Best breakup albums: 36 playlists for heartbreak

The best breakup albums turn personal pain into a work of art with a core message: you are not alone.

Top 36 Albums in history about breaking up: Official videos, playlists, creation stories


Think of those who are single on Valentine's Day, thinking about making food just for yourself and not for a loved one. Of course, some people lonely by choice, but others were cruelly doomed to a lonely life because of the heartless betrayal of a lover. However, as many musicians can attest, there is nothing better than being abandoned in order to focus – and the best breakup albums can channel that personal pain into creating universally influential works of art.

Besides the grief promotes clarity of mind, it can bring with it self-pity, jealousy, bitterness, anger, and even a desire for revenge. As destructive as these emotions are, they are all grain in the mill for creative people. Where would popular music be without the psychological pain and suffering that simultaneously tormented and inspired their creators? If love and life were always carefree and blissful, we wouldn't have three of the most powerful autobiographical albums born from the trauma of tainted love: Amy Winehouse's "Back To Black", Bob Dylan's "Blood On The Tracks" and "Here, My Dear" Marvin Gaye.

These and other entries on this list of the best breakup albums show how great artists can find catharsis in confronting the forces that seem to be intent on destroy their lives and deprive them of their minds. Of course, not all of the albums below were forged in a furnace of pain - some pieces are created because the moods they create and the universal truths they offer can help listeners deal with their own emotional crises. Their main message is that you are not alone.

36: Ariana Grande: Thank U, Next (Republic, 2019)

Being a teen pop princess doesn't mean having a sweet and carefree life. This was proven by the Florida native Grande in her fifth platinum album "Thank U, Next", for the creation of which, influenced her personal experiences, including the tragic death of ex-boyfriend rapper Mac Miller and her highly publicized split from comedian Peter Davidson. The album's twelve songs have a bittersweet undertone that shows that even superstars are not immune to the poisonous love dart.

Need to listen: «7 Rings"

35: Radiohead: A Moon Shaped Pool (XL, 2016)

At first glance, Radiohead's ninth album - "A Moon Shaped Pool", is a protest album in which the band critiques authority ("Burn The Witch"), reflects on climate change, and even supports revolution ("The Numbers"), but some observers believe that the overall melancholy the album's tone reflects Yorke's grief over the end of his marriage to Rachel Owen, with whom he had a 25-year relationship. His desperation is expressed in the pleading ballad "True Love Waits", which closes the album on a desperately poignant note.

Need to listen: "True Love Waits"

34: Sharon Van Etten: Are We There? (Jagjaguwar, 2014)

Some performers have voices designed specifically for melancholy. For example, New Jersey singer Sharon Van Etten has such a specific baritone voice. Her haunting, siren-like tone conveys the excruciating pain that a broken heart and lost love can bring. On this, her fourth album, the singer offers different views on love in the form of slowly building reflections, the intensity of which leaves the listener bruised and beaten. Most of them depict romance not as an elevated state, but rather as a destructive disease that brings only pain and suffering; for example, "Your Love Is Killing Me" with its brutal toxicity and intense desperation of "I Love You But I'm Lost".

Need to listen: "Your Love Is Killing Me"

33: The Mountain Goats: Get Lonely (4AD, 2006)

The Claremont, California-based indie folk-rock band The Mountain Goats, led by singer-songwriter John Darniell, created their tenth album, Get Lonely. An introspective opus defined by reflections on coping with broken love ("Get Lonely"), facing loss ("Half Dead") and facing change ("Woke Up New"). With the help of the album, the author draws to a broken heart in a sensitive and emotionally insightful way, while at the same time using self-deprecating humor.

Need to listen: "Woke Up New"

32: Leonard Cohen: Songs Of Leonard Cohen (Columbia, 1967)

Canadian folk troubadour Leonard Cohen is a "heartbreak" poet laureate. His debut album is not a breakup album in itself, but contains several notable songs, mourning lost loves such as "So Long, Marianne", a hilarious farewell to his ex-lover Marianne Ilene and the haunting "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye", inspired by a fight with another lover. The overall vibe of the album is dark, yet philosophical at the same time, making the album a work that many will listen to after a painful breakup.

