Go Your Own Way: 25 Notable Divorce Albums
Pop music is littered with the shattered remains of relationships. As the stereotype goes: Personal strife often makes for good art. And for many artists, nothing is more of a catalyst for a great song than romantic discord or destruction. The list of classic breakup songs and albums feels endless; some artists’ whole catalogs seem to revolve around the ups and downs, the exhilarating beginnings and catastrophic endings, of relationships or tumultuous affairs. But, somehow, there is a breed of this music that remains more uncommon: the divorce album. Yet while it’s a limited tradition, there are divorce albums across the spectrum of music history, from classic records by legendary artists to disastrous embarrassments by more controversial figures.
Breakup albums can take many forms. A lover abandoned or scorned. A muse that flickered. Infidelity and the firestorms that follow. But the thing about breakup songs and albums is there’s usually a rawness or immediacy; their sound is often “I am hurting right now and this is how I’m dealing with it” or the survival mode resolve of “I’m done with you.” Sure, there are plenty that span relationships as long and convoluted as a marriage, too. Much of Blur’s 13, for example, reckoned with the end of Damon Albarn’s long-term relationship with Justine Frischmann, featuring a tone of resigned sadness, not righteous anger or still-bleeding hurt. More recently, both Radiohead and Björk also released albums that grappled with the end of a lengthy relationship, A Moon Shaped Pool and Vulnicura respectively.
But they still aren’t about divorce. Tonally and thematically, something feels different about the concept of a divorce album, even when they are as in-the-moment and vulnerable as songs written in the wake of the freshest breakup. People of almost any age have experienced breakups—that’s why art influenced by them is so universal. Divorce and the art it might yield carries a different, inherent weight: This is presumably mature work, about the lives of adults. An album about divorce can simultaneously be more devastating and more matter-of-fact. A breakup record might deal with the rupture of the immediate and recent reality and a once-imagined future. A divorce album might deal with the end of an imagined but more tangibly-planned future. It is an unraveling of a whole life’s perceived arc, not just the experiences that defined a few years. And a divorce might come with banalities like a split mortgage and shared assets; it might come with the unbreakable tie of children. Life’s practicalities enter, and divorce can be as transactional as it is world-rending.
By virtue of people, in many cases, having to be old enough to have had a few failed relationships, then a good one that turned into a marriage, and then having that marriage collapse too, many of the albums on this list came several records and many years deep into these artists’ careers. Inevitably, they often mark the end of one era of their output, or as the decades stacked up they lived on as a specific meditation perhaps removed from much of their other work. Several of the best ones were written by middle-aged people who had hit their maturity as artists—making them quiet, personal works not quite as iconic as the albums that remain their calling cards, while others might be an artist’s masterpiece.
The albums on this list span decades and genres. Some of them are relative failures as pop music, and some are classics you already know quite well. The consistency between all of them is that they process divorce in some way: the advancing fault lines leading up to it, the fracture of it in process, the way these artists’ lives changed in the aftermath.
Frank Sinatra – In The Wee Small Hours (1955)
In the middle of the 20th century, our notion of the album-as-cohesive-artwork wasn’t standard practice—records were more often simply a collection of singles. As a traditional pop performer of the era, you could assume Frank Sinatra would’ve hewed towards the latter, but he’s actually credited with some of the earliest concept albums, In The Wee Small Hours being an enduring classic in that mold. Released in 1955, it found Sinatra in the midst of years of romantic turmoil. After divorcing his first wife in the early ‘50s, he married Ava Gardner, kicking off a turbulent marriage that lasted until 1957. In the middle of that, he crafted In The Wee Small Hours, an album that meditates on loss and loneliness and moving on from broken relationships. The name alone conjures up an internal push and pull—the hours where you could be lying next to a partner, or the hours where you could feel most alone—and Sinatra poured his experiences into these songs, resulting in one of his most resonant and beloved works.
