20 Songs About the One That Got Away

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Written By Julia Mehalko

Julia is a music journalist with a passion for retro songs. She holds a degree in journalism from University of Nevada.

Thinking about a lost love? Heartbreak over the one that got away is an experience so many of us share. Thankfully, we have the ability to turn to countless songs — from various genres — that can help us better understand our own sadness and longing.

In this article, we’ve listed our favorite 20 songs about the one that got away. In these songs, you’ll find memories of past loves, lingering feelings for someone who has moved on, and so much more. If you’re missing the one that got away, put on one of these tracks.

1. “The One That Got Away” by Katy Perry

“The One That Got Away” by Katy Perry follows the singer as she thinks back on a past relationship. She sings to this ex of hers, explaining that they could’ve worked things out if only they have the chance. She truly believes this man is the one who got away.

Perry sings in the chorus, “In another life, I would make you stay / So I don’t have to say you were the one that got away / The one that got away.”

2. “Push Comes to Shove” by Van Halen

Van Halen released their song “Push Comes to Shove” on their 1981 album Fair Warning. In this rock song, the band sings about a relationship that ended. The singer explains that one day, the woman he loved decided to leave. As a result, he begins to realize that he’s losing her.

This ends with him singing, “That’s when push comes to shove / Could this be the one that got away?”

3. “The One That Got Away” by P!nk

“The One That Got Away” by P!nk, which appears on her 2006 album I’m Not Dead, follows a relationship that P!nk had with a man she grew to love. However, this man had another girlfriend. From the get-go, P!nk knew that this relationship wouldn’t last — but that didn’t stop her feelings from growing.

Now that their relationship is over, she realizes that he’s the one that got away. She cannot help but always think of him and what they could’ve been. As a result, she ends up singing, “You were mine / Somewhere in time / I’ll look for you first / In my next life.”

4. “Back to December” by Taylor Swift

In “Back to December”, Taylor Swift sings about a relationship in the past she ended. However, now that time has passed, she realizes that she still misses her ex. She shouldn’t have broken up with him and she realizes that she wants him back.

However, he ends up being the one that got away, as they never get back together. She sings the lyrics, “I’d go back in time and change it, but I can’t / So if the chain is on your door, I understand.”

5. “When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars

“When I Was Your Man” by Bruno Mars follows the singer as he regrets his past romantic relationship. Mars sings about all of the regrets he has over how he treated his ex. Now that she’s left him, he realizes that he should’ve done more for her.

However, she has moved on and found another man to be with — and Mars understands that she will always be the one that got away for him. As a result, he just hopes that her new man treats her better than he did.

6. “Someone Like You” by Adele

Adele’s hit song “Someone Like You” opens with her singing about her ex, who has moved on and married someone else. Even though Adele still loves him, she tries her best to come to terms with the fact that he’s moving on. She truly wants the best for him.

However, she will also always feel that he is the one that got away — even as she, too, tries to move on with someone else. This prompts her to sing the memorable chorus, “Never mind, I’ll find someone like you / I wish nothing but the best for you, too.”

7. “The One That Got Away” by Jake Owen

“The One That Got Away” by Jake Owen details a summer romance that ended. In this country song, Jake Owen explains that he met a girl and fell in love with her when she stayed in his town for a few summer months. The summer fling ended — and he realized that she was the one that got away when their relationship ended.

In the chorus, he sings, “She was the one that got away / The one that wrecked my heart / I should’ve never let her go.”

8. “Could’ve Been Me” by Billy Ray Cyrus

Billy Ray Cyrus released his song “Could’ve Been Me” on his 1992 album Some Gave All. Cyrus sings about a failed relationship that he wishes he could return to. The song opens up with Cyrus singing about how his ex just got married.

As he listens to this news, he realizes that it could’ve been him standing up there with her instead of her new man. He misses her, especially now that she’s moved on. He sings the lyrics, “It took me ’til now to see / It could’ve been me.”

9. “The One That Got Away” by Tim McGraw

Tim McGraw’s song “The One That Got Away” also describes a romantic relationship that deals with lost love. However, this song does differ in a sense from the other songs on this list. Instead of McGraw singing about missing the one that he believes got away, he sings about a girl who returns home to have many people go out of their way to see her.

In this way, she is the one that got away to her whole entire town. He explains this by singing, “Everybody wants a glimpse of the one that got away / Everybody wants to see you / And everybody wants to be you too.”

