early-'70s relationship with Graham Nash. It's also one of the most covered of all Mitchell songs, notably by English pop star Ellie Goulding in 2019

 
4 of 25

"You're So Vain," Carly Simon, 1972

"You're So Vain," Carly Simon, 1972
Michael Putland/Getty Images

Arguably the song that defined Simon's career and one whose backstory is among the most intriguing in music history. Who exactly is this self-indulgent boyfriend Simon thinks is "so vain?" Is it ex-lover Warren Beatty, whom Simon acknowledged that a verse in the famed cut is about? There's also speculation that it could be about Mick Jagger or prominent writer Nicholas Delbanco. 

 
5 of 25

"Go Your Own Way," Fleetwood Mac, 1976

"Go Your Own Way," Fleetwood Mac, 1976
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

In many circles, it's considered the greatest breakup tune of all time. The highlight of Fleetwood Mac's commercial breakout "Rumours," the song was written from Lindsey Buckingham's point of view on his split with bandmate Stevie Nicks. It doesn't paint Nicks, or the situation, in a positive light, but it sure made for a great track that has stood well over time.

 
6 of 25

"Silver Springs," Fleetwood Mac, 1976

"Silver Springs," Fleetwood Mac, 1976
Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

The B-side to "Go Your Own Way," "Silver Springs" is Stevie Nicks take on her famous break-up with bandmate Lindsey Buckingham. Nicks is not as brutally straightforward as Buckingham was on "Go Your Own Way," but the song is haunting and essentially lets Fleetwood Mac's male star know that he's giving up a good thing. Though the tune was controversially left off "Rumours," it finally earned its place in the band's legacy through 1997's "The Dance."

 
7 of 25

"I Will Survive," Gloria Gaynor, 1978

"I Will Survive," Gloria Gaynor, 1978
Richard E. Aaron/Redferns/Getty Images

This disco classic might be the most empowering post-breakup song of all time. More than 40 years after its release, the former No. 1 hit still has a place in pop culture — whether in movies, television, commercials or karaoke. Though Gaynor had other hits, none experienced the level of success and iconic status as this moving-on anthem.

 
8 of 25

“Love Will Tear Us Apart," Joy Division, 1980

“Love Will Tear Us Apart," Joy Division, 1980
Chris Mills/Redferns/Getty Images

Some insight into the tortured soul that was Joy Division frontman Ian Curtis. The lyrics touch on Curtis' marital issues and what he was thinking through it all while also dealing with depression. Though it has that quintessential post-punk, synth-pop sound, the lyrics are haunting and take the listener into the mind of the talented but troubled Curtis, who committed suicide one month before the release of Joy Division's biggest commercial hit. 

 
9 of 25

"The Winner Takes It All," ABBA, 1980

"The Winner Takes It All," ABBA, 1980
Michael Putland/Getty Images

This was the last top-10 single the Swedish quartet earned in the United States. Though Björn Ulvaeus notes the song is about going through a divorce, he claims it is not specifically about the dissolving of marriage to bandmate Agnetha Fältskog, who sings lead here. It's a beautifully sad pop song and probably even tougher for the one-time couple who had to perform it together.

 
10 of 25

"The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em)," The Greg Kihn Band, 1981

"The Breakup Song (They Don't Write 'Em)," The Greg Kihn Band, 1981
Richard McCaffrey/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

In addition to being down in the dumps from his recent breakup, Kihn also isn't too happy that there aren't many good breakup songs for him to drown his sorrows in. So as perhaps some type of cathartic measure, Kihn decides to sing about the latter and essentially come up with his own severely underrated breakup song in the process. Genius. 

 
11 of 25

“Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)," Phil Collins, 1984

“Against All Odds (Take a Look At Me Now)," Phil Collins, 1984
Aaron Rapoport/Corbis via Getty Images

It's never easy trying to get your ex to come back, knowing very well that's not going to happen for whatever reason. That's what Collins was singing about on his '80s hit that was part of the "Against All Odds" soundtrack. It's a song about feeling hopelessly in love, which can be pretty painful even for a stud like Jeff Bridges.

 
12 of 25

"Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinéad O'Connor, 1990

"Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinéad O'Connor, 1990
Michel Linssen/Redferns/Getty Images

O'Connor became a household name on the pop scene with her work on this Prince-penned heartbreaking ballad about a jilted lover unsuccessfully trying to move on from being dumped. The poignantly powerful music video, where the crew-cut O'Connor sheds some tears, only added to the emotional impact of the song that defined her career.

 
13 of 25

"You Oughta Know," Alanis Morissette, 1995

"You Oughta Know," Alanis Morissette, 1995
Paul Natkin/Getty Images

With one hit, Canada's Morissette went from a national pop star performing in shopping malls to the most angst-ridden female voice of the 1990s. Or least on one track. To say this breakup was messy would be a severe understatement, and Alanis is not doing well and wants her ex to know. But who exactly is she shooting daggers at? Our favorite theory is that the song is about former "Full House" star Dave Coulier, who has reportedly both admitted and denied the fact. Joey Gladstone, really?

 
14 of 25

"Don't Speak," No Doubt, 1996

"Don't Speak," No Doubt, 1996
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Re-worked a number of times, this No Doubt hit began as a love song and turned into one about singer Gwen Stefani's breakup with bassist Tony Kanal after seven years as a couple. It's never easy being in a band with someone you broke up with, but Stefani and Kanal made it work, and the song is honest and strong enough for the world to take this band seriously.

