There’s nothing like a romantic relationship dashed to bring out a musician’s most intimate feelings. Here are 25 LPs inspired by break-ups that will have you reaching for the Kleenex and looking for a rainy window to wistfully stare out of.
25 Noah And The Whale, ‘The First Days Of Spring’ (Vertigo)
Bursting onto the scene together in 2007 as the proverbial king and queen of Nu-Folk, Laura Marling’s split with Charlie Fink of Noah and The Whale broke hearts all over Hoxton. Fink responded with ‘The First Days Of Spring’, a self help breakup guide that saw him graciously confess on ‘Slow Glass’ to still being Marling’s “biggest fan.”
24 Coldplay, ‘Ghost Stories’ (Parlophone)
Chris Martin revealed that this 2014 LP was partly inspired by his split with actress Gwyneth Paltrow, telling BBC Radio 1 “I don’t want to go through life being scared of it, being scared of love, being scared of rejection, being scared of failure”.
23 Los Campesinos!, ‘Hello Sadness’ (Wichita)
Cardiff six piece Los Campesinos! had finished writing their 2011 album ‘Hello Sadness’ and were gearing up to record it when lead singer Gareth split with Rebecca Taylor of Slow Club. His heartbreak led him to Spain, where he proceeded to rewrite the entire album’s lyrics to reflect the doomed relationship.
22 Marvin Gaye, ‘Here, My Dear’ (Tamla)
Written whilst Gaye was dealing with the financial hardships of divorcing his wife, Anna Gordy, ‘Here, My Dear’ was initially a critical and commercial failure that reversed its fortunes after Gaye’s 1984 death. The record was completed in three months, but got delayed whilst Gaye battled in court with Gordy over the 50% royalty share she was trying to claim.
21 Ben Gibbard, ‘Former Lives’ (Barsuk)
As frontman of Death Cab For Cutie, Ben Gibbard made his name as a songwriter capable of turning relationship disaster into musical legend. Debut solo record ‘Former Lives’ was inspired by his split with Zooey Deschanel, whom he married in 2009. Despite the pair’s fall out, Deschanel featured as a guest musician on the record and the pair remain friends
20 Justin Timberlake, ‘Justified’ (Jive)
At face value, Justin Timberlake’s 2004 debut is just another slick pop/RnB hybrid, but under the surface lurks some truly dark songwriting, inspired by the singer’s split with Britney Spears. ‘Cry Me A River’ tells the tale of her infidelity with choreographer Wade Robson in startling honesty: add that menacing video and you get payback in its sweetest form.
19 The Mountain Goats, ‘Get Lonely’ (4AD)
Following on from 2005’s gut wrenching ‘The Sunset Tree’, which depicted struggles with an abusive stepfather, The Mountain Goats added to the anguish with tenth record ‘Get Lonely’ that addressed the pressures of a break up and the aftermath of emotional recovery.
18 Robyn, ‘Body Talk’ (Konichiwa)
Spawning several successful singles, Body Talk was the result of a three mini-album experiment that saw Swedish pop star Robyn tackle the many perils of a modern relationship, with a little help from an all-star line up including Diplo and Snoop Dogg. Standout single ‘Dancing On My Own’ has become a break up anthem in its own right, featuring on season 1 on HBO’s Girls.
17 Taylor Swift, ‘Red’ (Big Machine)
With tracks metaphorically bitch-slapping various A-list exes (‘I Knew You Were Trouble’ is said to be inspired by Harry Styles, ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together’ a gleeful middle finger to Jake Gyllenhaal), Taylor Swift’s ‘Red’ is an audible diary entry for the Tumblr generation, turning her from country starlet into pop icon.
16 Alanis Morrisette, ‘Jagged Little Pill’ (Maverick)
With the majority of the tracks penned about unfaithful boyfriends and relationship pressure, ‘Jagged Little Pill’ displayed Alanis Morrisette most angst-ridden material. She cites producer Glen Ballard as the main driving force behind the record, encouraging her to use the music as a way of confronting her issues with panic attacks and anxiety.
15 Nas, ‘Life Is Good’ (Def Jam)
Depicted on the cover art with the wedding dress of his now ex-wife Kelis draped over one knee, ‘Life Is Good’ sees Nas attempt to move on from his relationship with the ‘Milkshake’ star. Whilst promoting the album, he compared it to Marvin Gaye’s 1978 record ‘Here, My Dear’, also featured on this list as a classic Divorce record.
14 Ryan Adams, ‘Heartbreaker’ (Bloodshot)
Said to be the product of his break up with music industry publicist Amy Lombardi, ‘Heartbreaker’ was Adams first solo attempt to shake off his previous band, Whiskeytown. Highlight track ‘AMY’ was adopted in 2007 by Mark Ronson who remixed it for his album ‘Version’, possibly adding to Adam’s despair.
