What are Break-Up Songs?

Michael Pollick

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.

Not all break-up songs are sad or angry in tone.
Not all break-up songs are sad or angry in tone.

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.

Listening to break-up songs may worsen emotional challenges.
Listening to break-up songs may worsen emotional challenges.

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.

A person going through a break-up may listen to songs that remind them of their ex.
A person going through a break-up may listen to songs that remind them of their ex.

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.

Some break-up songs explore feelings of sadness and emotional pain that often accompany a break-up.
Some break-up songs explore feelings of sadness and emotional pain that often accompany a break-up.

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.

Roy Orbison's "Crying" addresses the inherent sadness of a broken relationship from a male perspective.
Roy Orbison's "Crying" addresses the inherent sadness of a broken relationship from a male perspective.
Good break-up songs cover the angst at the end of a relationship.
Good break-up songs cover the angst at the end of a relationship.

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Discussion Comments

anon210764

I just made my break up song list. Enjoy!

Peachy - Missy Higgins

Labour of Love - Frente!

Irreplaceable - Beyoncé

No - Shakira and Gustavo Cerati

Beautiful Liar - Beyoncé and Shakira

Fighter - Christina Aguilera

Feeling Good - Michael Bublé

Big Girls Don't Cry (Personal) - Fergie

Special Ones - Katie Noonan

Tears Dry On Their Own - Amy Winehouse

1901 - Phoenix

So Over You – Ashanti

Take a Bow – Rihanna

I'm Not Missing You - Stacie Orrico

Thank You - Jamelia

Energy - Keri Hilson

BostonIrish

I think that Seether has the best breakup songs. They are a particularly potent form of lyric and wrenching guitar combined with irregular bass drum beats and Shaun's deep and powerful voice. These songs are certainly of the angry variety, but the emotion is really appealing.

grumpy44134

Grass Roots - "Where Were you When I Needed You?"

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