Breakups, while painful, are also an excuse for me to delve whole-heartedly into my favourite breakup songs. I have so many, particularly as I am the master of creating mix cd letters to people. It's an art- but it's an art that really comes in handy at certain points. But breakups... breakups are musical. They wail, scream, whisper and plead with the heart. They make space for you to be sad (which is how I felt a little earlier in the week) and angry (which is how I felt later as the implications of the ex's manipulations became unfortunately clear).
I wanted to give my top 13 breakup songs, from bouncy "fuck you" songs to "you're so fucking toxic" to "I'll miss you, but not enough" songs, along with the lyrics that make the pain just so, so sweet for me. I'm also going to add melodramatic photos, cause that's what's awesome about breakups- it's an excuse, finally, to have a meltdown and be vulnerable, which if you're like me, you desperately need.
What are your fave breakup songs?
1. "When You Were Mine"- Cyndi Lauper
"You were kindasorta my best friend/So I was blind /I let you fool around/I never cared/I never was the kind to make a fuss/When he was there/Sleeping in between the two of us"
I was just listening to this one on my record player. I've always had a soft spot for this song, and when Cyndi sings it, it's perfect for either singing to a bi/queer ex girlfriend who went off with a dude or a bi/queer guy who, similarly, went off with a dude. For my queer nonmonogamous life, it's kind of perfect.
2. "Ok, I Believe You (But My Tommy Gun Don't"- Brand New
"Holding on to your grudge/Oh its so hard to have someone to love/And keeping quiet is hard/Cause you can't keep a secret/If it never was a secret to start/At least pretend you didn't wanna get caught"
Brand New is my go to band for emotional music. Just angry enough, super heartfelt, and I love the lyrics. Perfect for driving- you can roll the window down, start off kind of quiet, sad, and a little angry, and get more and more worked up til you're screaming out the window. Best. Processing. Ever. This song is great for the ex in your life who manipulated you, and you sussed them out.
3. "Hedonism"- Skunk Anansie
"Oh how do you remember me/The one that made you laugh, until you cried/I hope you're feeling happy now/Just because you feel good/Doesn't make it right"
I was introduced to this band years and years ago by my second real boyfriend ever out in Scotland. He put Skunk Anansie on the first mix tape he made me (which I still have). Soulful with a touch of edge. And I love how this song is kind of about accountability, and emotional maturity... issues I tend to have with exes, as I'm attracted to hedonists. I don't know why I keep being surprised when they're selfish. NOTE TO SELF.
4. "Not a Virgin Anymore"- Poe
"Before you let another lie/Slip through those crooked little teeth/I don't think you wanna start that shit with me/Much better yet/Tell me something dangerous and true/Oh yeah that looks much sexier on you"
Truth is dangerous. It's a thing people know, so they don't like to offer it up. I love this song not just cause it's like "yep, I'm fucking other people, fuck off" but also really majorly because of the above line. Having experienced multiple times people telling me "I lied cause it was easier and I thought you'd be happier because of it", honesty and trust are HUGE for me. My bullshit meter gets better every day.
5. "Someone is Crazy"- Jonathan Coulton
"You throw your hands up in the air and swear you didn't know/You think the world revolves around you but it doesn't so you sit and spin/Baby, someone is crazy and it's you"
This whole song is brilliant. I don't even know how to explain how brilliant. I love this because OMG it's so accurate for that ex who acts like a twat then whines about being alone. This is a musical clue-by-four for such a person.
6. "Shut Up and Let Me Go"- The Ting Tings
"Now oh so easily your over me/Gone is love/It's me that ought to be moving on/You're not adorable/I was something unignorable"
I'm a big fan of the bouncy "fuck you" song, and this is a great one for being kind of pissed off but not sinking into a full on rage. Also highly danceable, and the music video is really rad. Plus it's a good song for underlining your own eye-rolling feelings when you see your ex trying a little too hard to publicly show off that they're not hurt by the breakup.
