It’s a situation as old as time – wanting someone you can’t be with. It could be due to a number of reasons. Maybe the person you want is already with someone else. Maybe they don’t like you back. Maybe circumstances can’t seem to allow you two to be together no matter how attracted you might be to each other.
Either way, as you pine for that special someone and hope that one day you can be together, might as well pine with a great cathartic playlist on hand. Here are a couple of songs you might want to listen to as you reflect on the love you have for someone you can’t be with.
1. The Smiths – I Want the One I Can’t Have
Of course, you can’t have a heartbreak playlist without The Smiths to really drive the point home. Upbeat as this song may be, you’ll notice that it’s about going crazy not being able to be with the one you want. It comes to a point that the singer is so obviously distraught that he’s willing to give the one he loves self-validation even without the hope of getting her to love him back.
The most heartbreaking part: On the day that your mentality catches up with your biology. And if you ever need self-validation, just meet me in the alley by the railway station.
2. Arctic Monkeys – Cornerstone
This song about falling in love with someone who’s long been gone cuts deep because of the desperation you can hear in the singer’s voice. He goes around town looking for someone who might be able to take his lost love’s place, and none of them seem to want anything to do with him – mostly because he wants to call them by her name.
The most heartbreaking part: Tell me where’s your hiding place. I’m worried I’ll forget your face. And I’ve asked every one. I’m beginning to think I imagined you all along.
3. Sarah Bareilles – 1000 Times
She’s basically being treated as a friend by the one she loves, and it hurts her at each turn. But no matter how much it hurts to hold back how she feels and just watch him for a distance, she knows that she’ll go through all this a thousand times more. She’s willing to go through everything just to be around him, because it’s a bigger risk to let him go.
The most heartbreaking part: You can make me wait forever, push me away and tell me never. I don’t mind, no I don’t mind it. I would come back a thousand times.
4. 98 Degrees – The Hardest Thing
Here’s a throwback to the age of boybands. This 98 Degrees hit broke thousands of hearts with its heart-wrenching lyrics about a love that can’t be. In this song, you can feel just how much someone means to the singer, but it’s not a love that can last because he’s already with someone else.
The most heartbreaking part: It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do, to look you in the eye and tell you I don’t love you. It’s the hardest thing I’ll ever have to lie, to show no emotion when you start to cry.
5. Arcade Fire – Crown of Love
This Arcade Fire song is a little different from the others on this list, mainly because it shows the perspectives of the two people involved – the one yearning for the love of the other, and the one apologizing for not returning his feelings. It’s a slow burn song that you’ll want to listen to a couple of times in a row to really feel just how the two people in love are pining for each other even if they can’t be together.
The most heartbreaking part: They say it fades if you let it. Love was made to forget it. I carved your name across my eyelids. You pray for rain, I pray for blindness.
6. OK GO – Needing / Getting
This upbeat gem from OK GO shot to fame because of the amazing video (we suggest watching the video first, and then looking up the lyrics later). But despite its happy tempo, the lyrics are about hoping to finally get over a lost love. The singer keeps thinking about her and how she’s doing as he sits around hoping to one day let her go, even if, as the lyrics go, “It don’t get much dumber than trying to forget a girl when you love her.” Ouch!
The most heartbreaking part: It ain’t real forgiving, it ain’t real forgiving sitting her picturing someone else living. And I, yeah I still need you, but what good’s that gonna do? Needing is one thing, but getting, getting’s another.
7. Aerosmith – What It Takes
If you want a song to rock out to as you take your frustration out, here’s the perfect soundtrack. With Aerosmith’s signature timbre, he sings about wanting to know what it takes to get someone out of his mind. She may have been far from the best girlfriend in the world, and even though she left him already, he’s still a prisoner of his love for her.
The most heartbreaking part: Tell me what it takes to let you go. Tell me how the pain’s supposed to go. Tell me how it is that you can sleep in the night without thinking you lost everything that was good in your life to the toss of the dice. Tell me what it takes to let you go.
8. Alicia Keys – You Don’t Know My Name
Let’s take a bit of a lighthearted turn with this Alicia Keys classic. You Don’t Know My Name is about crushing on a guy who doesn’t even know you exist. And you come up with all these scenarios in your head about your first date, your first kiss, and all the things you could be doing together if he would only look your way and see how much you like him.
The most heartbreaking part: You got me feeling crazy inside, I feel like doing nothing I’ve ever done for anyone’s attention. Take notice of what’s in front of you, ‘cause did I mention you about to miss a good thing. And you’ll never know how it feels to have all my affection.
9. Bon Iver – I Can’t Make You Love Me
Ah, the song that makes you wonder what the writer must have gone through to write such a soul-crushing ballad. Whether you listen to the original by Bonnie Raitt or this cover by Bon Iver, you can instantly hear the pain of the singer. It’s about coming to terms with the fact that the one that you love can’t ever love you.
The most heartbreaking part: ‘Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t. You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t. Here in the dark, in these final hours, I will lay down my heart.
10. Adele – All I Ask
Finally, let’s end this list with the queen of heartbreaking ballads – Adele. In this song, she sings to someone who doesn’t return her feelings but is still willing to be around her. So as her final request on the last night they’ll be together, she asks him to hold her as more than a friend because this might be the last time she’ll fall in love.
The most heartbreaking part: If this is my last night with you, hold me like I’m more than just a friend. Give me a memory I can use. Take me by the hand while we do what lovers do. It doesn’t matter how this ends, ‘cause what if I never love again?
One those days when you just want to cry away your feelings for the one you can’t have, put this songs on a playlist and let it all out!