One thing that writers of Silly Love Songs don't like to mention is that love usually doesn't last forever. People break up all the time for reasons both good and lousy, and when someone writes a song about it, it's called a Breakup Song. Although not as omnipresent as Silly Love Songs, if you turn on a radio station and listen for a while, there's a good chance that you'll hear a Breakup Song or two mixed in with the endless stream of Silly Love Songs you hear. Many times it emerges from the songwriter coming from a breakup himself.
Breakups inspire all different kinds of emotions in people, so there's a lot of variety among Breakup Songs. Songs written from the perspective of someone who has been dumped tend to be different from songs written from the perspective of the person doing the dumping. Please sort examples by the general category they fit into.
Compare Anti-Love Song, Grief Song. Contrast Silly Love Songs.
BECK - pretty much the whole of the Sea Change album.
Chely Wright - "Shut Up And Drive" (talking herself into going through with a breakup)
Brian May - "Too Much Love Will Kill You" ("Torn between the lover/and the love you leave behind.")
Claude Demetrius - "Mean Woman Blues". The most popular version was sung by Roy Orbison.
Peter Hammill's solo album Over deserves a special mention. The album was written in response to his girlfriend running off with (and probably even marrying) his best friend, and so all the songs on the album (with the notable exception of "Autumn") are about how he deals with it. A consequence of this is that the album is so claustrophobic and sparse that anyone who has suffered a breakup will find the album an emotionally harrowing listen.
ABBA - "The Winner Takes It All", "Knowing Me, Knowing You", "One of Us", "When All Is Said And Done", and likely many other ones, too.
Rainbow - "Since You've Been Gone" (actually by Russ Ballard, this is also a case of Covered Up).
Napoleon XIV - "They're Coming to Take Me Away, Ha Haa" (a parody, naturally. It was his dog that broke up with him.)
2Gether - The Hardest Part of Breaking Up (Is Getting Back Your Stuff) is a rather, shall we say, "unusual" take on the subject.
They Might Be Giants have done a few of these, including "They'll Need A Crane", "Narrow Your Eyes", and "Broke in Two".
The entirety of Bowling for Soup's album: A Hangover You Don't Deserve (except "1985") details a break-up, either one specific break-up or a variety of them. Special note to - "Ohio" a come-back to me song where the band says the entire state of Texas would rather have the girl in Texas than Ohio; "Down For The Count" where the guy's 'guard goes up and [he's] fighting dirty;" and "Next Ex-Girlfriend" where the singer just wants a quick rebound to get over his past love.
The entirety of the Del Amitri album "Change Everything".
American Hi-Fi's The Breakup Song and SR-71's Mosquito are two of the nastiest, and funniest examples. Not sure which folder they belong in.
Leonard Cohen - Coming Back to You; Ain't No Cure for Love; Ain't No Cure for love
The musical show Total Drama World Tour has a song by the character Sierra called 'Oui, my Friends,' where she sings about a boy who she thought loved her, but she finds out he didn't love her at all, and proceeds to sing about how all boys are just out to get girls and use them. (Or as she puts it, 'Break your heart and chew it up and spit it out and step on it and throw it down a sewer, call it names, and then, laugh!')
Keyshia Cole - "I Should Have Cheated" A song where the singer states that she should of cheated on her boyfriend after the multiple times he accused her of doing so, which he has been suspected of as well.
Khonnor's "An Ape Is Loose" can be interpreted to concern the singer instigating a breakup with a popular girl or celebrity.
Katy Perry's "Circle The Drain" is about her breakup with the drug-addicted Travis McCoy.
And "Part of Me" was recorded in the aftermath of the dissolution of her marriage to Russell Brand. Take a guess on what it's about. Go on!
Most of Fall Out Boy's earlier material consists of songs that fall into at least one of these categories. Examples include "Yule Shoot Your Eye Out", where the singer spitefully tells his ex what she should do for Crhistmas and new Year's, and "Tell That Mick He Just Made My List Of Things To Do Today," where he basically tells her he hates her for breaking up with him for another guy and tells her to "stop burning bridges / and drive off of them / so I can forget about you"
Escape the Fate's "Let It Go" consists of the singer asking himself if he lets his girl go, since she's not his to own, would the emotional scars and trauma she's inflicted go away or remain.
