All the way back in 1962, Neil Sedaka said it best: "Breaking up is hard to do." And while music has certainly changed since his classic song hit the charts over 50 years ago, the sentiment remains: breakups hurt, no matter how you slice it. It's terrible to be the "dumper," perhaps worse to be the "dumpee," and even the most amicable splits leave both parties feeling some level of sadness or anger. Matters of the heart, especially heartbreak and lost love, have clearly always made for great music. So it's not hard to imagine why many famous musicians have channeled their heartbreak into some seriously harsh songs.
It's inevitable that many popular artists would choose to include deeply personal experiences, such as breakups, into their lyrics and music. After all, who among us hasn't belted "Since U Been Gone" alone in the car or your bedroom, as if Kelly Clarkson is singing right to you, channeling the pain of that loser who just broke your heart through song?
Things get understandably awkward when those personal lyrics are quite possibly referencing other celebrities... you know, the ones in high-profile relationships with said freshly scorned pop star. Here are the harshest songs that were rumored to be about celebrity exes.
1. Mariah Carey — "Infinity"
With lyrics like "Why you mad/Talkin' 'bout you're mad/Could it be that you just lost the best you've ever had?" and a release that came not terribly long after news of her split with husband Nick Cannon, it's not surprising that people immediately assumed the song's lyrics were about him. But Carey didn't acknowledge his part in the lyrics, instead telling Entertainment Tonight, "I leave that open for the fans to interpret. People have to be able to interpret it for their own selves." Touché.
2. Ray J — "I Hit It First"
Ray J's claim to fame these days mostly lies with being Kim Kardashian's former love (and costar in that tape... you know the one) and even though their relationship ended in 2007, it seems like, in 2013, he still found enough musical inspiration in the fact that he "hit it first" (classy). It's pretty hard to deny who he's referencing when he sings: "I had her head going north and her ass going south/But now baby chose to go West" and welcoming his ex to come back and "make another movie," but Ray J says he refrained from admitting that the song is about her. He explained to Wendy Williams that he "just felt like in the promotional campaign, to go so hard after you already know what the song is about, that was too much. I let the song speak for itself." Ah, OK, well I'm glad he knows where to draw the line here.
3. Taylor Swift — "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"
Like many musicians before (and after) her, Swift frequently draws inspiration from heartache and spins it into smash hit gold, and it's rumored that many of her most popular songs are about famous exes. But one rumor that continually swirled (and has never been confirmed) is that the bluntly-titled "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together" is about Swift's short-term boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal. They never did get back together, so maybe this one isn't such a mystery after all.
4. The Jonas Brothers — "Much Better"
One of Swift's first controversial breakups came thanks to the infamous "27-second phone call" that Joe Jonas made to end their relationship, and Jonas and his band pretty much clapped back in this 2008 song. The song's opening lyrics pretty much say it all: "I get a rep for breakin' hearts/Now I'm done with superstars/And all the tears on her guitar/I'm not bitter/But now I see/Everything I'd ever need/Is the girl in front of me/She's much better." Jonas said fans would have to figure it out for themselves, but the swipe at one of Swift's first-ever hits "Teardrops on My Guitar" is pretty thinly veiled.
5. Justin Bieber — "Love Yourself"
Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber officially broke up sometime in 2012, but the world really isn't letting them move on from each other. Jelena shippers still plea for a reconciliation, and both of them repeatedly add fuel to the fire by releasing songs rumored to be about each other, such as "Love Yourself." But Bieber is hardly singing Gomez's praises (if it is about her) in this one, with words like "My mama don't like you and she likes everyone," he makes it pretty clear that Mama Bieber is not into her. Ouch.
6. Justin Timberlake — "What Goes Around... Comes Around"
Though his first famous breakup hit (ahem, you may have heard it before? "Cry Me a River," anyone?) was about Timberlake's fairy tale romance come to an end with Britney Spears, this clap-back jam about the sweet revenge against a cheating ex is rumored to be about his relationship with actor Elisha Cuthbert, which clearly didn't end well. Timberlake has never confirmed this, but his karmic warnings are all we need to know about this breakup.
