7 Times Musicians Celebrated Their Independence With Huge Hit Songs

Free at last!

By Claire Downs

Life as a major recording artist isn’t always poppin’ bottles and droppin’ sick beats in the studio – there’s always someone looking to control a singer’s fame, talent, or creative freedom. Sometimes it’s a dominating manager or an out-of-touch record label. Other times, it’s a bad romance, or literally the U.S. gov putting a star in lock-up. But when a pop star finds the means to break free of these creative chains, the results can be liberating! Check out these ten musicians who celebrated their independence by showing the world what’s good.

  • Taylor Swift, “We Are Never Getting Back Together”

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    After breaking up with actor Jake Gyllenhaal in 2011, T-Swift released the now classic breakup song in 2012.

  • Zayn, “Pillowtalk”

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    After leaving 1D last year to pursue a solo career, fans were extremely heartbroken and even skeptical that Z could flourish without his bandmates. But when Zayn’s single, “Pillowtalk” debuted at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 this year, it wasn’t just a hit song; it eclipsed One Direction’s US chart peak at No 2 in 2013 for “Best Song Ever” and had 22.3M streams in the first week, making it the fourth largest streaming debut in history.

  • 2Pac, “California Love”

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    After serving nearly a year in prison, 2Pac didn’t take a moment to rest. He snapped back with a double album, All Eyez on Me, featuring this colossal hit as the lead single. Though Shakur passed away shortly thereafter, the song was nominated for a posthumous Grammy Award for Best Rap Solo Performance and Best Rap Performance by a Duo or Group (with Dr. Dre and Roger Troutman) in 1997.

  • Michael Jackson, “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough”

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    when Michael Jackson broke free (accepting a breach of contract) from Motown Records and signed with Epic Records in 1975, it was a risky move. But MJ prevailed, releasing “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough,” a song he wrote himself, and his subsequently awesome Off the Wall album, which started his reign as The King of Pop and sold over 20 million copies worldwide.

  • Janet Jackson, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?”

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    Liberated from her father and manager Joe Jackson’s control, Janet signed with new management and got to work writing her third studio album, aptly titled, Control. The lead single, “What Have You Done for Me Lately?” was an instant hit – and went certified Gold in 1986. The video, which features and was choreographed by Paula Abdul also garnered Jackson critical acclaim and propelled her into superstardom.

  • Florence and The Machine, “The Dog Days Are Over”

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    After Florence Welch and her hometown boyfriend Stuart got into brawl that lead to their breakup, Florence wrote the song, “The Dog Days are Over” about her newfound freedom as a single lady. But, her tears were swiftly dried: the song launched Florence and The Machine into stardom and became the band’s breakout hit. In the first month of its release, the song achieved 1.8M digital downloads alone.

  • Big Sean, “IDFWU”

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    After delaying the release of his sophomore album, Hall of Fame, people were beginning to wonder whether or not Big Sean would come through. To top it off, Sean was in the middle of breaking his engagement with Glee star Naya Rivera. It was during this high-pressure time that Big wrote “I Don’t F***k with You” to celebrate his upcoming freedom from his failed engagement. Fans went wild for the brilliantly petty song – earning it Triple Platinum status.