 
15 of 25

"Un-Break My Heart," Toni Braxton, 1996

"Un-Break My Heart," Toni Braxton, 1996
Mick Hutson/Redferns/Getty Images

Even a multiple-Grammy winner like Braxton can feel heartbreak. She did not write this monster breakup ballad about begging a former lover to return and make things right again, but she put all her emotion into performing it like a yearning ex. It should be recognized as one of the most powerful pop ballads of the 1990s. 

 
16 of 25

"Cry Me a River," Justin Timberlake, 2002

"Cry Me a River," Justin Timberlake, 2002
Getty Images

While JT reportedly has not come out and said this song is completely about his breakup with Britney Spears, he's stated it did inspire the writing of the song, with Spears the naughtier of the two in terms of who was at fault. The ballad of feeling down after some good love gone bad is one of Timberlake's best songs and earned him tremendous success as the true highlight of his stellar solo debut.

 
17 of 25

"Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson, 2004

"Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson, 2004
Chaz Niell/Icon Sportswire

Clarkson wasn't the first choice to perform the song (Pink and Hilary Duff were reportedly given first crack), but the "American Idol" songbird more than did the power-pop ballad justice. A song about being glad to break free from a bad relationship remains one of Clarkson's signature tunes and among the best radio-friendly breakup songs of all time.

 
18 of 25

"Irreplaceable," Beyoncé, 2006

"Irreplaceable," Beyoncé, 2006
Jeff Lewis/Icon Sportswire

One of Beyoncé's biggest solo hits, "Irreplaceable" is a tale about the end of a relationship where the male half wasn't faithful. Whether part of Destiny's Child or on her own, Beyoncé is all about female empowerment, especially when it comes to her songs that also allow her vulnerabilities to show. It's one of the great breakup songs of the 2000s.

 
19 of 25

"Back to Black," Amy Winehouse, 2007

"Back to Black," Amy Winehouse, 2007
Chris Christoforou/Redferns/Getty Images

There's almost a cabaret-like feel to one of Winehouse's most popular songs, which Mark Ronson helped pen. The basis for the soulful number reportedly stems from the late singer's junkie significant other, Blake Fielder-Civil, taking off to be with an old girlfriend. For as troubled as Whinehouse was in real life, even when singing about romantic despair she seems full of life and confidence.  

 
20 of 25

“Skinny Love," Bon Iver, 2008

“Skinny Love," Bon Iver, 2008
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images

Even hipsters aren't immune to a little relationship trouble. Bon Iver leader and Eau Claire, Wisconsin, native Justin Vernon wails about being in a relationship, seemingly, for the sake of being in a relationship that is not filled with much substance. Hey, it's better than being alone, and sometimes we just need somebody to make us feel important and wanted.

 
21 of 25

“Dancing On My Own,” Robyn, 2010

“Dancing On My Own,” Robyn, 2010
Jason LaVeris/Contributor/Getty Images

There's nothing worse than being in the same place where an ex is hanging out and having a good time with someone else — that should be you. Robyn knows the feeling on her disco-influenced hit that offers some catchy dance-pop hooks and tends to stick in the head for a few days after. It's actually upbeat enough to maybe clean the house or wash the dishes to while looking to shake that romantic funk. 

 
22 of 25

“Someone Like You,” Adele, 2011

“Someone Like You,” Adele, 2011
Andy Sheppard/Redferns/Getty Images

That Adele just can't keep a man. In this case she's trying to come to grips with the end of a relationship, looking to move on while not harboring any ill will toward her significant other. That's a healthy approach but usually better said than done. Then again, singing about it might help, so throw Adele on and hope for the best.

 
23 of 25

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift, 2012

“We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” Taylor Swift, 2012
Getty Images

Rarely do songs about breakups or exes seem like a rollicking good time, but Swift seems totally upbeat while continuously shunning a former boyfriend who is trying to get back together with her. For the guy in question it's no fun, but Swift's monster hit is an unabashed example of feeling good about leaving the past behind and moving on. 

 
24 of 25

"Shout Out to My Ex," Little Mix, 2016

"Shout Out to My Ex," Little Mix, 2016
Monica Schipper/Getty Images

Sure, there are those who don't want to take a group like Little Mix seriously. But in the realm of breakup songs, this is one of the better ones, as certainly has been the case over the past few years. It's an anthem of sorts for those ready to move on from a failed relationship, assuring that the best is yet to come while not looking back. 

 
25 of 25

“New York,” St. Vincent, 2017

“New York,” St. Vincent, 2017
Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

"New York" shows off the versatility off one Anne "St. Vincent" Clark," who sings about living in the same city as an ex-lover, post-breakup. It's a simple song from a musical standpoint, and even with the melancholy vibe of the tune, we seem to think Ms. Clark is going to be OK because she happens to be a strong woman who is comfortable showing off her vulnerability.

Jeff Mezydlo has written about sports and entertainment online and for print for more than 25 years. He grew up in the far south suburbs of Chicago, 20 minutes from the Mascot Hall of Fame in Whiting, Ind. He’s also the proud father of 11-year-old Matthew, aka “Bobby Bruin,” mascot of St. Robert Bellarmine School in Chicago. You can follow Jeff at @jeffm401.

More must-reads:

Customize Your Newsletter

+

Get the latest news and rumors, customized to your favorite sports and teams. Emailed daily. Always free!

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.