Need to listen: "Hey, That's No Way To Say Goodbye"

31: Mavis Staples: Only The Lonely (Volt, 1970)

Her first project outside of The Staples Singers was this, her second solo album, recorded for Stax's Volt imprint under renowned R&B producer Don Davis. The album, which failed to attract a large audience on its release and led to Staples putting her solo career on hold for almost a decade, is now widely regarded as an album symbolizing parting. Emotional voice Staples - it's something amazing, shining brightly in such powerful heartbreak ballads as "I Have Learned To Do Without You", "It Makes Me Wanna Cry", and "Endlessly".

Need to listen: "I've Learned To Do Without You"

30: Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill (Maverick, 1995)

One of the most expressive albums of the 1990s was Jagged Little Pill. Listening to it, you can see the Canadian artist's amazing metamorphosis from harmless dance-pop creator to pugnacious post-grunge rocker. "Jagged Little Pill" - this intricate an album for mature and conscious listeners that is full of rage and frustration, especially on the hit single "You Oughta Know", an angry protest. For those who have been hurt in love or in unsatisfactory relationships, Jagged Little Pill can be an inspiring, vindictive antidote to self-pitying thinking.

Need to listen: "You Oughta Know"

29: Spiritualized: Ladies And Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space (Dedicated, 1997)

This is the third and most famous album by leading British rockers, which was written after their frontman and main songwriter Jason Pierce parted ways with keyboardist Kate Radley, who subsequently secretly came out married Richard Ashcroft of The Verve. Pierce poured out his grief in the sad tracks "Broken Heart", "Stay With Me".

Need to listen: "Broken Heart"

28: Frank Sinatra: In The Wee Small Hours (Capitol, 1955)

The third album by the Chairman of the Board of Capitol was Frank Sinatra's first gold album. It also had a great influence on other artists, as it was considered the first concept album of pop music, which consists of 16 songs. In them, the author expresses the overarching theme of loneliness, melancholy and unrequited love. Many felt that the album was a reflection of Sinatra's rocky relationship with movie star Ava Gardner, and thanks to Nelson Riddle's sumptuous arrangements, the piece sounds so great and beautiful.

Need to listen: "In The Wee Small Hours"

27: Lorez Alexandria: Sing No Sad Songs For Me (Argo, 1961)

Lorez Alexandria - an obscure and largely forgotten jazz singer who clearly deserves more recognition. Chicago native Alexandria had a soulful contralto voice that could make any song she sang feel emotional and authentic. This is her second album for Chess Records. - "Argo Imprint" - a melancholy masterpiece whose feelings should resonate with anyone who has had broken a heart. Together with arrangements handpicked by Riley Hampton, Alexandria creates a world of pain with songs such as "A Loser's Lullaby", "Lonesome Road". The song with suicidal tendencies "Gloomy Sunday" deserves special attention.

Need to listen: "Sing No Sad Songs For Me"

26: Robin Thick: Paula (Star Trak/Interscope, 2014)

The single was highly regarded among fans for its unwavering honesty. This breakup album was an R&B singer's attempt to bring apology and get his ex-wife Paula Patton back after their breakup. The track "Paula" is not easy to listen to a person who has related feelings with the author, but the work creates a convincing portrait of a heartbroken sinner seeking redemption.

Need to listen: Black Tar Cloud

25: Julie London: Julie Is Her Name (Liberty, 1955)

For those who feel inconsolable after being betrayed in love, this album is unlikely to let go. gnawing heart pain. The peculiarity of the album is that starting from the introductory song “Cry Me A River”, the author plunges the listener into his feelings and emotions.

