Earlier this week, the supposed track list for Lana Del Rey’s forthcoming Lust for Life album was leaked, and on it is a song called “Summer Bummer.” While we can’t possibly know what this song is about (or even if it’s real?), we’d like to imagine that it’s a breakup song, a follow-up to Del Rey’s “Summertime Sadness,” which is more of a love song, complicated as that love might be.
The reason, though, that we want “Summer Bummer” to be a breakup song, is because there’s little that we love more than a good breakup song. Whether or not we’re going through heartache of our own, there’s nothing we like more than singing along with lyrics centered around love and loss and relief and redemption. It’s cathartic, and don’t we all need a little soul-cleansing right about now? Besides, breakup songs don’t always need to be paeans to pain, they can also be songs of liberation and release. A breakup song can be a thing of power; yes, that power is tinged with pathos, but within the breakup anthem, lies the potential for a new and glorious future.
Here are 10 songs that will help you get through any dark, lonely nights you might have ahead of you this summer. Listen to these songs and know you’re not alone; the darkness will fade, and you’ll be able to step into the light. You might still feel lonely, but after hearing all these other people sing about love and loss, at least you’ll know you’re not really alone.
“High by the Beach” by Lana Del Rey: I mean, of course, Lana totally wrote the perfect breakup song, and from the point of view of the one who’s leaving. If you’re leaving a suffocating relationship, the kind where you were put up on a crazy high pedestal, then there’s never been anything more relatable than Lana singing, “The truth is I never bought into your bullshit/ When you would pay tribute to me.” That kind of situation is untenable. Things have to change—or end. And if they’ve ended for you, then you totally get it when Lana declares, “Now you’re just another one of my problems/ Because you got out of hand/ We won’t survive/ Sinking into the sand.” It’s like, bye.
“Break It Up” by Patti Smith: Hmm, so apparently this song was written about Jim Morrison of The Doors? I find that... very funny, to be honest, because there’s no love more tragic than a young person’s love for Jim Morrison or anyone who in any way resembles Jim Morrison. And with this song, Smith captures that element of tragedy beautifully, wailing about feeling her heart melting, and ripping her skin open so that she can finally rip through. That’s what we all have to do during a breakup—rip out of our own skin so that we can break through. (Or should I say... break on through, to the other side? No, I shouldn’t. Ugh, The Doors ruin everything.)
“It’s Only Make Believe” by Conway Twitty: Oh, well, yeah, this song is just perfect for people who felt like they invested everything they had in a relationship—all their time, energy, and love—only to realize that none of it was real. They were the only ones who felt anything resembling true love. It was all a lie. Damn.
“Not Used” by Lola Kirke: I think what I most love about this Lola Kirke song is that it respects the fact that breakups aren’t just about feelings of hate. A lot of the time, a breakup is more bittersweet than purely bitter. The love is still there; it’s just not enough anymore to keep a couple together. This song respects that and pays tribute to the fact that love lost was still love, and it’s hard to get used to that love’s absence.
“Pain in My Heart” by Otis Redding: So, really, Otis Redding’s voice should just get you through every important time of your life, because it’s the voice of God or, you know, whatever is better than God, well, that’s Otis. But this song, in particular, in which he so perfectly captures the depths of the pain we feel when we’re alone, when our love has left. Just try not to sing along with him as he’s pleading for his love to come back, come back, come back. We’ve been there.
“Please” by Mary Gauthier: This lovely, lilting song is so evocative of the way breakups make us want to get on our knees and just beg to go back to a time before we’d messed everything up. Gauthier references the way in which she set up the situation in which she now finds herself—“I set a trap but I fell in/ And I don’t think I’m finished falling yet”—and it so perfectly encapsulates our own post-breakup feelings, where we’re like, “Oh, right, we fucked this up,” but it doesn’t matter that we know the reason for our heartbreak, because we’re still totally heartbroken. Love is hard.
“Everything Reminds Me of Her” by Elliott Smith: This song was actually introduced to me long ago by a friend who I haven’t seen in a long time; he thought it was the perfect breakup song, exactly capturing the relentlessness of a breakup, that awful way where literally everything reminds you of the love you lost. You can’t escape it. You’re stuck in it. You might as well wallow for a while in order to eventually break free.
“Every Single Night” by Fiona Apple: “I just wanna feel everything” is something that probably a lot of us have said or thought or felt while we were breaking up with someone; it’s a protest of the self, a declaration that we can’t be limited or constrained within any constructed boundaries—including those of a partnership. This is the song to listen to when you’re post-breakup, and you can’t sleep at night, and you realize that you’re driving yourself crazy. Maybe it’s all worth it, so that you can feel everything. Maybe it’s not, because you’re alone. Love is confusing! It hurts. Fiona Apple knows this well.
“I Get Along without You Very Well (Except Sometimes)” by Nina Simone: And sometimes you just need a song as slow as rain running down your window to cry along to; this is that song. Let Nina Simone remind you of all that you’ve lost. Sure, you’ll feel better someday, but you don’t have to feel better yet. If you don’t spontaneously burst into tears when Simone holds that long last note, then I don’t even know what to tell you. You’re a tougher person than I.
“Pale Blue Eyes” by the Velvet Underground: “Skip a life completely/ Stuff it in a cup”—how do you hear that and not start weeping? You don’t! You should cry... what’s sadder after all then realizing that an entire future that you once thought possible is now gone forever? This song is so beautiful and will potentially make you feel sad because maybe your love wasn’t as strong as Lou Reed’s was for, like, drugs (what we’re pretty sure this song was about), but that’s okay. Someday you’ll find another love. And you won’t have to stuff anything in a cup.