Vanessa Carlton's "Carousel" is an unusual example. It's a third-person song advising people who've broken up not to dwell on it and to move on.
Train - "50 Ways to Say Goodbye," which details how the singer intends to tell his friends that his ex died in various freak accidents rather than admit that they've broken up.
"I'm Leaving" by Rob Swift is a bit of a special case as both verses convey different emotions. The first verse is of the "I Have to Leave" variety, while the second is of the "Don't Want You Back" variety.
George Michael - Faith
Jack Johnson - If I Had Eyes
Robyn - Call Your Girlfriend (coming from the interesting perspective of the "other woman", telling the guy that it's time to leave his girlfriend for her—"Call your girlfriend/It's time you had the talk/Give your reasons/Say it's not her fault...")
Sunny Sweeney - Staying's Worse Than Leaving
Alison Krauss - Forget About It
Imagine Dragons - "Pantomime". The singer spends a lot of time telling the ex not to touch him, and also boasts that he's become rather popular among her friends. However, he also says that he loves her "part time", instead of not at all, and also notices her crying over the lack of emotional commitment in her current relationship. The bridge seems to tell her that it's her choice whether or not to leave her current lover.
Egyptian - "Fade". The first verse has the male sing to the female about how while she has a pure heart, society seems to forbid their love. The second verse has the female sing to the male about how he seems shady to others, including her, by leaving her alone at night. The chorus has him ask her to maintain positive memories of their romance, even after it ends.
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Amy Winehouse - "Back to Black" pretty much the whole album but particular examples include, Love Is A Losing Game, Wake Up Alone and Back To Black itself.
Bob Dylan - pretty much the entirety of his mid-70's album Blood on the Tracks.
"Weird Al" Yankovic - "One More Minute". Oddly enough, this is a completely straight example, despite being a Weird Al song; he wrote it to help himself through an actual breakup.
It's not completely straight, since it's set to the tune of a slow dance and the lyrics are turned Up to Eleven. Weird Al also had "You Don't Love Me Anymore", which is definitely not a straight example.
He also did "Since You've Been Gone", which starts out sounding like a straight depressing breakup song (albeit comparing his lovers absence to several outlandishly painful and masochistic acts). This being Weird Al, there's of course a twist at the end.
Aerosmith - "What It Takes" and "Hole in My Soul".
Keyshia Cole - "I Changed My Mind", "(I Just Want It) To Be Over"
Taylor Swift is a particularly infamous example as of late. She tends to write songs about her personal experiences, which includes break-ups. This starts to get awkward when her relationships involve celebrities and not just unnamed boys from her hometown. It's gotten so bad that when she writes a new one, there is instant speculation as to who it might be about. Examples: "Tim Mc Graw," "Picture to Burn," "The Way I Loved You," "Back to December," "Dear John," "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together," "Should Have Said No," "White Horse," "Cold as You," "A Perfectly Good Heart," "You're Not Sorry," "Haunted," and "Last Kiss." Just to name a few.
Ben Folds - "Song for the Dumped", which has become an anthem for mishandled breakups.
Nick Cave, being a bit broody, is partial to these. "Where Do We Go Now But Nowhere?" and "It Ain't Gonna Rain Anymore" are two of the lighter, happier example. Note that this is not a joke: they get darker.
Commodores - "Easy". It overlaps a bit with the Anti-Love Song, in that the singer is overall quite relaxed and happy about breaking up with his girlfriend since the relationship has apparently been unhappy for a while.
The lyrics strongly imply a breakup, but the song's video tells a slightly different story, showing a married couple on the brink. Subverted at the end of the video, with the couple getting back together.
Warning others about the ex
Cee Lo Green's "Fuck You"— which also has some "I Want You Back" elements.
Måns Zelmerlöw - "Brother Oh Brother", where the singer's brother gets together with the singer's ex
Three Days Grace - "Last To Know" starts out with the singer wanting the girl who cheated then dumped him back, but when the electric guitar kicks in halfway through the song, he switches to warning her new boyfriend that when she leaves him for dead, he too will be the last to know.
