Top 20 Greatest Breakup Songs of All Time



Top 20 Greatest Breakup Songs of All Time

VOICE OVER: Sophia Franklin WRITTEN BY: Mimi Kenny
We'll love these breakup songs forever. For this list, we'll be looking at the best tracks about the aftermath of a relationship. Our countdown includes "Thank U, Next," "Don't Speak," "I Will Survive," and more!

Top 20 Breakup Songs of All Time

Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 20 Breakup Songs of All Time.

For this list, we’ll be looking at the best tracks about the aftermath of a relationship.

What do you think is the ultimate breakup song? Let us know in the comments!

#20: “Truth Hurts” (2017)

“Truth Hurts” was first released as a single in 2017. However, it wasn’t until 2019 that it became a sensation, reaching number one on the Billboard charts and inspiring countless memes. This isn’t a breakup song for those who wonder what they could’ve done differently. In fact, this track is for telling the other person they screwed up and that you’re not going to settle for less than you deserve. With its piano trap beat and Lizzo’s confident delivery and hilarious bars, “Truth Hurts” is perfect for regaining your sense of self-worth post-breakup. It is 100 percent that song.

#19: “I Hate Everything About You” (2003)
Three Days Grace

Sometimes, there’s no use in hiding your feelings. “I Hate Everything About You” is a breakup song about absolutely loathing the other person. But on the same token, it’s also about loving them despite your better judgment. Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier perfectly describes what it's like to be in an unhealthy relationship. Even when you know it’s causing more harm than good, it’s still difficult to say when to call it quits. While the relationship might not have officially ended, the way Gontier talks about it suggests it truly ended some time ago. There’s definitely a massive cloud of intense emotions over their heads. And unfortunately, it’s about to start storming any second now.

#18: “Thank U, Next” (2018)
Ariana Grande

Ariana Grande is as known for her romantic life as she is for her music. And when you have numerous high-profile relationships as a female pop artist, that can put a lot of unwanted eyes on you. “Thank U, Next” puts the narrative back into Grande’s hands. She openly acknowledges she’s had some relationships that didn’t work out. But she doesn’t spend a lot of time harboring ill will towards her exes or towards herself. Instead, Grande chooses to focus on her self-love, empowerment and growth. Her song serves as an important reminder that as difficult as breakups may be, they can help you discover your sense of self. Thank u, more please.

#17: “Irreplaceable” (2006)

Can you imagine being dumped by Beyoncé and trying to tell her she’ll never find someone better than you? This story plays out in the unapologetic “Irreplaceable” after the superstar’s fictional partner cheats.. What makes this chart topping song “Irreplaceable” so great is how Beyoncé never questions her decision. While her ex might be desperate to get her back, she’s not about to put up with someone who doesn’t appreciate her. This admittedly isn’t the only great song Beyoncé has made about infidelity. However, this 2006 song is still irreplaceable.

#16: “Always” (1994)
Bon Jovi

There are few better ways to express breakup pain than through a power ballad. On this top 10 hit, Jon Bon Jovi puts every ounce of his vocal power forward. He makes it known that he’ll continue loving his former partner. Although Bon Jovi knows she’s moved on, that doesn’t change how he feels about her. The electric guitar, piano, and strings all add emotional resonance. But the song’s greatness mainly lies in Bon Jovi’s vocals. It sounds like he’s leaving everything he has on the track. While we could’ve also gone with “You Give Love a Bad Name” (x-ref) we appreciate this song for its more sensitive nature. How long will we love this track? Always.

#15: “End of the Road” (1992)
Boyz 2 Men

Since “End of the Road” was the number-one song on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1992, we can tell that a lot of people were in their feelings then. Although it also works as a graduation song, this heartfelt ballad from beloved R&B group Boyz 2 Men functions best in a romantic context. It’s aimed at people who don’t know how to say goodbye to someone you love or who don’t fully comprehend how their relationship could end. With its gorgeous vocal harmonies and passionate but sensitive lyrics, “End of the Road” shows the timeless power of R&B. We keep playing this great song over and over again because it would be too hard to say goodbye to it.

