Monogamy might be the key to a happy marriage, but when it comes to great songs, there’s no beating a good love triangle. Cheaters, homewreckers, heartbroken victims… whichever end of the triangle a song uses for its inspiration, you can be assured of a ton of emotion, a splash of intrigue, and enough regret to sink a ship. Here’s our pick of the 20 best songs about cheating of all time.
20. Maroon 5 – Wake Up Call
“Wake up call / Caught you in the morning with another one in my bed / Don’t you care about me anymore? / Don’t you care about me? / I don’t think so.” So sings a heartbroken Adam Levine after finding his girlfriend in bed with another man. Seconds later, the man’s dead and Adam’s holding a smoking gun. Word of advice – don’t cheat on members of Maroon 5. They really don’t like it. Released in July 2007 as the second single from the band’s second studio album It Won’t Be Soon Before, Wake Up Call worked its way up to No. 19 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and hit the to 20 in numerous other countries.
19. Eagles – Lyin’ Eyes
As supportiv.com explains, Lyin’ Eyes tells the story of a woman who’s “heading for the cheating side of town.” In a twist on the norm, the song presents a sympathetic portrayal of her betrayals, painting her as someone caught in an unhappy relationship who breaks free to seek out a boy “with fiery eyes and dreams no one can steal.” A major hit for the band in 1975, it ended up bagging a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Group.
18. John Legend – She Don’t Have To Know
According to buzzfeed.com, Chrissy Teigen can rest easy – She Don’t Have To Know predates her relationship with John Legend by a full two years. In it, John finds himself caught between wanting his lover to keep their affair a secret so he doesn’t hurt his girlfriend, but not wanting to end it either. “I know it’s supposed to be the last time for you and I,” he tells her, “But let’s not end this way, wait another day.”
17. Carly Rae Jepsen – This Kiss
It might have a sugary sweet melody, but Carly Rae Jepsen’s This Kiss has a hard center. In it, Jepsen sings about how she can’t resist temptation, going out night after night to hook up with someone who isn’t her boyfriend at the club. Written by Jepsen, Matthew Koma, Kelly Covell and Redfoo of electropop duo LMFAO, the song peaked at No. 89 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became a minor hit in Europe.
16. TLC – Creep
As chartattack.com explains, TLC’s Cheat is about a girl who cheats on her partner because she’s lonely in the relationship and wants some attention. The backstory is a bit controversial – although it’s said to have been inspired by Tionne “T-Boz” Watkin’s experiences with infidelity, some people have hazarded a guess that it was also about writer Dallas Austin cheating on Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas. Either way, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes always hated it, saying that it was better for a woman to simply walk out on an unfilling relationship than stay in it and cheat. Released in October 1994, it became the group’s first No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and eventually achieved platinum status.
15. Carrie Underwood – Before He Cheats
Don’t mess with Carrie Underwood. If you do, she won’t take it lying down. “I took a Louisville slugger to both headlights / Slashed a hole in all 4 tires / Maybe next time he’ll think before he cheats,” she sings on Before He Cheats. In fairness, the song was actually written by Chris Tompkins and Josh Kear, so it might not be an entirely accurate picture of how Underwood would behave in the same circumstances. Although given the conviction of her performance, you have to wonder… Released as the third single from her debut album Some Hearts in August 2006, it was a massive hit, spending five weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot Country Songs chart and reaching the top ten on the Billboard Adult 40 chart, the Mainstream Top 40, the Adult Contemporary chart and the Hot 100.
14. Rihanna – Unfaithful
We’re used to songs written from the perspective of the cheated rather than the cheater, but on Unfaithful, Rihanna turns the tables and sings from the perspective of the faithless lover. “And I know that he knows I’m unfaithful / And it kills him inside / To know that I am happy with some other guy / I can see him dying,” she sings. Speaking about the inspiration for the song to MTV News (http://www.mtv.com/news/1524534/rihanna-getting-in-touch-with-her-rock-side-for-next-lp/), she explained, “I’m referred to as a murderer in that song. Meaning, I’m taking this guy’s life by hurting him, cheating on him. He knows, and it makes him feel so bad.” “We always put it out there that guys cheat, and finally someone put it in perspective: girls cheat too,” she added.
13. Merle Haggard – I’ll Always Know
You can’t pull one over on Merle Haggard. If you’ve been having your cake and eating it, he’s going to know. “I’ll always know when you’ve been cheating. Yeah, I’ll always know you’ve been untrue. I’ll always know,” he sings on the aptly titled I’ll Always Know, proving that when it comes to songs about cheating, country has it covered.
12. Amy Winehouse – You Know I’m No Good
Some people just weren’t born for monogamy. They might know they’re trouble, but they couldn’t change even if they wanted to. At least Amy Winehouse gives her partner fair warning on You Know I’m No Good, telling him “I told you I was trouble/Yeah, you know I’m no good.”
