Best Breakup Song Lyrics to Heal Your Wounds
All breakups are not created equal. Some, you get over quickly. Others, not so much. For breakups that linger or hurt a little more, music can ease the pain.
There's a song that speaks to what you went through. If you listen closely enough, you'll find the melody to fit your specific heartbreak.
These are the best breakup song lyrics to heal a wounded heart.
30. Piece of My Heart
Artist: Big Brother and The Holding Company
Album: Cheap Thrills
Year released: 1968
Written by: Jerry Ragovoy and Bert Berns
Best lyrics: And each time I tell myself that I, well I think I've had enough
But I'm gonna show you, baby, that a woman can be tough
I want you to come on, come on, come on, come on and take it
Take another little piece of my heart now, baby (whoa, break it)
Break another little bit of my heart now, darling, yeah, yeah, yeah (whoa, have a)
Have another little piece of my heart now, baby
You know you got it if it makes you feel good
Bottom line: "Piece of My Heart" was originally released as a single from Erma Franklin in 1967 but didn't hit the mainstream until one year later when it was released by Big Brother and The Holding Company.
Big Brother and The Holding Company had one very big advantage — lead singer Janis Joplin. With Joplin's voice leading the way the roller coaster of a song took off, and we dare you not to scream the lyrics out along Janis once she hits the chorus.
29. I Fall Apart
Artist: Post Malone
Year released: 2016
Written by: Post Malone, William Walsh and Carlo Montagnese
Best lyrics: She told me that I'm not enough, yeah
And she left me with a broken heart, yeah
She fooled me twice and it's all my fault, yeah
She cut too deep, now she left me scarred, yeah
Now there's too many thoughts goin' through my brain, yeah
And now I'm takin' these shots like it's Novocaine, yeah
Oooh, I fall apart
Bottom line: Post Malone actually has two masterful breakup songs — "Better Now" and "I Fall Apart." But we're giving the nod to "Apart" because it just hits a little deeper.
What's really interesting about "I Fall Apart" is that it wasn't ever intended to be released as a single with Post Malone's debut album. But a Twitter user recorded it being performed at a concert in 2017, posted it to the social media app and got over 200,000 retweets and 7.9 million views on Facebook.
So, yeah, they released it as a single. This might be one of the great "drinking and heartbroken" songs of all time — "taking these shots like it's Novocaine" is pretty deep.
28. Whispered Words (Pretty Lies)
Artist: Dan Auerbach
Album: Keep It Hid
Year released: 2009
Written by: Charles Auerbach
Best lyrics: If you need me you're here
If you don't, you're nowhere near
I should have quit a long time ago
Bottom line: Dan Auerbach is one half of the Grammy-winning rock band The Black Keys and released his solo album "Keep it Hid" in 2009 to critical acclaim but not a ton of sales.
Auerbach's "Whispered Words (Pretty Lies)" was written by his brother, Charles, and tells the story of a man who is always there when a woman needs him, but she's never there for him when he needs her.
Can anybody relate?
27. Used to Love U
Artist: John Legend
Album: Get Lifted
Year released: 2004
Written by: John Legend and Kanye West
Best lyrics: Maybe it's me, maybe I bore you
Oh no, it's my fault 'cause I can't afford you
Would all be better for you
'Cause all I could do was love you
Bottom line: Not every song on a list of breakup songs needs to be totally sad. Some of them can give it back a little bit. "Used to Love U" by John Legend is one of those.
It's easy to discern what the song is about — a partner who is high maintenance and really into material things and the significant other has had enough.
One interesting side note is the song was co-written by Legend and rap superstar Kanye West.
26. Either Way
Artist: Chris Stapleton
Album: From A Room: Volume 1
Year released: 2017
Written by: Chris Stapleton, Tim James and Kendell Marvell
Best lyrics: We pass in the hall
On our way to separate rooms
The only time we ever talk
Is when the monthly bills are due
We go to work, we go to church
We fake the perfect life
I'm past the point of giving in
And all my tears are cried
Bottom line: My goodness. We almost didn't put this song on the list because it might be too sad. But that's kind of the point, right?
Stapleton's ballad on the disintegration of a marriage from inside the home that a husband and wife share is modern and heartbreaking, and if it hits you the wrong way or at the right time, don't be ashamed if you feel some tears start running down your cheeks.
