Published on July 17th, 2015 | by Randall Castillo


It’s Not You, It’s Music: Your Breakup Playlist

We’ve all been there before, some of us more times than we’d care to remember. But there comes a time in our lives when — whether we’re on the dealing or the receiving end — the glow of that one person who we could never imagine life without fades/explodes/implodes into nothingness.

Your breakup mileage will vary from person to person and from one experience to the next, but in general, it isn’t uncommon to encounter at least some of the classic stages of grief along the way: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and, eventually, the glory and relief that is acceptance.

But of the many coping mechanisms available (Ben & Jerry’s, old Cameron Crowe films, punching bags), perhaps none of these is as cathartic and relatable as music. Whether the prevailing emotions involve tears, shaking your head in frustration, or a stubborn resolve to let this time be the last time (no really, I swear, we’re done), there is a near infinite abundance of musical material to choose from.

You can tell a lot about what a person has been through and where they’re at just by observing the breakup music they decide to spin; so I’ve put together a quick list of some of my own favorite post-relationship tracks to get you through whatever it is you’re dealing with (followed by a very eclectic mix of songs submitted by random members of our online community).

Lil Wayne (feat. T-Pain) – “How to Hate”

Tha Carter IV’s surprise breakout hit was an unusually sweet ode to romance, titled “How to Love.” But whatever positive and hopeful vibes this single had going for it, none are available on its angrier sister track, as brutally honest verses spin the story of a girl that frankly just isn’t worth your time anymore. In its own way, “How to Hate” is very clear that we’re moving on, why we’re moving on, and does so with just the proper hint of bitterness and finality. We even get one of the more impactful words that the “F” in “Weezy F” apparently stands for, with a “f*ck you” that caps the whole thing off.

Key lyrics:
How to hate a b*tch that owe you everything
At least a wedding ring, moving on to better things
So don’t you call me talking ‘bout them other fools
I’m not good enough for you
I thought that we was cool
If you need a shoulder to cry on, girl I won’t listen
I’m through f**king with these b*tch a** b*tches


Drake – “Shot For Me”

You might miss it if you aren’t paying attention — I certainly did the first several times I heard it — but this is one of the hardest low-key ex disses you’ll ever hear. It’s easy to mistake this for a love ballad thanks to Drake’s signature serenading, but make no mistake: “Shot For Me” is a cool, quiet knife to the jugular. Lyrics matter-of-factly establish that not only will she never find something better, but the only reason she’s half the person she is today is him. Perhaps coldest of all is the total lack of any hard feelings or resentment in the final key lyrics because all of what he’s saying is fact. Sometimes, nothing hurts more than the truth.

Key lyrics:
I could tell that you’ve been crying all night, drinking all summer
Praying for your happiness, hope that you recover
This is one I know you hated when you heard it
And it’s worse because you know that I deserve it
Take a shot for me


Third Eye Blind – “Farther”

Showing off frontman Stephan Jenkins’ sheer brilliance as a songwriter, “Farther” is considerably less sure of itself than some of the other tracks on this list. Conflicted, the story wanders from being with someone who can’t find their own happiness, to loving that person, to that ache of growing apart from them with each passing day. The story climaxes in a moment where (presumably) the girl says that they are fundamentally different, and he dismisses the notion by suggesting he doesn’t understand what she’s trying to say. As we fade out, Jenkins posits on the somewhat tragic reality that ending things with someone often means we go about our separate lives without truly knowing who they are, even up until their death.

Key lyrics:
Oh there was a sound, but I don’t know how it goes
Remembering all that we went through, blew in from the coast
“You are of the earth, I am of the sky.”
I don’t even know what the hell that means
All I think about is waiting and all the people we are fading into
Farther from you every day
And I think about you dying years from now never having known
Who you are


Mayday Parade – “If You Wanted A Song Written About You, All You Had to Do Was Ask”

Sometimes, we need to alter the things in the physical world around us as a reflection of what’s happening to us on the inside. From burning letters and throwing away pictures to getting those ridiculous knick-knacks off the shelf, the sentimentality of which means something only to the two of you (Old sneakers? A Thor bobblehead keychain? Huh??), we do whatever we can to put the past behind us, and writer/vocalist Jason Lancaster understands this all too well.