10. “People Back Home” by Florida Georgia Line

“People Back Home” by Florida Georgia Line is another country song that deals with the one that got away. Throughout this song, the duo sings to the people from their hometown that made them who they are today. Therefore, they also sing about a relationship that could’ve been.

They explain by singing that this song is for a girl, saying, “For the one that got away / Damn, I shoulda kissed her.”

11. “The One That Got Away” by Bon Jovi

Bon Jovi’s 2004 song “The One That Got Away” details a romantic relationship that just can’t seem to work, thanks to uncontrollable situations. The singer realizes this and ends up singing that he knows he’ll lose her. He says, “I’ll be your hero and you’ll be the one who got away.”

12. “As She’s Walking Away” by Zac Brown Band featuring Alan Jackson

“As She’s Walking Away” by Zac Brown Band, featuring Alan Jackson, explores a potential romantic relationship. Zac Brown sings about how he has fallen in love with a woman that he doesn’t know. He wants to know her — but he’s also too nervous to truly talk to her.

This is where Alan Jackson comes in. Jackson sings about his own lost love to encourage him, singing, “Wise man next to me did say, ’bout the one that got away / Son, I missed my chance / Don’t you let regret take place of the dreams you have to chase.”

13. “Should’ve Kissed You” by Chris Brown

“Should’ve Kissed You” by Chris Brown also talks about a relationship that never happened. In this r&b song, Brown sings about how he should’ve kissed the girl he was interested in. Instead, he didn’t see the signs that she was open to kissing him — and now he regrets it.

He sings the lyrics, “I should’ve kissed you, I should’ve told you / Told you just how I feel.”

14. “Loved You First” by One Direction

One Direction’s 2012 song “Loved You First” explores a potential romantic relationship that never was. In this song, the boy band sings about how they wanted to tell a girl how they felt about her. However, they were beaten by another man who successfully admitted his feelings to her before they could!

As a result, they feel as if the girl is the one that got away. The band sings the lyrics, “Girl, it should be me callin’ on your phone / Saying you’re the one and that I’ll never let you go.”

15. “Could’ve Been You” by Cher

Cher released her song “Could’ve Been You” on her 1992 album Love Hurts. Cher sings about a romantic relationship that has ended. However, now she is moving on with another man — and she’s very happy.

But that doesn’t stop her from reminding her ex that she is the one that got away! In another life, he would be the happy man beside her. She sings, “When he’s standing there in your place / I hate to say it, baby / Could’ve been you.”

16. “Me Beside You” by Neil Diamond

“Me Beside You” by Neil Diamond also discusses the one that got away. Throughout this song, Neil Diamond thinks about a past love and expresses his regret that their relationship ended. He misses her and believes that it could’ve been him beside her — instead of her new partner.

He wants her back, yet he also realizes that she’s moving on. As a result, he feels that she’s the one that got away!

17. “Mrs. Mistake” by Jesse McCartney

In “Mrs. Mistake”, Jesse McCartney sings about the mistakes he made in a past relationship. He didn’t treat his ex right, and this ultimately ended with her leaving him. Now that she’s gone, he realizes how much he needs her — and how much he loves her.

He sings, “She was the one that got away / The one I regret / My biggest mistake.”

18. “Centerfold” by P!nk

“Centerfold” by P!nk follows the singer as she sings about her anger and hurt over a past relationship. She doesn’t necessarily want to get back together with her ex. However, that doesn’t mean she doesn’t think that she’s the one who got away for him.

She explains that she’s moving on with another man, yet can’t help but think of this ex who did her wrong. So, she ends up singing, “Tell me why it’s him when it should have been you.”

19. “Only Human” by Tim McGraw featuring Ne-Yo

Tim McGraw’s 2012 song “Only Human”, which features Ne-Yo, is one of the best songs about relationships that could’ve been. This song opens with the lyrics, “The kiss that never happened / The call that never came / The hurt you mask by laughing / The one that got away.”

As the song goes on, McGraw sings about the flaws that he has, as well as about problems in his life he wishes he could’ve fixed. For example, he wishes he could’ve had that relationship he sang about. Instead, the relationship never took off!

20. “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts

At last, we’ve arrived at the last song on our list: “What Hurts the Most” by Rascal Flatts. In this 2006 song, the band sings about losing a relationship and regretting that it has ended. They feel this relationship could’ve worked out, yet it didn’t. As a result, they sing about why they’re hurting, saying, “Never knowing / What could’ve been.”