If there was a subcategory of specifically divorce songs inside of the breakup songs genre, this would be close to the top. Stapleton is a master at the heartbreak stuff, people.
Artist: Dolly Parton
Year released: 1973
Written by: Dolly Parton
Best lyrics: Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
I'm begging of you please don't take my man
Jolene, Jolene, Jolene, Jolene
Please don't take him just because you can
Bottom line: That damn Jolene. Dolly Parton's 1973 hit was inspired by a red-headed bank teller who would flirt with her husband when they were first married and Parton's worries about her taking him away from her.
It's also the song the country music superstar said has been covered by other musicians the most out of any she's written.
Ready to have your mind blown? Parton said she wrote "Jolene" and "I Will Always Love You" on the same day.
24. Better Man
Artist: Leon Bridges
Album: Coming Home
Year released: 2015
Written by: Leon Bridges
Best lyrics: What can I do? What can I do?
To get back to your heart
I'd swim the Mississippi River
If you would give me another start, girl
Bottom line: This wasn't even one of the two singles released from Leon Bridges' stellar debut album in 2015, but after "River," it might be the best song on the album, which was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best R&B Album.
This is the song dudes probably send their girlfriends when they screw up and want to get them back. "I was hanging with them jezebels" is an all-time classic line admitting you did some bad stuff.
23. Love Is a Battlefield
Artist: Pat Benatar
Album: Live From Earth
Year released: 1983
Written by: Mike Chapman and Holly Knight
Best lyrics: We are young
Heartache to heartache we stand
Love is a battlefield
Bottom line: Pat Benatar won her fourth consecutive Grammy Award for Best Femle Rock Performance for "Love Is a Battlefield" — which is interesting because the song was originally intended to be sung as a ballad.
Instead, Benatar created a rock breakup anthem that still sounds as fresh today as it did when it was released almost 40 years ago. The song went No. 1 in five different countries and also had an accompanying music video that helped define the early days of MTV.
Back when they played music videos almost 24/7.
22. Merry Go-Round
Artist: The Equatics
Album: Doin It!!!
Year released: 1972
Written by: The Equatics
Best lyrics: Cause when I say
"Lets get right down to it"
You say, "Hey boy, we better breathe"
Hey girl, why do you take love to be?
All the time here with me
Bottom line: The Equatics were a high school band out of Hampton, Virginia, that released just one album together, "Doin It!!!" in the early 1970s that went on to become a cult hit.
Modern music fans got reacquainted with The Equatics and their melodic, perfectly groovy "Merry Go-Round" thanks to the brilliant Netflix series "Master of None" starring Aziz Ansari. It was featured at the beginning of an episode in 2015.
21. Cry Me a River
Artist: Justin Timberlake
Year released: 2002
Written by: Justin Timberlake, Timbaland, Scott Storch
Best lyrics: You don't have to say, what you did
I already know, I found out from him
Now there's just no chance
With you and me
There'll never be
Don't it make you sad about it?
Bottom line: You can't talk about "Cry Me a River" without acknowledging how problematic the video is and the effect it may have had on Britney Spears — something we're just starting to understand now and didn't take into consideration when it was first released.
As a breakup song, though, it has few rivals. And it actually does reflect what Justin Timberlake was going through after his breakup with Spears, which he initially denied but admitted was true in 2011, some nine years after the song's release.
In the subgenre of "boyfriend/girlfriend cheated on me" songs, Timberlake's pop masterpiece could very well be near or at the top.
20. I Can't Make You Love Me
Artist: Bonnie Raitt
Album: Luck of the Draw
Year released: 1991
Written by: Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin
Best lyrics: 'Cause I can't make you love me if you don't
You can't make your heart feel something it won't
Here in the dark, in these final hours
I will lay down my heart and I'll feel the power
But you won't, no you won't
'Cause I can't make you love me, if you don't
Bottom line: Songwriters Mike Reid and Allen Shamblin reportedly went back and forth on the writing of "I Can't Make You Love Me" for six months before settling on its final version.
In a case of musical sliding doors, Reid and Shamblin had Bonnie Raitt as one of three artists they were going to pitch the song to, along with Bette Midler and Linda Ronstadt.
