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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 Celebrity Song, 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.


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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.
  • Fleetwood Mac's Rumours is a whole album of celebrity break-up songsnote  after the fiery demise of the on/off relationship between guitarist Lindsey Buckingham and singer Stevie Nicks, with each blaming the other for everything that went wrong.
    • Buckingham claimed that Nicks dumped him after having cheated on him (including, unbeknownst to him at the time, with drummer Mick Fleetwood), as heard in "Secondhand News" ("I know there's nothing to say/Someone has taken my place"), "Never Going Back Again" ("You don't know what it means to win/Come down and see me again"), and "Go Your Own Way" ("Tell me why everything turned around/Packing up, shacking up is all you wanna do" - lyrics that especially enraged Nicks).
    • Meanwhile, Nicks claimed that Buckingham had no idea how to respond to her love for him and suggested he would regret his callousness one day, as heard in "Dreams" ("But listen carefully to the sound of your loneliness/Like a heartbeat, drives you mad"), "I Don't Want to Know" ("You say you love me, but you don't know"), and "Silver Springs" ("I know I could've loved you, but you would not let me/I'll follow you down 'til the sound of my voice will haunt you"), the last of which was explicitly intended as an Answer Song to "Go Your Own Way".note 
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  • "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?"
  • Paul Simon wrote "Heart and Bones" and "She Moves On" about his tumultuous relationship with his ex-wife Carrie Fisher. The two maintained a close relationship even after their divorce, and Fisher wrote in her autobiography, "If you can get Paul Simon to write a song about you, do it. Because he is so brilliant at it."
  • "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. "Torch" is about Ryan Reynolds.
    • Alanis Morissette is only one of several artists to write breakup songs about Dave. He apparently made it a habit to date young artists and then walk away, leaving them to write bitter songs about him. Bob Saget allegedly advised him to stop dating young musicians or everyone in America would have heard half a dozen songs about how shitty he was as a boyfriend.
  • "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.
  • "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:
    • "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.
    • The extremely controversial "Eazy" addresses Ye's divorce from Kim, who he still lusts after ("we havin' the best divorce ever!"), and his loathing of her new beau Pete Davidson:
      God saved me from that crash just so I can beat Pete Davidson's ass!!
  • "thank u, next" by Ariana Grande addresses her breakups with Big Sean and Pete Davidson 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," "Bagpipes From Baghdad," 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.
  • Joshua Bassett's "Lie, Lie, Lie" is about his ex-girlfriend Olivia Rodrigo. Previously, Rodrigo released "driver's license" which is about her break-up with Bassett but it is less obvious.
  • Carly Pearce has stated that many of the songs on her third album 29: Written in Stone were inspired by her divorce from fellow country music singer Michael Ray. (And those that weren't were inspired by the death of her producer, busbee.)
  • Several songs on Kacey Musgraves's album Star-Crossed are about her divorce from fellow country singer, Ruston Kelly.
  • Mercilessly parodied on Spitting Image, where Phil Collins' tendency to turn his marital woes into chart-topping singles was sent up in the piss-take song "I'm So Lonely".
  • Sinéad O'Connor stated that "Thank You For Hearing Me" was based on her breakup with Peter Gabriel, with whom she had an on-and-off relationship in the early '90s. According to O'Connor, she ended the relationship out of dissatisfaction towards Gabriel's lack of commitment (given that he had recently divorced his first wife and, per his own word, was undergoing therapy to deal with it).
  • Miley Cyrus' "Midnight Sky" is about her separation with Liam Hemsworth.

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