Breakups suck: it’s a fact. But if there’s one positive outcome of torn-up relationships it’s the vast catalog of classic breakup songs they have inspired -- the best of which we have assembled below. So go grab a handkerchief and get ready to wipe tears of both sadness and mirth at the following collection of f-u’s and tear-jerkers, the Top 10 Breakup Songs:
From: ‘Standing Hampton’ (1981)
If you’ve paid any attention to Sammy Hagar’s career you’ll know he’s a resourceful, optimistic, can-do kind of fellow, not likely to be found crying in his beer over the most traumatic of personal, or even band breakups (see what we did there?). So we’ll kick off this list of the Top 10 Breakup Songs with this defiantly confident statement from his cheekily named ‘Standing Hampton’ album.
From: ‘Dr. Feelgood’ (1989)
As for L.A. sleaze metal kings Motley Crue, neither optimism nor subtlety ever figured among their strong suits when it came to their views on romantic relationships. Come to think of it, romance rarely fit into the equation, either, so the quartet’s checkered catalog is not surprisingly filled with backwards love songs, and none bolder than ‘Don’t Go Away Mad (Just Go Away).’ On the bright side, at least they got to the point quick.
From: ‘Heartbeat City’ (1984)
Time to shift gears now, from callous dismissiveness to earnest melancholy, and who better to steer us that way than the Cars? Though they focused chiefly on crafting snappy new wave ditties for their fifth studio platter, ‘Heartbeat City,’ Ric Ocasek and crew gracefully paused for a moment of romantic reflection with this massive hit, which was capably crooned by bassist -- and in demand “drive me home hunk” -- Benjamin Orr.
From: ‘Son of Schmilsson’ (1972)
Unfortunately, there was no romantic hangover of any sort for Harry Nilsson, who famously and immediately countered all of the good vibes delivered by his unexpected mainstream breakthrough, ‘Nilsson Schmilsson,’ with an equally perverse sequel in ‘Son of Schmilsson.’ All this to set up what is surely the most verbally offensive selection in our list of Top 10 Breakup Songs, the persistently catchy (and NSFW) ‘You’re Breakin’ My Heart.’
From: ‘Love Stinks’ (1980)
“Wild thing! You make my heart sing...” Oops, wrong song, sorry! But hey, you have to wonder if simple coincidence played a part here (yeah right!), or if the J. Geils Band intentionally flipped the script on that old nugget by the Troggs in order to get their opposing point across on ‘Love Stinks.’ In any case, what was probably conceived as a novelty song turned into an unexpected Top 20 hit -- with a little help from its famously rudimentary music video, seen below.
From: ‘GN’R Lies’ (1989)
One of the most appealing things about early Guns n’ Roses was their ability to have a good laugh -- even if those laughs usually came in the form of black humored ditties like ‘Used to Love Her.’ Thing is, back in ’89, no one really believed the protagonist would go so far as burying his beloved nag in the back yard, as some bizarre for of breakup therapy. Nowadays, you can’t be so sure...
From: ‘Hair of the Dog’ (1975)
In the same way that many relationships endure multiple breakups and makeups before going the distance or, sadly, running their course, some songs receive numerous interpretations by different artists -- each one of whom brings their own romantic experiences to bear on the same set of lyrics. This is true of ‘Love Hurts,’ which first hit the charts in 1960, as recorded by the Everly Brothers, but found its definitive reading some fifteen years later, in the hands of Scottish hard rockers Nazareth.
From: ‘Led Zeppelin’ (1969)
Even as they were busy formulating the basic template for almost everything we now refer to as “hard rock” with their influential first album, Led Zeppelin were also keeping their creative options open, just in case -- as evidenced by this memorable reworking of the Anne Brendon folk lament, ‘Babe I’m Gonna Leave You.‘ In fact, as the band repeatedly alternates between acoustic mourning and power-chord bombast, it’s easy to believe this was the first, prototypical “power ballad.” What say you?
From: ‘Born to Run’ (1975)
If you’ve stuck with us this far, through so many bitter and occasionally hopeful entries in our list of the Top 10 Breakup Songs, then you may just be emotionally strong enough to cope with the incrementally complex feelings and panoramic grandeur depicted by Bruce Springsteen’s ‘Backstreets.’ Of all the Boss’ numerous, timeless love songs, this may be the one that best traces the incomparable highs and lows affecting any true love affair that can’t help but crumble in the end.
From: ‘Rumours’ (1977)
Let’s wrap things up with one of the best-selling breakup songs ever released: Fleetwood Mac’s self-explanatory ‘Go Your Own Way.’ Of all the classic tunes recorded for 1977’s record-breaking (and, for several band members, heart-breaking) ‘Rumours
’ album, none documented the fraught state of personal affairs within the group as honestly and explicitly as this one. As such, we can’t think of a better song to illustrate how sadness and heartache can both motivate great music and help cure the same sentiments among those who hear it.