OK, just admit it. Every time you had your heart broken, you turned to music. And if you were a true Gen Xer, it was ’80s music. Every song was written about your breakup, your broken heart, your exact situation. It’s like they knew you, right?
That’s how it always was for me—from middle school crushes where the boy didn’t even know I existed to high school breakups when I kinda sorta stalked my ex for months on end. Whether I was in the bathroom at a middle school dance or in the corner of my bedroom frantically writing in my journal, ’80s breakup songs spoke directly to me. And because I could identify so strongly with them, they got me through the darkest storms of adolescent heartache.
Here’s my list of quintessential ’80s breakup songs:
1. U2, ‘With or Without You’
2. Simple Minds, ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’
3. Bonnie Tyler, ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart’
4. Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, ‘If You Leave’
5. Heart, ‘Alone’
6. Peter Gabriel, ‘In Your Eyes’
7. R.E.M., ‘The One I Love’
8. Phil Collins, ‘Against All Odds (Take a Look at Me Now)’
9. The Police, ‘Every Breath You Take’
10. Joan Jett, ‘I Hate Myself for Loving You’
I poke fun at some of the angst I felt during my years of teenage heartbreak. But I can remember the feelings of vulnerability and brokenness vividly even though it all happened decades ago. These songs take me right back. There is a certain joy in going down memory lane, a never-ending desire to relive even the most intense and horrible moments of our early years—if only to remind ourselves how much more mature and better off we are now.