Willie Nelson – Phases And Stages (1974)
In his 84 years on this planet, Willie Nelson has lived a lot of life—and that included four marriages (with the first one starting up all the way back in 1952). In 1971, he went through his second divorce, precipitated by his wife’s discovery of an affair, then he married the woman with whom he’d had the affair. A few years later, he released Phases And Stages, a concept record about divorce, anchored by the repetition of its title track and the split narrative—Side One told the story from the woman’s perspective, Side Two told the story from the man’s.
Bob Dylan – Blood On The Tracks (1975)
Here it is, the big one. Considered one of the greatest albums by one of the greatest American artists of the 20th century, Blood On The Tracks often looms large in any discussion of albums derived from divorce or marital strife. It arrived in 1975, when Bob Dylan was estranged from his wife Sara. And though Dylan has zigged and zagged about whatever degree of personal narrative was in the songs, it wasn’t hard to read into the record, seeing tales of love and its collapse that could be traced back to Dylan’s own life easily enough. The thing is, you’d be tempted to believe him, too — Dylan has never been a very confessional songwriter. He’s a mercurial cipher, throwing people off his trail or adopting new identities regularly. That’s what makes Blood On The Tracks so unique, so rewarding, and so resounding within a legendary career. Because try as Dylan might to paint it one way or another, when you have a song like “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” you can tell where Blood On The Tracks is coming from. A guy like Dylan seems like a different breed; you just assumed his mind isn’t wired or working in the same way as yours. But to hear him on record that many years into his career, already a more matured and wizened voice, deciphering the same struggles anyone else goes through — that makes Blood On The Tracks one of the most poignant records of the 20th century pop canon.
Fleetwood Mac – Rumours (1977)
Rumours is one of the Great pop albums influenced by romantic troubles of all types. Not all of it was marital—the tumultuous on-off relationship between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham was a primary engine of the band’s creativity in this moment—but the album came after John and Christine McVie divorced after six years of marriage (and around the time Mick Fleetwood discovered his wife had had an affair). Cumulatively, everyone was in a rough spot, and the band’s interpersonal dynamics were, to say the least, frayed. The result, of course, is an album full of feverishly brilliant music detailing the strains and wreckages of relationships—with its range of personal turmoil, it’s both one of the greatest breakup albums and greatest divorce albums of all time. Below is “Silver Springs,” a Nicks outtake from the era—yes, technically making it one of the Rumours-era breakup songs rather than a divorce example, but it’s perhaps Fleetwood Mac’s most emphatic, dizzying depiction of romantic fallout and the effort to move on. (And, let’s be real, even though Rumours is perfect, it would be more perfect if this was the closer instead of “Gold Dust Woman.”)
Marvin Gaye – Here, My Dear (1978)
When Here, My Dear was originally released in 1978, it wasn’t received well. Yet though What’s Going On sadly feels too resonant today and Let’s Get It On looms larger in the popular consciousness, Here, My Dear has risen in stature over the years, becoming regarded as one of Gaye’s classics. The album is inextricable from Gaye’s divorce from his wife Anna Gordy Gaye; while some of the albums on this list happened to capture an artist around the time of a divorce, Here, My Dear really exists because of Gaye’s divorce in a very practical way. His divorce agreement stipulated that Anna would receive half the royalties for his next record, and initially he was just going to toss off a record, but instead found a specific inspiration for what would become Here, My Dear. The album, with songs as plainly titled as “I Met A Little Girl” and “When Did You Stop Loving Me, When Did I Stop Loving You” and “Anna’s Song”—illustrates the spectrum of emotion in a situation like this. When Gaye sings ”This is what you wanted/Here, dear/Here it is,” it could be read as a bitter goodbye, but he sings it like a tribute.
