Impact’s Best Breakup Songs of the 2010s

Entertainment Team

Unfortunately for some of us, Valentine’s Day is around the corner. What better to wallow in sadness than with some songs about heartbreak? So, we’ve curated a list of the best pop breakup songs of our the 2010s. Take a look at each writer’s defense for why their song is the best of them all:

“Marvin’s Room” by Drake — Logan Juncaj

“Marvin’s Room” is the ultimate sad boy anthem. This track from Drake’s sophomore release, Take Care, finds the Canadian rapper drunk dialing an ex-girlfriend he still cares for who has found another man. “I’m just saying you could do better / Tell me, have you heard that lately?” Is just one of the many memorable lines off of “Marvin’s Room.” Smooth in its croon but woozy in its motivation, the chorus hangs in the air both lustily and unashamed. If you never listened to “Marvin’s Room” following a middle school breakup, were you even alive in the 2010s? Its timelessness and continued popularity is a testament to “Marvin’s Room” as one of the greatest heartbreak songs of our generation.

“Miss Missing You” by Fall Out Boy — Norene Bassin

The lyrics to “Miss Missing You” are so artful and the instrumentals are beautiful. Pete Wentz has struck gold again with his classic emo writing. The twinkling synth intro sets the stage for a ballad of longing and loss. “Baby, you were my picket fence” and “Sometimes the person you’d take a bullet for is behind the trigger” are some of the most vividly painful lyrics I heard from this era of music. Their monumental comeback to the scene after their 2008 hiatus created some of the best heart-wrenching music of our time.

“Somebody That I Used To Know” by Gotye feat. Kimbra — Madison Reinhold

This song dominated the music scene in 2012 for a reason. Both perspectives of the song are so gut-wrenching and it really makes a great breakup song, no matter whose side you’re on. She cut him off? She had her friends collect his records and change her number? BUT— she doesn’t want to live that way, reading into every word he says? Maybe it’s a work in perspective. The man was trapped in a relationship that made him miserable and he is devastated but reluctantly optimistic about this new phase in his life. However, the girl just got out of a relationship where she was constantly being gaslit and blamed for everything. It’s definitely a work in perspective. Additionally, the xylophone goes crazy.

“Nights” by Frank Ocean — Aaron Jonckheere

“Nights” by Frank Ocean is the best heartbreak song of the 2010s because it captures the emotions felt after a bittersweet breakup perfectly. The first part of the song highlights the initial hurt of a breakup in Ocean listing the flaws of his ex like how they “Can’t keep up a conversation” and how they can’t commit time to their partner: “Round your city, round the clock / Everybody needs you.”

Ocean also shows the often contradictory feelings during this phase with the line “Shut the fuck up, I don’t want your conversation,” meaning he was the one shutting down the communication and had mixed up the facts to spare his feelings. In the second part of the song, the tone changes to the nostalgic part of a breakup where he reminisces of their life together, before he had money, where they were with him through all of their hardships together. This tactical tone shift along with Ocean’s masterful lyricism truly captures the essence of heartbreak by showing how often moving on is not a linear process.

“Drunk II” by Mannequin Pussy — Kyle Davidson

In October of 2022, Mannequin Pussy’s Marisa Dabice took to TikTok to proclaim “I’m tired of pretending that I didn’t write one of the best break up songs in history.” Although this statement might sound like pure heresy to some, fans of the Philadelphia-based punk outfit know Dabice’s post is simply acknowledging the facts. “Drunk II” is an embodiment of all the sloppy, ugly moments that follow a nasty breakup. The track’s opening verse perfectly embodies every failed attempt to bury your feelings under alcohol and parties. The sheer amount of catharsis present as Dabice proclaims “I still love you, you stupid fuck,” is already enough to place this song among the greatest break up tracks of all time. From its boisterous intro to its softer, swirling outro this song embodies the difficulties that come from trying to forget an ex, and acknowledges that, sometimes, staying strong is exhausting.

“Wrecking Ball” by Miley Cyrus — Madison Reinhold

Aside from being great lyrically, I think the biggest thing is the cultural impact of the song. This was her first big project outside of Disney and she needed to make a splash. She did, obviously. But what makes this an amazing break up song isn’t just the stirring of the pot and the frightening of elders. In fact, it actually makes me forget how beautiful the song is. That doesn’t mean I don’t like the spectacle; it takes spectacle to remove one from the image of the Mouse. This wasn’t just a visual maturity for Miley, this showed emotional and lyrical maturity as well. The pain in her voice is noticeable. It should be the best break up song because it is a rare occasion that a song can provide such a spectacle and a heart-wrenching performance.

“The One That Got Away” by Katy Perry — Maggie Heflin

The best way to relive your first heartbreak is with this Katy Perry classic. Perry was the it girl in 2010. Her hit album Teenage Dream is only the second album in history to have five No. 1 singles on the Billboard top charts. “The One That Got Away” was a standout from that album. The simple piano arpeggios leading into a gorgeous orchestral section contrast her pop hits off the rest of the album. Perry’s lyrics paint a beautiful story of teenage love and loss. In the chorus Perry begs for things to be different, highlighting the naiveté and innocence of teen romance, drawing the listeners back into their loves of the past.

“Don’t Hurt Yourself” by Beyoncé feat. Jack White — Ryan McMillan

On “Don’t Hurt Yourself,” Beyoncé shows heartbreak and anger through a genre we rarely hear from her — rock. Arguably the centerpiece of her already-classic 2016 album Lemonade, she alludes to Jay-Z’s cheating rumors, eventually reaching a climax where she is yelling out and questioning who he is to treat her this way. The most memorable moment comes right at the end, as she threatens that he will “lose [his] wife” if he ever wrongs her again. Few artists would dare to cross genres in such a bold and honest way, but Beyoncé is not just any artist. It is heartbreaking, empowering and all around perfect — something to scream along to no matter your relationship status.

Have strong feelings about these songs? Be sure to vote for your favorites every day starting Feb. 10 until Feb. 14 in our Valentine’s Day song bracket battle on Twitter @WDBM.