Break-ups are truly some of the most horrible experiences you’ll have in your life, particularly if your emotional connection to the other person was strong. There are many coping mechanisms when it comes to ‘moving on’ and processing all of the intense emotions and feelings, but the one which helps the majority is music. Whether it’s the power of the lyrics, or the effects of the tempo and melodies, there’s usually a song for every occasion or feeling in your every day life – and a break-up is no different.
My good friend, Eve, wrote a piece on her site, Never Settle, which featured a playlist of songs that helps one through the horrible process of a breakup. Although brilliant and receiving great feedback, I felt that with my own harsh experiences of break-ups and heavy dependancies on music and lyrics, I could offer my own take on what is the ultimate break-up playlist. You can read the original post here
I’ve followed the exact same categories that Never Settle laid out, with only one additional theme of ‘when you don’t know why it’s gone wrong’, because I feel that this one is particularly pertinent to me and many others. There are Spotify/YouTube links to each song or performance that accompany the narrative.
Theme #1: Cheated
Mr Brightside – The Killers
This old chestnut! It’s the ultimate hit for the millennial, almost always played towards the end of the night at the Christmas party, but the lyrics are so painful despite the song’s melody. Brandon Flowers laments about the paranoia surrounding someone when their significant other is cheating on them. “I just can’t look, it’s killing me and taking control. Jealousy, turning saints in to the sea, swimming through sick lullabies” resonates in the mind long after the pounding guitars and drums end.
Love The Way You Lie – Eminem and Rihanna
Although this song is reportedly about domestic violence and a clash of personalities in a relationship, you can’t help but channel the anger and heartbreak of the two artists as you realise that despite your lover hurting you in the worst way possible, there’ll always be a part of you that still loves them, and would forgive them for anything. ‘Just going to stand there and hear me cry, but that’s alright because I love the way you lie’reminds you of the almost self-destructive lengths our hearts and minds go to to preserve love.
I’m Not The Only One – Sam Smith
When your partner cheats but you agree to give them a chance, and forgive them, yet it always eats away at you. They can call you sweet names, profess their love, but you know that you’re ‘not the only one’ they’ve said it to. An emotional ballad from Smith’s debut album.
Theme #2: Angry
Leave – Swell Season
The powerful vocals and the thrashing of the acoustic guitar in this song allow you to vent your anger out through – sometimes – the most important word: leave. When you’re through with being messed around, when you’ve realised what is good for you, it’s so therapeutic to say the word ‘leave’ – and to sing it at the top of your lungs? Even better. Get that person out of your life before they continue to hurt you.
Somebody That I Used To Know – Gotye
Who remembers this one hit wonder with the video of a naked couple being painted against a canvas? Pretty weird, huh? Despite the odd, yet signifiant video, it’s only when you stop to think about the lyrics that you realise how powerful the lyrics are. ‘But you didn’t have to cut me off, make out like it never happened and that we were nothing… now you’re just somebody that I used to know’– the singer laments on how his partner has severed their love without showing any remorse or care, and he can’t fathom how they can just disappear despite everything they’ve been through. If you’ve ever been in this situation, where your partner’s feelings just switch off and they leave you in the dark, this one will certainly get the blood pumping.
In The End – Linkin Park
When you’re feeling angry, there’s nothing like a bit of Linkin Park to get you punching the air and metaphorically attacking your heartache. Whilst there are many interpretations of the meaning of this song, it can certainly be applied in a break up. ‘I wasted it all just to watch you go, I kept everything inside and even though I tried, it all fell apart’ – think about putting so much effort and time in to a relationship, only for the person to walk out, leaving you a bitter and upset mess. ‘I tried so hard and got so far, but in the end, it doesn’t even matter’ – the bitterness and anger from this song is blatantly obvious, and the heavy guitars and vocals really reinforce this. One to play at high volumes and drown out your thoughts with.
Theme #3: Crying
Goodbye My Lover – James Blunt
We all know Blunt for this, and the more popular ‘You’re Beautiful’. He gets a lot of stick for many reasons, but I genuinely think this encapsulates heartbreak at its most sincere moment. To me, this is all about a relationship ending, but the feelings don’t end. It’s like trying to remove a tattoo – your lover and relationship will always be a part of you, and no laser removal will erase this. It leaves you feeling ‘so hollow’, and you want your lover to know: ‘as you move on, remember me. Remember us and all we used to be.’