Phil Collins – Face Value (1981)
Several years after taking over frontman duties for Genesis and a few years after the band’s initial crossover into pop success, Phil Collins found himself in a position to record his first solo album, 1981’s Face Value. He also found himself at a personal crossroads when his first wife filed for divorce in 1979. Many of the songs that wound up on Face Value were written during that time and captured Collins’ angst and frustration amidst the divorce. There’s a whole range of genres and approaches across Face Value, including a few poppier moments and some experimental ones. Then there was one immortal single that blended the two, “In The Air Tonight”—a groundbreaking track that also became one of the man’s most indelible hits. It’d be easy to read into its chilly anxiety as a reflection of Collins’ state after his marriage fell apart, or even a reflection of rising Cold War tensions; apparently, the song isn’t really about anything, but as an unsettling opener it perfectly lays the groundwork for Collins grappling with his divorce across Face Value.
ABBA – The Visitors (1981)
One could imagine that there’s all sort of potential creative benefits to building a group out of two married couples. You’re dealing with the intersection of two closely-knit partnerships, bringing all the pitfalls and insights alike from that into the process of songwriting. And ABBA definitely did well on that specific dynamic, releasing a slew of bulletproof singles and becoming one of the biggest pop names of the ‘70s, or really ever—their music remains ubiquitous long after the group’s early ‘80s dissolution. That end came with The Visitors, the final ABBA album, the one that followed the divorce of both couples in the group. Similar to Rumours (though seemingly tamer), that didn’t exactly create a tranquil working process for The Visitors. Anyone involved in the album recalls a period full of tension, and you can hear it in the album, whether in the fact that it’s often darker and wintrier than what we’d normally associate with ABBA, or the fact that there are songs that openly reckon with the aftermath of a marriage’s collapse, like “One Of Us” and “When All Is Said And Done.”
Richard & Linda Thompson – Shoot Out The Lights (1982)
Richard & Linda Thompson’s 1982 album Shoot Out The Lights came from troubled times in more ways than one. After marrying in 1972, the couple had made music together for the subsequent 10 years, but their career had hit a downturn by the early ’80s. Shoot Out The Lights barely happened, and then it wound up becoming the highpoint of their collaborations together, and it’s often seen as the finest record in Richard Thompson’s career as a whole, too. It also, however, provided the endpoint for them as a duo and a couple: Their marriage was over within months of Shoot Out The Lights’ release. Kicking things off with the pointedly-titled “Don’t Renege On Our Love,” the album chronicles plenty of marital struggle—but it’s the foreboding title track, the kind of song that simmers with the potential of bad things on the horizon, that still hits hardest now.
Billy Joel – An Innocent Man (1983)
Say what you will about him, but there’s an inherent fact about Billy Joel: In his years as a superstar songwriter, he displayed an uncanny skill for pulling elements of classic pop and turning them into his own, building a catalog of unassailable hooks that won’t leave your head, whether you want them to or not. On 1983’s An Innocent Man, he went back to the years of his youth, quoting soul and Doo-Wop and old school rock ‘n’ roll—to the point that each track can be traced to a specific influence. That does sound innocent, revisiting the pop sounds of your simpler years. Thing is, the impetus behind it is a somewhat hilarious and quintessentially-Joel bit of semi-abrasiveness. An Innocent Man was his first album after his first divorce (he’s racked up a few more since), and that also marked his first time being single since being famous. Which means, obviously, it was his first chance to date supermodels. It was a return to the wildness and freedom of youth, hence, a return to the music of his youth. So, An Innocent Man is a little different than most of the records on this last—Joel was newly divorced, and he was having a blast, and he made a record with singalong hits like “Uptown Girl” and uptempo tracks like “Christie Lee,” inspired by his future-wife Christie Brinkley.
