Breakup albums: the best tried-and-tested albums to get you through heartache

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Hollie Richardson
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Broken heart.

From Taylor Swift’s Red to Lizzo’s Cuz I Love You and Joni Mitchell’s Blue, these are the best breakup albums that will help you navigate any heartbreak storm.

How do you mend a broken heart? Despite the fact that heartache has caused tears, tantrums and torture since time immemorial, we still don’t have an answer for this one. The only thing we do know is that heartbreak sucks, especially straight after a breakup, and not even copious tubs of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream can cure it. 

There are, however, plenty of ways to help get you through – and listening to a bloody good album is one of them.  A 2014 study found that listening to sad music, including when you’re experiencing “lovesickness or a breakup”, can lead to beneficial emotional effects. Another piece of research, published in the Journal of Consumer Research, found that people feel better when they listen to music that matches their moods. 

And, let’s face it, most of us just know how liberating it can feel to blast out Celine Dion’s All By Myself through floods of tears. Just ask Bridget Jones. 

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While there are plenty of breakup singles out there, we wanted to look at the best albums to help mend a broken heart. Because there’s something particularly special about being taken on a full journey of a breakup album; they can reflect the process of all changing emotions that come with heartbreak. 

So, if you’re in need of ideas for what to listen to while taking a long wintry walk this weekend, we’ve rounded up some of the best breakup albums that have got us through a tough time. 

Red, Taylor Swift

Taylor Swift – the ultimate millennial heartbreak lyricist – has just released her ninth album, Evermore. And while she continues to pen some of the best modern love songs around (Ivy is said to be based on Emily Dickinson and her lover Sue Gilbert), Red is arguably her most iconic breakup album. 

From the sadness and frustration in All Too Well to the feel-good “I’m so over this” factor in We Are Never Getting Back Together, the album always convinces this writer that maybe one day, on a Wednesday in a cafe, I’ll watch it Begin Again.

Jagged Little Pill, Alanis Morissette

Alanis Morissette’s Jagged Little Pill is the breakup album to end all breakup albums, according to Stylist’s digital editor-at-large Kayleigh. 

She says: “It’s packed to the brim with searing, powerful, beautifully rage-fuelled songs (special shout-out to You Oughta Know) and singing any single one of them under a hot shower is pure cathartic dreaminess. Especially when your heart has been snapped in two and you’ve entered the ‘anger’ phase of your grief cycle.”

Punisher, Phoebe Bridgers

For women’s editor Moya, Punisher by Phoebe Bridgers was “the soundtrack to a LOT of me walking around south London crying theatrically this summer”. With Phoebe Waller-Bridge and Normal People’s Paul Mescal declaring themselves big Bridgers fans, the album is clearly set to be a modern classic.

The standout song that really got Moya going? Moon Song.

I Am… Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé

Recommended by a reader on Twitter, Beyoncé’s I Am… Sasha Fierce was always going to make it onto this list. If I Were A Boy is the perfect way to vent out any anger over a cheating ex, while Single Ladies will compel you to take a shower for the first time in days, put on some lipstick and hit the town with your pals.

And yes, you’ve gotta do the dance in the shower and on the dancefloor.

Grace, Jeff Buckley

Acting digital commissioning editor Katy Harrington says she lost her bodyweight in tears and snot while listening to Jeff Buckley’s Grace vocal pirouetting on vinyl.

“I was in college and in love with the wrong person,” she says. “He cheated, we fought and drank too much, got back together and then a few weeks later it would all happen again. I think I was addicted to the drama as much as him but my god was young Jeff the soundtrack to my pain – Lilac Wine, Lover You Should’ve Come Over, and the silver bullet itself: Last Goodbye.”

Stripped, Christina Aguilera

Fighter by Christina Aguilera is one of the most powerful and satisfying breakup songs out there. I mean, who hasn’t screamed “thanks for making me a fiiighterrrr” at the top of their lungs before? But the rest of the album explores so much more. 

From nailing how difficult it can be to properly end things in Walk Away to confidently exploring her sexuality in Dirrrty and finally addressing the relationship she has with herself in The Voice Within, it’s an empowering listen.

Blue, Joni Mitchell

“Joni Mitchell is the woman who taught your cold English wife how to feel…” Emma Thompson’s character famously said in Love Actually speaking on behalf of women everywhere. 

With beautiful tracks including A Case of You, Blue and Carey, Mitchell’s Blue album has provided the soundtrack to many-a-person’s love life. When asked what she thinks love is in an interview earlier this year, Mitchell said: “It’s still the same. I make the same mistake over and over again, and I’m just a fool for love.”

 Stylist’s SEO executive Lucy loves this one so much that she sometimes sticks it on just to “FEEL things”. 

Emma, Forever Ago Bon Iver

Emma, Forever Ago by Bon Iver was a popular recommendation on Twitter, with one reader saying it is “fabulous if you need a cry” and that it gives her “chills every time”. 

Cuz I Love You, Lizzo

“Cause I’m my own soulmate, I know how to love me, I know that I’m always gonna hold me down…”

Lizzo is the straight-talking best friend we all need after a breakup, right? All of her songs are about self-love, empowerment and, ultimately, not taking any crap from anybody. They are also just absolute tunes and make you want to dance and jump around your bedroom. 

Feel those Lizzo endorphins, people!

19, Adele

This list would simply be invalid without an appearance from heartbreak queen Adele. For our social media assistant Meeka, Adele’s debut album 19 is the one that got her through a breakup. “19 is a timeless coming of age album that has the power to leave you feeling at peace and hopeful after a breakup. Also, who doesn’t just love a bit of Adele anyway?”

Coexist, The XX

Stylist’s senior writer Megan Murray holds a very dear place in her heart for The XX’s Coexist after it got her through a tough breakup.

“One memory that sticks with me is the phase I went through of listening to The XX on repeat for months and months, sometimes deliberately because I fancied a cry,” she says. “Their 2012 album Coexist features Angels, which is almost physically painful, brooding, and had me sobbing into my pillow within the first three seconds.”

Thank U, Next, Ariana Grande

Far more than just one of the most iconic music videos ever, Ariana Grande summed things up for the broken-hearted in three words: Thank U, Next. Our social media manager Alyss says: “Wow I am being basic here but this album came out at the exact time I broke up with my ex and it gave me a new life”.

Let Go, Avril Lavigne

Sure, it’s not exactly meant to be a breakup album, but Avril Lavigne’s Let Go has carried me through heartbreaks ever since it came out when I was a teenager. It makes just as much sense to me now as it did then.

From Complicated to Tomorrow, Anything But Ordinary and Too Much To Ask, it just nails all the aspects of being a girl dealing with finding love, dealing with all the bumps in the roads, finally ending it and embracing your true self.

Because, at the end of the day, when it comes to matters of the heart, we’re all just overly emotional teenagers who haven’t got a clue what they’re doing and just want to find someone nice to hang out with. 

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