The Taylor Swift / Joe Alwyn breakup: The ultimate heartbreak playlist

The Taylor Swift - Joe Alwyn breakup: The Ultimate Heartbreak Playlist
The Taylor Swift - Joe Alwyn breakup: The Ultimate Heartbreak Playlist Copyright Wireimage - Getty Images
Copyright Wireimage - Getty Images
By David Mouriquand
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Taylor Swift and Joe Alwyn may have broken up, but before you despair, heartbreak is manageable with Euronews Culture's ultimate heartbreak playlist


Earlier this week, a colleague of mine came to me and cryptically asked: “Is it true?”

It took me a while to play catch up, but then I realized that as an unashamedly vocal Taylor Swift fan, she was coming to me for confirmation that the rumours were accurate and that T. Swizzle had indeed broken up with her long-term beau Joe Alwyn.

I nodded with gravitas, making sure that the sad corroboration didn’t hit too hard.

I failed.

“How can I believe in love anymore?” she queried mournfully, before bringing the short-lived conversation to an abrupt end with the rather brash statement: “Love is dead.”

I chalked this up to another example of parasocial relationships so rife in today’s social media landscape and tried to reassure her by heartlessly commenting that we’d most probably be getting more banging heartbreak anthems from Swift as a result. Because, let’s face facts, heartbreak has always been creative lubricant for artists across all boards.

Still, the ripple effect was real, and soon, a grieving cloud loomed over the whole office, filling the air with “If those two gorgeous scamps couldn’t make it, then what’s the point?”, while others relived the still raw Phoebe Bridgers / Paul Mescal split.

Time to shine, I thought. Or dimly glow. Whatever.

While breakups don’t fit one simple pattern, I saw it fit to use the five stages of grief template to compile the full gamut of complicated emotions that heartbreak anthems can hold, sharing with the office the ultimate breakup playlist. Not so much in Taylor’s honour, but to show that no matter how rough things get, my colleague is wrong. Love isn’t dead. It just plays possum from time to time.


Phoebe Bridgers – 'Motion Sickness'

“I hate you for what you did / And I miss you like a little kid”

We start with the aforementioned Bridgers. What happens when you begin to realise that your now-ex has manipulated and taken advantage of you? Well, you sing along to this brilliant song, which doesn’t forget that emotions are inherently complex. This track is the sound of heartbreak that stems from betrayal, without denying that the partner, for all their many faults, can be missed. It’s human. It’s messy. It’s another great Phoebe Bridgers song.

Yeah Yeah Yeahs – 'Maps'

"Wait, they don't love you like I love you"

This haunting number exists in that knotty crawlspace between denial and bargaining. It’s an affecting tune and embodies that sensation of imagining seeing your old flame with someone else and wanting to tell them that they’ll never have it better.

Hear also: Etta James – 'I’d Rather Go Blind'; Nina Simone – 'Love Me or Leave Me'; Toni Braxton – 'Un-Break My Heart'. 


Taylor Swift – 'We Are Never Getting Back Together'

“You go talk to your friends / Talk to my friends / Talk to me / But we are never ever ever getting back together.”


Speaking of the recently heartbroken, Swift makes you want to shout her lyrics from the rooftops. Perhaps out of spite. This one could sit comfortably in the final stage of grief (acceptance) but there’s an energy to this song about flip-flopping partners that makes it an anger contender to fight for.

Lauryn Hill – 'Ex-Factor'

"Loving you is like a battle / And we both end up with scars"

From her (absolutely flawless) album 'The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill', this song doesn't sound angry but paints the picture of that ex who constantly puts you through the seemingly never-ending spiral of repeated heartbreak. It’s piquant and simmering in rawness.

Hear also: Fleetwood Mac – 'Go Your Own Way'; No Doubt – 'Don’t Speak'.



Take That - ‘Back for Good’

"In the twist of separation / You excelled at being free."