Bruce Springsteen – Tunnel Of Love (1987)
Tunnel Of Love is one of the classics on this list, and it’s also one of the albums on this list that is very, very intently tracing the faultlines of relationships and marriages. Out of its context, it could’ve simply been a marriage album rather than a divorce album, a record investigating all the ups and downs of a union, all the things people do to each other and how they drift apart yet remain connected. But it arrived at a very crucial turning point in Bruce Springsteen’s career. Released in 1987, it was Springsteen’s first album since becoming a massively famous rockstar with Born In The U.S.A.; it was also his first album since marrying actress Julianne Phillips. Though a younger Springsteen had once endeavored to dig into marriage and family on 1980’s The River, this was the first time he had his own experience to draw upon — and it wasn’t heading towards a happy ending. Many of the songs on Tunnel Of Love focus on the difficulty of keeping relationships alive, of knowing and understanding another person — its title track and “Brilliant Disguise” are some of Springsteen’s most heartbreaking songs. Much of it came from a place of disenchantment with his new life. Springsteen and Phillips separated in 1988 amidst Springsteen falling for E Street Band member Patti Scialfa, the woman he’s been with ever since. The fact that Tunnel Of Love rests at a fulcrum between the two relationships, the disintegration of one and the early flickers of another, makes it a complicated, heavy album, portraying romance and all its twists from multiple perspectives.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds – The Boatman’s Call (1997)
In his long and diverse career, Nick Cave has rarely been a very personal writer. He writes songs of Biblical and mythical proportions; he writes songs that traffic in noir and darkly twisted Americana and occasionally campy darkness; he writes some of the most poetic character sketches in pop music. Somewhere in there, he must’ve let pieces of himself slip through, but it was rarely clear. That’s what made his 1997 release The Boatman’s Call, which many regard as one of his masterpieces, an outlier in his catalog. Spare and piano-driven, it’s a record where Cave mingles spiritual questions and religious doubt with contemplations on human relationships, finding a grand weight in the combination despite the album’s restrained aesthetic. Cave had gotten divorced from the mother of his first son in 1996; he’d also had a brief relationship with PJ Harvey. Though The Boatman’s Call is not a direct or thorough observation of divorce, the magnitude with which it treats romance and its struggles feels uniquely of a divorce album—there’s a weathered, middle-aged quality to the album, even as Cave arrives at the next chapter, the songs at the record’s end about Harvey.
Cursive – Domestica (2000)
In 1998, Cursive broke up when frontman Tim Kasher got married and moved away to start a new life. It didn’t last long. By the following year, Kasher was getting divorced and the band reformed for their third album, which would become 2000’s Domestica. Given recent events, it would make sense that divorce and failed relationships might loom large, but Cursive really delved in on Domestica. Using some embellishments and stand-in characters, the band drew on Kasher’s experience to craft a concept record built around the arc of a relationship in near-collapse, their angular emo-leaning rock an appropriate vessel for that particular brand of anguish.
Jarvis Cocker – Further Complications (2009)
In April 2009, it was announced that Jarvis Cocker and his wife were getting divorced. In May 2009, he released Further Complications, which might seem like a loaded title if you assume that the timing of these two events was not coincidental. Now, they supposedly divorced on “amicable terms” and Cocker stayed in Paris to be around his son, but consider the fact that Further Complications was written as Cocker’s marriage would’ve been disintegrating and the fact that it’s perhaps his sleaziest, lustiest work. That’s saying something, considering the lasciviousness that ran rampant in Pulp’s work. But Further Complications is a post-divorce escapade akin to An Innocent Man, just dirtier and grittier. There are songs called “Homewrecker!” and “Fuckingsong” and there’s a lineage of pithy come-ons in “Leftovers.” There’s a bit of self-deprecation in “I Never Said I Was Deep,” and there’s a line that goes “And if every relationship is a two-way street/I have been screwing in the back whilst you drive,” and another that goes, ahem, “No, I’m not looking for a relationship/Just a willing receptacle.” As always, Cocker manages to get away with it since he’s in on the joke, balancing the leers with self-effacing asides about how he’s getting too old for this shit.
Nas – Life Is Good (2012)
Speaking of Here, My Dear—Nas name-checked Gaye’s divorce album when describing his own divorce album, 2012’s Life Is Good. Heavily inspired by his split from Kelis, Life Is Good finds Nas approaching another potential trope of divorce albums. At the same time he compared his efforts to Here, My Dear, he also talked about he didn’t consider Life Is Good to be explicitly about divorce, necessarily. Instead, spurred on by one heavy, momentous turning point, Nas took the occasion to craft a reflective album that dove into various parts and eras of his life. It does something different than work through the wounds in real-time, preferring to retrace a life’s arc and figure out what leads to what.