13 Bruce Springsteen, ‘Tunnel of Love’
After parting ways with his first wife (actress Julianne Phillips) as well the majority of The E Street Band, 1987 saw Springsteen release ‘Tunnel of Love’ as a way of dealing with the changing relationships in his life. To this date, it remains the album which The Boss has played least of live, bolstering its status as an exercise of pure catharsis.
12 Abba, ‘The Visitors’ (Epic)
Written after both couples in the band had divorced, ‘The Visitors’ was the eighth and final LP released from the Scandinavian quartet. Track ‘When All Is Said And Done’ is said to be influenced by the parting of Anni-Frid Lyngstad and Benny Andersson, written by bandmate Björn Ulvaeus. Featuring the line “neither you nor I’m to blame”, the split seemed amicable.
11 Willie Nelson, ‘Phases and Stages’ (Atlantic)
Deemed to be one of country music’s first concept albums, ‘Phases and Stages’ is broken into two parts – Part One depicting a male’s experience of divorce, and Part Two the female perspective. The 1974 record peaked at 34 on Billboard’s Top Country Albums, with single ‘Bloody Mary Morning’ reaching number 17.
10 Kanye West, ‘808s and Heartbreak’ (Rock-A-Fella)
Despite declaring himself the second coming of Christ, Yeezus didn’t always have it so good. 2007 dealt a double blow when his mother died due of surgical complications, followed just months after by a split with fiancée Alexis Phifer. Both experiences informed ‘808s’ creation, on which West first employed autotune to display his increasing isolation.
9 Beck, ‘Sea Change’ (Geffen)
Written after his nine year relationship with stylist Leigh Limon failed due to her infidelity, ‘Sea Change’ was mostly written in the week after Beck discovered her cheating. The songs were shelved as the singer-songwriter struggled to deal with the idea of airing his personal life on record, but was convinced by producer Nigel Godrich to release the album in 2002.
8 Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, ‘The Boatman’s Call’ (Mute/ Reprise)
‘The Boatman’s Call’ marked a significance change in direction for The Bad Seeds, moving away from the character based narratives that had defined them into a newer, more personal space. Tracks ‘West Country Girl’, ‘Black Hair’ and ‘Green Eyes’ are said to be inspired by PJ Harvey, who Cave embarked on an ill-fated romance with in the mid-90s.
7 Spiritualized, ‘Ladies and Gentlemen We Are Floating In Space’ (Dedicated)
Having split from keyboardist Kate Radley, (who went on to secretly marry Richard Ashcroft), Jason Pierce’s decline into severe drug abuse fuelled Spiritualized’s third album, tinging his tales of excess with a new found (and deeply affecting) sadness. ‘Ladies and Gentlemen…’ remains their most critically acclaimed record.
6 Joni Mitchell, ‘Blue’ (Reprise)
Having broken up with long term partner Graham Nash (of Crosby, Stills and Nash), Joni Mitchell wrote the majority of Blue whilst travelling along around Europe, where she then met and fell in love with James Taylor. When he broke it off suddenly soon after, Mitchell was prompted to finishing writing the record.
5 Amy Winehouse, ‘Back To Black’ (Island)
As the trials and tribulations of her tempestuous relationship with Blake Fielder Civil were splashed over the papers, Amy dealt with her emotions in a way only she could – writing grittily honest pop. From the Motown inspired ‘Tears Dry On Their Own’ to the title track, Winehouse’s ability to deal with the melancholy of heartbreak made her a global star.
4 Bon Iver ‘For Emma, Forever Ago’ (4AD)
Now the stuff of modern musical legend, Justin Vernon’s opus ‘For Emma…’ was created from the debris of two splits: a relationship with his then girlfriend, and the break-up of his band DeYarmond Edison. Diagnosed with mononucleosis, Vernon decamped to a cabin in Wisconsin for three months to lick his various wounds, birthing the weepy classic.
3 Blur, ‘13’ (Food)
Encapsulating the rocky relationship between Damon Albarn and Elastica’s Justine Frischmann who split for good in 1997, ‘13’ proved to naysayers that Blur were more than just the posh alternative to Oasis. With ‘No Distance Left To Run’ echoing the mental state of many a brokenhearted adolescent, the record secured Blur’s future by dealing with increasingly mature emotions.
2 Bob Dylan, ‘Blood on the Tracks’ (Columbia)
High up on any break-up album list, Bob Dylan’s fifteenth LP revolves around themes of anger, heartbreak and loneliness. Dylan biographers attribute the record’s themes to the separation from his then-wife Sarah, something which Dylan repeatedly denied, claiming the tracks to be inspired by the short stories of Anton Chekhov.
1 Fleetwood Mac, ‘Rumours’ (Warner Bros)
With global sales exceeding 40 million, ‘Rumours’ is the silver lining in the Mac’s dark cloud of messy splits and Jeremy Kyle-worthy drama. Christine and John McVie went their own way after 6 years of marriage, Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham remained on/off and then Mick Fleetwood hopped into bed with Nicks for good measure. At least the music was great.