Best Break Up Songs: From Weepy To Empowered To Downright Angry

Georgina Lawton

A break-up song for every mood. All in one place

Hard times and sad playlists tend to go hand-in-hand. Whether you’ve had your heart broken, or are experiencing stress, crisis or loss, there’s bound to be a soundtrack that helps you through the darker moments. But while everyone has their own personal preferences (hey, if easy-listening jazz-funk prog-rock gets you through, then that’s totally your call), new research has now found that listening to sad music from the likes of Radiohead, Adele and Muse really can help you cope better than turning up the happy tunes.

Dr Annemieke van den Tol from De Montfort University led two studies, involving around 450 people, looking at the listening habits of people going through a range of emotions and circumstances. The research found that while many people enjoyed happy music more, it was the sadder, emotional tracks that they opted for to help process emotions, have a good cry and deal with grief.

Dr Van den Tol said: “Sadness often involves emotional loss, which is not a problem that can be solved or reversed. The only real way to move on and feel better is by accepting the situation, and we found that people were able to do this by listening to sad music, but not so much by listening to happy music.

“By connection to the sad emotions in the music, they are able to turn negative emotions into something more peaceful, allowing them to move on and accept these.”

But when it comes to break-ups in particular, we know that one person’s mosh-pit anthem is another’s tearjerker, so we’ve compiled a break-up song for every mood and taste - all in one place. Because a break-up really is a rollercoaster of emotions, and chances are, you're going to be transitioning - from the same-hoodie-for-five-days phase, into a woman of fury, empowerment and passive aggressive emojis - all within the space of a few weeks. Sounds emotional, doesn't it? Which is why we've created a playlist for it. We should have called this one '50 shades of a break-up' but we don't have 50 songs. We have 16.

Here's our definitive list of break-up songs in order of weepy to angry to empowered.


1. Never Ever - All Saints

Written before the age of social media, the 90s girl group perfectly encapsulate how words and memories can play on your mind after a big break-up. However, we can't help thinking that Shaznay and the crew had it made when they wrote this song back in 1998: no Whatsapp, no print screening, no furious Facebook messages. Nowdays when you finish with someone you're haunted forever more by their digital footprint.

Best line: 'Conversations/hesitations in my mind/you got my conscience asking questions that I can't find.'

2. Wake Up Alone - Amy Winehouse


A break-up track list wouldn't be complete without the amazing Amy. From her 2006 album Back To Black, Amy sings about the horrors of realising you really do have to wake up with nobody to spoon when a relationship comes to an end. 

Best line: 'Pour myself over him/moon spilling in/and I wake up alone'

3. Marvin's Room - Drake


The undisputed king of mellow and moody break-up tracks hit the nail on the head with his 2011 hit. In it, he sings and raps about resisting the urge to drunk dial his ex. He also slips in a brag or two about how much he gets laid because he’s famous. 

Best line: ‘I’m just saying you could do better/And I’ll start hating only if you make me’.

4. Nothing Compares 2U - Sinead O’Connor

An iconic 80s track with a heart-wrenching video to match, this was originally penned by Prince and is Sinead’s biggest hit to date. An integral track for your break-up.

Best line: ‘I went to the doctor and guess what he told me/Guess what he told me/He said girl you better have fun in what you do/But he’s a fool/Because nothing compares to you’

5. Someone Like You - Adele

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Adele’s smash hit album, 21, was a self-described ‘break-up album’ so stick the whole thing on for a good weep. Every line in this track perfectly personifies the emptiness of losing a loved one. (Sob).

Best line: ‘Sometimes it lasts in love but sometimes it hurts instead’.

6. Don't Speak - No Doubt

Gwen knows about difficult relationships.  So much so that she used to break down on stage when she performed this huge hit - it's inspired by her relationship with Tony Kanal, her No Doubt bandmember. All the lyrics in this are amazing, as is the climatic ending to the track.

Best line: 'As we die/Both you and I/With my head in my hands/I sit and cry'

7. Love Will Tear Us Apart - Joy Division

Nothing sums up the mundane, hollowness of life without love better than the sound of Joy Division. The exhausting paradox of being transfixed and distressed by someone all at once is haunting, dark and so sad.

