Having an ex that you still have feelings for can take a toll on your well-being. Whether you’re wishing you could re-write the past, you’re filled with regret, you’re plain heartbroken, or you’re just tired of your ex coming back around again, here are 10 songs about exes that’ll help you process your feelings.
Songs About Exes You’ll Love
Let’s begin with a track by Natalie Madigan.
Remember Why You Fell in Love by Natalie Madigan
This criminally under-appreciated song is about constantly being reminded of your ex and wondering if the same thing happens to them. Or if you could do anything to make them fall for you all over again, wondering if it’d make things go back to how they used to be. But “nothing competes with a memory.”
She remembers every moment with him, from doing simple things like driving around or something exciting like sneaking into venues. She also remembers how poorly she was treated, and how she always suspected there was a darkness there. “I was keeping the light on hoping you’d come through.”
She wonders if she told him she still had hope for him he’d recall how meaningful she was to him. She asks, “If I memorized the beat of your heart, would it take you back to when it all started?” She doesn’t really want him back—she just wants her to mean as much to him as he does to her.
Greatest X by Janet Jackson
It’s not too often when you basically hear a break-up song where the singer is discussing his or her own screw-ups. But that’s exactly what you get on this Janet Jackson track. This song, which is off her album Discipline (which is her most underrated album, if you ask me), Janet sings about the pain of knowing she wasn’t emotionally ready to progress further in a relationship with her ex-boyfriend.
In fact, Janet can’t help but realize that she caused the man some pain—and herself a potential husband. Because on this song, Janet knows she let a good man get away, which is why he’ll always be the greatest ex ever.
I loved you, and
You love me
And I just couldn’t see tomorrow, baby
And I cared for you
And I didn’t see us through
Now I know in my heart you will always be
The greatest x ever
Nothing by The Script
If you’ve ever been so lost in devastation and searched for a song to cry to that expresses your feelings when you can’t, well, you’ve likely come across The Script. And for good reason, of course, as their music has a hint of nostalgia and paints a clear picture in your head, as if you were living in their discography.
This particular song is about that feeling when you get drunk and convince yourself that spilling your feelings to your ex (again) will make them change their mind. It begins with a man out at bars with his friends. He’s smiling as they mingle, but he’s trying to keep his feet from going back to his ex’s house.
“They say a few drinks will help me to forget her / but after one too many, I know that I’ll never” they know it’ll end badly if he tries to get her back, but it makes perfect sense to him in his inebriated mind.
His friends are trying to calm him down as he shouts her name all over town. He knows he’s drunk, but he wants to talk to her. “So I dialed her number and confessed to her, I’m still in love / but all I heard was nothing.”
Before Love Came to Kill Us by Jessie Reyez
Love going hand-in-hand with death isn’t an uncommon theme to hear in music, especially when you’re so heartbroken it feels like you’re dying. But Jessie Reyez has a different take on this: “I know nobody gets out of love alive / we either break up when we’re young or we say goodbye when we die.” These lyrics show Reyez coming to terms with relationships being finite, even downright temporary.
This song is about being in a cycle with your ex, as you know it’s over but you keep going back to each other because you can’t stop thinking about when the two of you were best friends.
The song begins very slowly with pessimistic lyrics. Once it breaks into the chorus, she’s reminiscing on when she and her ex were happy together—happy “before love came to kill us.” Despite her knowledge that no one “survives” love, she can’t learn her lesson and misses when he was her best friend.
Sex With My Ex by Ne-Yo
Well, if you were looking for a sexy song about your ex, look no further than this Ne-Yo song.
This track leans all the way into the category of temptation. Ne-Yo sings of setting the bar high (sexually speaking) for his ex-girlfriend, and he brags about being the only one that can truly satisfy her needs.
More than that, Ne-Yo sings of understanding that his ex-girlfriend has moved on. She’s got a new man now, so he’s technically supposed to be in the rear view mirror. But, this is Ne-Yo at his most confident (perhaps even smug) powers, bragging that he can have his ex-girlfriend any time of the day or night that he wants.
I really like the way you go
Beggin’ me to not kiss right there
Oh, and you suddenly just lose control
Beggin’ me to smack it and pull yo’ hair
Babe, understand you got a new man
(Tellin’ me that you’re in love, okay)
Oh, girl, that’s your thing
Long as you understand I get mine anytime
Night and through the day
I Hope by Gabby Barrett
The Nashville singer wrote I Hope after placing third place on American Idol. She was a teenager at the time, and couldn’t find a record label, so she wrote this song independently. The unforeseen success of this single likely made record labels regret their decision.
Inspiration for the song struck when she was with a team of writers and decided that in “high school with the relationships I was in, I always wanted to say something in the end, but I never got the chance.”
Her country-pop song begins listing all the sweet things in relationships that she hopes he finds. She hopes they both feel a spark, and she hopes he knows his new girl is the one.
