Nothing ever prepares you for a breakup but at least there are songs to help you get through the heartbreak, and here are the best ones of the 2010s.
You hear about it all the time, you’ve seen all the movies and heard all the metaphors- but whether it’s your first time, or definitely not your first rodeo, nothing ever prepares you for going through the pain of heartbreak.
Thankfully, if there’s a topic that musicians have written about almost as much as the beauty of being in love, it’s the debilitating aftermath. Although there’s a plethora of timeless tunes from yesteryear — shout out to Soft Cell’s ‘Tainted Love’, Lily Allen’s ‘Smile’ and Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Go Your Own Way’ – we’ve compiled a playlist of relatable tunes for modern love (or the lack of it).
Ordered chronologically from crying on the bathroom floor (again) to completely earnest (though empowering) “Sorry, who is this?” text responses, these are what we deem to be the best breakup songs from the 2010s that will get you like no one else seems to right now.
‘Jar Of Hearts’— Christina Perri (2010)
It’s fresh. It hurts so much you think something must have physically dislodged in your chest cavity. You’ve sworn off ever loving again if it can end with you like this, balls-deep in a tube of raw cookie dough surrounded by only tissues.
It can only be time for one thing: a long drive featuring equal parts open-mouth crying and belting along to Christina Perri’s ‘Jar of Hearts’.
Rocking a striking blonde streak like the OG E-girl, the songstress chillily condemns an ex-lover, and wailing along with the key changes is nothing short of cathartic.
“And who do you think you are? Runnin’ ’round leaving scars”
‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ – Gotye ft. Kimbra (2011)
Homegrown Gotye’s (and Kimbra’s) ‘Somebody That I Used To Know’ details, from both perspectives, the dull ache of the process of becoming a stranger to your ex-lover.
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With its distinctive xylophone and catchy chorus it was utterly inescapable for a while, but it never loses it’s relatability. Gotye’s is often referred to as a one-hit wonder (“haha, now Gotye is just somebody that we used to know”), but with a song this boppy and thematically timeless he’s more than left his mark.
And in this, our hour of need, we’re so, utterly, grateful.
“But you didn’t have to cut me off/Make out like it never happened and that we were nothing.”
‘Eventually’ – Tame Impala (2015)
Sometimes in a breakup, despite the pain, you mightn’t be the victim. Despite how much it may hurt both parties, this is one of the times the element of surprise is not an advantage.
Like most of Tame Impala’s best songs, ‘Eventually’ has an upbeat, finger-snapping vibe— until you hone in on the lyrics about a breakup. Regretful and unsure of himself, Kevin Parker tries to convince his partner (and himself), that ending the relationship is the right choice.
In a Reddit AMA from 2015, he said ‘Eventually’ was a song that was still very moving for him, and it’s the perfect song for when you aren’t angry, or hurt, just sorrowful. And maybe, just the tiniest little bit, hopeful.
“Wish I could turn you back into a stranger/’Cause if I was never in your life, you wouldn’t have to change this.”
‘Somebody Else’ – The 1975 (2016)
No matter how amicably you can end things with an ex, no matter how much you both agree it’s the right decision— you can’t prevent the sting when you eventually hear they’ve moved on with someone else.
There’s not a pep talk nor a meditation app that can prepare you for the mental discipline you’ll need to stop torturing yourself by picturing them together.
From mournful opening keyboard notes, to the arrival of the boppy beat, The 1975 perfectly validate the complexity of these feelings with ‘Somebody Else’ and earn their place on this list of best breakup songs.
“I don’t want your body, But I hate to think about you with somebody else.”
‘Ivy’— Frank Ocean (2016)
After the storm there isn’t always a rainbow, but the sky will clear. Eventually there comes a point where you don’t need to keep your photo albums hidden, where you don’t wince if you hear their name.
With time comes clarity and you may find yourself reflecting critically on your own mistakes, getting nostalgic for the good bits, and recognising the value of the time you had together, and their impact on you. As Frank Ocean croons on the contemplative ‘Ivy’:
“It’s quite alright to hate me now/When we both know that deep down/The feeling still deep down is good.”
‘Hard Feelings/ Loveless’ – Lorde (2017)
Lorde’s entire second album, Melodrama, is fuelled by the lessons of deep-rooted heartbreak, feeling almost like there’s a specific tune in there for each stage of your grief.
Although leading single ‘Green Light’ is frequently touted as the best Lorde breakup song of all her songs, ‘Hard Feelings/ Loveless’ covers a less fraught, more intimate stage. In ‘Hard Feelings’, Lorde vulnerably shares with us the pain of un-entwining from a lover. She sings about the less emotionally charged, less artistically covered period of a broken heart where you slowly construct what your new life looks like without them.
After a well-crafted interlude she comes back taunting and bratty in ‘Loveless’, highlighting the nonlinear recovery from a breakup. This is the one for the pained, mature stage where you’re giving each other’s stuff back. Yikes. That’s their smell alright.
“I light all the candles/Got flowers for all my rooms/I care for myself the way I used to care about you.”
‘I Wish I Missed My Ex’ – Mahalia (2019)
For a while, the light at the end of the tunnel was more tunnel. But you’ve clawed your way towards the sun, and now that you’ve made it, you’re rolling up your sleeves for that Vitamin D.
Looking back, you can’t believe *they’re* the one who put you through so much grief. You’re moving on, and their failure to do so is honestly getting a bit lame. The upbeat, cheering horns combined with Mahalia’s silky vocals make for the perfect bop to roll your eyes to.
The lyrics celebrate a turning point: Mahalia doesn’t have time to humour her ex as she is too busy reclaiming her own sense of self. You’re yourself again, you’re stronger now, and you’re full of lessons you wouldn’t have had without the pain.
“Baby, I don’t wanna do this all today/Don’t you know you’re so predictable.”