Break-ups hurt. A lot. And any surgeon will tell you that any amputation requires a great deal of analgesia to numb the pain in the aftermath. Such is the case in the separation of two conjoined lovers, who suddenly wish to no longer meet at the hip. Rather than indulge in booze and pills and other nihilistic pain-killers, try a much healthier alternative; in particular, these are the top 10 best beautiful break-up songs guaranteed to sooth the pain, even if it doesn’t necessarily help you forget about it.
10. Warning Sign by Coldplay
What would a list about the best break-up songs be without the lugubrious and emotionally-evocative likes of Coldplay. Frontman Chris Martin’s lyrics are teeming with bare, bald-faced lines like “I’ve gotta tell you in my loudest tones, that I started looking for a warning sign. When the truth is, I miss you.” Behind his ‘loud tones,’ on this track from the album A Rush of Blood to the Head, are much milder ones, guided and lifted by soft guitar strums, faint piano chords, and the warm embrace of a delicate, yet monumental string section. Somehow this doesn’t feel like heartbreak–the melody is far too buoyant–it feels more like ambivalent shock.
9. We Were Lovers by Bloc Party
This song was left off of Bloc Party’s sophomore album A Weekend in the City. Instead, it was inserted into a delightful full album’s worth of B-sides from the sessions called Another Weekend in the City; fitting for a song about break-up that it should itself be dumped. The song starts out with a subdued chill, with a sustained wall of guitar that sighs and moans until it outright flips out in the chorus. This is when frontman Kele Okereke trades in his level-headed confessions for cries of despair: “And now our love has been forgotten like it was never there. We’re just sitting here like strangers.” This song wallows furiously.
8. Boys Don’t Cry by the Cure
This song is the ultimate sadness anthem, an augury of what would come from the band in the decades to follow. A single from 1979 coinciding with their debut album Three Imaginary Men, the song showcases lead singer Robert Smith in ultimate heart-on-sleeve form, when he sings, “I try to laugh about it, cover it all up with lies. I try and laugh about it, hiding the tears in my eyes, ’cause boys don’t cry.” Present is a conflict between what gender norms expect of a ‘typical’ male, and how this particular male actually feels. The break-up song itself seems to champion the latter, as a sort of ode to emotional honesty.
7. If You Leave by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark
This song appears in the Pretty in Pink soundtrack for which it was written, and shows the listener the true meaning of what it means to be a ‘new romantic’ band–what that actually means is a whole bunch of instrumental decadence, three synthesizer players at any given time, and a whole lot of bleeding hearts. As a sensual mood is swept into view, Andy McCluskey sings in a throbbing, nasal affectation, “If you leave, I won’t cry. I won’t waste a single day. If you leave, don’t look back, I’ll be running the other way.” Alas, he’s merely putting on a brave face, for only minutes later he back-steps: “I touch you once. I touch you twice. I won’t let go at any price. I need you now, like I need you then. You always said we’d meet again.” For anyone whose seen the movie, it’s clear that this is Ducky’s anthem.
6. Don’t You (Forget about Me) by Simple Minds
The song for which Simple Minds is probably best known appears in none of their actual albums, but rather in their contribution to the Breakfast Club soundtrack. As frontman Jim Kerr kicks off the song with an elated “Heh-heh-heh-HEY. Ooo-oo-oo-whoaaa!!” it’s hard to suspect the rest of the song would be the contents of a love letter from a stubborn ex-lover, who fancies above all else dwelling on the past. Even still, it’s hard to see all the pain trapped beneath all those brilliant, highly-textured instrumental layers, even when Kerr sings, “Slow change may pull us apart. When the light gets into your heart, baby, don’t you forget about me.”