His friends will all tell him how happy he seems; he drains his bank account to get a ring to propose to her. His new girl is everything he could ever want. And then, she hopes his new girl cheats on him. She hopes he forgives her and rekindles the relationship, and she cheats again. It’s the perfect anthem for wanting your ex to feel the same kind of hurt you feel.
She spends most of the song building up how meaningful she hopes this relationship is, and then shuts it all down with two lines, “and then I hope she cheats / like you did on me.” The powerful structure of the song makes listeners relate to Gabby, even if they’ve never been in that situation.
All Your Exes by Julia Michaels
Welp, Julia has gone and done it. She just had to be the one to turn in what is no doubt the darkest song about ex boyfriends to make this list.
Michaels is no doubt a talent, but on this song, she’s getting down to brass tax: she kind of wishes all of your exes not only never existed—but were dead. Yikes!
The funny thing about relationships is that you kind of have to be a mature adult. That’s, you know, how relationships prosper—through maturity and compromise.
What I like about this Julia Michaels’ All Your Exes is that she puts all of that formality to bed. Sure, she knows she’s being immature and downright petty, but this is how she feels. She genuinely wishes that her boyfriend had no romantic or sexual history, and that all of his first times for everything relationship-wise would begin with her.
It’s definitely a song built out of insecurity. But that doesn’t mean it’s not honest.
I want to live in a world where all your exes are dead
I want to kill all the memories that you save in your head
Be the only girl that’s ever been in your bed
I want to live in a world where all your exes are dead
Songs About Exes Moving On
Let’d begin this category with one of the best songs by Paula DeAnda.
When It Was Me by Paula DeAnda
It’s hard enough to get over a great relationship gone bad. You try to mentally move on, perhaps even foolishly jumping into a premature relationship in hopes of easing past pain.
But what’s even more devastating is when your new ex begins a new relationship with someone else. And, if your Paula DeAnda on “When It Was Me,” you can’t help but be jealous and hurt when you see your ex-boyfriend walking arm and arm with his new boo.
But what I like about this song about ex lovers is the mental gymnastics Paula engages in on this track. She’ll point out a fact about her ex’s new girlfriend, and then immediately dismiss it as irrelevant. As the listener, you can tell Paula’s belittling the woman and her accomplishments as a way to make herself feel better.
It’s of course a coping mechanism–something that you don’t hear too much of in pop music.
She’s got green eyes, and she’s 5’5″
Long brown hair all down her back
So the hell what
What’s so special about that?
She used to model, she’s done some acting
So she weighs a buck o’ five
So I guess she’s alright if perfection is what you like
Oh, oh, and I’m not jealous, no, I’m not
Oh, oh, I just want everything she’s got
Oh, oh, you look at her so amazed
I remember way back when you used to look at me that way
Tears Dry on Their Own by Amy Winehouse
On this song, Amy is reflecting on her relationship that ended and her introspective thinking here is quite impressive. She knew nothing good could’ve come from them being together, but also had no capacity to leave him. She takes responsibility for getting so attached to the darkness that was, at one time, something that appeared quite pleasant.
So, he walks away, the sun goes down, and he takes the day with him. But she’s grown and in the shadow he leaves behind, her tears dry on their own. She knew their relationship wasn’t meant to be, and this feeling would’ve been inevitable one way or another, but she wishes she could fill the void with a love for herself.
The lyrics are, surprisingly, to the sort of beat you could dance to. If Amy’s music is known for one thing, it’s melancholy jazz and lyrics with a longing, distraught tone. The stylistic choice to not do that in this song is beautiful, as she takes her loneliness as an opportunity for empowerment.
All Too Well by Taylor Swift
It wouldn’t be a list of songs about exes if it didn’t include a Taylor Swift song. A ten-minute version of this song under Taylor’s name (instead of her management’s) was released with a short film in late 2021. The film begins with a black screen and a quote by Pablo Neruda: “Love is so short, forgetting is so long.”
The entire song is essentially her ruminating on a relationship with Jake Gyllenhaal—at least, that’s what fans suspect is true. Their relationship was short-lived, and the song is full of fall imagery. Autumn leaves were falling, and she remembers the air being cold, but it felt like home somehow.
The magic’s not here anymore, though, “and I might be okay but I’m not fine at all.” She was nine years younger than him, which is bound to do a lot of emotional damage to someone who’s barely a legal adult. She even says at one point that she’d never been good at telling jokes, “But the punchline goes, I’ll get older but your lovers stay my age.”
Who’s Loving You by The Jackson 5
Before Michael Jackson was doing the moonwalk, he was the apple of every young girl’s eye as the lead singer of The Jackson 5. His talent has been apparent since he could talk, and it’s hard to compare any modern-day artist to his level of superstardom. As some would say, he sang like he’d been here before.
The song has longing tone about how Michael treated someone badly when he had her and always wonders what she’s up to without him. It’s kind of an amazing song, in that Michael is essentially singing a more mature song about relationships and breakups—and yet despite his youthful voice, it still manages to be convincing and highly effective.
That’s pure talent, folks.
