Breakup Songs You Probably Didn't Realize Were About Other Celebrities



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There's always tons of gossip to go around when a celebrity couple splits up, but that gets compounded when the split results in a breakup song. Musicians specialize in channeling their emotions into their craft, and if a musician spends their romantic life in the public eye, they may well contribute to the catalog of sad songs about famous people.

The music industry has a long history of producing secret diss tracks, but when the diss is aimed at an equally famous significant other, the songs become that much juicier. That additional impact helps explain the ongoing success of Taylor Swift and the enduring reputation of Fleetwood Mac's Rumours. There's something irresistible about songs with dark meanings, although a breakup song can also be sweet and uplifting (see: “I Will Always Love You”). In any case, if you're a fan of music ripped from the tabloids, you'll want to give a listen to the tracks on this list.

Photo: Justin Timberlake / Youtube

  • OutKast's 'Ms. Jackson' Is About Erykah Badu And Her Mother
    Video: YouTube

    OutKast's 'Ms. Jackson' Is About Erykah Badu And Her Mother

    André 3000 of OutKast dated Erykah Badu in the late '90s. The couple had a child together, but split up in 1999. André 3000 wrote "Ms. Jackson" as a way to express his feelings about how it ended, and Badu appreciated the sentiment. "When I heard André’s verse, I felt very good because his verse was really, really inspiring," she said.

    The pair have developed a strong friendship as co-parents, with André 3000 saying, "She’s like a cool sister more than anything." As for her mother, Badu said she got really into the song. "She bought herself a Ms. Jackson license plate. She had the mug, she had the ink pen, she had the headband, everything. That’s who loved it."

  • Katy Perry's 'Wide Awake' Is About Russell Brand
    Video: YouTube

    Katy Perry's 'Wide Awake' Is About Russell Brand

    When Katy Perry first released "Wide Awake" in 2012, the media immediately took it as a response to the end of her marriage to Russell Brand. The song includes plenty of telling lyrics, such as: 

    I wish I knew then

    What I know now

    Wouldn't dive in

    Wouldn't bow down 

    However, the song eventually turns to an affirming message about the peace you feel after realizing things are over, with Perry singing:

    I am born again

    Out of the lion's den

    I don't have to pretend 

    For his part, Brand has no problem with Perry writing about their relationship. "She's a good person, I've got nothing but love for her," he said. "It's a nice song."

  • Shakira's 'BZRP Music Session #53' Is About Her Split From Gerard Piqué
    Video: YouTube

    Shakira's 'BZRP Music Session #53' Is About Her Split From Gerard Piqué

    In January 2023, Shakira dropped "BZRP Music Session #53," a scathing series of verses calling out her former partner, footballer Gerard Piqué. The two had been together for more than a decade before they separated in June 2022.

    In the song, Shakira throws shade at her former beau, lamenting that he spends "lots of time at the gym, but [his] brain needs a little work too"; and wishing him luck "with [her] supposed replacement." The latter verse is a reference to Clara Chia Marti, the 23-year-old Piqué began dating after leaving Shakira. "I'm worth two 22 [year olds]," Shakira sings. "You traded a Ferrari for a Twingo / You traded a Rolex for a Casio."

    Just prior to her official separation from Piqué, Shakira released "Te Felicito," a song that sarcastically congratulates a cheating lover. While promoting the song, Shakira would explain that she believed Piqué was cheating on her because someone ate the strawberry jam in her fridge while she was on tour. She claims Piqué would never eat it because he disliked it, and so someone else must have been in her home while she was away.

    This revelation enraged Shakira fans on social media, and likely led to "BZRP Music Session #53" becoming "the most watched new Latin music video" in YouTube history, according to the Guardian. The song racked up 63.5 million views in just 24 hours.

  • Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' Is About Warren Beatty... Among Others
    Video: YouTube

    Carly Simon's 'You're So Vain' Is About Warren Beatty... Among Others

    One of the most speculated-about songs of all time is Carly Simon's "You're So Vain." With the timeless line, "You're so vain, you probably think this song is about you," the song spent decades begging listeners to guess who Simon was referring to.

    Simon has been protective of the song's inspiration, but in 2015, she revealed that the song isn't about just one person, but a few different men. She also confirmed that the second verse is about Warren Beatty, including the lines:

    You had me several years ago when I was still quite naive

    Well you said that we made such a pretty pair

    And that you would never leave

    Not surprisingly, one huge fan of the song is Taylor Swift. "When I heard 'You're So Vain,' I just thought that is the best song that has ever been written," Swift said in 2013. "That is the most direct way anyone has ever addressed a breakup. It's amazing."

  • Alanis Morissette's 'You Oughta Know' May Or May Not Be About Dave Coulier
    Video: YouTube

    Alanis Morissette's 'You Oughta Know' May Or May Not Be About Dave Coulier

    Before her American breakthrough, Alanis Morissette was a Canadian teen pop star. During that period in the early '90s, Morissette briefly dated Dave Coulier from Full House. In 1995, Morissette became an alternative superstar with her album Jagged Little Pill and its lead single, "You Oughta Know." The world wanted to know who the song was about, but Morissette has kept quiet over the years.

    Fans have long speculated that it's about Coulier, but it wasn't until a 2014 interview with BuzzFeed that Coulier shared what he knew. He actually asked Morissette about the song around the time it was released. "She said, 'Well, you know it could be a bunch of people. But you can say whatever you want,'" Coulier explained. He does think one line in particular is about him. "The one that got me was, 'I hate to bug you in the middle of dinner.' That was because we had already broken up and she had called... and I said, 'Hey, I'm right in the middle of dinner, can I just call you right back?'"

  • Miley Cyrus Had Liam Hemsworth In Mind When Making 'Wrecking Ball'
    Video: YouTube

    Miley Cyrus Had Liam Hemsworth In Mind When Making 'Wrecking Ball'

    While Miley Cyrus did not write "Wrecking Ball" herself, it's very likely that she had ex-fiancé Liam Hemsworth in mind when recording the hit. At least that was heavily implied by an intro to the song she gave at a 2014 concert in London. Before the performance, she told the audience, "I'm gonna tell those motherf*ckers that broke my heart, particularly one, to suck my fat d*ck and to enjoy hearing this song for the rest of your life."

    She also told Ellen DeGeneres that the entire Bangerz album is about Hemsworth, saying, "I think... with starting with 'Adore You' and ending with 'Someone Else'... I think I knew more intuitively where my life was going then I actually thought I did at the time."

  • Justin Timberlake's 'Cry Me A River' Is About Britney Spears
    Video: YouTube

    The video for JT's "Cry Me a River" heavily implies that the song is about his ex, Britney Spears. In 2012, rapper/producer Timbaland confirmed the speculation on an episode of E!'s True Hollywood Story. In the episode, Timbaland said that Timberlake "went to a concert and saw Britney, and Britney talked about him in the show and he was pissed." Timbaland further explained, "I was like, ‘Man, don’t worry about it’ and he's like, ‘I can’t believe she did that to me’ and he was like, 'You were my sun, you were my earth.'" And from there, a hit was born.