We know. There is no way you are ever going to smile, laugh, go outside, or breathe again. And while we can’t make the sting of a breakup disappear, we can promise you that everyone — Beyonce and Justin Timberlake included — have gone through the same thing.
More importantly, these musical superstars can usually help you get over the end of a relationship. Psychologists say listening to “breakup songs” helps us fully feel the pain we’re experiencing, which is important for moving on.
So whether you want some background tunes while you drench your cat in tears or a get-pumped jam to help you dance out your anger, we’ve got you covered. (Download the whole playlist at the bottom of the page!)
1. "We Are Never Getting Back Together," Taylor Swift
Most of us have been in Taylor’s shoes, continually going back to a
relationship we know isn’t healthy. The next time that guy or girl comes
crawling back for another round of romance? Turn up the volume and show him or
her that you’re (finally) moving on.
2. "Somebody That I Used to Know," Gotye (feat. Kimbra)
One day you two are in love, best friends, and all that; the next he or she wants nothing to do with you. How? Why? That’s what Gotye wants to find out, as Kimbra explains to him how much he hurt her. Ugh, why are relationships so complicated, even when they’re over?
3. "Torn," Natalie Imbruglia
The “lying naked on the floor” line is one of the most utterly 90s descriptions of heartbreak there is. This song tells the story of a woman who finds out the person she loved is someone else entirely. Listen to it when you want to turn that helpless/humiliated feeling into self-reflection and empowerment, with a healthy dose of melodrama.
4. "Believe," Cher
A bad breakup can literally feel like the end of the world. But take it from one of the world’s most powerful divas: Life goes on and you will find someone else who cares about you.
5. "Ain’t No Sunshine," Bill Withers
This easy-to-learn breakup song rings just as true today as it did when it was first released in 1971. You know it would be best to leave your flaky girlfriend, but you just hate the way you feel when you’re away from her. Why do we do this to ourselves?
6. "Forget (F*ck) You," Cee Lo Green
So your S.O. found someone else who’s supposedly everything you’re not. Instead of breaking down and weeping when you spot them together on the street (ugh), tell yourself you are over that relationship. That superficial jerk doesn’t deserve your love.
7. "Nothing Compares 2 U," Sinead O’Connor
Oh, Sinead. Here’s a song that perfectly captures what it’s like to be alone for the first time in a long time. True, you have more time to hang with your friends, and no one’s stopping you from eating your “dinner in a fancy restaurant.” But, ultimately, all this freedom pales in comparison to being with the person you love.
8. "I Will Survive," Gloria Gaynor
This song is the anthem of every woman who’s ended an unfulfilling relationship. The singer thinks she’ll never be able to live without her partner until she realizes what a D-bag her ex really was. When that ex finally begs her to come back? She tells that person, Hell no, honey.
9. "Someone Like You," Adele
Just keep telling yourself you’re happy for your ex and his or her new partner, and eventually you will be… right? Even if you aren’t currently going through a split, this song about losing the love of your life and trying to be okay with it will break your heart — in a good way.
10. "Go Your Own Way," Fleetwood Mac
This song is the ultimate sendoff at the end of a relationship you tried your hardest to make work. You know your ex is leaving behind something awesome, but if that’s what they really want, you’re not going to stand in the way.
11. "Before He Cheats," Carrie Underwood
Hell hath no fury like Ms. Underwood scorned. To get back at her unfaithful B.F., she destroys his car the way he destroyed her heart. But there’s no need to get out your sharpest keys and heaviest baseball bat — singing along and knowing that the “next time he cheats, it won’t be on [you]” is all the satisfaction you need.
"I Will Always Love You," Whitney Houston
The only thing more tear-inducing than the lyrics is Whitney’s ultra-powerful voice as she belts them out. This song will help you muster the strength to leave a relationship that just isn’t working. Do the mature thing and walk away, even if you’ll aaaaaalways love the person.
13. "Cry Me a River," Justin Timberlake
JT’s ex broke his heart, and now she’s back for a second chance. (Noticing a theme here?) But he’s spent all this time grieving her loss and realizing why she’s not good enough for him — now it’s her “turn to cry.” It’s the perfect theme song when your ex thinks he or she can have you back just like that.
14. "I Try," Macy Gray
Remember 1999, when Macy was all that? In this (ridiculously catchy) song, she reveals that even though she might look fine after her breakup, on the inside she’s falling apart.
15. "Cry For You," September
So he or she thought it was okay to treat you like sh*t because you’d always stick around? Ha. This dance pop tune will give you the courage to stand up and tell that person, “You’ll never see me again,” because you’re leaving.
16. "Love the Way You Lie," Eminem (feat. Rihanna)
This song about a love so fierce it sometimes morphs into hatred is simultaneously upsetting and inspiring. Both people know the relationship is dragging them down, but standing there and watching themselves “burn” isn’t as painful as walking away. Play this jam when you’re finally brave enough to say goodbye.
