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A List of Tracks for Your Next Breakup

Many a breakup ballad has been written by society's favorite musicians and can serve a breakup, or just a good cry.
Many a breakup ballad has been written by society's favorite musicians and can serve a breakup, or just a good cry. By Nayeli Cardozo
By Julia J. Hynek, Taylor S. Johnson, and Margo A. Silliman, Crimson Staff Writers

1. “Ivy” by Frank Ocean

It’s Frank Ocean. And more than that, it’s guaranteed to make you remember all of the beautiful things you experienced with your ex while simultaneously making you question why you ever let yourself waste your time with them in the first place. Im “Ivy,” “I love you” and “I hate you” find a perfect equilibrium. This is a great song for when you’ve accepted that these feelings will have to coexist.

2. “Don’t You Remember” by Adele

Any list of breakup ballads would be incomplete without a contribution from the ballad queen, Adele. It’s difficult to choose just one, but “Don’t You Remember” certainly deserves a spot amongst the best of them. This track showcases Adele’s soaring, gritty vocals as she reflects on a heartbreak marred by a lack of closure and painful memories. Also, bonus points for a tense bridge that releases into an explosive final chorus. And if your breakup doesn’t have you feeling down enough yet, you can also take the time to think about the fact that Adele produced this absolutely amazing song (and album) at age 21 — just to add some insult to your injury.

3. “Pretty Little Birds” by SZA feat. Isaiah Rashad

This song is rich with themes of love, uncertainty, fatigue, and a little hatred — just like you were when you first started the relationship, and probably also when it ended. “Pretty Little Birds” suggests the importance of trying to fly in love despite the fear of falling. The soft vocals and the smooth instrumental make this song so comforting it’s like SZA and Rashad are right there with you.

4. “Silver Springs” by Fleetwood Mac, Live in Burbank 1997

This one is for acknowledging and releasing some latent grievances. The original 1976 recording of this song absolutely pales in comparison to Fleetwood Mac’s live reunion album recording in 1997. The song utilizes mystical imagery and sound for a great deal of the track, but the real highlight is the build that begins at 3:34: The music swells as Nicks cries “Was I just a fool?” and “Give me just a chance.” The tension between her and her ex, Lindsey Buckingham, is palpable — even twenty years after their breakup — as she sings about their past possibilities. Unfortunately, this record reminds you that you just might not ever get over your ex.

5. “Will He” by Joji

The prettiest combination of jealousy, possessiveness, and altruism. “Will He” has some of the best lyrics of any Joji song, and they’re all about comparing himself with his lover’s future man. Do you remember a time when Joji was happy? How about when his music made you feel happy? Exactly. This is the perfect song to cry to until you feel just the right amount of empty.

6. “Linger” by The Cranberries

“Linger” is a wistful, flowing track that engages with some feelings of hurt but is primarily dominated by pleasurable themes of lingering (see what we did there), infatuation, and attachment. Against her better judgment, Dolores O’Riordan sings about the dreamy, irrational experience of falling in love with a person who — as it turned out — didn’t love her back. This one is for your “main character moment” as you romanticize your own misfortune.

7. “I. Flight of the Navigator” by Childish Gambino

You know you miss them, and despite your better judgment, a part of you wishes you could go back. This song is about longing for peace and connectedness in a relationship, and about comforting someone when you realize how difficult this is to obtain. Whether it’s because of the beauty that is the pairing of Gambino and an elysian chord progression, or because of the way the lyrics pluck your heartstrings, tears are a guarantee.

8. “Motion Sickness” by Phoebe Bridgers

Aside from the relevant lyrics, this one just has a satisfying mix of numbness and anger. On one hand, Bridgers’s airy voice over the groovy beat creates the impression of an understated, calm track. On the other hand, she manages to convey surprising grit and frustration through her breathy vocals; the bridge in particular features a signature Bridgers scream-adjacent moment that is cathartic in its emotional release.

9. “Roses” by Outkast

This is definitely a song for when you’re all the way over it… Well, maybe not all the way. It still stings a little, but you can make jokes about it and convince yourself you never liked them that much anyway. Like the majority of Outkast songs and, again, probably like you at this stage, this one is super upbeat and catchy, but the lyrics remain sad if you pay enough attention.

10. “Drunk Walk Home” by Mitski

“Drunk Walk Home” contains only two verses, and as such is subject to various interpretations. The good thing, however, is that one of these readings alludes to a breakup. This is perhaps the most unhinged song in Mitski’s entire discography, and as such is a fantastic partner in reckoning with one’s confusing and unpleasant feelings. “Drunk Walk Home” is for channeling all of your woes into heavy electric guitars, drumming, and scream-yelling vocals for approximately two minutes straight.

11. “All Too Well (10 Minute Version) (Taylor’s Version) (From the Vault)” by Taylor Swift

“All Too Well” is an undeniable fan-favorite of Swift’s breakup ballads. Upon the re-release of her “Red” album, Swift extended the song to 10 minutes with the uncut original lyrics. She wrote the song during a break from a rehearsal on her Speak Now WorldTour amid processing her own breakup. From the exciting beginning of a relationship to the heart-wrenching confusion surrounding a separation, this song captures rich storytelling that ultimately feels relatable to some element of anyone’s relationship. It also includes countless striking lyrics to keep you crying for all 10 minutes, including quotes like, “so casually cruel in the name of being honest,” or, “you kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath.”

12. That Don’t Impress Me Much by Shania Twain

This one’s for when you want to tell them off, but in a low-key way. Twain describes someone who feels superior, maybe has a fancy job or good looks, or maybe is Brad Pitt. Still, she so satisfyingly dismisses them because those superficial qualities don’t translate to a relationship. The song is a reminder to not allow someone’s looks, achievements, or accolades to overshadow what you deserve.

—Staff writers Taylor S. Johnson, Julia J. Hynek, and Margo A. Silliman can be reached at julia.hynek@thecrimson.com and margo.silliman@thecrimson.com

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