There is a yin and yang to love; to experience the highs, we have to go through the lows. That’s why for every song about the bliss of being in love, there is a song about the pain of heartbreak.
From Carole King to Lauryn Hill, songwriters can paint a picture of this aching loss that resonates with listeners from all walks of life. Some of the lyrics are laced with bitterness, while others lean into the angst that comes from rejection, and still others reflect the struggle to find a new sense of self after a relationship ends. What they all have in common is a thread of grief — people who are hurting, tapping into their pain to create art.
From new classics that reflect the tone of Generation Z to a Stevie Nicks song written for one of the most dramatic breakup albums in history to Kanye West’s vulnerable admission of loneliness, these songs about heartbreak go to the heart of how we hurt.
And I know it's long gone and that magic's not here no more / And I might be OK but I'm not fine at all
— Taylor Swift, “All Too Well” (written by Liz Rose and Taylor Swift)
So you walk around like you don't know me / You got a new friend, well, I got homies / But in the end it's still so lonely
— Kanye West, “Heartless” (written by Mr. Hudson, Jeff Bhasker, No I.D., Malik Yusef, Kid Cudi, and Kanye West)
Well, good for you, you look happy and healthy / Not me, if you ever cared to ask / Good for you, you're doing great out there without me, baby / God, I wish that I could do that
— Olivia Rodrigo, “good 4 u” (written by Josh Farro, Hayley Williams, Dan Nigro, and Olivia Rodrigo)
Loving you is like a battle / And we both end up with scars
— Lauryn Hill, “Ex-Factor” (written by Lauryn Hill)
A wounded heart you gave / My soul you took away / Good intentions you had many / I know you did
— Janet Jackson, “Again” (written by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson)
Once my lover, now my friend / What a cruel thing to pretend
— Fiona Apple, “Shadowboxer” (written by Fiona Apple)
Some fools think of happiness / Blissfulness, togetherness / Some fools fool themselves, I guess / They're not foolin' me
— Nazareth, “Love Hurts” (written by Boudleaux Bryant)
You led me away from home / Just to save you from being alone / You stole my soul, and that's a pain I can do without
— Rod Stewart, “Maggie May” (written by Rod Stewart)
Does she know how you told me / You'd hold me until you died / 'Til you died, but you're still alive
— Alanis Morissette, “You Oughta Know” (written by Glen Ballard and Alanis Morissette)
Now here you go again / You say you want your freedom / Well, who am I to keep you down?
— Fleetwood Mac, “Dreams” (written by Stevie Nicks)
How can I put it? You put me on / I even fell for that stupid love song
— Kelly Clarkson, “Since U Been Gone”
Don't speak / I know what you're thinkin' / And I don't need your reasons / Don't tell me 'cause it hurts
— No Doubt, “Don’t Speak” (written by Gwen Stefani and Eric Stefani)
I had hoped you'd see my face / And that you'd be reminded that for me, it isn't over
— Adele, “Someone Like You” (written by Dan Wilson and Adele)
I could put my arms around every boy I see / But they'd only remind me of you
— Sinéad O’Connor, “Nothing Compares 2 U” (written by Prince)
I can't make you love me if you don't / You can't make your heart feel something it won't
— Bonnie Raitt, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (written by Allen Shamblin and Mike Reid)
There'll be good times again for me and you / But we just can't stay together, don't you feel it, too?
— Carole King, “It’s Too Late” (written by Toni Stern and Carole King)
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