Ever wished you could get public, high-profile revenge on someone who really ticked you off? Is the medium of song your favorite possible way to get back at somebody? Well, you’re not alone. The revenge song has been a staple feature of popular music for decades now — and I’m not just talking about Taylor Swift’s entire discography. A ton of female artists have had the last word in fights with their exes, parents, haters, or former friends through their music. They’ve used songs to throw serious shade at subjects who are sometimes obvious and sometimes more mysterious.
If you’re not all that familiar with music history’s fiercest female-fronted revenge songs, we’ve got you covered. From Carly Simon to Demi Lovato, here’s a wide range of women who didn’t hold back and got the perfect revenge through their music. Next time you’re seriously mad at someone, you’ll be rocking out to these legendary ladies’ tracks.
17. Taylor Swift on John Mayer/Joe Jonas/Jake Gyllenhaal/Katy Perry
No discussion of revenge music is complete without Miss Taylor Alison Swift getting a hefty mention. She’s used her music to get her own back on dozens and dozens of people who’ve crossed her, from cheating exes to ‘the other woman’ and frenemy, Katy Perry.
Noteworthy songs include “Dear John,” a scathing account of ex John Mayer’s pretty shady behavior, and “Forever and Always,” a last-minute addition to Fearless that chronicles the end of her relationship with Joe Jonas. Jonas should’ve expected it, really. Who dumps someone in a 27-second phone call, for god’s sake?! Jake Gyllenhaal got an entire album – 2012’s Red is pretty much dedicated to his misdemeanours.
Apart from men, we had “Better Than Revenge” pointed at Camilla Belle and “Bad Blood,” which took aim at Katy Perry. Swift’s musical history constantly leaves us wondering whom she’s going to drag through the mud next.
16. Carly Simon on Warren Beatty (maybe)
One of pop music’s most enduring mysteries is who exactly Carly Simon wrote her smash hit “You’re So Vain” about. Whoever it is, they should be pretty embarrassed: Simon totally owned them through the medium of this famous revenge song. Some reports suggest that the song is about famous Hollywood star Warren Beatty. Simon herself admitted last year that Beatty inspired the second verse. But what about the rest of the song?
Was it the late David Bowie who so invoked Simon’s ire? What about Mick Jagger? Or Simon’s ex Cat Stevens? Simon has suggested that the song isn’t just about one person: it takes shots at a whole load of people who’ve scorned her. While we may not ever learn their exact identities, we can still have fun playing this guessing game.
15. Kelly Clarkson on all of her haters/her father
Kelly Clarkson has come a long way since her American Idol days. She’s released no less than eight hit albums, has sold 36 million singles worldwide and has topped the Billboard charts countless times. Despite all of this blatant success, Clarkson somehow has a few haters out there who try to bring her down. Her response? Get back at them through her songs, of course! While “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You)” is framed as a clap-back to an ex-lover, we can’t help but think it relates to Kelly’s haters too.
Clarkson has also used her songs to address her complicated relationship with her father, who left the family when Kel was just six years old. Clarkson channeled her feelings of hurt and anger into her music and made her feelings very well known in her hits “Because of You” and “Piece By Piece.” They say that living well is the best revenge, but getting a few smash hit singles under your belt can’t hurt either.
14. Katy Perry on Travie McCoy/Taylor Swift
It’s easy to forget that before her marriage to Russell Brand and flings with John Mayer and Orlando Bloom, pop princess Katy Perry dated Gym Class Heroes singer Travie McCoy. Their relationship didn’t exactly end on amicable terms, meaning a revenge song from Perry was practically inevitable. Cue “Circle the Drain,” a pretty scathing tune from Perry’s Teenage Dream album. The song chronicles the breakdown of Perry’s relationship with a guy who’s more interested in drugs than her. Since McCoy was known to be addicted to prescription drugs during his time with Perry, it’s a safe bet the song’s about him.
More recently, Perry used her song “Swish Swish” to allegedly throw some shade at long-term nemesis T. Swift. We’re not going to chronicle the entire history of their feud – we’d be here all day – but judging by “Swish” (which sounds an awful lot like ‘Swift,’ doesn’t it?), these two won’t be making up anytime soon.
