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5. Harry Nilsson, "Without You" (1971)
When he first heard Harry Nilsson sing, Little Richard was supposed to have said, "My! You sing good for a white boy!" That is a dramatic understatement. "Without You" is such a commanding performance carried off with such tenderness that when Nilsson's voice cracks on that heroically high note at 2:09, you're a little unsure as to whether it was too tough on him physically or emotionally. Either way, wow. — A.H.
4. Rolling Stones, "Angie" (1973)
While most breakup songs come from a place of anger or devastation, in "Angie," Jagger/Richards insist on ending the relationship on a joyful note: "Ain't it good to be alive?" As Mick croons the story of his relationship's painful past, it only serves to emphasize how much better things are going to be now that the relationship is over. It's a breakup song for grownups. — Natasha Ochshorn
3. Joy Division, "Love Will Tear Us Apart" (1979)
This must be the most sepulchral song ever to have become a massively influential international hit. Maybe it's only in retrospect, but it's almost impossible to hear "Love Will Tear Us Apart" without thinking that someone's about to kill himself. — P.S.
2. Fleetwood Mac, "Landslide" (1975)
Unlike most breakup songs, "Landslide" speaks from the moment right before things actually fall apart. Stevie Nicks wrote it while stranded on a mountain in Colorado, contemplating the coming end of her relationship with Lindsay Buckingham; it's melancholic and uncertain, but like many of Nicks' songs, it also has an appealing toughness. Time makes you bolder, after all. I thought this song was sad and pretty when I was half the age I am now; today, I see more in it than that. — P.S.
1. Bill Withers, "Ain't No Sunshine (When She's Gone)" (1971)
"Ain't No Sunshine" is in an unusual key — "pure minor," which is rare in pop music. Maybe it's that, or Withers' devotional repetition of "I know" in the third verse, but the song comes across less as vintage '70s R&B and more as something older; something sacred, even. — A.H.
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