7. Big Sean & E-40 — "I Don’t F*ck With You"
Rapper Big Sean claims he wrote this biting song while still with his ex-fiancée, actor Naya Rivera, but when the song was released after Rivera married her rebound love two months later (and reportedly on what was supposed to be their wedding day... wow!) Sean didn't have to deny the fact that the lyrics about "dodging a crazy b*tch" were about Rivera.
8. Katy Perry — "Part Of Me"
Katy Perry and Russell Brand's marriage was short-lived, and their breakup seemed less-than-amicable, so Perry naturally took her feelings to song with this breakup anthem in which she sang: "You chewed me up/And spit me out/Like I was poison in your mouth" and declared "This is the part of me/That you're never gonna ever take away from me, no." Amen, sister!
9. Ciara — "I Bet"
After her tense breakup with rapper Future, Ciara took to songwriting for a little therapeutic resolve, and some of the more gentle lyrics in "I Bet" include: "So you bought me a car, he can buy that too/I can take care of myself and I can find someone to do it too, baby." But with such a beautiful melody, it's definitely one of the most angelic revenge songs ever written!
10. Ed Sheeran — "Don't"
With his lovely vocals and guitar riff, it's hard to imagine a song that starts so sweet could end with the apt declaration "don't f*ck with my love," but alas, Sheeran has denied this song is about his ex, fellow singer Ellie Goulding, telling Entertainment Weekly,
I never actually confirmed it. That’s an interesting one because the argument I was talking about earlier between being honest. I had to be as honest as possible in that song because otherwise what’s the f*cking point? There’d be no anger or pain in that song if it was just very sweet and nice. The whole reason people connected to it was because everyone’s been that angry at one point, everyone’s hated their partner or spouse like, “Don’t f*ck with this.” For me, it needed to be done. It didn’t necessarily have to go on the album, but it definitely needed to be written.
11. Taylor Swift — "Dear John"
After Swift and singer John Mayer embarked on a short-lived romance way back when, but Swift clearly wasn't happy with the way he treated her, singing "Don't you think 19 is too young to be played by your dark twisted games, when I loved you so?" She didn't expressly say the song was about this particular John, but he understandably took it as so, telling Rolling Stone, "I never got an e-mail. I never got a phone call. I was really caught off-guard, and it really humiliated me at a time when I'd already been dressed down. I mean, how would you feel if, at the lowest you've ever been, someone kicked you even lower?" Yeesh.
12. John Mayer — "Paper Doll"
Swift shouldn't expect to dish it out if she can't take it, and Mayer expressed that in spades with his song. With lyrics not-so-subtly alluding to Swift's song "22," Mayer sings, "You're like 22 girls in one/And none of them know what they're runnin' from, was it just too far to fall for a little paper doll?" Mayer refused to name any names when asked the inspiration for "Paper Doll," but said, "Yeah, songwriters write songs because of people, about people. Anything someone else wrote is their reception of a song. I don't get involved with [it]. It's none of my business."
13. Alanis Morissette — "You Oughta Know"
One of the most famous revenge anthems of all time, Morissette practically spit bullets at an ex who wronged her in 1995, and it's super hard to believe that the vitriol could be aimed at none other than Joey on Full House, but it's apparently true! Dave Coulier has said that the song was about him, then backtracked and said it wasn't, so it's never really been clear if it is. For her part, Morissette told Coulier, "Well, you know it could be a bunch of people. But you can say whatever you want." Hmmm...
14. Carly Simon — "You're So Vain"
The revenge song to end all revenge songs, this one specifically calls out the fact that Simon's ex is "so vain, you probably think this song is about you, don't you?" so naturally, everyone has wondered who the song really is about! It was rumored to be about famous exes Warren Beatty, Mick Jagger, or James Taylor, but Simon will only cop to the second verse being about Beatty. She told People "I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren," but "Warren thinks the whole thing is about him!" So there's that!
I'm just happy that I will (more than likely) never be on the end of an iconic revenge song such as these. After all, the pain from a broken heart usually heals with time, but these songs are forever, and the lyrics never go away!