13. Alanis Morissette on an unnamed ex (who might be Dave Coulier)
Alanis Morrisette’s classic tune You Oughta Know is one of the most famous revenge songs in musical history. It’s pretty freaking harsh – the line “every time I scratch my nails down someone else’s back I hope you feel it” is particularly ruthless. In the past, Morrisette’s ex, comedian Dave Coulier, has both confirmed and denied that the song’s about him. He does seem the most likely candidate for this veritable revenge-fest. Whoever the song was about, their actions inspired a pretty awesome track that went on to win Morrisette two Grammys. If that’s not the perfect revenge, I don’t know what is.
12. Gwen Stefani on Courtney Love
“Hollaback Girl” was one of Gwen Stefani’s first hits of her solo career. It might just seem like an upbeat clap-back to her haters in general, but “Hollaback” was actually written with one very specific critic in mind. Back in 2004, Courtney Love made some derogatory comments about Stefani in Seventeen magazine, comparing Gwen to a cheerleader — and not in a good way. Stefani’s response was to write a song that portrayed her as a cheerleader and actually become one for its music video. This sarcastic approach showed Love that Stefani was actually a total badass and that she wasn’t somebody to be trifled with. Gwen took Love’s criticism and turned it into one of her greatest hits. Revenge is sweet!
11. Nicki Minaj on Lil’ Kim
Nicki Minaj has got herself into quite a few famous feuds over the years. She’s had very public spats with Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift, Remy Ma (more on that later), and Mariah Carey… and that’s not even the half of it. However, one of her most famous ongoing ‘disagreements’ is with fellow artist Lil’ Kim. It all began back in 2007, when Nicki released a mixtape cover photo that was strikingly similar to that of Kim’s 1996 album Hard Core. They’ve squabbled pretty much ever since, with Nicki’s bestie Drake even getting involved at one point. A defining moment in their feud has to be Minaj’s diss track “Tragedy,” a pretty scathing take on Kim’s finances and reputation as a has-been. Don’t cross Nicki Minaj, people. She will come for you.
10. Demi Lovato on her haters
Demi Lovato is known for her brash, honest attitude to… Well, everything. Like pretty much everybody in the spotlight, she’s attracted her own little army of haters over the years. However, she doesn’t let that get her down. In fact, she loves nothing more than to slam said haters in her music. Her recent single “Sorry Not Sorry” is a testament to this. Demi is going to carry on being her sassy, confident, unapologetic self, and her haters had better get used to it. She’s not going to stop being who she is because of the words of a few keyboard warriors. And so she shouldn’t!
9. Adele on an unnamed ex
Can you imagine being the ex that Adele wrote her record-breaking album 21 about? That must be pretty darn painful. Not only did Adele totally power through that breakup and come out stronger on the other side, she also wrote one of the best selling albums of all time in the process. That guy could’ve had it all… But instead, he gave Adele a whole lot of heartbroken inspiration, and we’re eternally grateful for it. We’re fairly sure Adele is, too: that album netted her a ton of awards (including seven Grammys), and is the most certified record ever. That’s some sweet revenge right there.
8. Pink on Carey Hart
Pink’s relationship with her husband Carey Hart has been a bit of a rollercoaster, to say the least. The pair may be going strong these days, but they were on-again-off-again for pretty much all of the first decade of the 2000s. During one of their ‘breaks,’ Pink decided to unleash her anger at Hart in the song “So What,” an anthem about just how much she didn’t need him. The music video even showed Pink using a chainsaw to violently destroy a tree with their names engraved on it. Despite this rather obvious statement of animosity, Pink and Hart got back together in 2009 (he was even in the music video!) and now have two beautiful children together. We love a good happy ending!
7. Miley Cyrus on Nick Jonas
Back in her wholesome, pre-Wrecking Ball days, Miley Cyrus dated fellow Disney Channel star Nick Jonas for about 18 months. The two made for quite a cute teen couple, and Miley was apparently so heartbroken when they split that she cried for a month then dyed her hair black. Ah, the joys of being 15. Miley later channeled her heartbreak into her hit song “7 Things,” which is pretty blatantly about Jonas. Cyrus can ever be seen wearing her ex’s medical necklace (for his Type One diabetes) in the song’s music video. Quick question: shouldn’t she have maybe given that back…?
