This Valentine’s Day, listen to a breakup album
If you’re bitter about being alone on Valentine’s Day, check out the breakup albums we rounded up so you didn’t have to.
February 14, 2022
We’ve all been there — as Feb. 14 approaches, it seems impossible to escape anything red, pink or heart-shaped. If you’re single, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something more grating. If you’ve just broken up with someone, you’ll be constantly reminded of what once was. To make this Valentine’s Day a little more bearable, we’ve rounded up some of the best breakup albums out there. Read on for more.
“Blood on the Tracks” by Bob Dylan
Ethan Beck, Contributing Writer
In 1975, Bob Dylan was still Bob Dylan –– astute, poetic, raspy –– but he was also bent out of shape. His albums from the early ’70s, like “Planet Waves” or “Self Portrait,” were received with a shrug, while his marriage to Sara Dylan was on the rocks. He took these disappointments and fleshed them out on “Blood on the Tracks,” a thesis on heartbreak that would become his best album. While Dylan’s forte in songwriting has always been disappointment, “Blood on the Tracks” offers sweetness and harshness in equal measure, capturing the full spectrum of emotion that comes with a breakup. In the middle of the album, you’ve got the mean-spirited “Idiot Wind,” the strung-out blues of “Meet Me in the Morning,” and the bittersweet beauty of “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” all one after another. The album is both callous and catchy, reminiscent and painful. That heartbreak is rendered to perfection on “You’re a Big Girl Now,” in which Dylan sings simply, “I’m going out of my mind, oh, oh / With a pain that stops and starts / Like a corkscrew to my heart / Ever since we’ve been apart.”
“Red (Taylor’s Version)” by Taylor Swift
Yas Akdag, Music Editor
In the 16 years since her debut album, two things have become crystal clear: first, that Taylor Swift writes some of the finest breakup songs out there, and second, that those songs will almost always be about an A-list celebrity like John Mayer (“Dear John”), Harry Styles (“I Knew You Were Trouble”) or Jake Gyllenhaal (“All Too Well”). Those last two songs appear on “Red,” Swift’s wildly popular 2012 album that centers around her split with Gyllenhaal. Nine years later, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” is Swift’s second re-recording thus far and an even sharper dig at her exes. The album features fan favorites — from the feel-good “22” to the anthemic and self-explanatory “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” — but also graces listeners with a new Phoebe Bridgers collaboration and a 10-minute version of “All Too Well.” “You kept me like a secret, but I kept you like an oath,” Swift sings in the latter over acoustic guitar, a punchy kick and brass swells. Full of detailed storytelling and huge pop production, “Red (Taylor’s Version)” shows Taylor Swift at her most classic.
“Giant Sings the Blues” by Spanish Love Songs
Jack Solomon, Contributing Writer
Spanish Love Songs is one of the best and bleakest bands in punk today, with three excellent albums under their belt so far. While Spanish Love Songs’ production and lyrical scope have developed since the release of their debut album in 2015, there’s still a lot of scrappy resonance to the raw and anxious “Giant Sings the Blues.” “Bad Day” kicks off the album with a quick rager, leading right into “Nervous People,” which sets the scene of a relationship that seems destined for failure. The album is mostly paced narratively, setting up to pack an emotional punch near the end, especially in “Stranger” when frontman Dylan Slocum realizes he “won’t be your family anymore.” It’s all blaring guitars, driving drums and plenty of cynical lyrics that don’t lack humor even in the darkest moments — on “Mexico,” Slocum is at his brother’s wedding, listening to the preacher talk about marriage and feeling like “that sad bastard is staring straight at me.” The line between emotional gut punch and whiny mess is a fine one, but I firmly believe that anyone who’s reading a piece on the best breakup albums for Valentine’s Day will get whichever one they need from this record.