The song's origins in both writing and recording are remarkable. Reid got the seed of an idea when he was reading a newspaper article about a man who'd shot up an ex-girlfriend's car and told a judge he'd learned "you can't make a woman love you" at his trial.
When you listen to Raitt's recorded version of the song, it's her first take. She found the song so sad that after she recorded it the first time, she cut further takes short, saying it could never match her initial emotions. She was right.
19. Suspicious Minds
Artist: Elvis Presley
Album: Suspicious Minds/You'll Think of Me (Single/B-Side)
Year released: 1969
Written by: Mark James
Best lyrics: So if an old friend I know
Stops by to say hello
Would I still see suspicion in your eyes?
Here we go again
Asking where I've been
You can't see the tears are real, I'm crying
(Yes I'm crying)
Bottom line: Singer/songwriter Mark James released "Suspicious Minds" in 1968, and it flopped, big time, but it turned into a No. 1 hit single for Elvis Presley when he recorded it one year later.
James said he was up late one night with his Fender guitar and thinking of melodies when he came up with the song, which reflected a time in his life when he was married to his first wife but still had intense feelings for his childhood sweetheart, who was also married and living in Houston at the time.
Artist: Frank Ocean
Album: Blond (Blonde)
Year released: 2016
Written by: Frank Ocean and Malay Ho
Best lyrics: Wishing you godspeed, glory
There will be mountains you won't move
(Ooh, ooh, ooh)
Still I'll always be there for you
How I do
I let go of my claim on you, it's a free world
You look down on where you came from sometimes
But you'll have this place to call home, always
Bottom line: We had to put Frank Ocean on this list because few singers in the last 20 years have been able to convey heartache the way he has, and while the more popular pick may have been "Thinkin' Bout You" from his first album, we're going with "Godspeed" to cure any sort of heartache.
There's something so unusual about the composition of the song that makes it appealing. It's not set up in any traditional way, and that fits, because Ocean isn't a traditional artist. He's something much greater than that.
17. Tired of Being Alone
Artist: Al Green
Album: Al Green Gets Next To You
Year released: 1971
Written by: Al Green
Best lyrics: I guess you know that I, uh, I love you so
Even though you don't want me no more
Hey, hey, hey, hey, I'm cryin' tears
All through the years
I'll tell ya like it is
Honey, please love me if you will
I'm so tired of being alone
I'm so tired out on my own
Won't you help me, girl
Just as soon as you can (can can can can)
Bottom line: Al Green had multiple songs that could have made this list and the one that commonly turns up when it comes to breakup songs is "How Do You Mend a Broken Heart?" but that sad sack ballad has nothing on "Tired of Being Alone" — a song that actually gets your heart going a little bit.
Green, who was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, was one of the artists who helped define soul music, and "Tired of Being Alone" was one of the songs that led the way.
16. You Oughta Know
Artist: Alanis Morrissette
Album: Jagged Little Pill
Year released: 1995
Written by: Alanis Morissette and Glen Ballard
Best lyrics: And every time you speak her name
Does she know how you told me
You'd hold me until you died
'Til you died, but you're still alive
Bottom line: Few albums have created such a seismic shift for a solo artist as "Jagged Little Pill" did for Alanis Morissette in 1995, and that was based almost entirely on the strength of its lead single — the fist-pumping "You Oughta Know" about a man who broke Morissette's heart.
The song was actually presented without backing music (just vocals) to Dave Navarro and Flea of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, who filled in the blanks.
So who is the song about? Morissette has never publicly disclosed, but it's widely assumed to be "Full House" star Dave Coulier, although some believe it's an amalgamation of Morissette's past relationships with Coulier, former New Jersey Devils enforcer Mike Peluso and "Friends" star Matt LeBlanc.
15. Better Than
Artist: Lake Street Dive
Album: Bad Self Portraits
Year released: 2014
Written by: Bridget Kearney
Best lyrics: I could spend ages reading the news
I could spend days, singing the blues
But I turn up the TV light
Give up without a fight
Better than pretending to know what's wrong and what's right
Bottom line: This is the song we suspect we might be introducing to people for the first time, and that's totally fine.
