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Celebrity Break-Up Song

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Thought I'd end up with Sean
But he wasn't a match
Wrote some songs about Ricky
Now I listen and laugh
Even almost got married
And for Pete I'm so thankful
Wish I could say "thank you" to Malcolm
'Cause he was an angel
Ariana Grande, "thank u, next"

A major part of celebrity culture has long been celebrity couples, especially in cases of Romance on the Set, followed by the equally sensationalized celebrity breakup. It's become increasingly common, if one of those celebrities is a musician, for them to write a Break Up Song about it, since many songwriters write about their own lives. While earlier examples were less explicit about this (like from Carly Simon or Alanis Morissette), more recently this is almost expected from celebrities (cough Taylor Swift cough). These songs are almost always a Take That! to their ex, so expect accusations of adultery and proclamations of having moved on. In some cases, the songs can be more sorrowful, either by taking responsibility for the breakup or declaring they are Leaving You to Find Myself. If the celebrity being written about is also a songwriter, expect a clap-back Answer Song.

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This trope is when two famous people break up. To qualify, both people must be famous in their own right, not just the singer alone.

Sub-Trope of Break-Up Song and Creator Breakdown. May overlap with Female Empowerment Song when written by a woman. Contrast with Romance on the Set. See also Celebrity Elegy.

Word of God examples only: either confirmed by the artist or stated outright in the lyrics.


Examples:

  • "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon is perhaps the Ur-Example, and Simon for years kept the identity a secret. She's more recently admitted that one of the verses is about Warren Beatty, but the other two she will take to her grave. She has stated that none of it is about her ex-husband, James Taylor.
  • "Go Your Own Way" by Fleetwood Mac, written by Lindsey Buckingham about fellow band member, Stevie Nicks, about her both dumping him and sleeping with the drummer, Mic Fleetwood.
  • "Distant Lover" by Marvin Gaye is about the troubled state of his marriage to Anna Gordy, sister of Motown founder, Berry Gordy. When they divorced a few years later, part of the settlement was she would receive the proceeds to his next album. That album, Here, My Dear, is filled these types of songs, including "Here, My Dear" and "When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You?"
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  • "Romeo and Juliet" by Dire Straits, a song in which frontman Mark Knopfler recalls his failed romantic relationship with fellow musician Holly Vincent, after he found out about an interview in which she described her time with him in a very blunt and offhanded way. Hence the line "now you just say, 'oh, Romeo, yeah, you know I used to have a scene with him.'"
  • "I Don't Wanna Fight" by Tina Turner, from the What's Love Got to Do with It soundtrack, reflecting on her divorce from her abusive husband and band leader, Ike Turner.
  • "You Oughta Know" by Alanis Morissette about her breakup with Full House star, Dave Coulier.
  • "It Ain't Over Til It's Over" by Lenny Kravitz about his struggling marriage with Lisa Bonet, is a plea to not break up, but it ultimately proves unsuccessful.
  • "Don't Speak" by No Doubt, written by lead singer Gwen Stefani about her breakup with lead bassist Tony Kanal.
  • "Cry Me a River" by Justin Timberlake about Britney Spears is arguably the Trope Codifier. This was the first time the entire marketing of a song, including the video featuring a Spears look-alike, explicitly focused on the celebrity breakup. The song alleges infidelity on Spears's part, leading to the break-up. The video shows Timberlake making out with another girl in their apartment and leaving behind a video of said cheating for his girlfriend to find.
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    • "Everytime" by Spears is her Answer Song.
  • "Love Don't Cost a Thing" by Jennifer Lopez is about Puff Daddy and his attempts to buy her nice things to make up for his constant adultery.
  • Taylor Swift has made a string of these:
  • Kanye West's "Heartless" and "Runaway" are about Amber Rose. The two were in a fairly brief but tumultuous relationship between his break-up with his ex-fiancee Alexis Phifer and his marriage to Kim Kardashian.
  • "thank u, next" by Ariana Grande addresses her breakups with Big Sean and Pete Davidson (from Saturday Night Live) and the death of her ex, Mac Miller. Unlike many break-up songs, this one is much more charitable to her exes.
    I'm so fuckin' grateful for my ex
  • "Lose You to Love Me" by Selena Gomez about Justin Bieber.
  • Beyoncé plays with this on the Lemonade album, in which she expresses her pain over her husband Jay-Z's adultery. However, she never breaks up with him.
  • "No Distance Left to Run" by Blur is about Damon Albarn's break-up with Justine Frischmann of Elastica.
  • Mariah Carey and Eminem had a very public feud over whether or not they had a fling. Carey insists that nothing happened between them, though the fact that she wrote two entire songs about how much she loathes him implies otherwise. From her side there was "Clown" and "Obsessed," while Em mentioned her in "Superman," "When the Music Stops," and "Jimmy Crack Corn," while "The Warning" was entirely dedicated to her.
  • Amy Lee of Evanescence stated that "Call Me When You're Sober" is largely about her ex-boyfriend Shaun Morgan, of Seether. It's unclear if Seether's song "Breakdown" is about Morgan's relationship with Lee, or a different ex-girlfriend.

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