A good breakup song can help you get through the tough times in life. Music is one of the best ways we have for both enjoying the good times and dealing with the challenging times, and it’s a special comfort to listen to songs about moving on or songs about letting go when a relationship is on its way out.
Songs about moving on don’t have to be about breakups—they can be about losing a friend or a family member, or even growing and changing as a person. There are countless songs to fit every part of life, and this list is full of the best songs to listen to when your relationships are coming to an end or when you’ve outgrown a person or a place:
1. “I Will Survive” – Gloria Gaynor
What better title for a song about moving on and remaking yourself after a breakup than “I will survive?” The song has a disco beat and an upbeat feel, and it captures the feeling of getting past a relationship and moving on. It was recorded in 1978 in Los Angeles and written by producer/songwriters Freddie Perren and Dino Ferrakis.
2. “Someone Like You” – Adele
A song that never fails to make you feel vindicated by the feeling that your lover did you wrong no matter what’s going on in your life, “Someone Like You” is a classic breakup song that showcases Adele’s formidable pipes. The chorus of “nevermind I’ll find someone like you” captures that feeling of brushing off an ex-lover. It was recorded in West Hollywood, CA in 2011 and written by Adele Adkins and songwriter Dan Wilson.
3. “Don’t Think Twice it’s All Right” – Bob Dylan
Here’s a deliciously spiteful and poetic snapshot of a person’s feelings when they dump their lover and decide to move on in life. The song’s stripped-down, folky melody and arrangement add to its emotional weight. Dylan wrote the song in 1962 with the melody and some lyrics taken from a preexisting folk song.
4. “We Are Never Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift
This song revels in the feeling of kicking your cheating, no-good, or just disappointing ex-lover out of your life. It’s got a chorus that instantly gets stuck in your head and an upbeat feel and groove that’s danceable and fun. The song, written by Swift along with producer Max Martin, was recorded in 2012 at Conway Studios in Los Angeles.
5. “I Will Always Love You” – Whitney Houston
It should be said upfront that Dolly Parton penned the lyrics and composed this song in 1973. But let’s face it, we all know and love the Whitney Houston version—nothing compares to how she belts it out, and she made it her signature song. It’s easy to miss that the song is not just a profession of eternal love, but a parting reminder that even after moving on, she’ll always have a place in her heart for her lover.
6. “Let Me Go” – Hailee Steinfeld
A song with a bouncy pop groove that immediately gets your head bobbing, “Let Me Go” is about the end of a relationship whose problems were clear from the start—sometimes lovers just want each other in the moment but can’t commit in the long term. The song was produced by Steinfeld, Swedish artist Alesso, and various producers in 2017.
7. “Terrence Loves You” – Lana Del Rey
A mournful, melancholy tune that captures the way that the connection that happens in a relationship never completely fades with time, and memories can come rushing back in lonely moments. The slow, out-of-tempo arrangement and lush vocals can’t help but make you misty-eyed. The song was written in 2015 and recorded in Santa Monica.
8. “20 Something” – SZA
This breakup ballad is only guitar and vocals, and it manages to be low-key while still having a driving beat. It’s about a breakup that happens unexpectedly for the singer—her lover didn’t reveal that the relationship was on thin ice. The song was written and recorded between 2014 and 2017 in Carson, CA.
9. “IDGAF” – Dua Lipa
It’s all in the title—this song is about no longer caring how someone else feels. In the song, Dua Lipa’s lover wants to get back together after breaking up, but she’s not having it. The song has a danceable stomp-clap beat with a fun guitar riff. It was written in 2017 by Dua Lipa along with several producers and recorded in Los Angeles.
10. “Better in Time” – Leona Lewis
Time heals all wounds, and this song is all about that truth. Often, all you can do to move on from a breakup is to wait things out, and Leona Lewis’s soulful and powerful vocals convey the bittersweet feelings of finally letting go. The song was written and recorded in 2007 in Los Angeles.
11. “Ain’t Thinkin Bout You” – KREAM, Eden Prince
A techno-house banger with a great hook and strong vocals, this song is about wishing your ex-lover would just move on and get over you. The singer knows that her ex-lover still cares, but she just wants to move on. The song was written by two Norwegian brothers and producer partners who go by KREAM in 2019.
