Top 10 Hauntingly Beautiful Heartbreak Songs
VOICE OVER: Samantha Clinch
WRITTEN BY: Catherine Neal
These hauntingly beautiful songs will break your heart. For this list, we'll be looking at the most gorgeous, emotional tunes that spotlight feelings of heartache and pain that have that elusive haunted quality. Our countdown includes "Traitor," "Sandcastles," "Lovely," and more!
Top 10 Hauntingly Beautiful Heartbreak Songs
Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Hauntingly Beautiful Heartbreak Songs.
For this list, we’ll be looking at the most gorgeous, emotional tunes that spotlight feelings of heartache and pain that have that elusive haunted quality.
What’s your favorite song to listen to when you need to soothe a broken heart? Let us know in the comments!
#10: “I'm Not the Only One” (2014)
English singer-songwriter Sam Smith co-wrote this soulful ballad, inspired by the breakdown of someone else’s marriage. The narrator of the song has become aware of their husband’s infidelity, but their other half is still maintaining the lie. Smith’s pure, clean vocal captures all of the emotion in those heartbreaking lyrics. The combination of melodic piano and romantic strings is reminiscent of an old-fashioned love song. But as the track builds to the chorus, the pain in Smith’s voice becomes all too evident. The lyrics are raw and honest, exploring both the heartbreak of betrayal and the love the narrator feels for their cheating spouse. This story is powerfully conveyed in the music video, which stars Dianna Agron and Chris Messina.
#9: “Traitor” (2021)
Olivia Rodrigo was on her bed crying when she first penned “traitor.” That emotional vulnerability shines through, and helps the song to really resonate with listeners. Add a slow, folk-rock melody, some rich, layered harmonies, and a masterful vocal performance by Rodrigo, and the result is magic. The track has a haunting quality, beautifully illustrating the narrator’s lingering sense of betrayal when her ex moves on with a new partner soon after their break-up. He may not technically have cheated, but it’s evident that his eggs weren’t all in one basket. The song’s lyrics explore the complicated heartbreak caused by a partner who is emotionally unfaithful. NME called the track “gorgeous” - and we have to agree.
#8: “Dancing On My Own” (2016)
In 2016, “Britain’s Got Talent” contestant Calum Scott, released a cover of Robyn’s “Dancing On My Own.” The Swedish singer’s melancholy but up-tempo dance track has been dubbed “the ultimate sad banger” and hailed as a “gay anthem.” Scott’s slower rendition is a moving tribute to the original, told from a gay man’s point of view. The lyrics tell a story of unrequited love, as the narrator struggles to deal with the pain of watching the person they care for with someone else. The soulful vocal is infused with longing and offset perfectly by the simple piano accompaniment. In its stripped-back form, the song feels all the more bittersweet.
#7: “Million Reasons” (2016)
Lady Gaga’s foray into the world of country music has all the ingredients of a great heartbreak song. There’s a poignant love story, a touch of the spiritual and a heartfelt, emotional chorus. We’re used to seeing the pop princess surrounded by dancers and part of a big production, but sometimes all you need is a few chords and the truth. “Million Reasons” is about loving someone enough that you can ignore all the signs to leave them, as long as there’s something - anything - to stay for. It’s about searching for that silver lining when it seems that hope is running out. The direct, relatable lyrics, combined with Gaga’s powerful vocal really leave an impression.
#6: “Sandcastles” (2016)
In 2016, Beyoncé’s sixth studio album “Lemonade” shook up the music world in the best possible way. It was greeted with massive praise and is considered one of her greatest achievements. “Sandcastles” is among the visual album’s slower offerings, but it’s something extraordinarily special. The pared-back track is set against a fitting piano accompaniment. Her delivery is beautifully unpolished and honest, which makes it sound and feel all the more emotional. Where much of the album is characterized by strength and vigor, “Sandcastles” is much more contemplative and vulnerable. It’s the kind of song that really makes you stop and listen.
#5: “Lovely” (2018)
Billie Eilish & Khalid
Thanks to her unique tone, Billie Eilish could make pretty much any song sound haunting, whatever the lyrics might be. “Lovely” includes some dark imagery and is, in Eilish’s own words “freaking depressing” - but paired with her and Khalid’s voices, it becomes something beautifully atmospheric. Featured on the “13 Reasons Why” soundtrack, it was written by Eilish, her brother Finneas and fellow singer Khalid. The latter brings his own distinct sound to the duet, further bolstering its melancholic essence. The song is about getting out of a dark place. This could refer to depression, the grim period one can fall into after a relationship has ended, or some mix of both. Somber and passionate, “Lovely” never fails to give us chills.
#4: “I Can't Make You Love Me” (1991)
Bonnie Raitt’s classic ballad about unrequited love within a relationship has been covered many times, notably by Bon Iver in 2011. That piano intro is a thing of beauty, but for simplicity and pure, naked heartbreak, the original can’t be beaten. Penned by country songwriters Allen Shamblin and Mike Reid, the lyrics paint a picture of a romance’s end. One partner has fallen out of love, while the other is left devastated but can’t do anything to change the facts. The story is a desperately sad one, but it’s also truthful, and, by the same token, really beautiful.
#3: “Both Sides, Now” (1969)
“Both Sides Now” is one of Joni Mitchell’s best-known hits, written when she was in her twenties. Though she was rather young, her poignant lyrics speak to people of all ages, especially those who’ve experienced heartbreak. The song describes the way people look at love from different perspectives, whether they’re enjoying a first love affair or having their heart broken for the hundredth time. The narrator has seen both sides and is attempting to come to terms with her new perspective. Interestingly, Joni Mitchell actually re-recorded the song in her fifties, bringing a whole new captivating energy to the rendition. No matter which version you listen to though, there’s no denying it’s an impactful work.
#2: “Nothing Compares 2 U” (1990)
This memorable love song was written by Prince, but made famous by Sinéad O'Connor in 1990. The now iconic video shows the haunting image of the artist’s face, set against a plain black backdrop. Near the conclusion of the song, she sheds two single tears. The strikingly beautiful moment was caused by O'Connor’s memories of her late mom, who had mistreated her. It all works exquisitely well with the lyrics and melody, transporting us into the world of the already breathtaking track. The finished cover is an intimate, melancholy love song that takes the listener on a journey through all the emotions of a serious heartbreak.
Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.
“Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye” (1961), Ray Charles & Betty Carter
A Soulful Adieu to a Lover
“You’re Beautiful” (2004), James Blunt
It Was Overplayed, but It Lives up to Its Title
“When You’re Gone” (2007), Avril Lavigne
Raw Emotion From the Skater Girl
“Jar of Hearts” (2010), Christina Perri
Hauntingly Exposing a Toxic Ex
“The Dance” (1989), Garth Brooks
The Story of a Passionate Relationship, Come to an End
#1: “Someone Like You” (2011)
This ballad never fails to touch every part of us. Whether we’re playing the music video, listening to the song, or watching a live performance, it puts us in a trance we love being in. There’s just something so magical about hearing the star belt out her heartbreak, and it puts us in the palm of her hand. “Someone Like You” is a love song, written to an ex who has moved on. The narrator states her intention to do the same, while wishing her old love every happiness. The lyrics are simple and straightforward, making the sentiment all the more moving. It’s powerful stuff, beautifully delivered.