Need to listen: "Cry Me A River"

24: No Doubt: Tragic Kingdom (Trauma/Interscope, 1995)

This Grammy-nominated breakthrough album by the Californian band went platinum. sales and became pop mainstream. But behind his phenomenal global success was a story of resentment, betrayal and heartbreak. Several songs - most notably the chart-topping power ballad "Don't Speak" - documented vocalist Gwen Stefani's split from the band's bassist Tony Kanal after they parted ways after a seven-year relationship.

Need to listen: "Don't Speak"

23: Patsy Cline: showcase (Decca, 1961)

A Virginia-born country singer who hit the mainstream pop charts in the early 60s, Patsy Cline had a beautiful voice whose sonorous tone had a natural ability to convey grief and sadness. There's a lot of both on Showcase, Patsy Cline's second studio album, recorded two years before she died in plane crash at the age of 30. The record featured some of Kline's best-known songs, including "I Fall To Pieces" and Willie Nelson's indelible version of "Crazy", the latter of which - an anthem of loneliness and rejection that should only be listened to if you have a pack of tissues handy.

Need to listen: "Crazy."

22: Lorde: Melodrama (Universal, 2017)

After 2013's rigorously electro-minimalist debut album Pure Heroine, New Zealand singer-songwriter Lorde has used a wide range of sonic possibilities to create complete melodrama. The author managed to display the pain in the songs, which told about the feelings of the author, painful, life-changing separation from her boyfriend, after a three-year relationship.

Need to listen: "Hard Feelings"/"Loveless"

21: Taylor Swift: Red (Big Machine, 2012)

Nothing kindles the flame of creativity like a broken heart, which prompts a person to serious introspection. In this emotional album, country pop artist Taylor Swift wrote about the toxicity of their past relationships. While Swift doesn't ease her sense of anger and bitterness in "I Knew You Were Trouble", "Treacherous" and "We Are Never Getting Back Together", she shows a more reflective side in the mournful "Sad Beautiful Tragic".

Need to listen: Sad Beautiful Tragic

20: Nas: life is good (Def Jam, 2012)

The MC, known for his bragging rights and his use of tongue as a weapon, revealed his rarely seen vulnerable side in "Life Is Good". In this album, the author tells about parting with singer Kelis, whose wedding dress is draped over the rapper's knees on the provocative cover. It wasn't the emotional damage of the separation that seemed to bother him, but rather the pain of the financial settlement: 

I'm talking about the fact that marriage is expensive - he admitted in an interview at the time.

However, the Life Is Good album contains rudeness and at the same time honesty in the description of love.

Need to listen: Bye Baby

19: Joan Baez: Diamonds & Rust (A&M, 1975)

A patron of '60s acoustic folk, Baez recorded this album in Hollywood, opting for a more mainstream jazz-rock sound. But the album failed to hide the depth of the singer's feelings for former beau Bob Dylan, expressed in the catchy title track. She also adds sardonic turning into the text of his amazing cover version of Dylan's "Simple Twist Of Fate" (including an archaic imitation of the author's peculiar singing style). But it is her performance of Jackson Browne's "Fountain Of Sorrow" that best captures the subdued, elegiac mood of the album's author.

Need to listen: "Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer"

18: Kristina Train: dark black (Mercury, 2012)

Kristina Train - a soulful-voiced singer-songwriter who was born in New York and moved to London after an album deal with Blue Note fell through. Train created melancholy noir masterpiece. The prevailing mood of the songs is gloomy, but not depressing. Whether her material is autobiographical or not, Train's vocals make it clear that she's the kind of person with a broken heart.

Need to listen: Dark Black

17: PJ Harvey: rid of me (Island, 1993)

For some, a broken romance evokes feelings of hatred, bitterness, and even revenge. In the autobiographical title track from Polly Jean Harvey's second album, the alt-rock priestess reflects on her relationship with frantic and almost psychotic glee. "You're not rid of me" - she sings and then threatens unscrew head to your lover. Since the rest of the album is performed at the same level of shrill sting, this record is for those who react to romantic betrayal with anger towards their ex-partner rather than self-pity.