Divine Fits – A Thing Called Divine Fits (2012)
A project spearheaded by two songwriters – Spoon frontman Britt Daniel and Dan Boeckner of Wolf Parade and the Handsome Furs – the Divine Fits’ 2012 debut was actually half a divorce album. The context is that Boeckner had recently endured a nasty split from his wife, who had also been his partner in Handsome Furs, and was facing down the end of a marriage and a project that was just gaining steam while Wolf Parade was on hiatus. He went to live with Daniel in LA, and they started working on A Thing Called Divine Fits. It gave Boeckner a place to air some things out without going too deeply into it. (By the time he returned with Operators and a reformed Wolf Parade, it was far in the past.) But songs like the icy, claustrophobic new wave of “My Love Is Real” were still a visceral display of recent, raw hurt.
Ben Gibbard – Former Lives (2012) & Death Cab For Cutie – Kintsugi (2015)
In 2012, Death Cab For Cutie frontman Ben Gibbard struck out on his own with Former Lives. The album happened to arrive a few months before his divorce from Zooey Deschanel was finalized, the pair having split the preceding year. So, naturally, an album with the name Former Lives was a bit loaded. In reality, it may have been a divorce album by proximity—Gibbard refrained from discussing his divorce much at the time, and the material on Former Lives was a collection of songs written over the course of eight years. That being said, it stood as a record that seemed to mark a turning point, clearing out the archives and consigning old versions of himself to the past, as he moved on from his marriage and quit drinking.
Then, three years later, Death Cab returned with Kintsugi. The name referred to a Japanese practice in which broken pottery is put back together with all the cracks and seams unhidden. The idea is that those cracks and seams are part of your history, something that can’t be worked away; rather, they should be embraced. It’d be easy to read into that as a commentary on where Gibbard might’ve been after the end of his brief marriage to Deschanel—a few years removed and able to reckon with it as one chapter in a varied life. It was also a new chapter for Death Cab, being their first release since the departure of Chris Walla, and the band attributed the name as much to all of them simply getting older and experiencing life’s shit as to the specifics of Gibbard’s life. Gibbard’s often been coy about which songs may have been specifically influenced by Deschanel, but it isn’t hard to read into lyrics in songs like “Ingenue” or “Black Sun.”
Coldplay – Ghost Stories (2014)
Chris Martin has described Coldplay’s sixth album as being about the question of “…the things that happen to you in your past—your ghosts—how do you let them affect your present and your future?” Mostly marking a return to the more atmospheric and melancholic territory of Coldplay’s earliest work, Ghost Stories is the reflective album sandwiched between glittery pop outings Mylo Xyloto and A Head Full Of Dreams. Heavily influenced by Martin’s split from Gwyneth Paltrow after over 10 years of marriage—they married in 2003 and “consciously uncoupled” in 2014, but their divorce wasn’t finalized until last year—Ghost Stories traces back through the lovelorn steps of the past, seeking answers to where it all went wrong. The band did themselves a disservice by trading some of the album’s great b-sides for non-sequiturs like the unfortunate EDM-hit gambit “A Sky Full Of Stars,” but saddened material like “Always In My Head” and “Midnight” marked a welcome departure from the particular pop ambitions of latter-day Coldplay, and they still make Ghost Stories a somewhat underrated album amongst Coldplay’s other work.
Robin Thicke – Paula (2014)
Robin Thicke’s 2014 album, his first on the heels of “Blurred Lines”-mania, was pretty pointed in its objective. Or, at least, its stated objective. Amidst allegations of Thicke sleeping around and abusing cocaine, he and Paula Patton split after being together for more than 20 years. Paula was, as the song goes, nominally his attempt to get her back, one portion of his very public attempts at winning her forgiveness. The album was fairly derided upon release—as a followup to Thicke’s monster hit, it was musically lukewarm and, from a PR standpoint, fairly disastrous. People had already turned against him for the creepy salaciousness of “Blurred Lines” and its infamous video, and by Paula he definitely seemed like the villain in this scenario; it wasn’t much of a setting in which listeners would have patience for the man throwing a pity party for himself, which is essentially what the album turned out to be. Over the years, things got more disturbing—Patton eventually alleged that Thicke physically abused her during their marriage, and was aggressive towards their child. During acrimonious custody hearings, she filed a restraining order against him. As of earlier this year, their custody dispute has been resolved and Thicke is expecting another child with his girlfriend.