Thru These Tears – LANY
Listen to the acoustic version of this song to capture its full effect. This is a songwriter acknowledging his vulnerability, and his lyrics remind you that it’s okay to cry and feel like the world is crumbling around you, but reminds you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel. ‘In the end I’m gonna be alright, but it might take a hundred sleepless nights, to make the memories of you disappear’.This is definitely a hot-water bottle of a song for those sleepless nights that he sings about.
Be Alright – Dean Lewis
A fairly new, slow-burner of a ballad. Lewis perfectly fuses heartbreak and hope in one sweet song. As you listen to him describing a friend comforting you and reminding you that your relationship ending isn’t the end of you, you can almost certainly feel your own vulnerability and hear your own friends – this is a real tear-jerker from a rising star.
Theme #4: When you don’t know why it’s gone wrong!
The Feel Again (Stay) – Blue October
For anyone who knows me, you’ll be surprised that I had the discipline to not put a Blue October song in every category. The lead singer is well known for his incredibly emotionally accurate lyrics, and this one is possibly one of the most heartbreaking songs he’s captured. You can hear the pain in his voice as he recalls the feelings he had when his wife left him and took away his daughter. That feeling of abandonment and vulnerability hits you like a tidal wave as Furstenfeld practically cries the lyrics down the microphone. Incredibly haunting and moving song about being left in the darkness. Watch this acoustic performance from London and you’ll see what raw emotion and pure heartbreak looks like because, let’s face it, we all need to swim in our darkest emotions sometimes.
Low Rising – Swell Season
Another stunning piece by Swell Season. This time, Irish star Glen Hansard sings about the moment you know you have to address the daunting hollowness in your relationship that you don’t want to end, but you feel it steamrolling towards you with such a great inevitability. Some will argue that this is about a couple who eventually talk it out and resolve their issues, but for me the rising guitars and trumpets remind me of the inevitable chasing you down
Say Something – James
This classic song by one of Britain’s finest bands has many interpretations, but I feel it’s best suited to a situation where you’re trying to connect emotionally to someone you love, and you’re receiving nothing back. It’s about giving it your all and pleading with them to give you ‘a sign’, because their ‘silence is deafening’. Tim Booth’s beautiful vocals take this song to a bittersweet place in your mind.
Theme #5: When they’re not that in to you
Be Your Man – Rhys Lewis
If you’ve ever been in a relationship with someone who is still caught up on their ex, and essentially using you as a rebound, then this song is your best friend. Lewis is a fairly new kid on the block, but his lyrics cut straight to the core. ‘You got me feeling like I don’t deserve you, and I’m trying to deal with this pain, but it kills me cause I know you still love him’
I Can’t Make You Love Me – Tank (cover)
Although a cover of the Bonnie Raitt classic, the vocals and tempo make this version heartbreaking, and it’s so easy to extract raw emotion from the lyrics. This is a song about loving someone who you know doesn’t love you back, and struggling to find the strength to leave. ‘I’ll close my eyes, then I won’t see the love you don’t feel when you’re holding me […] cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t’
Linger – The Cranberries
A classic song about wanting someone that you shouldn’t. The singer’s vocals strike every chord in your heart as you know you should let go of the one that is bad for you. ‘You know I’m such a fool for you, you’ve got me wrapped around your finger, do you have to let it linger?’
Theme #6: Moving on
Getting Over It Part – Blue October
Perhaps a less idealistic situation, but this really is a song for those who are moving on despite their partner trying to claw them back. The singer tells his partner ‘Let’s burn this house we built up, down and simply walk away’ and ‘Yeah we’re over, get over it though!’. When you finally realise what your worth, you can sing along to this with passion and vigour.
Shine – David Gray
Thiis is about knowing your relationship has ended, but finally accepting that it’s time to move on and wishing you and your partner well for the future. It’s an anthem for maturity in a break up, and Gray’s powerful vocals drive the message home. ‘We’ve gotta go where we can shine’
I Hope You’re Happy – Blue October
Moving on from their several years of angsty, dark anthems, this is now the anthem for forgiveness and wishing those who have hurt you happiness. It will get your feet moving, you’ll sing it out loud, and make you realise that life is too short. No matter what happens, you don’t truly wish unhappiness and misery on someone who gave you joy, no matter how long!