The stages of a romantic relationship have always been popular sources of fuel for songwriters and singers. Many people turn to music as a way to cope with the confusing mix of emotions following a romantic break-up. Some may feel angry at their former lover, while others may feel sad or even look for empowerment. The best break-up songs cover every aspect of post-relationship angst, from resentment to sadness and finally to acceptance. Break-up songs serve to heal a broken heart while hinting at a path to recovery.
Some break-up songs address powerful feelings of anger or resentment some people experience immediately after the end of a volatile relationship. Break-up songs with a bitter or angry subtext include REM's "The One I Love," Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know" and J. Geil's anthemic "Love Stinks." Ray Charles' "Hit the Road, Jack" is written from the perspective of a spurned woman telling her cheating boyfriend to leave and never return. Green Day's "Good Riddance(Time of your life)" appears to wish an ex-girlfriend well, but there is still a palpable sense of anger and confusion under the surface.
Other break-up songs explore the feelings of sadness and emotional pain which often accompany a difficult break-up. Sinead O'Connor's plaintive wails during "Nothing Compares 2 U" or Axl Rose's emotional performance of "November Rain" both suggest conflicted emotions and a need to grieve over the loss of a relationship. Roy Orbison's "Crying" and U2's "With or Without You" also address the inherent sadness of a broken relationship from a male's point of view.
Not all break-up songs are sad or angry in tone, however. Some people who find the courage to end a toxic or destructive relationship find strength in songs of empowerment. Gloria Gaynor's "I Will Survive" tells the story of a woman who finds liberation after breaking up with a controlling boyfriend. Scandal's "Goodbye to You" also features a woman who feels empowered after ending a bad relationship. Nancy Sinatra's "These Boots Are Made For Walkin'" and Destiny's Child's "Survivor" are also popular examples of empowering break-up songs.
There are numerous listings of popular break-up songs available on the Internet, including the best and worst examples of the genre. A number of people turn to different types of break-up songs as they transition from one emotion to another during recovery. Many people find that the right break-up song can be very cathartic, since it expresses many of the same feelings they may be experiencing in real life and in real time.