After any breakup, you’re going to need some songs to keep you company and drown out the voices in your head. Here are favorites from around the Washington Post newsroom. There is some explicit language ahead, because, who are we kidding, breakups are rarely clean.
1. “I Want to Break Free” by Queen
For that moment when you know it’s time to leave. News aide Kara Elder says this song “would always seem to pop in my head right around the time I was growing tired of a relationship. (And I think it motivated me to break things off, too.)”
2. “Let Him Fly” by Patty Griffin
Retail reporter Sarah Halzack says “Let Him Fly” was her soundtrack for every breakup from seventh grade until she met her now-husband. “Her voice channels all your anger, sadness and resignation in equal parts. And the lyrics are just specific enough to conjure all your worst memories of the relationship, and just vague enough to allow you to project all sorts of personal meaning on them.”
3. “Don’t Speak” by No Doubt
You think your breakup was bad? Gwen Stefani and bandmate Tony Kanal split in 1994 – and then they went on tour singing songs about their breakup. Ouch. Several Post women mentioned this 1995 classic as their go-to heartbreak anthem; it’s perfect for the denial stage of any breakup. Key lyrics: “Don’t speak / I know just what you’re sayin’ / So please stop explainin’ / Don’t tell me cause it hurts.”
4. “Guilt Trip” by Kanye West
Social media producer Tauhid Chappell listened to this song repeatedly after a breakup. “The last part of the song, where Kid Cudi croons, ‘If you love me so much then why’d you let me go’ always stuck to me because my ex said something similar as she clung to me when I said goodbye to her,” Chappell says.
5. “One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)” by Bob Dylan
For when a breakup catches you by surprise and, at the same time, seemed inevitable all along. Key lyrics: “Sooner or later, one of us must know / That you just did what you’re supposed to do / Sooner or later, one of us must know / That I really did try to get close to you.” Style assignment editor Amy Argetsinger says this song made her realize: “Wow, other people have been through this, too, maybe it’s kind of banal – and it really helped.”
6. “You’ll Think of Me” by Keith Urban
“‘Take your records, take your freedom, take your memories, I don’t need ‘em’ is a brilliant bit of songwriting,” says pop culture writer (and country music aficionado) Emily Yahr. “Plus, although the song is so bitter, you get the sense that the narrator would take back his ex in a second … and that’s a unique thing to get through in a song.”
7. “Cracking,” by Suzanne Vega
When you’re ready to wallow, travel editor Nicole Arthur suggests Suzanne Vega. “This is not a restorative or empowering song, exactly,” she says, “but it’s perfectly suited to owning your self-pity.” Vega recorded this in 1985, but the opening lines – “It’s one-time thing, it just happens a lot” – are perfect for the Tinder age.
8. “Everything I Do (Miss You)” by Whiskeytown
Key lyric: “Don’t you ask me how I’m doing / when everything I do says I miss you.” Social media producer Gene Park loves the way this song “captures both that feeling of listlessness when your daily routine is thrown off track and also being taken aback at ‘let’s stay friends’ pleasantries.”
9. “Your Ex-Lover is Dead” by the Stars
Video producer Sarah Parnass says, “This song make me want to cry, but in a good, cleansing way. The cello gets me every time. It must vibrate on the same level as a broken heart or something.”
10. “Portions for Foxes” by Rilo Kiley
Social media editor Julia Carpenter recommends this song. For when you’re toggling between anger and bargaining, Rilo Kiley is there for you and your misery of wanting to go back to someone even though you know they’re bad news. “I know I’m alone if I’m with or without you / But just bein’ around you offers me another form of relief.”
11. “She’s Not Me” by Jenny Lewis
“This is the perfect breakup song for when you’re lolling around the apartment ruing your mistakes and hiding from the world,” Carpenter says. Or for when you realize your ex has moved on first. Plus, the video is amazing.
12. “Good as Hell” by Lizzo
Lizzo is like that friend who will real-talk you into leaving a bad relationship and then will stick around to get you drunk afterward and check in on you the next day. “No one says ‘The only love I need is my own’ like Lizzo,” says science writer Sarah Kaplan. “All of her music is joyful, unapologetic, exhilarating – and this song in particular is so much fun. It articulates everything you need to remember when trying to get over someone: You are great. You are resilient. The world should be so lucky to include a person like you. I repeated the lyrics to myself a lot in the wake of a frustrating relationship last year: “Baby, how you feeling? FEELING GOOD AS HELL!”
13. “I Will Survive” by Cake
Cake’s version of “I Will Survive” is a favorite of copy editor Brian Cleveland’s “because it has part of the inspiration and hope of the Gloria Gaynor version, but with a lot more anger and swearing.” It covers the entire breakup progression – from not knowing how you’ll function without your ex to doing damned fine on your own, thanks. And you’re certainly not taking them back. So just turn around now; you’re not welcome anymore.
14. “Triumph” by Wu-Tang Clan
Ahh, yeah, that’s right – we’re on to the acceptance stage. “While sappy songs may help you wallow, at some point you just need to get on with it,” says pop culture writer Elahe Izadi. “It’s impossible to listen to this Wu-Tang epic and not get amped up.”