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The four songs that got me through my worst heartbreak

Heartbreak Song Lyrics 2.jpeg
Claire Shin / The Daily Princetonian

This Valentine’s Day, I’m going to kill the mood by talking about heartbreak.

It’s difficult to be open about it. It’s not just the minuscule yet terrifying chance that my ex will magically gain the knowledge that I am on the ‘Prince,’ look up “Claire Shin, The Daily Princetonian,” scroll through the search results, and see this article; it’s also hard to relive such moments without dredging up repressed memories, plus the added worry that I sound whiny to other people. 


To add insult to injury, alongside the terrible heartache of being forced to part with someone you love dearly, there’s no time to catch a breath, especially as a Princeton student. In a life filled with tests, projects, events to attend, and people to meet, we must practically sprint 24/7 to keep up. But then, what happens to the feelings and the pain? 

We have no choice but to find our own ways to cope. My outlet was music — knowing that I wasn’t alone inspired me to keep going, and it also empowered me to share my own very personal story. I think I’m ready to tell it now, through the lens of the four songs that stick out to me as the hallmarks of one of the toughest periods in my life. 

“Jocelyn Flores” — XXXTentacion

My ex went off to camp for a few weeks and, in a move that’s in the gray zone between “losing feelings” and straight-up cheating, pursued a girl that he decided within three weeks was more worthwhile than our almost year-and-a-half long relationship. I felt like an idiot — this was happening without my knowledge, and while he was spending time with someone else, I was writing several-page long letters worrying and asking him if he was okay due to his lack of response to my communications. It came as a complete shock to me when he told me the truth.

In the weeks that followed, XXXTentacion’s voice was what played in the background while I bawled my eyes out. His popularity increased after his death — a somewhat bittersweet trend among artists — and recently, “Jocelyn Flores,” inspired by a friend of X who had the same name and committed suicide, has blown up on TikTok. Though the words are so personal and raw that I almost feel guilty listening to them, I often also feel in awe of the courage X displayed in making those feelings public. I guess I’m doing the same thing here. 

Emo rap, to me, has a unique feeling of intimacy to it that makes it so much sadder than any catchy ballad could be. And at first, I kind of just wanted to be sad — I wanted to lie in the fetal position on my bed, spend more time asleep than awake, and swim in my misery. This song is perfect for that.


“happier” — Olivia Rodrigo

As much as I say I hate my ex, there’s still a pathetic part of me that hopes he actively thinks about me sometimes. In fact, I blocked him on every social media platform except for Instagram in the hopes that one day he’d see one of my posts on his feed and marvel at how well I’m doing now. 

“happier,” my favorite song from Olivia Rodrigo’s hit debut album “Sour,” — and the most underrated, in my opinion — is about just that. It’s the process of beginning to move on but still wanting to be thought about, acknowledged, by someone you loved in the past. You know they don’t love you anymore, but they meant so much to you that you can’t help but feel that way. It’s the part of heartbreak where you think about whom they left you for, and you hope that at least you’re thought about in some way because you gave them your all. For whatever reason, it just wasn’t enough. 

Whew. Thank you, Olivia, for this masterpiece.

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“Another Love” — Tom Odell

At a certain point, halfway between depression and acceptance, I stopped thinking, “I don’t want to be with anyone else,” and started thinking, “What will happen when I do find someone new?” 

The thought depressed me — not because I still wanted to be with my ex, but because I felt as though I’d depleted all my time and effort on him. I didn’t want to do it all over again: back in the talking stage, asking someone bullshit questions like their favorite color, spending hours on trains and hundreds of dollars’ worth of train tickets to see them, getting my heart broken all over again. I’d done it once and exhausted my love. I was tired.

This is what Tom Odell deals with in “Another Love,” where he mournfully confesses to a potential new lover that as much as he loves them, he’s simply too emotionally exhausted to give them a relationship they deserve. Its lyrics are straightforward but incredibly piercing: “And if somebody hurts you, I wanna fight / But my hand's been broken, one too many times.” The way he phrases it, he almost paints himself as a soldier who is too tired to go on.

The final verse features a dramatic, passionate choral verse of “ohs” — and I’m a huge fan of harmony — that shakes you to your very soul and suddenly dissipates, leaving you with only Odell’s voice and an ending just as somber and minimalistic as the beginning. A worthwhile listen.

“Happier Than Ever” — Billie Eilish

Thank goodness the queens Olivia Rodrigo and Billie Eilish released heartbreak-related albums in the same summer that I experienced my own. “Happier Than Ever” is anger in a nutshell. It starts out with the melancholy “typical Billie Eilish” sound and then explodes into the much more memorable second half, a rock-punk tirade featuring loud drums, bass, and heavy electric guitar. The shape of the music reminds me of an atom bomb: no matter how calm we are on the outside, once we exhaust ourselves emotionally, it’s only a matter of time before a chain reaction occurs and we explode. 

I listened to “Happier Than Ever” when I felt myself getting over my ex but still felt incredibly outraged by the manner in which he left and the scars he gave me that I have yet to heal from. The song has the uncanny ability to make me want to dance, though it absolutely doesn’t feel like a dance song; it got me out of bed and back to jumping to music. I think it was the beginning of my restoration.

So yes, heartbreak is hard to talk about, but thankfully, musicians like Olivia Rodrigo, XXXTentacion, Billie Eilish, and Tom Odell have the courage to speak on it in ways that heal those who are suffering. And from the individual’s perspective, there’s something empowering about making your suffering public — what used to be a source of shame is now a piece of art. 

For many of us who’ve been betrayed by loved ones, it’s hard not to feel a bit excluded at this time of the year, but that’s what this music is for; it brings us comfort to see that someone else has survived the struggles we’re going through right now. And trust that it always gets better; if I can pull through, so can you. 

Take all the time you need to heal. You are seen and heard.

Claire Shin is an Assistant Editor for The Prospect at the 'Prince.' She can be reached at, on Instagram at @claireshin86, or on TikTok also at @claireshin86.

Self essays at The Prospect give our writers and guest contributors the opportunity to share their perspectives. This essay reflects the views and lived experiences of the author. If you would like to submit a Self essay, contact us at