You Oughta Know the '90s' Best Breakup Songs

Songs for that formerly "Special" someone

C’est l’amour! You kindle it, it grows… and sometimes the flames go out. These ’90s Rockers knew of heartache and loss— and turned them into memorable songs. Revel in the scorn and turn up the volume on these hits from Alanis Morissette, Garbage, STP and more.

No Doubt - "Don't Speak"


It’s pretty rough to break up with anyone, but to do so with a band mate must be extra agonizing. Gwen Stefani (with brother Eric) wrote this chart-topper after her relationship with bassist Tony Kanal dissolved. (Imagine spending two decades alongside someone who eviscerates you melodically every day!) The song took on more meaning in 2015 when she split from Gavin Rossdale of Bush, her husband of 13 years and partner for nearly 20 years.

Alanis Morissette - "You Oughta Know"

Alanis Morissette You Oughta Know

It was bad enough that someone let go of this feisty talent, but when we found out the culprit was allegedly Dave Coulier, we shook a fist at Full House’s Uncle Joey. Not exactly the most pleasant imagery of Morissette giving him oral pleasure in a cinema, but backing instrumentation from Red Hot Chili Peppers’ Flea and Dave Navarro did the trick to make this a super-popular song.

Ben Folds Five - "Song for the Dumped"


This suburban piano rocker trio looks mild-mannered enough. But hell hath no fury like a Ben Folds Five scorned. The chorus finds the fellas demanding to an ex: “Gimme my money back, you bitch!” Front man Folds would become increasingly known for his biting wit and (mostly) feel-good ragtime tunes.

Blink-182 - "Dammit (Growing Up)"

Blink-182 Dammit

Mark Hoppus plays the understanding good guy in this post-breakup tome. “It’s all right to tell me what you think about me/I won’t try to argue or hold it against you,” he sings. He realizes that the end of a teenage relationship is merely “Growing Up.” That tasty opening progression from guitarist Tom DeLonge helps the punkish narrative go down even smoother.

Garbage - "Special"

Almo Sounds

Shirley Manson used to think the gent in question was “Special,” but she dismisses him throughout this high-flying disco-rocker, saying that he presently bores her. “Now you’re here and begging for a chance, but there’s no way in hell I’d take you back,” she scolds. This fiery track off 1998’s Version 2.0 is grrrl power at its finest.

Hole - "Violet"

Hole Violet

When Courtney Love warns you “

I told you from the start just how this would end/I get what I want and I never want it again,” heed that warning. This blazer embodies the force of nature that is La Love, unapologetic and driven. “Violet” tries to oust a lover who can’t get a cl You should learn when to go/You should learn how to say no!” she shouts over a mountain of power ch

” she shouts over a mountain of power chords.

Jeff Buckley - "Last Goodbye"


Jeff Buckley had the kind of voice that always sounded like it was one waver away from sobbing. And that’s not a bad thing. This 1995 hit combined his angelic vocals with a sauntering bass line that would forever haunt the departed in the song. Outgoing radio station WHFS took up its banner in 2005, playing “Last Goodbye” as it transitioned from an alternative format to a Latin one.

Lisa Loeb - "Stay (I Missed You)"

Lisa Loeb Stay I Missed You
Courtesy the artist

Syrupy yet self-assured, “Stay” was the first song by an unsigned artist to hit Number One on the Billboard charts. It was the coy anthem of shy girls who pined for an outgoing boyfriend. Loeb mewled over crystalline acoustic guitars and imagery of “Some of us weep[ing] for the other, who was dying since the day they were born.” It’s mournful and sweet, and earned her a Grammy nomination in 1995.

Pearl Jam - "Black"


"I hope someday you'll have a beautiful life," Eddie Vedder tells his departing woman in this crushing ballad. It's a tearful goodbye that was so personal to the vocalist that he begged Pearl Jam's record label, Epic, not to release it as a radio single. His wishes were disregarded, but that led to massive commercial success, making it to number three on the Billboard Modern Rock charts in 1993.

Sleater-Kinney - "One More Hour"

Sub Pop

Another breakup-in-the-band song that led to a cherished fan favorite. Carrie Brownstein and Corin Tucker had briefly dated early in their band’s existence. “One More Hour” was the amount of time desired by both to get closure on their romance. But the women are good at making up— Sleater-Kinney reunited in 2015 after a nine-year hiatus.