5. Love Lost by Temper Trap
This track from the band’s debut Conditions begins scantily, with just some hand-clapping, vintage organ tones, and the heart-and-soul-filled croons of singer Dougy Mandagi. This is the calm just before the storm, whereby layers of jangling guitars crash down like gorgeous thunder. And Mandagi bellows at the break-up song’s climax, “Our love was lost. In the rubble are all the things, that you’ve, you’ve been dreaming of. Keep me in mind. When you’re ready, I am here to take you every time.” This band is incredibly skilled at penning cathartic, emotionally-honest stadium anthems, which explains why they opened for Coldplay when their world tour took them to New Zealand and Australia (where TT hales from). Judging by their second album, the band surely has a world of their own to conquer.
4. Other People by Beach House
This great break-up song from the duo’s latest release Bloom, is as gorgeous as anything else on the album. Beach House are fantastic at seamlessly blending colorful textures with a glowing golden air of shimmering 60s fog. And it’s amazing how much power these two can harness, it takes some other bands a veritable stockpile of members and instruments to achieve. Under a wall of organ, trickling synth and guitar layers, and singer Victoria Legrand heavy breathing, every sense receptor is left fulfilled, every hair on the back of your neck erect when Legrand coos with a fragile beam of composure, “It’s your world why would you fake it. These days go by, as you turn arou-ou-ou-ound. Other people want to keep in touch. Something happens and it’s not enough. Never thought that it would mean so much.” Your heart can’t help but melt for her distress, regardless of your own.
3. The Ice Is Getting Thinner by Death Cab for Cutie
It’s a challenge to isolate any one of Deathcab’s isolation-embracing heartbreak ballads, as frontman Ben Gibbard’s lyrics have a penchant for sorrowful meditations and lonely expressions. Even a love song like “I Will Follow You into the Dark,” contextualizes romantic devotion through mortality and the bleakness of the human condition. All other morbid subject matter aside, this break-up song is the most straight-ahead reflection upon romantic collapse. And how potent that reflection is, using a shallow surface of ice as a extended metaphor for a relationship growing cold, hard, and invariably brittle. Gibbard sings, “We bury our love in the wintery grave. A lump in the snow was all that remained. But we stayed by its side as the days turned to weeks. And the ice kept getting thinner with every word that we’d speak.” Gibbard’s words sounding like a Robert Frost poem, the music–with it’s icy, percussionless layers of guitar– helps to emphasize a bleak atmosphere of hopelessness, both cold-eyed and beautiful.
2. I’m Looking Through You the Beatles
This song from the Beatles’ folk masterpiece Rubber Soul depicts the visible breakdown of a relationship. With a verse section of intricate acoustic guitar arrangements and the sort of pure, affecting harmonies the Byrds would go on to specialize in, Paul sings, “I’m looking through you, where did you go. I thought I knew you, what did I know. You don’t look different, but you have changed,” before he belts out with an agitated fury, “You’re NOT the same!” as the guitars start are given a weighty crunch, like plates breaking against the kitchen wall. Tough as it sounds, the bridge reveals the truest lines spoken (or sung) in the wake of a bitter break-up: “Why, tell me why, did you not treat me right? Love has a nasty habit of disappearing overnight.” But with music like this, who needs it.
1. Sorrow by the National
Appearing on the National’s High Violet, the instrumentation is in inverse proportion to how emotionally mature the lyrical subjects are. Take this song; a beautiful, nuanced melding of guitar strumming and orchestral swells that marry the sounds of indie rock and classical music conventions, topped with the heavily sedated vocals of a broken man who goes beyond reluctance to an outright rejection to accept the truth. He thrives in how much of the aforementioned sorrow he chooses to wallow in. And the whole affair is, well, sorrowful. And the best-feeling choice of music to wallow in as well, matching frontman Matt Berninger’s baritone drawl as he sings, “Sorrow found me when I was young. Sorrow waited, sorrow won. Sorrow that put me on the pills. It’s in my honey, it’s in my milk. Don’t leave half a heart alone, on the water. Cover me in rag and bones, sympathy. Cause I don’t wanna get over you.”
Great Break Up Songs Playlist
Did we miss any of the the best beautiful break up songs you would want to add to our list? Let us know in the comments and we might add it to the playlist on YouTube. Recent break up? Call in sick and press play below to hear all the songs in a one beautifully awesome, sorrowful row…