7. "Buttons"- Sia
"When will you see that I am carrying this stuff/Walk away from me lover, away from me lover/Can't you see that I am losing my marbles/It's marvellous losing another, losing another"
This is a good one for when you're broken up with the other person and you want to communicate "really, it's for your own good, as well as mine", while also admitting that you're losing your shit somewhat. The music video is fucking weird, and kind of hot, too.
8. "Red"- Elbow
"We've been playing too rough lately/You burn too bright/You live too fast/This can't go on too long/You're a tragedy starting to happen"
This was on a breakup cd given to me. I didn't know at the time it was a breakup cd, and I listened to it over and over on a 12 hour flight trying to figure out what all the songs meant, if there was hope for our relationship or not. Therefore, I feel including this one, which I think sadly communicates "I wish I could keep doing this, but I can't" really well, is important.
9. "Beware"- Bitter Ruin
"Beware, please beware/If you’re gonna get involved with her then tread with care/‘Cause that girl is trouble, take it from me"
I can't be the only person who sees her ex with someone new and wants to pull the other person aside and warn them. You know, granted, that the new lover will just blow you off, because you're the ex, right? But you can have a bittersweet victory when they eventually do see that side of your ex and recoil. This song is for that first contact.
10. "Manhole"- Ani Difranco
"And ignoring the persona you wore for my benefit/For once I had the balls to call it/Just call it/But a lesson must be lived/In order to be learned/And the clarity to see and stop this now/That is what I've earned"
This is another song that I feel encapsulates the feeling of waking up after having been manipulated one too many times by someone who used to be a loved one. Wising up is hard as hell, but man does it feel good when you can take that step back and realize how close you were to falling into someone else's black hole of emotional wreckage.
11. "What A Shame"- Jim Infantino
"Take a knife and stab it in your foot/now there's a reason to be unhappy/now there's a reason to be blue/Take a pill, take a lot, take the orange ones/they made you sick last time/I know you knew/And it just might take the rest of your life/to get over what you're doing to yourself today"
Jim Infantino is a folk singer I grew up listening to, and this song is still one of my favourites. I wish I could find an mp3 of the song online anywhere, but not surprised that I can't. However, I love the sentiment of "you do this to yourself and then whinge about how awful it all is- well, um, STOP IT THEN". I feel that way a lot.
12. "Nothing Can Be Done"- Joni Mitchell
"Must I forgive you/Each time/And say you don't know what you're doing/There are no victimless crimes/I know of/Out here in these graffiti ruins"
Ah, compassion. I try very hard to have compassion for people who hurt me, because we all have our own shit going on, right? But it gets exhausting, sometimes, and you wonder if the person you're forgiving is ever actually going to learn, or if you need to give up and walk away. The line in this song "don't start- my heart is a smoking gun" also really resonates with me.
13. "A Brand New Me"- Bitter Ruin
"And you can claim, upon your mother's life/That you are in the clear, the jury'll pin the blame on me/But I know that you know the lie/And I know that you know there's details you cannot deny
So I will lie defeated here/And though it may take many years, you'll come clean/I will cry repeatedly/But I'll come out the other side a brand new me"
This is the song to put on the end of your breakup mix cd, because it declares hope. It accepts and embraces that you're still kind of hoping for resolution, that the other person isn't as much of an emotionless robot as they're acting like, but also soothes you by pointing out that you know what you did, right and wrong, and so do they- and making them take ownership for their shit? Not your problem anymore. You can grow, and thrive, without them.
And, as a bonus:
14. "Getting Over It"- Tough Love
"Sometimes I wonder how you sleep/But mostly I wonder where you sleep/And I want you/But I'm getting over it/And I miss you/But I'm getting over it/Getting over it"
This song was written by my friend Tobias out in London. The first time I heard it was when The Client and I had split up, and I was incredibly raw from it. This song healed my heart. I hope it helps you heal yours, if you need it. <3