"Better Than" features brilliant vocals from Lake Street Dive lead singer Rachael Price and from the group's 2014 album "Bad Self Portraits" that was actually recorded in 2012 but stayed in the vault for two years because of contractual issues.
Our take on "Better Than" is the song is about someone who is going through the worst breakup ever and doing anything they can to keep their mind off it — reading, singing, watching TV. Then every day, they fall asleep knowing it will all start again the next day.
The twist for this breakup song is it doesn't really cast judgment, which is unusual for a breakup song. It just is. Which is just as heartbreaking.
14. Nothing Compares 2 U
Artist: Sinead O'Connor
Album: I Do Not Want What I Have Not Got
Year released: 1990
Written by: Prince
Best lyrics: Since you been gone, I can do whatever I want
I can see whomever I choose
I can eat my dinner in a fancy restaurant
I said nothing can take away these blues
'Cause nothing compares
Nothing compares to you
Bottom line: While it's not new news that "Nothing Compares 2 U" was written by Prince, it's always cool to think of the first time you realized as much and had your mind blown.
Prince actually recorded the song for the first time in 1984 but didn't perform it again until Sinead O'Connor made it an international hit in 1990, with its stark, one-shot continuous music video of her face becoming one of the most popular music videos of the time.
The song, which went to No. 1 in almost every major market in the world, catapulted O'Conner to levels of fame she was ill-equipped to handle. Her most infamous moment was a disastrous "Saturday Night Live" performance when she ripped up a picture of the pope and screamed, "Fight the real enemy."
13. Who's Lovin' You
Artist: The Jackson 5
Album: Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5
Year released: 1969
Written by: Smokey Robinson
Best lyrics: When I had you (when I had you)
I treated you bad and wrong my dear
And girl since, since you went away
Don't you know I sit around
With my head hanging down
And I wonder who's lovin' you
Bottom line: The best version of "Who's Lovin You" came from The Jackson 5 in 1969 and was the fifth version of the song released by Motown Records.
Written by Smokey Robinson, he originally performed it with The Miracles before they were subsequently followed by The Supremes, The Temptations and Brenda and The Tabulations. Then, it finally made its way to The Jackson 5 and talented 10-year-old lead singer Michael Jackson.
The lyrics aren't going to blow any of these songs out of the water, but Jackson's voice does. It's a preamble of things to come for the singer who went on to sell over 400 million records worldwide as a solo artist.
12. Marvin's Room
Album: Take Care
Year released: 2011
Written by: Drake, Noah Shebib, Jason Beck, Adrian Eccleston
Best lyrics: The woman that I would try
Is happy with a good guy
But I've been drinking so much
That I'ma call her anyway and say...
Bottom line: One of two purely rap songs to make the list, "Marvin's Room" was the lead single on Drake's second studio album "Take Care" and got its name from being recorded in a music studio once owned by soul singer Marvin Gaye.
Of all the breakup songs on this list, Drake's classic probably conveys a hazy, fuzzy-around-the-edges feel that links perfectly up with heartbreak.
How Drake came up with the lyrics straddles the line between genius and creepy. He based it on a conversation he recorded after he drunk dialed an ex-girlfriend and was bitter over their recent breakup.
11. The Tracks of My Tears
Artist: Smokey Robinson & The Miracles
Album: Going to a Go-Go
Year released: 1965
Written by: Smokey Robinson, Warren Moore, Marvin Tarplin
Best lyrics: People say I'm the life of the party
'Cause I tell a joke or two
Although I might be laughing loud and hearty
Deep inside I'm blue
So take a good look at my face
You'll see my smile looks out of place
If you look closer, it's easy to trace
The tracks of my tears
Bottom line: "The Tracks of My Tears" was a million-selling song for Motown Records and The Miracles in the mid-1960s, and it's got one of the more recognizable hooks in music history.
With Smokey Robinson on lead vocals, it's hard for any song to go wrong, but he gave the credit for this one to co-writer Marvin Tarplin, who played guitar in the group and established the baseline melody for the song.
Trying to hide the fact that you're sad in public is at the heart of any breakup. It's never more perfectly described than it is here.