Best line: Well it’s got to be ‘love will tear us apart again’ hasn’t it?


8. Somebody That I Used To Know - Gotye

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The 2012 hit from Gotye is a tale of a cold, cold break-up. You know, when somebody completely cuts you out by deleting you, changing their number and making a clean break for it in order to end things once and for all. 
In fact, there's a new term for it – Ghosting. Harsh, but then again, it’s sometimes needed.

Best line: ‘Now you’re just somebody that I used to know. Somebody…’

9. Survivor - Destiny’s Child

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One of the fiercest ‘don’t need no man’ tracks ever written. The strings alone are enough to send a lightning bolt of aggression and determination through us. And then when the chorus drops...

Best line: 'Thought I wouldn't breathe without you/I'm inhaling'

10. Fuck It - Eamon

Just for the sheer amount of profanities in this track, Eamon’s 2003 hit deserves a place on this list. Because we all need to vent like this sometimes...

Best line: ‘Fuck what I said it don't mean shit now/Fuck the presents might as well throw 'em out’.

11. Caught Out There - Kelis

The backbone of all break-up tracks. The angriest get-gone anthem ever written. Kelis is throwing her blonde afro around in this video whilst literally screaming in the chorus. When the abyss of anger within you almost forces you to ring your ex/key their car…just stick this track on instead.

Best line: ‘I hate you so much right now -ARRRGHHH’


12. Good Riddance (Time Of Your Life) - Green Day

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With an upbeat tempo and acoustic guitar, this chilled out track from the American pop-punk trio is bitter yet insouciant. Perfect for when your head's a littler clearer.

Best line: ‘It's something unpredictable/but in the end is right/I hope you had the time of your life.'

12. Smile - Lily allen

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Who remembers when Lily burst onto the scene with this pop-reggae blast track in 2006? This one’s perfect for when the anger has dissipated and all the embarrassing/irritating/silly memories of a long-gone ex just bring a big old smile (or smirk) to your face.

Best line: ’Now you calling me up on the phone/So you can have a little whine and a moan/It’s only because you’re feeling alone’

13. We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together - Taylor Swift

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We all know that Taylor Swift has a penchant for creating songs about lost love that manages to resonate with just about everybody. And because they’re often about famous exes - she always has the last laugh - as will you when you’re dancing around the room to this, remembering why you’re NEVER getting back with whats-his-name.

Best line: 'You go talk to your friends/talk to my friends/talk to me/but we are never ever ever ever getting back together'.

14. Cry Me A River - Justin Timberlake

Imagine if Justin’s break-up with Britney had inspired another sarcastic turn of phrase like  ‘boo-hoo’ or ‘play me a tune on the world’s smallest violin’. It probably wouldn’t have been as big a hit. Thank god he stuck with this title and created one of the catchiest pop anthems ever.

Best line: ‘Now there's just no chance/For you and me/We'll never be/Don't it make you sad about it.'

15.  Irreplaceable - Beyoncé

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There's something incredible about Beyoncé's uncanny ability to mine her own confidence to inspire women all over the world to love themselves. This is undoubtedly one of her best break-up tracks (of which there are actually so many).

Best line: 'To the left, to the left/everything you own in the box to the left.'

16. I Will Survive - Gloria Gaynor

Before Taylor and Beyoncé and the Spice Girls were repping girl power, Gloria Gaynor was dishing out advice to the broken-hearted in 1978: change your locks and keys and walk out the door when you can't take any more. (Still relevant today). This one is timeless - an absolute power track that charts the rollercoaster of a break-up. In the song, Gloria was afraid at first - in fact she was petrified - but then she said 'sod this', wrote a disco smash and decided to choose survival. So will you after grooving to this for a while. An absolute power track that charts the roller coaster of a break-up. This one is timeless.

Best line: 'Go on now go/Walk out the door/Turn around now/You're not welcome anymore.'

Which songs would you recommend for a break up? Tweet us: @marieclaireuk



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