11. Sugarland ft. Taylor Swift – Babe
As seventeen.com says, Babe, which was written by Taylor Swift and features the singer on guest vocals, is possibly about one of Taylor’s formal flames – which, considering her history on that score, sounds a likely explanation. Sugarland singer Jennifer Nettles agrees, even if she doesn’t want to broadcast the fact. “[It] just might be!” she told Entertainment Tonight. “But you didn’t hear that here. We don’t know. We didn’t ask her, but I’m just saying in the context of the story.”
10. Justin Timberlake – Cry Me a River
Cry Me a River was written about Justin Timberlake’s ex-girlfriend Britney Spears after she reportedly cheated on him with her choreographer. The song was a massive hit, but the video, which showed Timberlake breaking into the home of his former lover and filming himself hooking up with another woman before leaving the video playing for his ex to find, was an even bigger one. At the time, Timberlake denied that his relationship with Spears inspired the video, but in 2011, he finally came out and admitted what we all knew to start with.
9. The Weeknd – Call Out My Name
The Weeknd has never publicly confirmed who inspired him to write Call Out My Name, but considering its subject matter (feeling betrayed after his girlfriend left him for someone else) and considering that his ex, Selena Gomez, started dating her old flame Justin Bieber soon after their breakup, it doesn’t take a genius to work out who he’s got in mind when he’s singing “I said I didn’t feel nothing baby, but I lied / I almost cut a piece of myself for your life / Guess I was just another pit stop / ‘Til you made up your mind / You just wasted my time.”
8. LeAnn Rimes – Borrowed
It’s no secret that LeAnn Rimes and her now-husband actor Eddie Cibrian got together when they were still with other people. Not that Rimes can blame all the publicity on the gossip rags – she wrote an entire album (2013’s Spitfire) about it. Some of the songs are repentant, others are remorseless, and some, like Borrowed, find her torn between the two. “Obviously, it was a very controversial topic to write about…As hard as it was for me to write the song, I think it painted a true picture of that situation,” she’s since said. “I wanted to describe a very stark moment in my life. You just feel in complete limbo, and I felt guilty too; it wasn’t pretty at all.”
7. Beyoncé and Shakira – Beautiful Liar
If there’s one thing Beyoncé excels at, it’s telling cheating men where to get off. On Beautiful Liar, she and Shakira find themselves competing for the same guy. Rather than get upset about it, they fly the flag for sisterhood and decide he’s not worth getting into a fight over. Released on February 12, 2007, the song was a critical and commercial smash, peaking at number three on the US Billboard Hot 100 chart and picking up a Grammy Award nomination for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.
6. Velvet Underground – Pale Blue Eyes
Lou Reed didn’t get romantic that often, and when he did, you could bet it wasn’t going to be in the form of a conventional love ballad. On Pale Blue Eyes, he and the rest of the Velvet Underground lament about the heartbreak of falling for a married person, knowing that your love for them is doomed right from the start.
5. Aaliyah – If Your Girl Only Knew
If Your Girl Only Knew is about exactly that, with Aaliyah speaking from the perspective of a girl being hit on by a man who’s already in a relationship. Released as the lead single from Aaliyah’s second studio album One In a Million in 1996, the song became Aaliyah’s 3rd single to reach the top 20 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Keep an ear out for Missy Elliott and Timbaland ad-libbing in the background.
4. Jazmine Sullivan – Bust Your Windows
If you cheat on Jazmine Sullivan, expect something regrettable to happen. “I bust the windows out your car / After I saw you laying next to her / I didn’t wanna but I took my turn / I’m glad I did it cause you had to learn,” she lectures on Bust Your Windows. A cautionary tale if ever there was one.
3. Whitney Houston – It’s Not Right But It’s Okay
On It’s Not Right But It’s Okay, Whitney Houston spells out exactly how she knows her beau is up to no good: “Friday night you and your boys went out to eat / Then they hung out, but you came home around three / If six of y’all went out / Then four of you were really cheap / ‘Cause only two of you had dinner / I found your credit card receipt.” But while it’s definitely not right, it’s ok – she’s not going to kick up a fuss and she’s not going to stay and hope for better either. “I’d rather be alone than unhappy,” she sings.
2. Beyoncé – Irreplaceable
Anyone foolish enough to mess with Queen Bey deserves everything they get. After all, they can’t say they haven’t been warned. Her back catalog is heaving with songs about how she deals with unfaithful lovers, including Irreplaceable, the ultimate kiss-off anthem, and a lesson to all unfaithful men to take it to the left.
1. Robyn – Call Your Girlfriend
Allmusic.com calls Robyn’s Call Your Girlfriend a “thoughtful twist on a love triangle that finds Robyn enjoying new love while being concerned for someone hurt by it.” A pensive electropop and synth-pop ballad that Robyn has said was inspired by “love and life,” it finds the singer begging her new partner to break up with his girlfriend while giving him tips on how to lessen the blow. Released as the second single from her seventh studio album, Body Talk, in April 2011, it reached No. 1 on the Hot Dance Club Songs chart (Robyn’s highest-peaking song on the chart) and picked up a nomination for Best Dance Recording at the 2012 Grammy Awards.