10. Wrecking Ball
Artist: Miley Cyrus
Year released: 2013
Written by: Maureen McDonald, Stephan Moccio, Sach Skarbek, David Kim, Lukasz Gottwald, Cirkut
Best lyrics: I came in like a wrecking ball
I never hit so hard in love
All I wanted was to break your walls
All you ever did was wreck me
Yeah, you, you wreck me
Bottom line: The first No. 1 song for Miley Cyrus on the Billboard charts is widely assumed to be about her relationship with ex-husband and actor Liam Hemsworth, but it's not.
Songwriter Sacha Skarbek said the song was originally intended to be for Beyonce. Skarbek, who also wrote "You're Beautiful" for James Blunt, put out a tweet after "Wrecking Ball" came out and said he may have made a mistake by giving it to Cyrus instead.
His accountant would beg to differ.
9. I Heard It Through the Grapevine
Artist: Marvin Gaye
Album: In the Groove
Year released: 1968
Written by: Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong
Best lyrics: Ooh, I bet you're wonderin' how I knew
'Bout your plans to make me blue
With some other guy you knew before
Between the two of us guys you know I love you more
It took me by surprise I must say
When I found out yesterday
Don'tcha know that I
Heard it through the grapevine
Bottom line: One of the greatest songs of all time as recorded by Marvin Gaye, this was actually the third version of "I Heard It Through The Grapevine" released by Motown Records. The second time, the song went No. 1 following the version released by Gladys Knight & The Pips.
At its heart, the song is about hearing your significant other is cheating on you but not directly — "through the grapevine" — from friends.
As far as mic drops go in movies, you can't do much better than how "Grapevine" is used in the 1983 film "The Big Chill" about a group of college friends learning one of them has committed suicide.
8. The Long and Winding Road
Artist: The Beatles
Album: Let It Be
Year released: 1970
Written by: John Lennon and Paul McCartney
Best lyrics: The long and winding road
That leads to your door
Will never disappear
I've seen that road before
It always leads me here
Lead me to you door
Bottom line: There is no songwriter duo who can match what John Lennon and Paul McCartney did while with The Beatles. It's an undisputed fact that a simple "Lennon-McCartney" writing credit doesn't even need to mention their first names for time immemorial.
"The Long and Winding Road" was a song about breaking up and leaving a possible way back to each other. The song came out one month after The Beatles themselves broke up in 1970 and was the group's final No. 1 Billboard hit in the United States.
It was written two years earlier and started by McCartney after he said he was inspired by the winding roads leading up to the Highlands around his farm in Scotland and distressed over the tensions within the band itself.
Artist: Kanye West
Album: 808s & Heartbreak
Year released: 2008
Written by: Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Malik Jones, Ernest Wilson
Best lyrics: How could you be so, cold as the winter wind when it breeze, yo
Just remember that you talkin' to me though
You need to watch the way you talkin' to me, yo
I mean after all the things that we've been through
I mean after all the things we got into
Hey yo, I know some things that you ain't told me
Hey yo, I did some things but that's the old me
Bottom line: Some artists like to play coy about the inspiration for their songs, but staying true to form, Kanye West had no such coyness with his breakup masterpiece "Heartless."
West was reeling from the death of his mother, Donda, followed by his breakup with Alexis Phifer, who he dated from 2002 to 2008, when he wrote the song with the help of longtime collaborator No I.D. and Kid Cudi on the melody.
The result was breakup song perfection — an auto-tuned classic that still bumps.
6. Since U Been Gone
Artist: Kelly Clarkson
Year released: 2004
Written by: Max Martin and Lukasz Gottwald
Best lyrics: And all you'd ever hear me say
Is how I picture me with you
That's all you'd ever hear me say
But since you been gone
I can breathe for the first time
I'm so moving on, yeah, yeah
Thanks to you
Now I get what I want
Since you been gone
Bottom line: Both Pink and Hillary Duff turned down chances to record "Since U Been Gone" before it landed in Kelly Clarkson's lap with a gentle push from music impresario Clive Davis. And it's proof that not all breakup songs have to lament the loss of the relationship.
"Since U Been Gone" does quite the opposite. It's told from the perspective of a woman who is feeling super-duper relieved after the end of a toxic relationship and sees her life getting much better as a result.
Which is dope.