Hall And Oates - "Maneater" (the singer's previous involvement with the titular "maneater" is strongly suggested, but never explicitly stated)
Usher - "You Make Me Wanna"
Bel Biv Devoe - "Poison", which warns to never trust a big butt and a smile
Consider Me Dead - "The Island" switches perspectives from a "you drew me in, I was captivated and now I know better so screw you" tone in the verses to a chorus warning anyone romantically interested in the antagonist "she swims in a sea of diamonds/she is numb to the touch/she left me here on this island/she didn't leave me with much".
Elton John, "Slow Down Georgie (She's Poison)"; "Don't Trust That Woman".
Please Don't Go / I want you back / I wish we were still in love
Adele - "Rolling In the Deep". Despite that it's not a pathetic as it seems. As Todd said, "It's a song to load ammo to. It's the kind of breakup song that precedes a serious ass-kicking." The fact that one of the lines in the chorus is "You're going to wish you never had met me" is a big clue as to what this song is about.
Alejandro Fernández - "Si Tú No Vuelves," "Pájaro Perdido"
The Avett Brothers - "If It's the Beaches" (The song's basic message is "I would do anything to keep you". Sample lyrics: "Don't say it's over / 'Cause that's the worst news I could hear / I swear that I will / Do my best to be here just the way you like it / Even though it's hard to hide / Push my feelings all aside / I will rearrange my plans and change for you".)
Cher Lloyd - "Want U Back," about a girl who dumped her boyfriend because he "never had much game" and then got all pissy because he got together with someone else instead of crawling back to her like she expected.
Chicago - "I Don't Wanna Live Without Your Love," "If You Leave Me Now", "Hard Habit to Break"
The Corrs - "Radio," "Long Night," "Old Town," "Give Me A Reason," ...suffice it to say, they like this one.
Crystal Gayle - "You Never Miss a Real Good Thing ('Til He Says Goodbye)"
Interestingly, the beginning lines of the song—"You're not her / Though I try to see you differently / I toe the line / You see, I'm searching for what used to be mine / And I saw your eyes / And I saw Alice staring back at me / So I will try to find another one / Who suited me as well as her"—sound a LOT like the male perspective of Paloma Faith's "Picking up the Pieces", in which she sings about being in a relationship with a man who is still madly in love with his ex, to the detriment of his relationship with his current girl (the singer). Aside from those first lines, however, "Sunburn" is primarily about Sheeran's regret that an old relationship didn't work out: "We never even tried / We never even talked / We never even thought in the long run". The new-girlfriend-who-reminds-him-of-the-old is a secondary aspect of the song.
Gotye - "Somebody That I Used To Know" is arguably a deconstruction. It seems like a song in this vein, but then in the second part we hear the perspective of the ex and it could from her angle be a "Don't Want You Back" song.
Kid Rock & Sheryl Crow - "Picture" (Two ex-lovers both realize they can't live without each other)
Kumbia Kings - "Con El Tic Tac Del Reloj," "Se Fue Mi Amor," "Why Did You"
Kylie Minogue - "I'll Still Be Loving You", "Hand On Your Heart", "Never Too Late", "Better The Devil You Know", "If You Were With Me Now", "No World Without You", "Where In The World?", "Put Yourself In My Place", "Disco Down", and "Soul On Fire"
Laura Branigan - "How Am I Supposed to Live Without You" (co-written, and later covered, by Michael Bolton) (singer's love for other person apparently unrequited, other person has found love of his/her own life)
Les Fatals Picards - L'Amour à la française
Loudness- "Ares' Lament/So Lonely" and "Never Again"
Lovelife's songs are almost exclusively about breakups and longing for the other person back. The most notable examples being "Your New Beloved", "Dying to Start Again" and "Nova"
Lifehouse - "Whatever It Takes"
Luis Fonsi - "Se Supone," "Te Echo De Menos," "Viviendo En El Ayer"
Mariah Carey - "Can't Let Go," "Just to Hold You Once Again," "My All", "Love Takes Time", "I Still Believe"
"Always Be My Baby" is a variant, saying "I don't mind if you leave, because I know you'll come back." Forever is another variant, where she acknowledges the time between them is over but if he ever wants her back then all he has to do is call her back. Butterfly is, yet another, example. Its main message is very similar to Always Be My Baby except it's more, "If you truly love me, you will come back but, until then, I have to set you free."
Don't Forget About Us and her exceptionally famous We Belong Together definitely do count.