Need to listen: "Rid Of Me"

16: Billie Holiday: Lady Sings The Blues (Clef, 1956)

Billie Holiday's talent for expressing her deep emotions allowed her to personify a whole galaxy of pain and grief in the album. In this record each piece tells a story, capturing a vivid autobiographical narrative characterized by bad relationships and abusive lovers against a dark backdrop of drug and alcohol abuse. For those who find solace in melancholy, this is exactly the album that can be listened to indefinitely.

Need to listen: Good Morning Heartache

15: Adele: 21 (XL, 2011)

Adele initially canceled the recording of her second album, stating that she lacked inspiration. But her creative muse returned when she broke up with her boyfriend. Acute sense of loss and heartbreak singers prompted her to explore her emotional scars and vent her feelings in songs ranging from the contemptuous "Rolling In The Deep" and "Take It All" to the more contemplative and extremely poignant "Someone Like You.

Need to listen: "Someone Like You"

14: Frightened Rabbit: The Midnight Organ Fight (Atlantic, 2007)

Scottish indie rockers Frightened Rabbit have delivered a raw and frankly honest autopsy of cancerous love. Allegedly based on the personal life of the late Hutchinson, 14 album tunes invariably dark and at the same time brilliantly written, sustained in catchy and sometimes inspiring melodies.

Need to listen: "The Modern Leper"

13: Roy Orbison: Lonely&Blue (Monument, 1961)

With songs like "I'm Hurtin", "Bye Bye Love", "Cry", "Blue Avenue" and "Come Back To Me (My Love)", it's clear that Orbison's debut album isn't fun. Instead of talking lyrically about pure joys romance, album "Lonely & Blue" - it is basically a catalog of pain, suffering and loneliness caused by many abusive lovers. Despair has never sounded so beautiful.

Need to listen: "Only The Lonely"

12: Bon Iver: For Emma, Forever Ago (Jagjauwar/4AD, 2008)

Before becoming a full fledged indie folk rock band, Bon Ive consisted solely of singer-songwriter Justin Vernon, who was the inspiration for this exciting debut album. Reflecting on a past love affair, he longed for emotional completion, pouring out his soul and fortune in nine songs written during the period when he lived in a hunting lodge in Wisconsin. The result was a breakup album that was alternately painfully inconsolable and magical at the same time.

Need to listen: "re:stacks"

11: Beck: sea change (Geffen, 2002)

Destructive breakup after treason his beloved, inspired Beck to write the eighth album. Abandoning the whimsical, sample-dominated sound of his previous work, Beck opted for a more organic approach using acoustic guitar and orchestra. He gave songs about grief, isolation and heartbreak a deeper resonance.

Need to listen: "Lonesome Tears"

10: Kanye West: 808s & Heartbreak (Def Jam, 2008)

Understandably, Kanye West's world came crashing down when his mother died in 2008. Soon, the feeling of loss was further intensified when his fiancee left him. These two events, combined with dual the attitude of the rapper to his growing fame, reflected on his fourth album tracks. "808s & Heartbreak" was also stylistically different from the hip-hop norm, using synth-heavy electronic soundscapes as a backdrop against which West sang and also rapped. Thoughtfully melancholic album showed how grief can be channeled into creativity.

Need to listen: "Heartless"

9: Richard & Linda Thompson: Shoot Out The Lights (Hannibal, 1982)

Critically acclaimed and often featured high on the best albums lists compiled by influential magazines such as Rolling Stone and Q, Shoot Out The Lights reached number six and latest a joint recording by the British husband and wife duo. Ironically, his creation hastened the dissolution of their marriage, which is described in eight songs. While there is a glimmer of hope for the couple in the opening song, "Don't Renege On Our Love," the closing song, "Wall Of Death," has a sense of doom, despair, and a chilling breakup.

