Cry, Rage, or Sing Along: Here Are the Ultimate Breakup Playlists

After listening to 24 hours of breakup inspired music, the results are in from FinanceBuzz’s DJ of Heartache. Read on to find out about the five stages of breakup grief playlists and the emotional relief rating of heartbreak-inspired songs.
Last updated Feb. 10, 2022 | By Ben Walker, CEPF | Edited By Becca Borawski Jenkins
Heart with bandaid and headphones

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The season of love (or is it breakups?) is upon us and we have the results from our FinanceBuzz “DJ of Heartache” side hustle.

After reviewing several thousand applications from individuals dealing with breakups or mending broken hearts, we hired someone to turn their heartbreak into cash by listening to 24 hours of breakup songs for $1,100.

And, in case you’re personally celebrating “Single’s Awareness Day,” we’ve also included our five playlists. After all, the most common time of year for breakups is right after Valentine’s Day.

In this article

Meet the DJ of Heartache

Image courtesy of Cristin Sauter Happy woman sitting in front of plants

It’s rarely easy to go through a breakup or walk away from a relationship no matter the time of year. But it might be especially difficult around Valentine’s Day when you have constant reminders of relationships all around you.

Enter our DJ of Heartache, Cristin Sauter. We hired Cristin Sauter to be our DJ of Heartache. Cristin is a psychotherapist and a musician, so we knew she would be the perfect fit to explore the emotional relief rating of the music made about heartache.

Cristin was hired to listen to 24 hours of breakup songs, encompassing all five stages of breakup, including denial, anger, relapse, depression, and acceptance. We created a playlist that lasted for 24 hours for Cristin to listen to. She then categorized each of the songs by the stage of a breakup they were most helpful for.

And because breakups often have a financial impact — whether it’s getting your own Netflix subscription or paying for a few therapy sessions — we paid Cristin $1,100 to help cover her costs.

Here are a few questions we asked Cristin about the experience:

1. What were you most looking forward to as it relates to this position and all of the music you’d be listening to?

“This is a particularly unique opportunity for me to continue to choose how I feel about love and loss as I go through life. I'm most looking forward to meeting myself at the end of this listening process so I can understand how some of the most well-known and poignant songs about heartbreak influenced my perspective as I grieved.

The notion of turning an experience that we usually perceive as a setback into something that makes us stronger and more connected with ourselves is transformative and badass, and the more I do it, the more I can help others along the way.”

2. Do you think there’s a genre of music that’s more therapeutic than others to listen to or to play?

“Based on what I know about psychological research and sound, there are harmonies, tones and rhythms that can lower a person's heart rate and reduce the release of stress-related hormones in the body. There are songs that are actually created to produce this effect in people for therapeutic purposes, like Weightless by Marconi Union.

At the same time, there are multiple variables that influence a person's experience of what can help them heal. Therefore, what is therapeutic to each person musically might still be quite subjective.“

3. What is the worst way to get broken up with?

“I think the worst way to get broken up with or to break up with someone else is to be blindsided or to blindside someone else, meaning to break up suddenly, without warning and sometimes without explanation.

Being blindsided in any way — whether someone breaks up with you by ghosting, calling, texting, or face to face — can lead to someone questioning themselves and their reality to an unnecessary and sometimes damaging extent. If someone blindsides you, please know it usually has more to do with them than you.”

What are the best songs for getting over a breakup?

Dj of heartache findings

As the saying goes, music heals the soul. But how true is that? To help demonstrate the effectiveness of a particular song in offering emotional relief through the different stages of a breakup, we created an Emotional Relief Rating (ERR) for Cristin to assign to each song. The ERR is based on a 1 to 10 scale, with 10 being the highest amount of relief received.

Keep in mind that feelings about music are subjective, as noted by Cristin above, and how you react to a certain song could depend on many factors, such as timing and personal preferences.

Here are a few key findings from our DJ of Heartache side hustle:

  • Our five playlists had a large number (10) of Taylor Swift songs
  • Taylor Swift songs had an average ERR of 5.7 out of 10
  • Fleetwood Mac had the highest average ERR, with a 9.5 out of 10
  • Cher Lloyd had the lowest average ERR, with a 1 out of 10
  • Songs from our “Acceptance” playlist had the highest average ERR, with a 6.2 out of 10
  • Songs from our “Relapse” playlist had the lowest average ERR, with a 5.3 out of 10
  • The average ERR of all songs on our playlists was 5.8 out of 10

The 5 stages of breakup playlist analysis

We separated a large list of songs into different playlists to account for each stage of a breakup. Here are the results from each playlist.

Playlist Number of songs Overall ERR Artist(s) with the highest ERR Artist(s) with the lowest ERR
Denial 42 5.5 Billie Eilish (9) Shaggy, Papa Roach, Backstreet Boys (1)
Anger 57 5.4 Alanis Morissette, The Chicks, Kendrick Lamar, Halsey, Taking Back Sunday (10) Big Sean, DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince, Ben Folds Five, Johnny Cash, Miley Cyrus, Sody (1)
Relapse 60 5.3 Janis Joplin (10) Cher Lloyd, Luke Bryan, The Chainsmokers (1)
Depression 71 5.8 Queen (10) Keith Urban (1)
Acceptance 123 6.2 Anna Nalick, Destiny's Child, Fleetwood Mac, Gloria Gaynor, Lizzo, Post Malone, Taylor Swift, Whitney Houston (10) Fifth Harmony, Good Charlotte, Jessie James Decker, Little Mix, Lucinda Williams, Runaway June (2)

You might find some recognizable names in the table, and likely aren’t surprised by some classic artists popping up with high ERR scores. For example, Janis Joplin, Queen, and Whitney Houston scored top marks for the emotional relief their songs provided. On the other hand, Backstreet Boys, Miley Cyrus, and The Chainsmokers didn’t provide as much (any?) emotional relief.

It’s important to note that a large portion of our selected songs fit the theme of acceptance, which is the final stage of a breakup, our final playlist, and the playlist with the highest overall ERR. Perhaps we naturally gravitate toward songs that lean on the side of moving forward. Or maybe we all just need a bit more Fleetwood Mac and Post Malone in our lives.

Listen to the best songs for breakups

To find the songs we included in this side hustle, check out our playlists:

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Author Details

Ben Walker, CEPF Ben Walker, CEPF, is a credit cards and travel writer at FinanceBuzz who loves helping others achieve their travel goals through financially sound decisions. For over a decade, he has been using credit card points and miles for the sole purpose of traveling the world. Ben is a Certified Educator of Personal Finance and has been featured in The Washington Post, MSN, Debt.com, and Finder.com.