“Atlanta Millionaires Club” by Faye Webster
Isabella Armus, Deputy Arts Editor
While the earth-shattering heartbreak album is a universal medium for catharsis, if you need quieter introspection, Faye Webster’s “Atlanta Millionaire’s Club” is a modern indie classic. Through her warm, folk-inspired strings and subtle diaristic pen, Webster ponders one of the more taxing emotional experiences — not a breakup exactly, but a love never allowed to flourish. Meandering through a loopy narrative about a certain flighty and ambiguous Jonny, Webster mourns for this unrequited relationship and deconstructs her own melancholic habits and intimate insecurities. This is featured on pluckier tracks like “Pigeon” that depict skittish flirtation and on soulful slow burns like “Hurts Me Too” that vindicate the need to wallow. But rest assured, this album isn’t a walking sad-girl trope, but instead is a celebration of autonomy, and a tale of how romance can clash with work, family and the more sensitive parts of ourselves. “Jonny,” while a splendidly sad song, ultimately isn’t the focus of the record. “Atlanta Millionaire’s Club” mainly concerns the simple, frustrating fact that love, despite its potential, is just not all we need it to be sometimes. This Valentine’s Day, don’t be afraid to get up in your feelings with an artist like Webster — you might feel better on the other side.
“Don’t Get Dark” by Del Water Gap
Sarah John, Contributing Writer
The pristine 2019 EP “Don’t Get Dark” by Holden Jaffe — also known as Del Water Gap — is a delicate, morose, sad and special kind of horny. On it, the Clive Davis Institute alum curates a musically diverse collection, from the grand guitar riffs that open the song “Theory of Emotion” to the gentle acoustic ending of “Chastain.” “Don’t Get Dark” is an homage to the voyage from one relationship to another, and just like the process of moving on from a breakup, the project’s tracks demand sadness and a little hope too. As Jaffe croons about the loss of friends and the end of his teenage years, you’ll find yourself in the ultimate sullen mood to mourn the disappointments of your own early youth. Overall, we promise that if your ex didn’t completely shatter you into tiny pieces, Jaffe will certainly finish the job — the strings in “Don’t Let Me” are guaranteed to break anyone’s heart.
“MAGDALENE” by FKA twigs
Valentina Arrieta, Contributing Writer
FKA twigs’ “MAGDALENE” is vulnerability embodied. The album was inspired both by her publicly scrutinized relationship with Robert Pattinson — where she experienced horrific racism from both fans and the press — and her fibroid removal surgery, where she had six fruit-sized fibroid tumors removed from her uterus. On “MAGDALENE,” FKA twigs teaches us what it’s like to love and then lose through the figure of Mary Magdalene, a Bible character that was often misrepresented. Through reliving her lowest points in the most visceral of ways, FKA twigs lets us into the most intimate parts of herself, like in the album closer “cellophane.” Combining her haunting, ethereal vocals and glitchy, electronic production, FKA twigs tells a story of loss: “But I just want to feel you’re there / And I don’t want to have to share our love / I try but I get overwhelmed / When you’re gone, I have no one to tell.” On “MAGDALENE,” FKA twigs takes us through her journey of suffering, survival and eventually growth, making it a breakup album to listen to this Valentine’s Day.
“30” by Adele
Paree Chopra, Staff Writer
After a six-year hiatus, Adele returned to the industry with her record-breaking album “30” in November 2021. Written about her divorce, the album looks at heartbreak from the perspective of acceptance and growth amid painful agony. Through soulful ballads and powerful vocals, the artist lets herself be vulnerable. Adele sings of loneliness in songs like “My Little Love” and “Cry Your Heart Out.” There’s an honesty in this album that connects listeners to Adele’s grief and opens her scars for them to see and hear. The complexity of “30” — as it deals with themes of love, terror, loneliness, instability and soul-searching — parallels the messy journey of life. In a year of heartbreak albums, Adele gracefully grapples with the ending of a chapter in her life.
“Love of Life” by Swans
Nicolas Pedrero-Setzer, Arts Editor
Swans’ “Love of Life” is love at its most despairing. Michael Gira croons through his opus of misery, imprinting each sung-out syllable with a romanticized depression. With a runtime longer than two hours, “Love of Life” allows listeners to delve into a state of woe and grovel in the muck of their melancholy. In songs like “Please Remember Me” and “No Cure for the Lonely,” Swans is able to capture the yearning of a broken soul collapsing into itself. “Love of Life” is an album for the love-torn and hopeless, the recently broken-up individual who cannot bear to go outside because their heart hangs heavy. Swans invites true wallowing. With heavy guitars and whispered damnations, “Love of Life” is for time spent in the doldrums. The album monumentalizes the devastating effects of heartbreak and loneliness by fully immersing itself in a mind of despair. “Love of Life” is an opera for the downtrodden, perfect for laying in bed like a fetus and crying to the sad beats and disconsolate lyrics of a band that knows love lost.
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