12. “Better By Myself” – Hey Violet
This funky indie-pop ballad with a sing-song melody and whimsically placed synth lines is a scathing takedown of an ex-lover. The lead singer, Rena Lovelis, lists all of the wrongs that her lover has done and why she’s ending things now that she’s in California in cathartic rage. The song was written in 2019 and recorded with producer Daniel Nigro.
13. “Loner” – Kali Uchis
Some songs about letting go are about letting go of everyone around you, not just romantically, but completely. Loner is a hazy pop ballad with sparse beats and dreamy vocals about, well, being alone. It was recorded and written in 2014.
14. “Bad Religion” – Frank Ocean
Unrequited love is one of the worst things life can throw at you, and it’s great to have a song you can play to wallow in the grief of it. The song goes “It’s a bad religion to be in love with someone who could never love you,” over a slow, melancholy organ chord progression. It was written and recorded by Ocean in Hollywood, CA in 2011 and 2012.
15. “So Yesterday” – Hillary Duff
A whimsical take on breakups that doesn’t get too self-pitying or melancholy, “So Yesterday” is about a mutual breakup where both parties have lost interest. It’s a classic 2000s pop song with a sense of fun and goofiness about it in the lyrics and vocal breaks in between lines of the chorus. The song was recorded in 20003 and written by a production team called The Matrix.
16. “Wake Me Up When September Ends” – Green Day
Here’s a song about moving on from a lost loved one rather than a breakup. The song is catchy and singable yet somehow somber with its simple and instantly recognizable opening guitar riff. Green Day’s frontman Billie Joe Armstrong wrote and recorded this song in 2003 about the loss of his father.
17. “Let it Be” – The Beatles
This classic song is about appealing to faith that everything will be alright and allowing yourself to let go of struggle and anxiety. Paul McCartney’s melodic and songwriting genius still reverberates through the world today, and it’s on full display in the piano ballad. McCartney wrote and recorded the song with the Beatles in 1969.
18. “Across the River” – Bruce Hornsby and the Range
Bopping, fun rhythms and a folksy feel and arrangement make this song great. It’s a story of leaving a small town and going “across the river,” or out into the great unknown world. The song was written and recorded in 1989 and 1990 by Hornsby and producer Don Gehman.
19. “I Bet on Losing Dogs” – Mitski
Mitski’s music epitomizes the word “melancholy,” and this song revels in melancholy. Its main lyric, also the song’s title, is set to swelling guitar and synth lines that seem to glorify the idea of always rooting for the underdog and losing. In a way, it’s a song about holding on to losing, although it’s also about constantly letting go of people and relationships. It was written and recorded in 2016 by Mistski herself.
20. “Best Days of Your Life” – Kellie Pickler
Co-written with Taylor Swift, this song is an anthem of moving forward and learning to look back on a relationship fondly. Kellie Pickler is great at belting out the lyrics with gusto, and there’s a vocal arrangement behind her that adds tons of energy to the song. The song was recorded in 2008.
21. “Irreplaceable” – Beyoncé
Have you ever been with someone who cared about themselves more than they cared about you? This song has a groove with laid-back drums and acoustic guitar that complements Beyoncé’s irreplaceable vocal style perfectly, and it feels like a slap in the face to her ex-lover. And who can forget the classic line “to the left, to the left, everything you own in a box to the left?” The song was written and recorded in 2006 in New York City.
22. “Since U Been Gone” – Kelly Clarkson
“Since U Been Gone” transforms from a hurt, melancholy verse into a cathartic outburst of a chorus. When the wall of sound created by the guitars comes in on the chorus, it feels like you’re finally letting go of a lover who dumped you (or you’re at least trying to forget the relationship). The song was recorded in 2004 and written by producers Max Martin and Lukasz Gottwald.
23. “I’d Have to Think About it” – Leith Ross
This introspective acoustic guitar ballad explores the fear that follows a breakup. What if there’s no one else out there for me? This song is here to assure you that there is. Leith Ross wrote and recorded the song in 2021.