17. "You’re So Vain," Carly Simon
What, does he seriously think you’re going to sit here pining over him now that he ditched you? Okay, so maybe you are, but the point is he doesn’t deserve you. Play this song on repeat until you’ve convinced yourself that the dude’s charm doesn’t make up for his selfishness.
18. "Bulletproof," La Roux
This synthpop tune is the perfect song for when you’re finally tired of weeping and just want to move your butt. There’s nothing your ex can say to get you back now. Maybe you were easy to take advantage of before, but this time, baby? You’ll be bulletproof.
19. "Too Little, Too Late," JoJo
True, Jojo was 16 when she released this song, but the girl did justice to an experience that women of any age can relate to. Though she’s tempted to get back with an ex who still knows “all the right things to say,” she also realizes she’s stronger without him.
(Scroll down to download the full playlist.)
20. "And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going," Jennifer Hudson
Jennifer Hudson stole the show in “Dreamgirls” as Effie, belting out her true feelings for Curtis (Ben Harney). While it’s clear the relationship is ending, Effie refuses to leave because her love for Curtis is that powerful. It’s the perfect background music for a much-needed sob fest after your S.O. insists that things are officially over.
21. "Survivor," Destiny’s Child
Channel your turn-of-the-millennium self and join Beyonce, Kelly, and Michelle in the ultimate tribute to girl power. The song is all about blowing off an ex who thought you couldn’t make it alone and was totally wrong: You’re doing awesome.
22. "Since U Been Gone," Kelly Clarkson
Ever break up with someone you thought you couldn’t live without, only to find that life is actually a lot more fun when he or she isn’t around? Kelly gets you. And now that she can “breathe for the first time,” she’s ready to shout loud enough for everyone to hear, letting them know how good independence really feels.
23. "Blow Me (One Last Kiss)," Pink
Heaven help the person who breaks up with Pink. With trademark snarkiness, she basically tells an S.O. who’s driving her crazy to F off. “Life’s too short for this,” she sings, and frankly, she hasn’t got the time to deal with someone who brings her down.
24. "Tonight I’m Getting Over You," Carly Rae Jepsen
For Carly, forgetting about an ex means “dancing ’til the morning with somebody new,” and this song is the perfect music to do it to. It’s just sad enough to let you feel your pain and just upbeat enough to help you move on from it.
25. "Un-break My Heart," Toni Braxton
In the music video for this song, Braxton grieves her boyfriend’s death and begs him to return and take away her pain. But this soulful ballad is just as fitting for a less morbid end of a relationship, when you want your former flame to take responsibility for the emotional damage he or she inflicted.
26. "Dancing With Myself," Billy Idol
They say it takes two to tango, but Billy disagrees. This punk-rock rhythm is perfect for when you’re sick of sulking and want to celebrate your newfound freedom. So now that you have “nothing to lose” and “nothing to prove,” get out there and shake it.
27. "Love Hurts," Nazareth
Is there anything worse than seeing happy couples smooching on the street after you’ve just suffered an awful breakup? (No.) Wouldn’t you just like to tell them how foolish they are to think that love is all “blissfulness” and “happiness?” Face it: “Love hurts” and “love burns,” but you’ll get over the pain like everyone else has.
28. "You Were Meant For Me," Jewel
This song describes those first few weeks after a breakup, when you’re trying to go about your daily life but literally feel like you’re dying inside. As Jewel drinks coffee and brushes her teeth in that distinctly 1995 way of hers, all she can think about is how empty everything is without the person she loves.
29. "Stronger," Britney Spears
Oops, he did it again — cheated on you and left you hanging. Even though you might be scared to leave him, it’s time. And as the once princess of pop makes it clear, you’ll be lonelier in the relationship than out of it.
30. "Apologize," One Republic
It takes a super-strong person to say “no” to someone he or she adores. But, after all the hurt and drama your ex has put you through, a simple apology isn’t going to cut it. Get back at the person by getting this catchy chorus stuck in his or her head.
31. "Irreplaceable," Beyonce
Queen Bey makes another appearance on this list with an R&B hit that’s basically a big “Yeah, right” to anyone who thinks you’ll never find anyone better. Tell that A-hole to pack and get out, because he or she obviously doesn’t deserve your love.
32. "Goodbye to You," Michelle Branch
Most breakups are complicated. Maybe you still have strong feelings for the person, but the relationship is too problematic to be fixed. Leave it to Ms. Branch to say it perfectly: “It hurts to want everything and nothing at the same time.” If she can gather the courage to say goodbye, so can you.
33. "You Oughta Know," Alanis Morisette
This list would hardly be complete without an appearance by the queen of angst. Only Alanis could ask the question everyone’s secretly wondering (Are you thinking of me when you f*ck her?) without sounding totally crude. This is the song to rock out to when your ex gets together with someone who — let’s face it — doesn’t compare to you.