It’s cuffing season and the holidays are coming up, which can be especially difficult for those who find themselves nursing a broken heart. Whether you are experiencing your first heartbreak with a partner you thought you were going to take home to meet your parents, processing feelings from a situationship, or dreaming of an unrequited love who has found someone special, these songs range from cathartic sadness to understanding and picking up the pieces. As you go through the stages of grief, these songs may help you find peace, or at least feel seen.
(1) “Talia” by King Princess
King Princess’ second single from her debut E.P. Make My Bed was inspired by a dream of her mother’s, who saw a vision of her late friend at the foot of her bed saying “I’m okay” at night. King Princess wrote the song to process her own heartbreak, and it currently has 10 million views on YouTube. The lyrics hit hard, with King Princess singing “If I drink enough / I can taste your lipstick, I can lay down next to you / But it’s all in my head.” As she imagines the woman she loves beside her, all she finds is yet another drink to keep the illusion going.
(2) “505” by the Arctic Monkeys
505 is the hotel room number where Alex Turner would go and meet his girlfriend. The song tells of Turner’s intentions to return to the room, no matter how far away it is, and his vision of his lover there, waiting for him. Released in 2007, the track paints a portrait of a space where the singer could be reunited with his lover, even if such a space no longer exists and everything has changed.
(3) “good 4 u” by Olivia Rodrigo
Don’t be fooled by the upbeat tune of Olivia Rodrigo’s 2021 release from her debut album Sour–the lyrics see the with anger at a significant other who moved on very quickly, leaving the singer behind in her heartbreak. Rodrigo sings, “Well good for you / You look happy and healthy, not me / If you ever cared to ask.” Inspired by Paramore’s classic “Misery Business,” the track went platinum and multi-platinum globally.
(4) “abcdefu” by Gayle
The cover art for the track is an x-ray scan of Gayle’s dislocated middle finger–which encapsulates the song’s ethos entirely. After trying too hard to be nice after a breakup, Nashville-based singer Gayle let loose about the anger after the end of the relationship on this lead single from the EP A Study of the Human Experience Volume One. The track topped charts worldwide, with an “angrier version” released to highlight the song’s rage.
(5) “Valentine” by Luna Delirious
Luna Delirious sings of the power her lover holds over her and the memories they used to have together. The song, which explores what it means to be left behind by a lover, will break your heart all over again. The lyrics to this one hit hard: “You’re the one I cannot lose but you’re so hard to find / Let me visit you in your dreams and try and change your mind / I know I could be better now but I cannot turn back time.” She sings of the limited number of years they had as valentines–a number which will never be any higher–and the ways in which she wishes she could change the past.
(6) “April” by Beach Bunny
American rock band Beach Bunny released “April” as part of their 2020 album Honeymoon. The lyrics describe the feeling of calling a phone number and having nobody answer, with Lili Trifilio’s beautiful voice singing “It’s been another year / wishing you were here…I wanna be everything you wanted / but oftentimes, I just get forgotten.” The tune pays homage to the situation of one lover thinking about another who has moved on.
(7) “Humpty” by Mitski
This haunting track from Mitski’s 2013 album Retired from Sad draws from the children’s nursery rhyme about the egg, Humpty Dumpty, who fell off a wall and could not be put back together again. Here, the metaphor describes a broken relationship and heart–unfixable and in pieces. This song explores the moment of depression and grieving a relationship once it’s final and there is nothing more to be said or done.
(8) “Anytime” by Snail Mail
The fourth track from Snail Mail’s 2018 album Lush, “Anytime” expresses the sense of loss after a relationship, with Lindsey Jordan singing “And I’m not in love with your absence / ‘Cause I’ve fallen so hard for the space / And I’ve gotten to know the quiet / And still forgive you anytime.” The song exudes the sense of loneliness that comes with still tenderly loving someone you are no longer with.
(9) “Champagne Problems” by Taylor Swift
Taken from Swift’s 2021 indie folk album evermore, “Champagne Problems” tells the story of a love that did not work out in the “it’s not you, it’s me” case scenario. Swift beautifully expresses the pain that comes with turning down a marriage proposal and realizing at that crucial moment that you cannot say yes. The lyrics take on the weight of the responsibility for the pain of what has been and what could have been.
(10) “Moral of the Story” by Ashe
Berklee College of Music graduate and singer-songwriter Ashe sings the following lyrics with the kind of heartbreaking clarity that only comes from having a lover turn into a lesson and answering the age-old question of whether it is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all: “Some mistakes get made / that’s alright that’s okay / In the end, it’s better for me / that’s the moral of the story.” The song is undoubtedly sad, but it is one of acceptance and understanding of the outcomes of pain.
(11) “Go Your Own Way” by Fleetwood Mac
The 1977 track was written through Lindsey Buckingham’s stream of consciousness in a rented house that they described as haunted. Stevie Nicks and Buckingham had been broken up, and while they still spoke, they often argued and screamed at each other. They had known each other since the age of sixteen, and Buckingham was heartbroken and angry. The lyrics express an understanding that things had to come to an end; “Loving you / Isn’t the right thing to do.”