Ryan Adams – Ryan Adams, 1989, and Prisoner (2014, 2015, 2017)
Earlier this year, Ryan Adams released his latest album, Prisoner. Though he’ll likely oscillate on this over time, he did acknowledge the fact that it’s his first album following his divorce from Mandy Moore, and that there’s no helping that fans would perceive it as a document of that. Over at Uproxx, Steven Hyden argued that, knowing what we know now, Prisoner actually a completes a divorce trilogy including Adams’ 2014 self-titled outing and his 2015 song-for-song cover of Taylor Swift’s 1989. Historically, Adams never gets too literal as a lyricist, even when he’s processing his most severe heartache and despite his reputation as a “confessional singer-songwriter” type. But in hindsight, you can see the strain appearing in Ryan Adams and 1989 as a necessary catharsis to get him ready for Prisoner. And, sure enough, when he did get to Prisoner, it was easier to parse where he was writing from. There’s the gaping wound of “Do You Still Love Me?” and the severe longing and loneliness of “Shiver And Shake” and the fact that the album’s denouement is a track called “We Disappear,” which rides out on currents of flaring-out guitar noise. Prisoner ended up closing the trilogy with an album that traces the arc of a marriage’s dissolution, through grief and towards semi-resolution.
of Montreal – Aureate Gloom (2015)
Like a few other albums on this list, of Montreal’s Aureate Gloom had relationship strife built into the name—as Kevin Barnes explained to us in 2014, “aureate” denotes something ornamental so an “aureate gloom” could mean a “beautiful ugliness” or “beautiful misery.” It was a phrase that described his headspace when he and his wife—they’d been together for 11 years and had a child—separated and later divorced. It’s one of the sad ones, where people still cared about each other deeply but there was simply just something missing over time. Barnes went off to figure himself out, sort through who he was outside of the definition of that couple, and he came out with an album that’s far from the saddened tone of many others here—psych-y and glam-y and uptempo, it’s exploratory rather than wallowing.
Gwen Stefani – This Is What The Truth Feels Like (2016)
There was a 10-year gap between The Sweet Escape, Gwen Stefani’s second solo LP, and its eventual successor, last year’s This Is What The Truth Feels Like. A lot changed in that time. The pop landscape mutated countless times over, Stefani had become a judge on The Voice, and, most crucially, she and Gavin Rossdale divorced after being together for 14 years, after Stefani’s discovery that Rossdale had been cheating on her with the family nanny for years. It’s another instance where it’s pretty clear who to root for, and that was only clearer by the time Stefani was releasing This Is What The Truth Feels Like, her first post-divorce work. Unfortunately, Stefani’s album wound up a letdown, criticized as unfocused and somewhat anonymous considering the circumstances that yielded it. There were moments, though, like “Used To Love You,” where Stefani effectively channeled her hurt and anger into something impactful. Amidst it all she grew close to her Voice co-host Blake Shelton as they commiserated about their respective divorces, and soon wound up in a relationship with him.