#14: “The Winner Takes It All” (1980)

ABBA is a group that can enthrall listeners with catchy melodies and tearjerker ballads. Those looking for the best of both worlds should listen to “The Winner Takes It All”. ABBA vocalist Agnetha Fältskog talks about breakups in terms of winners and losers. By the end of the song, it’s clear that she feels like she’s on the losing end. While songwriter Björn Ulvaeus has denied the track’s about the end of his marriage to Fältskog, many find it hard to ignore how much it fits. With soaring vocals, a beautiful piano progression, and a steady rhythm, “The Winner Takes It All” is a brilliant song about not trying to hide your pain from the world.

#13: “Since U Been Gone” (2004)
Kelly Clarkson

Does anyone else feel a lump in their throat as soon as they hear the opening words to this one? After Clarkson proved she had impressive vocal chops as “American Idol’s” first winner, she unleashed this smash hit about breakups. In “Since U Been Gone”, she expresses her anger towards an ex with such fury that you can feel your own rage building as the song goes on. But there’s also joy in knowing that she no longer has to put up with the other person’s nonsense. “Since U Been Gone” lets anyone in a bad relationship know of the freedom that awaits in ending it.

#12: “With or Without You” (1987)

When you’re dealing with an emotional dilemma, sometimes there’s no better solution than to just wail through your feelings. That’s what Bono does in one iconic moment of this song. But his iconic wail isn’t the only thing that makes this song great. During this power ballad, Bono highlights the struggle of balancing his professional and personal lives. It's a great examination of how hard it is to be there for others and yourself at the same time. The relatable lyrics and utility as a breakup anthem make “With or Without You” a quintessential U2 song. Thanks to Bono’s remarkable vocal range and The Edge’s mesmerizing guitar leads, this is one track we couldn’t do without.

#11: “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990)
Sinéad O'Connor

Written by Prince and first appearing on The Family’s debut album, “Nothing Compares 2 U” ended up as Sinéad O'Connor’s signature song. Released only eight days into 1990, “Nothing Compares 2 U” set a high standard for breakup anthems that decade. O’Connor’s powerhouse vocals immediately catch your attention. She beautifully expresses the conflicting emotions of being able to enjoy her independence while also declaring she misses someone to a painful extent. Who this person is isn’t as important as how they made O'Connor or all of us feel while listening to this powerful track. Few breakup anthems can compare to this song.

#10: “Un-Break My Heart” (1996)
Toni Braxton

After a heart has been broken, it often takes time to heal and be made whole again. But “Un-Break My Heart” demands a faster solution. In this show-stopping ballad, Toni Braxton insists that her ex reverse his decision to end things and the hurt he’s caused her. The desperation in her voice shows she knows that she’s asking for something she can’t have. But that doesn’t mean she’ll try any less. While this number-one smash won Braxton a Grammy, be warned that it might break your heart the next time you listen to it.

#9: “Yesterday” (1965)
The Beatles

Part of what made The Beatles so iconic was how naturally they could express familiar emotions through song. This mournful ballad has a fairly minimal setup of Paul McCartney on acoustic guitar while being accompanied by a string quartet. For just over two minutes, McCartney sings about the shock of a happy relationship ending. He lets all of his feelings shine through. McCartney’s hurt, confused, and wishes things could be as they were before. But it’s clear that there’s no going back and he must move forward. With countless covers and extensive acclaim, “Yesterday” is a song that speaks to generations of heartbroken people.

#8: “Don’t Speak” (1996)
No Doubt

Staying in a band with someone you’ve broken up with is no small feat. And it’s even more impressive if you’re processing your post-relationship feelings with them with music. “Don’t Speak” was first written as a love song. But when Gwen Stefani and No Doubt bassist Tony Kanal broke up after seven years together, she turned it into one of the 90s best alt-rock anthems. “Don’t Speak” is a proudly one-sided song. Stefani doesn’t seem to allow a word in edgewise because she already knows what he’ll say. Thankfully Stefani and Kanal were able to keep working together on music like this. “Don’t Speak” continues to say volumes to us about breakups.