24. “You Learn” – Alanis Morissette
Sometimes you just have to cut loose. Being boxed in by a stale relationship or a boring chapter of life is a horrible feeling, but there are little ways you can cope with it, like “walking around naked in your living room” as the song suggests. The song was written and recorded in 1994 and 1995.
25. “Drawn to the Blood” – Sufjan Stevens
This song’s eerie and poetic lyrics were inspired by the songwriter’s loss of his mother. The song is very stripped down and features only staccato-strummed guitar and vocals until the final section with a transcendent synth outro. The song was recorded, written, and produced in 2014 entirely by Stevens.
26. “Everybody Lost Somebody” – Bleachers
By the title, you wouldn’t think this song would be an uplifting anthem of resilience in the face of life’s struggles, but that’s exactly what it is. It’s got a seductive syncopated groove and a great sax hook that makes you want to dance your problems away. It was written by Jack Antonoff, frontman of Bleachers, in 2017.
27. “Skinny Love” – Bon Iver
Bon Iver is the go-to artist for emotional acoustic guitar music with strange and poetic lyrics, and the band is at its best here. This song’s got haunting vibes that conjure up a doomed relationship. It was recorded in 2006 and 2007 in a remote Wisconsin cabin.
28. “ICU” – Phoebe Bridgers
This song recounts Bridger’s breakup with the drummer in her band, and it’s got a pun in the title—”I see you” sounds like ICU, a reference to the distress and pain she’s in over the breakup. “I See You” is a driving pop ballad about uncertainty in relationships recorded in 2018 and 2019.
29. “100 Letters” – Halsey
This song openly deals with physical and emotional abuse through a pop song format. It’s got a compelling beat and idiosyncratic vocals from Halsey which both add to the feeling of empowerment victims of abuse or toxic relationships find in the song. Halsey recorded “100 Letters” in 2016 and 2017.
30. “A Little Bit Stronger” – Sarah Evans
A down-to-earth, relatable artist, listening to Sarah Evans is a great way to deal with the all-too-common situation of someone leaving out of the blue. Evans disperses little spoken confessional thoughts between the vocals that make you feel like you’re commiserating with her. The song was released in 2010 and recorded in Nashville.
31. “How to Save a Life” – The Fray
This piano ballad is about an experience that the lead singer of The Fray had when trying to mentor a young man whose friend died. A confessional and deeply personal song, it has lyrics that are delivered in a list format as a play on the song’s title. The alt-rock band recorded the song in 2005 in Indiana.
32. “Stronger” – Britney Spears
“Stronger” is a motivational song that puts Britney Spears’s struggles on display in an inspiring way. It’s about moving on from loneliness and hardship bit by bit in any way that you can, and it’s got a catchy chorus set to a beat that makes you want to get out of bed and tackle your life. The song was recorded in November of 1999 and written by producer Max Martin.
33. “Stay” – Rihanna
A raw confession of true love, “Stay” is about how hard it is when your true love gives up on you. It’s a piano-driven and heartstring-pulling arrangement, with vocals full of longing from Rihanna. The song was recorded in West Hollywood, CA in 2012 and written by Mikki Ekko, Justin Parker, and Elof Loelv.
34. “The First Cut is the Deepest” – Cat Stevens
What more is there to say about this song than what’s in the title? We all know that our first loves stick with us our whole lives even after we’ve moved on. The song was written in 1967 by Stevens.
35. “Ooh La La” – Faces
This song’s about coming to understand love and relationships too late in life, but still finding a way to move on by warning your young grandson. It was recorded in 1973 and written by Ronnie Lane and Ronnie Wood.
36. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” – Oasis
The chord progression and melody of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” immediately give you pangs of nostalgia for relationships gone by. It’s got meandering, sometimes nonsensical lyrics, but its message to the listener is to let bygones be bygones and make peace with the past. It was written by Noel Gallagher and recorded in 1995.
37. “Everybody Hurts” – R.E.M.
Who hasn’t felt the pangs of rejection, been in a relationship gone bad, or had some kind of existential crisis? The slow ballad, sang vulnerably and beautifully by Micheal Stipe, boils down all the various struggles in life to the relatable sentiment from the chorus: everybody hurts. The song was written and recorded in Woodstock, NY from 1991 through 1992.
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