Happier by Olivia Rodrigo
On the debut album that won her three Grammy awards, Happier is about wanting the best for your ex but also… not. You want him to be happy, but not as happy as he was with you. In the song, Olivia says she knows things are over between them and that he’s moved onto someone else but can’t help but wonder, “does she mean you forgot about me?”
It’s normal to be jealous of your “replacement,” and Miss Rodrigo perfectly describes the uncomfortable sensation of wanting the best for your ex’s new relationship, but also still feeling like you were the best person for them.
She’s aware that it’s selfish to think this way, and internally belittle his new life without her, but she can’t help it. She hopes he loves her (“but not like you love me”) and she wants him to find “someone great but don’t find no one better.” Coming to terms with your ex moving on looks like this for so many of us, and making a beautiful melody from such ugly feelings can be the only thing that gives you any closure.
Songs About Exes Coming Back
Let’s begin this section with a song by Peach PRC (short for porcelain).
Josh by Peach PRC
Josh is a song about exes coming back. It’s one song for everyone that has dealt with an ex that just won’t leave you alone. He begs for money or tries to confess feelings when he’s drunk, but you stopped caring so long ago you don’t even remember if you blocked him (that is, until the next time he calls).
Of course, you don’t like him, but you still feel something. More like disgust, you want to watch the hurt he caused you to get back around to him.
She begins the song by asking if his mom still does his laundry and that she’s heard he still spends every weekend gambling and drinking.
In the second verse, Peach PRC says she knows he’s always calling to try to patch things up (“maybe start with all the holes you left in the wall”), and throughout the chorus, she tells him to leave her alone and stop calling. But there’s something satisfying in knowing your ex is still stuck in the same unhealthy patterns while you’re doing better than you ever would’ve been with him.
X-Girlfriend by Mariah Carey
Mariah Carey has built herself a fantastic image. She can be sexy without being dirty. She can live at the intersection of pop and R&B music, but also has a nice home adjacent to the world of hip hop.
And in many ways, all three genres collide on this classic late-1990s throwback jam, which features Mariah’s relationship falling into jeopardy thanks to an ex-lover that just won’t won’t take “no” for an answer.
On this song, Mariah sings of noticing that her man’s ex-girlfriend keeps coming back into the picture. She’s like a pest, and there’s not a bug spray strong enough for Mariah to use to get rid of her.
But Carey is holding her ground on this track, informing this ex that her man is her man, and that this woman needs to step back and move on, as any desire to rekindle an old flame won’t be happening on Mariah’s watch.
Ex girlfriend you can’t have him
It’s about time that you found you a new man
He’s moved on, don’t you know, don’t you know?
You gotta let him go, let him go, let him go
Ex girlfriend you don’t listen
Stop trying, he’s not gonna give in
He’s not yours anymore, don’t you know?
You gotta let him go, let him go, let him go
Case of the Ex by Mya
A lot of us remember the cute, adorable Mya. We remember the Mya singing out the chorus on the unforgettable “Take Me There” track that was featured on the soundtrack for “The Rugrats” movie, and was a massive staple on the radio throughout the 1990s.
But on Case of the Ex, we get a different kind of Mya. We get a Mya that has a bit more edge. We get a suspicious Mya, but we also get a braggadocios Mya (take the Benz lyric as an example, below).
On this song, Mya notices that her man is starting to receive calls from his ex. Mya is bothered by this, but I wouldn’t say she’s entirely threatened or intimidated by the ex creeping back around. She just wants to know why it’s happening, and if it’s going to be a longterm problem for her relationship with her man.
It’s a great song off of a great album (Fear of Flying).
Now what is it that she wants?
Tell me what is it that she needs?
Did she hear about the brand new Benz
That you just bought for me?
‘Cause y’all didn’t have no kids
Didn’t share no mutual friends
And you told me that she turned trick
When y’all broke up in ’96
What you gon’ do when you can’t say no?
When the feelings start to show, boy, I really need to know, and
How you gonna act? How you gonna handle that?
What you gon’ do when she wants you back?
Make Me (Cry) by Noah Cyrus
This song is all about knowing the relationship you had with your ex was toxic but continuing to go back because of the familiarity. Written and produced by Labrinth (best known for creating the Euphoria soundtrack), it makes the perfect recipe for a devastatingly beautiful song about exes.
Needing someone and hating them at the same time is an oxymoronic feeling, yet sadly relatable to most of us. This is the premise of the song; she’s gone back and forth with this man and the only consistent thing he did was make her cry. But “your kiss is like an antidote” and it’s the only thing that can cure her.
Noah is familiar with being with her ex. And oftentimes, what’s familiar is the most comfortable—even if it’s not good for us. Love can be like a drug, in the sense that it releases dopamine in our brains, but also in the sense that even when it’s the very thing causing your pain, it’s also the remedy.
When you’re trying to get over someone, music is sometimes the best outlet. It can feel like no one around you understands how you feel, but when you turn on some songs about exes, you’re likely to feel more seen and heard.
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