Candy Bling, Angels Cry and Inseparable off of Memoirs of an Imperfect Angel count. H.A.T.E.U. is an odd variant where she wishes for him back, but, at the same time, wishes that she didn't so she can hate him.
"Girl, don't lie and tell me that you need me...girl, don't cry and tell me nothing's wrong...I'll be all right, one way or another...so let me go or make me want to stay..."
Kylie Minogue - "Je Ne Sais Pas Pourquoi", "Tell Tale Signs", and "Trippin' Me Up"
Dannii Minogue - "Be Careful" and "Who Do You Love Now"
The Righteous Brothers - "You've Lost That Lovin' Feelin'" (cover versions by lots of people)
The Veronicas - "All I Have" "Don't Say Goodbye" "In Another Life"
Intimacy by Bloc Party is a goldmine of these. It was written after a bad breakup of the lead singer, Kele Okereke. We've got: Trojan Horse, One Month Off, Your Visits Getting Shorter, Zephyrus and One More Chance.
Arguably Letter to My Son as well.
From other albums you could have We Were Lovers.
Dan Hill (with Vonda Shepard) - "Can't We Try"
Sarah Brightman - "Tell Me On a Sunday," from the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical of the same name. Knowing that their relationship is doomed, the singer details how she wants her lover to finally end things.
"Let me down easy/ No big song and dance/ No long faces, no long looks/ No deep conversation..."
The Guess Who - "No Time" (the relationship is even compared to a slaughterhouse at one point)
Texas - "Strings of Life (Stronger On My Own)"
Eamon - "F*** It (I Don't Want You Back)"
And the follow-up song, from the woman's perspective, Frankee's "Fuck You Right Back"
Mariah Carey - "Someday", also, her, "You cheated on me so get out" songs count. H.A.T.E.U. is an odd mix between this and, "I really do still want you back". She goes back and forth between longing to be with them, and stating she can't wait to hate them. Up Out My Face is another example.
Ben Folds - "Smoke", a particularly melancholy example even for the genre comparing unloading your emotional baggage to burning a book, before taking a particular bitter turn towards the end.
Poison - "Every Rose Has Its Thorn" starts out in sad and melancholy mode, with the singer regretful about hurting his significant other and wishing that he could have known what to say in order to save the relationship — and then the final verse turns bitter as hell with the revelation that she's found somebody new, and "that I never meant that much to you."
Taylor Swift: "Picture to Burn", "Should've Said No", and "We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"
Bowling for Soup's "Life After Lisa" is an odd example. The singer clearly misses the girl, and is saddened by the end of the relationship, but to his surprise is doing okay without her; the song focusses on that last part.
Jim's Big Ego's I'm Lucky, the chorus of which is the line "I'm lucky you left me" repeated about six dozen times, and which includes the line, "Now here's the part of the song where you'd expect to find a little irony/About how I'd really much rather have you back... Well SORRY!"
Fleetwood Mac - Go Your Own Way
Pink Martini sings "And Then You're Gone," a counterpoint to "But Now I'm Back."
The All-American Rejects song "Gives Your Hell" is a hard-hitting "screw you" to the singer's ex. The entire song is one long gloat about how he's living the rock star life now, and where the hell is she? It includes a clever interlude line where the singer says, "The truth be told, I miss/And the truth be told, I'm lying! and he goes right back to describing what a bitch she was and how glad he is that she's out of his life.
Frank Zappa has a few of these. The doo-wop styled "Go Cry on Somebody Else's Shoulder" is a good example.
Sally Shapiro - "All My Life"
Peach Union - "Sorrowtown"
Two-Door Cinema Club - "Changing of the Seasons"
I Blew It, I Regret It, But It's Too Late to Apologize
Bruno Mars - "When I Was Your Man". A lovely ballad about how he should have paid more attention to her, but at least she's with someone who is doing for her now what he (the singer) should have been doing for her all along.
Chicago - "Hard to Say I'm Sorry". He still loves her. He did her wrong. She left, and there's nothing he can do to get her back and he knows it.
Imagine Dragons - "Amsterdam". He apologizes for his problems and/or behavior leading to the end of the romance, but reminds her that now she has a chance of finding someone better.
Garth Brooks - "More Than a Memory." He blew it and she's gone. The knowledge that she left because of things he did and say are slowly killing him, as is the knowledge that she was the best thing to ever happen to him.