Key lyrics:
And I’m taking all your memories off the shelf
And I don’t need you or anybody else
So take a look at me
See what you want to see
When you get home

Take me home / I’d rather die than be with you
Take me home / You have a problem with the truth
Take me home / Because this happens every time
And I knew it would / I knew it would



Taking Back Sunday – “You’re So Last Summer”

This 2002 emo-anthem made the cut on our Summer Playlist back in 2013, and finds its way back onto the current list because — face it — you needed to feel the old familiar sting of teenage heartache. We won’t ask for a show of hands, but we know there are those of you out there (yours truly included) who know: those one-sided relationships can be brutal. Sometimes, all you want is for your love to be reciprocated but it just isn’t happening — and even though you probably should, you just can’t bring yourself to hate the person who doesn’t love you back. And if you’ve ever been in a relationship where every mistake they ever made somehow ended up being your fault, you’ll appreciate the hell out of the (slightly dramatic but pleasantly self-aware) key lyrics:

I’d never lie to you
Unless I had to
I’ll do what I got to
Unless I had to
I’ll do what I got to
The truth
Is you could slit my throat
And with my one last gasping breath
I’d apologize
For bleeding on your shirt



Go Radio – “Go to Hell”

The title might be a dead giveaway, but if this track came up on Pandora and you weren’t paying attention, you’d think this was the musical equivalent of romantic sweet nothings — until the chorus hits. That Shyamalan-level twist is so hilariously abrupt, in fact, that we’ll just leave the first verse (and accompanying chorus) here as our key lyric:

And I heard you noticed every day while I’ve been here beside myself
How your bedroom smells just like me and that you’ve found somebody else
But there’s a letter that I wrote you just on the back of your top shelf
In case you think the things I’ve told you, you will hear from someone else

It talks about the things I feel when it’s just us inside the dark
About the things I’d like to think while you lay so close to my heart
And I can’t seem to find the words I mean, so I try to hold my tongue
While laying wide awake and restless, you should read it, it says:

Go to hell
If you’re reading this and I’m not here, take your someone else
And let me make this crystal clear that,
That I don’t need your help and I’m okay by myself
You can go to hell



Who Is Fancy – “Goodbye”

Sometimes, we’re stuck in an impossible situation: we deeply care about the person we’re with, but just aren’t getting from them what we need. Whether it’s a lack of devotion, excitement, or simply being treated like you deserve, there comes a point where you have to make your own feelings your first priority. And although it can be difficult and painful, you have to know when to walk away.

Key lyrics:
I know that I can find somebody
You won’t ever find nobody else like me
Once we were like a fire burning
Now you’re just a lesson I’m learning
Please believe me, this isn’t easy
I just need to say goodbye


John Mayer Trio – “Another Kind of Green”

Mayer’s catalogue is absolutely rife with romantic material. From “Slow Dancing in a Burning Room” to “Comfortable” to “Heartbreak Warfare,” there is no shortage of brilliantly-written tunes to aid you in any and every step of your relationship, good or bad. But this particular selection from John Mayer Trio’s live performance is probably one of the last of his tracks you’d think of when looking for a breakup tune, and that’s a damn shame. Those of us who have been in the situation will know: there’s always the allure of what lies on the other side of things, and when the person you’re with has to see what that other side feels like in order to appreciate what they had with you, it can be painful — especially when you yourself never needed to look.

Key lyrics:
So go and drift away from me
Adopt some new philosophy
That doesn’t hold the two of us in mind
Move into someone else’s place
Stare into some other’s eyes
But slowly only come to realize
That you didn’t need another kind of green to know
I’m on the right side with you
You don’t need to lose to know that you had it good
You don’t need to lose it to know that you had it good

The Parlor Mob – “Can’t Keep No Good Boy Down”

And here we are, arrived at that final, liberating stage of grief known as “acceptance.” In vocalist Mark Melicia’s crooning soprano vocals which sound frighteningly similar to a young Robert Plant’s, we get it all: the acknowledgment that you haven’t been treated like you should, recognizing the unappreciated effort you’ve put forth to keep her happy, wishing her the very best (along with a backhanded dig), and resolving to move on to better things ahead. All of this lyrical beauty is wrapped up in a rhythmic and instrumental package that completes the metaphor of a train — a motif that serves as the heart and core of the song.

This will forever go down as one of my all-time favorite go-to tracks for those moments when you just know it’s time to move on—that you deserve more than you’ve been getting. Nothing for me better encapsulates all the elements of basically any crumbling relationship, and its positive determination to move forward without looking back is enough to elicit a smile from even the most dark and downtrodden of days.

Key lyrics:
Still, I really wish you well
In spite of all the lies you tell.
Can’t keep no good boy down,
Woman when you gonna look around?
Cause this train is leaving,
It’s rolling down the track,
Singin’ “Ain’t no turnin’ back”.



Our Community Playlist is open to collaboration over on Spotify, so go ahead and put your favorite breakup hits on there to share. Misery, after all, loves company. But whatever you do, don’t wallow more than necessary — there’s 7 billion other people out there for you to try and not screw things up with. Get out there and make it happen.

About the Author

A proud Twitter-er, Tumblr-er and only child, he has simple and humble ambitions of writing and directing major Hollywood films, and frequently pursues ventures in comedy, journalism, photography, production, art, business, athletics, advertising, motorsports and psychology. In the meantime, he writes for SOUND.

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