Try denying that this isn’t a tour de force breakup ballad. And then feel guilty about even doubting Take That. This song features Gary Barlow’s gently devastating lyrics about wanting to be taken back by a lover who has already moved on, and pleading to get another shot. It’ll be alright, Gary.

St. Vincent - 'New York'

“I have lost a hero / I have lost a friend / But for you, darling I’d do it all again.”


Annie Clark, known by her stage name St. Vincent, penned this ode to a past relationship and likens the feeling of losing a loved one with that of a city that has morphed around and without her. Her lyrics about mourning not just love but the finality of a world jointly built together hit hard, as does the reflection on the lost magic of an era that yearns to be rekindled.

Hear also: Nina Simone – 'Do What You Gotta Do'; The Jackson 5 – 'I Want You Back'.


Natalie Imbruglia – 'Torn'

"Illusion never changed / Into something real / I'm wide awake and I can see the perfect sky is torn."

Originally recorded by American alt rockers Ednaswap, it’s Aussie Natalie Imbruglia’s rendition that perfectly encapsulates the death of optimism in a relationship and the realization that these pent-up emotions leave you broken. Plus, it’s a perfect pop song. Just try not air guitaring to it towards the end. It’s impossible.


Marvin Gaye – 'I Heard it Through the Grapevine'

"You know that a man ain't supposed to cry / But these tears I can't hold inside."

A beautiful reflection on hearing the news from someone else that your significant other has been cheating on you, this Motown classic is one of Gaye’s best tracks. It encapsulates a complex mix of vulnerability, pain and sorrow that borders on indignation.

Hear also: Al Green - ‘How Can You Mend a Broken Heart’; Bill Withers – 'Ain’t No Sunshine'; Bon Iver – 'Skinny Love'; Bob Dylan – 'Don’t Think Twice It’s Alright'; Raye – 'Escapism.'


Dionne Warwick - 'Walk on By'


"Foolish pride / That's all that I have left / So let me hide / The tears and the sadness you gave me / When you said goodbye."

Was there ever a better creative pairing than Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick? The answer is 'no'. This heartbreak anthem from the writing-performing duo could be in the depression column, as it depicts how the broken-hearted singer “can’t get over losing you”. However, it also shows how you can be upset but find enough strength and dignity to keep your head held high in the face of rejection and pain. It's beautiful. 

Kelly Clarkson – 'Since U Been Gone'

“You had your chance, you blew it / Out of sight, out of mind.”

This one is the empowering holy grail of 'I’m-over-it-now' breakup songs. And don’t pretend you haven’t belted it out at full volume while thinking about an ex who broke your heart. But you’re over it now, you’ve made it to the other side and are free to embrace the lessons learned. All together now: “Since you’ve been gooooooooooooooone…”


Hear also: Cher – 'Believe'; Christina Aguilera – 'Fighter'; Gabrielle – 'Rise'.

SIDE F: Bonus Track - Wisdom

Dua Lipa – 'New Rules'

“One: Don’t pick up the phone / You know he’s only callin’ ’cause he’s drunk and alone / Two: Don’t let him in / You have to kick him out again / Three: Don’t be his friend / You know you’re gonna wake up in his bed in the mornin’ / And if you’re under him, you ain’t gettin’ over him.”

The lyrics speak for themselves in Dua Lipa’s breakout hit, in which she lays down the law and establishes a set of guidelines to follow should the ex come crawling back and try to ruin things all over again. Preach, Dua.

Bonus Round II: The Birdflip

P!nk - 'U + Ur Hand'


"Cause you know it's over before it began / Keep your drink, just give me the money / It's just you and your hand tonight."

There’s nothing quite like knowing the partner you’ve finally gotten out of your system is going home alone. As for what they’ll be doing with their hand… Well, we’d never be so blunt as to spell it out. We’re all adults here. Use your imagination.

There we have it. Happy listening and mind your hearts, one and all.

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