10 Breakup Songs for Whatever Heartbreak You’re Going Through

Whether you've broken up with lovers, ideas, truths, or lies, this is the perfect playlist for you

Ariana Grande live album details release announcement
Ariana Grande

    For some of us, Valentine’s Day is a moment when we kind of believe love exists and joyfully go out with our new fling, but for others, it’s a perfect moment to think about exes, heartbreak, and disillusion. And if the past few years are any indication, a lot of us are carrying that heartbreak baggage; the acute sense of hurt has never been stronger. We’ve sent lovelorn texts, struggled with disappointing heroes, and probably broke up with one or two exploitative jobs only to get another one.

    Pop stars are also feeling the heartache. Ariana Grande gave us arguably the song of 2018 and ’19 with “thank u, next”. She boldly called out every single one of her exes by name in the song and continues to set the example for pop excellence. Selena Gomez also released “Lose You to Love Me”, which is widely speculated to be about Justin Bieber, who married Hailey Bieber last year. Following the heels of Gomez’s release, her ex, The Weeknd, gave hints that he was going to release a song about her called “Like Selena” — which appears to no longer be happening. Still, for pop stars these last few years, breakups were truly the gifts that keep giving, at least in terms of songwriting.

    But, back to us: We’re a little over three years into Trump’s reign and the sense of everything being a burning pile of shit is stronger than ever. The wealth disparity in the country is comical, and what rich people can get away with feels outrageous. For example, a moment last year when we found out wealthy people photoshopped their kids into sports photos so the kids could attend colleges they otherwise wouldn’t be admitted into.


    So yeah, breakups aren’t just with our disappointing lovers. They can be with your heroes, with what you thought was true, and more. Some of us gave up on Kanye West when his lackluster Jesus Is King album made more headlines for the weird celibacy vows West put his songwriters through than the actual music. Lana Del Rey on “The Greatest” certainly prepared a mournful eulogy to not only West but an American dream that was always false.

    In no particular order, here are 10 songs this Valentine’s Day for whatever breakup you’re going through. If you’ve recently broken up with lovers, with ideas, with truths, with lies, terrible jobs, or outdated ways of being, this is the playlist for you.

    “thank u, next” by Ariana Grande

    “thank u, next” is not only one of the biggest songs of last year but also a spectacular breakup song. When Ariana Grande released the song, she had just ended her engagement and highly publicized romance with Pete Davidson. “thank u, next,” released in late 2018, also came on the heels of two turbulent years for Grande. In 2018, her ex, rapper Mac Miller, died from a fatal overdose, and in 2017, her concert at Manchester arena was hit with a devastating and fatal terrorist attack.

    While Sweetener, her prior album, tackled Grande’s mindset through these tumultuous events, “thank u, next” took Grande to the next stage and cemented her triumph over everything that had gone wayside in her life. In a very tongue-in-cheek manner, Grande starts the song by naming all her exes and dropping positive one-liners about their relationships. Rather than the typical, angry breakup song, Grande chooses to see the good in her past relationships by thanking them while singing, “I’m so fuckin’ grateful for my ex.”

    With a swish of her high ponytail, she impressively brushes off the pressure of a very public relationship and subsequent very public fallout like it’s nothing. With great ease, a breakup song filtered through Grande also miraculously becomes an ode to finding self-love and looking towards the future. It’s not really a song about the dudes she broke up with, though they’re part of her story; it’s a song about her and her self-growth. “thank u, next” is Grande’s love song to herself.

    “The Greatest” by Lana Del Rey

    Lana Del Rey captures the current cultural ennui and ongoing heartache with the staggering and striking lines, “LA is in flames‚ it’s getting hot/ Kanye West is blond and gone.” She manages to encapsulate the dread and doom caused by climate change in one line and in the next, the bewilderment at what’s going on with past pop stars who simply are just, as she says it, gone. With a finger on the zeitgeist’s pulse, she croons about the inevitable apocalypse and decay of things. “The culture is lit, and if this is it‚ I had a ball/ I guess that I’m burned out after all,” she whispers.


    “The Greatest” is a breakup and a eulogy, mourning a lost lover, cities, other things that are only myths now. She references past American signatures: Long Beach, The Beach Boys, the bygone days of when rock and roll ruled New York. It’s like a song played right before the end of everything, the last track played at the end of a party right before the lights come on, and you’re dancing until the last minute, knowing it’s already over.

    “Lose You to Love Me” by Selena Gomez

    If you’ve ever known a relationship was truly over and done for, but still wanted to revisit it to confirm, “Lose You to Love Me” will resonate. In a sparse track, Selena Gomez realizes, “I needed to lose you to find me/ This dance, it was killing me softly/ I needed to hate you to love me, yeah.” Gomez has not explicitly stated “Lose You to Love Me” is about Justin Bieber, but the pointed lines, “In two months, you replaced us/ Like it was easy” certainly suggests she’s talking about him. After breaking up with Gomez for what would be the last time, Bieber proposed to his former flame, Hailey Baldwin (now Hailey Bieber), within three months. If “Lose You to Love Me” is anything to go by, Gomez has moved somewhere past a tearful goodbye and much like Grande, transitioned to a place where the breakup is for the greater good.

    “Earfquake” by Tyler, the Creator

    “Earfquake” is a surprisingly sweet, imploring song to a soon-to-be ex-lover by Tyler, the Creator. It’s a strong contrast to his roots; at the beginning of the 2010s, the rapper rose to prominence as the leader of the highly influential collective Odd Future and made very acerbic, violent, and over-the-top songs about murder, kidnapping, and assault. His 2019 song “Earfquake” and album, IGOR, confirm Tyler’s sincere new direction. “Earfquake” is a mid-tempo song littered with hi-hats and garnished with soft piano flourishes. Against that colorful backdrop, Tyler earnestly pleads, “Don’t leave me, it’s my fault.”

    In conjunction with the rest of the songs on IGOR, it feels like he’s coming clean, baring some version of the truth and demanding the same from love and a lover. “Take your mask off,” he sings on “Running Out of Time”. “Stop lyin’, I know the real you.” Much like Tyler the Creator, when confronted with a love that might leave us wishing for tenderness and something more underneath, we’ll embrace the chaos that comes with and confess, “Don’t save, don’t save, don’t save/ It’s a low tide (I’ll be fine)/ I found peace in drownin.’”

    “Hardly to Blame” by Sheer Mag

    “Hardly to Blame” is the most delicious banger about telling your ex exactly why it’s over. It’s the title track on indie rock band Sheer Mag’s 2019 album, A Distant Call. The track is inspired by events in singer Tina Halladay’s own life including a breakup, the death of her estranged father, and losing a job. “Hardly to Blame” is one of the songs on the album that is less overt in explicit events it’s referencing, but its sheer exuberance and demand for an ex to realize a breakup is a two-person thing, feels cathartic. Halladay’s piercing voice shines on the track, as she sings, “I bet ya think you’re/ Hardly to blame,” and admits unreservedly, “I tried to love ya/ I tried to tell ya/ I tried, I tried, I tried, yeah.”

    Click ahead for more of our favorite breakup songs…