Blake Shelton – If I’m Honest (2016)
Some of the divorces on this list were plenty high-profile—a major celebrity artist involved, sometimes two—and plenty of the divorces on this list were dramatic, public processes, too. But Blake Shelton and Miranda Lambert’s split had a specific tenor: A dream marriage between two influential superstars at peaks in their careers, and a contentious separation that played out as a “He said/She said” tabloid saga, with blatant or subtle accusations of cheating lobbed in both directions. The whole thing was very 21st century in terms of its visibility, and naturally there’d be the expectation that either or both of them might address it on whatever record they did next. Shelton wound up beating his ex-wife to the finish line in that instance, releasing If I’m Honest a few months ahead of her record The Weight Of These Wings. He did the press rounds, talked about how brutal it all been, about how this was his most personal album, etc., etc. And, look, these are people and their lives we’re talking about. But the thing about If I’m Honest is that it includes a pissed-off breakup song called “She’s Got A Way With Words” that is also (seemingly unintentionally) hilarious. I mean, it has lines like “She put the ‘hang’ in ‘hangover’” followed by a responding “Hangover!” for good measure; it has lines like “She put the ex in sex” and “She put a big F.U. in my future.” At any rate, if you’re rooting for Shelton, the good news is that If I’m Honest has a happy ending. Though he’s hurting in the beginning of the album, by the end the tone has shifted to new love songs, chronicling Shelton’s journey from post-divorce blues to falling in love with Gwen Stefani.
Miranda Lambert – The Weight Of These Wings (2016)
Given rumors of infidelity swirled around Shelton constantly, it often felt like there was a general assumption in the air that Lambert would emerge as the wronged party more deserving of our sympathy. With both she and Shelton having talked about how much the split wrecked them, who knows if there’ll ever be total clarity there. But on the musical front, Lambert won the battle hands down. Arriving a few months after If I’m Honest, The Weight Of These Wings wound up one of the most acclaimed country albums of 2016, or one of the most acclaimed albums of the year, period. A sprawling double album, Lambert’s post-divorce exorcism took on a spectrum of moods and moments, all the ups and downs and twists in the fallout of such a public split. There’s plenty of heartbreak along the way, but there’s also a track like “Ugly Lights,” a self-aware and jokingly self-lacerating account of staying out drinking a lot in the wake of her divorce. And eventually, it all leads up to a new happy ending for her, too: Just as Shelton started anew with Stefani, Lambert found herself in headlines highlighting her contentment in a new relationship with Anderson East.
Shania Twain – Now (2017)
OK, first off, yes, Shania Twain spent a good amount of the press cycle for Now, her first album in fifteen years and her first since the massively successful Up!, saying it wasn’t a divorce album. And, like a few others on this list, that’s true—it isn’t an album about divorce in terms of dissecting it or confessions of her experience with it, and there are other topics she delves into. But it’s one of those albums that exists in the aftermath, even though Twain’s divorce was almost 10 years ago. Part of that is that the premise of Twain’s divorce is so crazy: Her ex-husband and one-time producer Mutt Lange abruptly left her for her best friend, and then Twain fell for and subsequently married the best friend’s husband as the two relied on each other to make sense of the situation. That’s nuts! It probably would’ve made for a wild album at one time. But Now is more preoccupied with “perseverance,” with moving beyond the past and letting it be. So, there aren’t any ravaged Rumours-type songs here, but counter-intuitively you can hear the influence of Twain’s divorce in the triumphant, positive songs this many years removed.
Jessica Lea Mayfield – Sorry Is Gone (2017)
There are all sorts of run-of-the-mill ways marriages end, from an affair to the simple erosion of time distancing two people. Then there are far more dire and traumatic circumstances, like the recurring domestic abuse that yielded Jessica Lea Mayfield’s recent separation and subsequent album Sorry Is Gone, which she released at the end of last month. Though Mayfield hasn’t talked too explicitly about her experiences in interviews, she’s been frank about the fallout: physical injuries still in need of mending, PTSD and anxiety. And the lyrics of Sorry Is Gone paint plenty of harrowing scenes even while the songs push her abuser out of the spotlight. And that’s more the point of the record. It isn’t a document of that time, but rather one of the aftermath, of Mayfield’s journey towards taking back her life. As far as divorce narratives go, it’s a heavy and complicated one, coping with trauma by choosing empowerment and conquering the past. Case in point: the album’s breezy, jangly title track, which she described to NPR as representing “my last apology, an apology for no longer being sorry.”