"It's My Therapy": The Stories Behind The Breakup Songs You Love

Search “breakup” on Spotify and you’ll never stop scrolling. There are songs to cry to, scream to, have sex to, glow up to — a playlist for every phase of heartbreak. A great breakup song matches the intensity of the emotions it’s about and, like going for a long drive or ordering our weight in sushi, has the power to make us feel a little better.

For the songwriters behind them, breakup songs are a vehicle for processing their experiences. Working through the loneliness, regret and exhilaration doesn’t require a stuffy waiting room or an old box of tissues: Their therapy is 48 hours in the studio. (And, OK, maybe some margarita-soaked voice memos.)

Elite Daily spoke with five songwriters behind the breakup bangers you know and love for an inside look into their creative processes and the experiences that inspired them. Here’s what they had to say.

Atlantic Records/ Elite Daily

Style: R&B, pop, hip hop

Specializes in: Co-writing dozens of songs you’ve definitely danced to at the club: “Diamonds” by Megan Thee Stallion and Normani, “High Hopes” by Panic! at the Disco, “7 Rings” by Ariana Grande, “Anyway” by Chris Brown

Biggest breakup bop: “thank u, next” with Ariana Grande

Writes the best breakup songs: When she’s in the thick of a breakup

What she’d say to her ex today: “Thank you! Next!”

Ariana Grande showed her the power of vulnerability.

When you look at somebody like Ariana, who was very open about the struggles she was going through — being one of the people there to help ease that and help get what she was trying to say across to the world was a beautiful experience. It was real. My favorite thing to do is take a real emotion from an artist and turn it into a hit song. It's literally saying, “How can I take their emotions and make them relatable to the world?”

Tayla & Ari dove deep.

One of the biggest conversations we had to have was are we going to be bold and put these names in it? ... We went back and forth. There's three versions of the song. She did the respectful thing and she reached out and made sure everybody was OK with her doing that. ... And I wanted to know [from her], what were the things you appreciated, and that you regretted, about your past relationships? Because those things allow us to grow.

It’s harder to write your own breakup song than it is to write one for someone else.

It's a lot harder to raise up that mirror and say, “How do you feel today?” and be able to give a non-biased answer. Meaning, you're not judging yourself, you're not giving yourself any problem with just allowing yourself to be real, whether that’s “man, we've got to finally be vulnerable” or “we've got to finally be strong.” I think personally, it's a lot easier to be easy on someone else and their emotions. It's a lot easier to forgive. It's a lot easier to not judge, versus your own self. So when I walk into the studio with somebody else, I'm like "come as you are," but you also have to have that same ability to be fragile with yourself.

Blair Brown/Elite Daily

Style: Pop and electropop

Biggest breakup bop: “i’m so tired…” with Troye Sivan

Preferred heartbreak coping mechanism: Being with friends and making music (or “seven bottles of tequila at once — just kidding”)

“i’m so tired…” was inspired by a sh*tty night out.

I was at a party and I just felt like, even though our song wasn't literally playing everywhere, I was seeing people getting drunk and making out with each other and particularly missing this one relationship, so I pulled from that experience. Also, that general feeling of being exhausted ... I feel I was always this heartbreak kid. I was just kind of like, I'm so tired of this whole thing.

Writing with Troye Sivan felt like a therapy session.

We were both just literally tearing apart every relationship we'd ever been in. I had written the chorus already, and I played it for him and he freaked out. He was dancing around the room; he loved it. That's why I love songwriting, especially when you write with somebody else, because it's literal therapy where you have an excuse to just talk about every problem you've ever had and every person you've been with.

He can write about a breakup years after it happened.

Any time the emotion is pure, that's when I write my best songs. When whatever I'm feeling isn't confused. Whenever my emotions are dedicated to whatever it is, as opposed to when you're a little bit emotionally ambiguous. ... That's when it's hard to write a great song for me just because I'm not single-minded or single-hearted. It's those moments, whether it's during a breakup or after or way after. I've written songs about relationships that are from years ago. But if I'm just in the mood to miss it, then it works.

He doesn’t regret getting his ex’s name tattooed.

I got a tattoo with one of my girlfriends so quickly into us being together and people are like, “When are you going to get that removed?” I'm like, “Never.” Me and her even talked about it because it was literally one of the most special times in my life. I know that it'll never feel like that again, and that's OK. I want to remember that moment for the rest of my life, no matter who I'm with.

Lusha Alic/ Elite Daily

Style: Pop

Biggest breakup bop: “Slide Away” with Miley Cyrus

Most awkward song-related ex text: Once had an ex slide into her DMs to apologize after thinking one of her songs was about them. It wasn’t.

