breakup song
Pump up the stereo and have a good cry. (Illustration by Alexa Finkelstein, Pratt Institute)
Sounds x
breakup song
Pump up the stereo and have a good cry. (Illustration by Alexa Finkelstein, Pratt Institute)

Heartbroken? There’s a song for that.

There is a breakup song that resonates with everyone. Some songs allow people to project their own situations and emotions to those expressed in the lyrics, and a few select tracks are more direct, eliminating the need to reinterpret. A compilation of both types, these 11 relatable breakup songs are shaped for every kind of split. Each song, no matter the genre, reveals a darker aspect of heartache. Turn the volume up for these heartbreak tunes.

1. “I Fall Apart” by Post Malone

Post Malone, or Austin Malone, released “I Fall Apart” in 2016 as a pain-filled response to a breakup and the drinking that sometimes followed. The original breakup song dates back to Malone’s high school years in Texas. In an interview with GQ, Malone said, “You know, I wrote this song about when I was a little naive high school boy, so this is about a high school shorty that we won’t disclose, but she’s a real McAsshole.” It wasn’t until 2017 that a viral performance of the song gained traction on Twitter and made this heartbreak song a hit.

Revealing lyrics: “She fooled me twice and it’s all my fault / She cut too deep, now she left me scarred / Now there’s too many thoughts goin’ through my brain”

2. “Lying to You” by Keaton Henson

“Lying to You” jabs at the unfortunate realities of a mutually loveless relationship. Released by Keaton Henson in 2013, this slow tuned, tear-jerking song shares how the narrator is not in love with the person he is currently with due to losing who he truly loved. Though the reason for this loss — whether it be death, a breakup or a change in personality — is never revealed, this song’s heartbreaking lyrics are complemented by its slow tune and indie folk notes.

Revealing lyrics: “And, girl, you must know you are lovely / You’re kind and you’re beautiful, too/ and I feel in some way I do love you / but babe, I’m not in love with you”

3. “Hurt” by Johnny Cash

“Hurt” was originally written and released by American rock band Nine Inch Nails in 1995. The song was frequently interpreted as a suicide note that resulted from the protagonist’s depression. It wasn’t until 2002 that Johnny Cash covered his own slower (as if this were possible), pain-laced version accompanied by a music video that captures moments of isolation and the cruel realities that accompanied Cash’s life. Though the lyrics clearly depict a depressive state, the Cash version is sometimes thought of as a heartbreak song due to the relationship portrayed within the music video.

Revealing lyrics: “And you could have it all / my empire of dirt / I will let you down / I will make you hurt”

4. “All I Want” by Kodaline

Kodaline, an Irish indie rock band, released “All I Want” in 2013 as a single for their first studio album, “In a Perfect World.” Though the song barely made noise on the radio, the track generated virality in its own way. The track has been famously played in emotional episodes of “The Vampire Diaries” and “Grey’s Anatomy” and was also listed on the soundtrack for “The Fault in Our Stars.” Written by band vocalist Steve Garrigan, “All I Want” was inspired by a breakup, but the song has been taken to heart by millions, giving the lyrics new interpretations and transforming the meaning to represent something different for each individual.

Revealing lyrics: “When you said your last goodbye / I died a little bit inside / I lay in tears in bed all night / Alone without you by my side”

5. “Objects in the Mirror” by Mac Miller

In 2013, rap artist Mac Miller released “Objects in the Mirror,” a slower, jazz-infused track inspired by his own heartache and longing. In an interview with MTV News, Miller said, “What I like to do when I’m writing a song like this is something in my life that happens. I take the emotion.” The song pulls emotions associated from a real-life heartbreak he experienced, and while his lyrics remain vague, Miller created a personal piece that can resonate as a breakup song or heartache ballad.

Revealing lyrics: “You never taught me how to heal the pain / I wish you caught me on a different day / when it was easier to be happy”

6. “SAD!” by XXXTentacion

Released as the lead single from rapper XXXTentacion’s 2018 album, “?,” “SAD!” mulls over the emotions tied to letting go of a loved one and expresses the depression that may follow. Inspired by his own life experiences, X may have been alluding to the loss of his friend Jocelyn Flores, who committed suicide in 2017. Others interpret this piece as a breakup song that refers to emotions that can be paralleled between the two kinds of loss. Laced with suicidal thoughts, the slight upbeat tune contrasts and, somehow, complements the lyrics and meaning.

Revealing lyrics: “I gave her everything / She took my heart and left me lonely / I think broken heart’s contagious / I won’t fix, I’d rather weep”

7. “Fix You” by Coldplay

“Fix You,” released by alternative rock band Coldplay in their “X&Y” album in 2005, is decked with potential themes pertaining to heartbreak, recovery and encouragement. The track was inspired by the death of lead singer Chris Martin’s father-in-law and written for his then wife, Gwenyth Paltrow, after she returned home from the hospital when he passed. Throughout “Fix You,” an organ, piano and guitar blend and build up to include bass and drums, creating a transition from a sadder tone to slightly uplifting beats.

Revealing lyrics: “And the tears come streaming down your face / when you lose something you can’t replace / when you love someone but it goes to waste”

8. “Sorry” by Halsey

Unlike many of Halsey’s songs, “Sorry” is a voice-centric, somber piano ballad. The track was released in 2017 on her album “Hopeless Fountain Kingdom” and acts as an apology to her “unknown” lovers for not letting them inside of the walls she’s built. Playing on themes of obliviousness and possible inability to love, Halsey beautifully sings upon the topic of this revelation she’s come to.

Revealing lyrics: “Someone will love you / But someone isn’t me”

9. “Almost Lover” by A Fine Frenzy

Another piano ballad, A Fine Frenzy released “Almost Lover” in 2007 as the second single to the album “One Cell in the Sea.” Singer Alison Sudal wrote this track as an emotion-filled goodbye to her almost lover. The lyrics thoughtfully reveal Sudal’s emotions and provide imagery and insight into their broken relationship; throughout the song, she switches between her thoughts and memories, providing flashbacks and inserting her perspective in correlation with her emotions.

Revealing lyrics: “So long, my luckless romance / My back is turned on you / Should’ve known you’d bring me heartache / Almost lovers always do”

10. “I Need My Girl” by The National

A heart-wrenching, thoughtful track, “I Need My Girl” was released by alternative rock band The National in 2014. The song was written by all five members of the band, but singer Matt Berninger, in an interview with “Under the Radar,” said “‘I Need My Girl’ is one of the most direct, earnest love songs we’ve ever written. I wrote it about missing my wife and daughter. It’s pretty simple. It’s not about any other thing.” For many fans and listeners, this tune is something different to them: maybe not quite a breakup song, but a heartbreak song nonetheless.

Revealing lyrics: “I am good, I am grounded / Davy says that I look taller / I can’t get my head around it / I keep feeling smaller and smaller / I need my girl”

11. “No One’s Gonna Love You” by Band of Horses

A melancholy tune, “No One’s Gonna Love You” was originally released by indie rock group Band of Horses in 2007. The narrator of the track speaks of a relationship heading in a constant downward spiral but speaks highly and confidently of his still-lingering feelings toward the other person. Throughout the piece, the writer hints at the dedication he holds to the relationship, despite the odds being against him.

Revealing lyrics: “We are the ever-living ghost of what once was / But no one is ever gonna love you more than I do”

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