Ariana Grande dropped the new song “Thank U, Next” on Saturday, channeling all her emotions into an inspiring anthem for the brokenhearted. In the song, she name-drops her exes — including former fiancé Pete Davidson and the late Mac Miller — and admits that she’s in a new relationship now… only this time, it’s with herself. “Thank U, Next” is a proclamation of self-love and the lessons that can be learned from even the messiest of breakups.
Inspired by Grande’s “Thank U, Next,” Billboard compiled a list of 13 breakup songs that musicians have written about their exes. From the uplifting to the downright mean, these songs turn the breakup blues into chart-topping gold.
“Thank U, Next” – Ariana Grande
While some breakup songs can be a messy airing of dirty laundry, Grande chooses to take the high road, thanking her exes for all that they taught her about relationships and about herself.
“Green Light” – Lorde
Written after her breakup with photographer James Lowe, Lorde turns her feelings into an all-out power anthem. She embraces being the “drunk girl at the party dancing around and crying about her ex-boyfriend who everyone thinks is a mess,” Lorde revealed in an interview.
“Cry Me a River” – Justin Timberlake
Timberlake wrote “Cry Me a River” after his high-profile relationship with Britney Spears ended, accusing her of cheating in the scathing song.
“I Don’t F— With You” – Big Sean
In “IDFWU,” Big Sean explicitly slams Glee’s Naya Rivera after the two broke off their engagement in 2013. Coincidentally, Sean is mentioned (by name!) in Grande’s newest song.
“We Are Never Getting Back Together” – Taylor Swift
What’s a list about the airing of breakup grievances without Taylor Swift? While some outlets reported that “We Are Never Getting Back Together” was inspired by ex Jake Gyllenhaal, Swift herself has never confirmed the song’s muse.
“Much Better” – Jonas Brothers
Two can play this game. After Joe Jonas and Taylor Swift broke up, the JoBros reportedly penned this song about Swift, even directly referencing her breakout song “Teardrops on My Guitar.”
“Don’t” – Ed Sheeran
There are rumors that Ed Sheeran’s harsh and unapologetic “Don’t” supposedly calls out Ellie Goulding, but whoever he’s singing about, that chorus is pretty clear: “Don’t f— with my love.”
“Smile” – Lily Allen
Deceptively written as an upbeat bop, “Smile” is about Lily Allen’s ex-boyfriend, DJ Lester Lloyd. In the song, Allen relishes in her ex’s pain after he tries to win her back.
“Wrecking Ball” – Miley Cyrus
Miley Cyrus’ powerful ballad is the singer’s emotional response to the end of her relationship with Liam Hemsworth, gifting fans with a belt-worthy breakup anthem for the ages. This one has a happy ending, though: Cyrus and Hemsworth are back together.
“Breaking the Girl” – Red Hot Chili Peppers
This melancholy rock ballad references Red Hot Chili Peppers frontman Anthony Kiedis’ tumultuous relationship with former girlfriend Carmen Hawk, during a time when the singer famously struggled with drug and alcohol addictions.
“Sorry” – Justin Bieber
Breakup songs don’t get more obvious than Justin Bieber’s 2015 hit “Sorry.” In the song, Bieber apologizes for all of the mistakes he’s made, potentially alluding to his on and off relationship with Selena Gomez.
“Same Old Love” – Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez had some words of her own to say about an ex on “Same Old Love,” calling him out for the way he treated her by singing, “You can’t take back what you said, I know/ I’ve heard it all before, at least a million times.”
“Shout Out to My Ex” – Little Mix
This empowering breakup bop is believed to be about Perrie Edwards’ split with Zayn. The song was released after the two ended their engagement and Zayn began dating Gigi Hadid.