#7: “Ain’t No Sunshine” (1971)
Bill Withers

For most artists, making a song equating a lover’s absence to a loss of sunlight and warmth would come across as overly sentimental and cheesy. But in Bill Withers’ hands, it feels as honest as it does heartbreaking. “Ain’t No Sunshine’s” short runtime doesn’t prevent it from making a lasting impact. Withers sings steadily but passionately about the physical and emotional void an old flame left. Though it’s a simple and direct piece, the song carries a deep, soulful resonance that brings us to a new level of emotional awe. Hopefully, Withers knew that this song helped people process their own feelings and find relief on their own dark days.

#6: “Go Your Own Way” (1976)
Fleetwood Mac

Standing as arguably the best album about relationships dissolving between bandmates, “Rumours” sees Fleetwood Mac put everything on the table musically and emotionally. Lead single “Go Your Own Way” is just as much of a knockout now as it was then. Lindsey Buckingham tells his departing partner Stevie Nicks to do what she wants next. However, the pain in his voice and his occasionally spiteful words show he’s not ready to say goodbye. “Go Your Own Way” builds to an intense finish. When everyone in the band feels like they’re letting out all their emotions at once, you’re invited to do the same.

#5: “Someone Like You” (2011)

Adele has written plenty of great songs about heartbreak. But if we had to highlight one, it would have to be “Someone Like You.” Serving as the closing track on her stunning album “21, the song became a number-one hit without any gimmicks. Listeners were mesmerized by a thoughtful piano progression and Adele’s captivating vocals. Although she feels hurt by her ex, she doesn’t want him to have anything but a happy life. Adele knows how to express breakup hurt in so many ways. But on “Someone Like You,” she shows that she can carry the deep pain with grace and determination.

#4: “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (1972)
Al Green

If you can’t un-break a heart, is it possible to stitch it back together? Al Green makes us want to believe you can. On this gut-wrenching cover of a Bee Gees song, he sings of great pain with utter beauty. Green’s voice shines throughout with genuine emotional heft as he wonders what can be done to help him recover from his heartbreak. With spellbinding backing vocals and a patient tempo, this song invites you to not run away from your feelings. Instead, it asks you to slow down and observe your emotions without judgment. Only then may you realize that the secret of healing from your heartbreak was within you all along.

#3: “I Will Survive” (1978)
Gloria Gaynor

There’s no way you can talk about post-breakup empowerment anthems without mentioning this Gloria Gaynor smash. She set the standard for all similar songs that came after with this disco classic. In the iconic opening lines, Gaynor initially expresses terror at her partner’s departure. But she’s rediscovered her self-worth and won’t entertain any pleas to take him back. “I Will Survive” is a song driven by well-earned confidence. Throughout it, it’s clear she’s making a stunning declaration of independence after a painful breakup. Gaynor definitely doesn’t like what happened between her and her ex. However, she can hold her head up high because she’s taking control of her life from now on.

#2: “You Oughta Know” (1995)
Alanis Morissette

A standout from Alanis Morissette’s best-selling “Jagged Little Pill,” “You Oughta Know” fully channels the rage that can result from a breakup. While Morissette claims she's happy for her ex, her tone and words soon betray her. She definitely wants to tell him of all the pain he's leaving in his wake. With contributions from Jane's Addiction guitarist Dave Navarro and Red Hot Chili Peppers bassist Flea, “You Oughta Know” is a thoughtfully composed song. But what makes it a classic is how Morissette lets her fury burst forth without any hint of self-consciousness. If you need to unleash some anger in the wake of a breakup, this is the perfect track to sing along to.

#1: “I Will Always Love You” (1992)
Whitney Houston

If a singer can go completely unaccompanied for a portion of the song and still keep you invested in their breakup anthem, you know you’ve found a legendary song. Whitney Houston made this cover of a Dolly Parton song into a masterpiece. The narrative focuses on a person who has truly accepted that their relationship doesn’t work. However, there’s still plenty of love left between the duo. The way Houston goes from a quiet performance to absolutely belting the lyrics shows the range of her talent and reflects the range of emotions a breakup can bring. It feels like no stone is left unturned in this tragic romantic ballad. We will always love Houston for giving her all for this tremendous breakup song.