Artist: Lauryn Hill
Album: The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill
Year released: 1998
Written by: Lauryn Hill
Best lyrics: Is this just a silly game (silly game)
That forces you to act this way? (to act this way)
Forces you to scream my name
Then pretend that you can't stay (yeah)
Bottom line: The brilliance of Lauryn Hill's 1998 album "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" was underlined by songs like "Ex-Factor," a breakup song that speaks to the very reason why we need songs like this to get over heartache.
Hill's lush vocals along with a layered sample of Wu Tang Clan's "Can It All Be So Simple" and Gladys Knight & The Pips' cover of "The Way We Were" gives us an air of familiarity from the moment we hit "play" on this classic.
At its heart, "Ex-Factor" is about a relationship disintegrating in front of your eyes.
4. Ain't No Sunshine
Artist: Bill Withers
Album: Just As I Am
Year released: 1971
Written by: Bill Withers
Best lyrics: Wonder this time where she's gone
Wonder if she's gone to stay
Ain't no sunshine when she's gone
And this house just ain't no home
Anytime she goes away
Bottom line: Bill Withers wrote this song when he was 31 years old and working a full-time job making bathrooms for 747s — about as far removed from music stardom as a person can be.
Withers said he wrote the song after watching the 1962 film "Days of Wine and Roses" starring Jack Lemon and Lee Remick because he wanted to try and put into words what it was like to "go back to something you knew was bad for you, no matter how many times it hurt you."
Mission accomplished. After the song went gold, Sussex Record gifted Withers with a gold toilet seat to mark the end of his old career and the start of his new one.
3. Hold Up
Year released: 2016
Written by: Beyonce Knowles and 16 others
Best lyrics: Can't you see there's no other man above you?
What a wicked way to treat the girl that loves you
Hold up, they don't love you like I love you
Oh, down, they don't love you like I love you
Bottom line: It would be very difficult to describe "Hold Up" in better words than Ryan Dombalt did in his review for Pitchfork Magazine in 2016: "The music has no weight, no place, no time — a calypso dream heard through walls and generations … (Beyonce) makes it glorious while allowing our memories to hint at the anguish underneath."
While Beyonce's "Lemonade" album likely stands alone as the greatest entire album about heartbreak, the bigger conversation is probably about where it stands among the greatest albums of all time.
And "Hold Up" is the best song on it.
2. Somebody Have Mercy/Bring It on Home to Me
Artist: Sam Cooke
Album: One Night Stand: Live At The Harlem Square Club
Year released: 1985 (originally released 1962)
Written by: Sam Cooke
Best lyrics: If you ever change your mind
About leaving, leaving me behind
Baby, bring it to me
Bring your sweet loving
Bring it on home to me
Bottom line: While "Bring It on Home to Me" first came out in 1962 on Sam Cooke's album "The Best of Sam Cooke," the definitive version of the song wasn't released until 1985, some 21 years after Cooke was shot to death.
The version we've grown to know and love was performed live at The Harlem Square Club in 1963, and there's actually a trick to listening to it. You have to play the preceding song, "Somebody Have Mercy" because Cooke blends the two songs together into one — a heartbreaking, beautiful mash-up that has few rivals.
It's the version we've embedded below, so take a listen.
1. Someone Like You
Year released: 2011
Written by: Adele and Dan Wilson
Best lyrics: I hate to turn up out of the blue, uninvited
But I couldn't stay away, I couldn't fight it
I had hoped you'd see my face
And that you'd be reminded that for me, it isn't over
Never mind, I'll find someone like you
I wish nothing but the best for you, too
"Don't forget me, " I begged
I remember you said
"Sometimes it lasts in love, but sometimes it hurts instead"
Bottom line: The GOAT of breakup songs probably won't be giving up the top spot anytime soon. Adele's crushing vocals speak to the very nature of heartbreak and breakups and losing someone you love.
What's crazy about "Someone Like You" is it just turned 10 years old and still sounds as perfect as it did the first day we heard it. It's also sold over 17 million copies and is considered one of the best-selling singles of all time.
So where'd all that heartbreak come from? Adele says it came after the end of a two-year relationship in her early 20s and imagining herself at 40 years old, tracking down her ex only to find out that he was happily married and she was alone.