Need to listen: "Don't Renegade On Our Love"

8: Joni Mitchell: Blue (Asylum, 1971)

Possibly the Canadian singer-songwriter's most eloquent and frankly emotional album, Blue is history Joni Mitchell on two breakups: the first with former Hollies member Graham Nash and the second with American singer-songwriter James Taylor. The last relationship began in Europe, where Mitchell wrote most of the album in an attempt to forget the loss. 

Need to listen: "A Case Of You"

7: Bruce Springsteen: Tunnel Of Love (Columbia, 1987)

Bruce Springsteen has gritted his teeth and laid bare his soul on this album, which chronicled his failing marriage to actress Julianne Phillips. Its disturbing themes of deceit, betrayal, doubt and broken Hearts were so personal to Springsteen that he recorded most of the music on his own, without his fellow E Street Band. The cathartic opus does not reveal even the slightest glimmer of light and hope at the end of its dark tunnel.

Need to listen: "Brilliant Disguise"

6: Frank Sinatra: Frank Sinatra Sings For Only The Lonely (Capitol, 1958)

Although he projected the image of a stubborn, tough guy, in real life, Sinatra was as vulnerable as the rest of us, and not alien to the pain of a broken heart. His break with actress Ava Gardner and subsequent divorce from her in 1957 had a profound effect on him and provided the inspiration for this, one of Sinatra's darkest yet most brilliant albums.

Need to listen: "One For My Baby (And One More For The Road)"

5: Willie Nelson: Phases & Stages (Atlantic, 1974)

The Texas troubadour broke new ground for country music with this ambitious concept album about divorce and its consequences. Nelson explores separation trauma from both a male and female perspective. Nelson offers a dual narrative split into two parts of the album, exploring the sense of emotional abyss on both sides. His songs may cause pathos, but not self-pity.

Need to listen: Bloody Mary Morning

4: Bob Dylan: Blood On The Tracks (Columbia, 1975)

Dylan was adamant that he did not write heartbreaking confessions, and vehemently denied that the Blood On The Tracks record was about his painful separation from his first wife, Sarah. Many critics claim that the album is autobiographical. Even the songwriter's son Jacob agreed with this statement, stating in 2006, stating:

It's about my parents

Whatever the source of inspiration, Blood On The Tracks explores the themes of heartbreak, loss and separation both eloquently and tenderly in tracks like "Idiot Wind" and "Simple Twist of Fate".

Need to listen: "Simple Twist Of Fate"

3: Marvin Gaye: Here, my dear (Tamla, 1978)

Out of the ugliness of Marvin Guy's acerbic 1977 divorce from Anna Gordy, something beautiful emerged: "Here, My Dear" - an autobiographical album that chronicles his failed marriage to Gordie, a woman 17 years older than Guy. Given that Marvin Gaye wasn't going to get financial profits from the album - he agreed to give the proceeds to his ex-wife to cover the costs of the divorce, - he poured his heart and soul into the project, crafting an inspirational confession that turned into one of the best breakup albums ever.

Need to listen: "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You"

2: Amy Winehouse: back to black (Island, 2006)

Documenting her toxic relationship and breakup with Blake Fielder-Civil, the R&B singer-songwriter has created a stunning Grammy-winning masterpiece. Track titles such as "Rehab" and "Tears Dry On Their Own" give an idea of what to expect from the record. "Back To Black" - is a kind of music-as-therapy pain management guide that addresses the topics broken hearts, separations, loss, depression, infidelity, guilt and addiction. The album's candid honesty touched the hearts of listeners around the world, turning Amy Winehouse's grief into 16 million record sales.

Need to listen: "Love Is A Losing Game"

1: Fleetwood Mac: Rumors (Warner Bros. 1977)

Topping our list of the best breakup albums is an opus from Fleetwood Mac. During the recording, the band was in turmoil: John McVie and his wife Christina had just divorced, while novel Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham were getting toxic. To top it off, bandleader, drummer and co-founder Mick Fleetwood discovered that his wife was having an affair with his best friend. Their pain was transformed into a soft rock masterpiece on tracks such as "Dreams" and "Go Your Own Way".

Need to listen: "Dreams"


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