6. Stevie Nicks on Lindsey Buckingham
The romantic entanglements of the members of legendary rock band Fleetwood Mac were complex, to say the least. Numerous members dated each other, split, and reconnected during the band’s heyday. However, by far the most infamous relationship was that of Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham. The two split just as the band was becoming famous, and many of the tracks on their arguably best album Rumours chronicle the pair’s breakup. Nicks was possibly the more revenge-heavy of the two: her song “Silver Springs” was an ode to how much of a jerk her ex turned out to be. It was clearly aimed at Buckingham — Nicks sang the track DIRECTLY AT HIM during a public 1997 performance. Ouch.
5. Perrie Edwards on Zayn Malik
Long before ZiGi was a thing, Little Mix star Perrie Edwards and One Direction’s Zayn Malik were the ultimate pop band power couple. They dated for four years and were engaged for half of that time, with Malik even getting a tattoo of Edwards’s face on his bicep. That must have become incredibly awkward when Malik dumped poor Perrie via text in the summer of 2015.
Yep, that’s right – he ended AN ENGAGEMENT via text. Not great behavior there, Zayn. Still, Perrie got the last laugh: Little Mix’s single “Shout Out to My Ex” was a total hit, and contained some not-so-subtle references to Mr. Malik himself and, let’s just say, his bedroom skills. Let’s be honest, he kind of deserved it.
4. Mariah Carey on Eminem
Did any of you realize that professional diva Mariah Carey and rapper Eminem had a bit of a thing back in the early 2000s? It seems unlikely, but it’s true! At least it is according to the rapper. MiMi claims it’s a total lie.
It’s still not entirely clear what happened between this famous pair. According to Eminem, they full-on dated before Mariah broke his heart. According to Mariah, they spoke over the phone maybe three or four times, and that was the extent of their ‘relationship.’ Eminem has blasted Mariah for lying. Mariah has mocked Eminem using puppets in one of her live shows. The feud goes on and on. However, Mariah got some pretty harsh revenge in her song “Clown,” in which she croons “You should’ve never intimated we were lovers / When you know very well we never even touched each other.” Ouch. Poor Slim Shady. She also wrote “Obsessed” about him and then dressed up as him in the music video. Iconic.
3. Remy Ma on Nicki Minaj
Fellow rapper Remy Ma is Nicki Minaj’s most recent adversary. The beef between these two goes back literally years and started off as a dispute about who had greater influence in the music industry. However, it was when Minaj fired shots at Remy’s low-selling album in 2016 that their feud truly ignited. Remy released a seven-minute-long diss track, “shETHER,” in response to Minaj’s barbs. When Nicki failed to respond, Remi released another diss record: literally, it was called “Another One.”
Things only got worse for Minaj when Remy dethroned her at the BET Awards, ending her seven-year run as winner of the Best Female Hip Hop Artist award. Remy actually quoted “shETHER” in her acceptance speech, and shows no sign of ending her dispute with Nicki. Where will 2018 take this controversial pair? We can only wait and see.
2. Ellie Goulding on Ed Sheeran
Ellie Goulding’s romance with Ed Sheeran was kept on the down-low for quite a while. In fact, we only really learned the truth after the two’s rather messy and awkward breakup. Ed’s hit song “Don’t” is reportedly about Goulding and her affair with One Direction star Niall Horan. It’s a fairly scathing assessment of her behavior and must have left Ellie pretty red-faced.
She responded to Sheeran’s jibes in her equally harsh song “On My Mind.” The track refers to an ex that Goulding liked only for his tattoos – of which Ed has many. It also makes plenty of lyrical allusions to “Don’t,” including referring to the hotel where her cheating allegedly took place. Goulding has since denied that the song is about Sheeran but frankly, we’re not buying it.
1. Beyoncé on Jay-Z
Question: why the heck would anybody cheat on Beyoncé?! Cheating is awful under any circumstances, but B is a literal queen! Who would do that to her? Well, Jay-Z would, apparently. He recently confirmed that his betrayal was the inspiration behind B’s hit visual album Lemonade. To be honest, we all pretty much knew that was the case anyway. The whole album was a master class in getting your own back on a treacherous lover. Like, there’s a bit where Jay literally kisses his wife’s feet in penance. He must have felt pretty ashamed if he agreed to do that on-screen. Regardless of the fact that the two eventually reconciled, Lemonade was a pretty solid revenge record.