Is thankful for her exes: “For dealing with me and for keeping up with me because I can be so hard and so chaotic in so many ways. Every relationship I've had, good and bad, I've learned something from.”

Co-writing “Slide Away” with Miley Cyrus was easy.

We were talking about how f*cking horrible breaking up is, and we've both been in situations like that. Obviously, she just had a breakup. And it was very easy because you're so vulnerable in that moment. When you break up, there is a second where you're like, “WTF am I going to do now?” And I think in those situations, you really need the answers. Miley and I both kind of needed answers. It was easy. Lyrics just came.

Songwriting reveals why she breaks up with people.

It's hard for me to just talk with a friend or talk with a therapist. It's easier for me to have a beat and start writing about it. It's very therapeutic, and in my breakups I've usually always been the one who said, "Let's break up." And I’ve felt a lot of guilt and a lot of, "What the f*ck am I doing? Why am I breaking up?" [I get the] answers to my questions when I'm writing.

Writing a song is its own happy ending.

I start by listing what just happened, and I always usually write from both perspectives: how I feel and how the other person might feel. But usually I like to have a happy ending because, at the end of the day, we always survive the breakup. It feels horrible in the moment and you feel like you’re never going to be happy and find somebody new. But that's just life. It happens. Every time, you survive. It comes pretty naturally, and by the end of the song, I feel better. But sometimes it doesn't happen! And then I'm like, “Waaah, I’m going to die sad and lonely.”

Chris Shelley/Elite Daily

Style: Pop

Biggest breakup bop: “I Don’t Think I Love You Anymore”

Preferred heartbreak coping mechanism: Self-reflection and improvement

What she’d say to her ex today: “Lessons learned. I'm better now. It's all good.”

The Voice Notes app is her digital diary.

Whenever I'm just thinking something and feeling something, I'll pull out [my phone] and kind of hum along or sing along. That's basically where The Voicenotes EP vibe came from — these are things that I've pulled out my phone and hummed before, sang before... and it's just a raw, in-the-moment type thing. So there's not a lot of overthinking to it. It's just, explain how you feel, get it out there and help yourself move on from it.

Writing “I Don't Think I Love You Anymore” forced her to confront her feelings.

When I was writing this song, it was a moment when I felt like there was nowhere else to go because I was trying so hard but getting nothing back in return. So it was a very low moment where I almost didn't want to admit I was feeling this way because I felt like I was betraying myself. But after so long of getting hurt and trying to fix something you can't fix, it was just a concession to myself that I didn't feel like I was wanted anymore.

You don't want to admit that you're giving up on love. You don't want to admit there's nothing left. But when it comes to that point, you kind of have to face the facts that you're writing about how you feel — what you really, really feel — so you want to be honest when putting it down on paper.

Writing in Spanish hits different for her.

To me, it always adds a new little beauty to it, especially at the end of [my song] “Mentiras” when I'm basically just pouring out my heart and saying in the end it'll all be OK. It just has its own different beauty whenever you put it in Spanish.

Imogen Wilson/Elite Daily

Style: Pop

Biggest breakup bop: “Supalonely” featuring Gus Dapperton (the viral TikTok song you’ve 100% attempted to learn the dance to)

Preferred heartbreak coping mechanism: Venting to friends, listening to music, and writing

Writes the best breakup songs: Fresh out of a relationship, “when I’m by myself and crying”

She co-wrote "Supalonely" less than a week after a breakup.

I had broken up with this guy five days before going to L.A. on a trip to make music, so I was in a little sad space where I was alone and feeling sad and sorry for myself. I went to L.A. just with my producer and my manager, so I couldn't be with my friends or my mom, who usually is really good at comforting me. It was the first session I did. I wanted to twist this and make it a fun, upbeat song where I was mocking myself for being sad and being super deprecating. I got [into the studio], vented to [singer/songwriter] Jenna Andrews, and she could relate to everything I was saying. We were like, “Why don't we make a happy, fun breakup song?” Because I didn't want to be super sad. I wanted to cheer myself up.

Heartbreak is her motivation to write.

I'll be in my room a lot of the time just — I don't know how else to put it — being sad. I feel like there's a lot of thought that follows a breakup where you're by yourself and you're questioning whether you've made the right decision or what could have been. A lot of inspiration for me starts from these moments.

Exes have called her out for writing about them.

They've jokingly been like, "Oh, you write so many diss tracks about me." I'm like, "Well, you know what, it's not a diss track. It's just exactly how I feel, what you did, what you said, and how it affected me. I think it's something you're just going to have to understand — this is my creative outlet and how I express myself and my feelings. It just sucks for you that it has to be heard by everyone around you."