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'Dear John': Is Taylor Swift's Scathing Song about John Mayer?

Brent N. Clarke/Invision/AP, Charles Sykes/Invision/AP

Ever since the release of Carly Simon's "You're So Vain" and Fleetwood Mac's entire Rumours album, music fans have been slightly obsessed with the real life relationships that have inspired their favorite heartbreak songs. Leave it to country-pop icon Taylor Swift, queen of secret coded lyrical and liner notes messages, to revive our interests all over again.

For years, fans have speculated over which Swift songs are about men she's dated. But in one case, her alleged muse responded to the song in question.

"Dear John, I see it all, now it was wrong," Swift sings on the tune. "Don't you think nineteen is too young to be played by your dark twisted games, when I loved you so?"

"Dear John," from Swift's 2010 album Speak Nowis about an older man and a relationship marred by "dark, twisted games" and a "sick need to give love then take it away." Let's just say that the "John" in question does not come off well in this song. Who would want to own up to being the subject of such a savage takedown?

Well, one man did and that man was John Mayer. In a 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, the rocker said the song "humiliated me."

"I never got an e-mail. I never got a phone call," Mayer told Rolling Stone. "I was really caught off-guard, and it really humiliated me at a time when I'd already been dressed down. I mean, how would you feel if, at the lowest you've ever been, someone kicked you even lower?"

Mayer also called "Dear John" "cheap songwriting."

"I will say as a songwriter that I think it's kind of cheap songwriting," Mayer said. "I know she's the biggest thing in the world, and I'm not trying to sink anybody's ship, but I think it's abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, 'Wait till he gets a load of this!' That's bullsh-t."

Swift has never revealed who inspired the song. In fact, when told of Mayer's response to the song, Swift responded with "How presumptuous! I never disclose who my songs are about."

In fairness to Mayer, he isn't the only one convinced the song was written about the "Your Body is a Wonderland" singer. And there's plenty of evidence that Mayer inspired the scorching "Dear John" letter. Swift and Mayer were linked in late 2009 and 2010 (Swift had just turned 20) and collaborated on Mayer's song "Half of My Heart," from 2009's Battle Studies.

In 2013, Mayer recorded "Paper Doll," which many listeners believed was written in response to Swift. I guess this is just the way it works with singer-songwriters. It's kind of like when you just have to get the last word with your ex, but with Grammy awards.

Mayer refused to confirm that the song was about the "Shake it Off" singer in a 2015 interview with Ronan Farrow.

"I'm not in the business of telling people what the song is about. I never said anything about it," Mayer said. "And now I just go, 'Look, I can say the name Taylor Swift. She's an artist. I'm an artist. Let's just...everybody stop. Nobody's got an incurable cancer. We're rich people who get to live out our dreams. Let's just stop it...It's really about the longevity of all the work that goes together, and I'm just not interested in the things that won't last forever."

For her part, Swift has moved on to recording "Goodbye Earl"-style songs with HAIM (that's called growth!). She released her ninth studio album Evermorethe followup to Folklore, earlier this month.

 

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Dear John Lyrics:

Long were the nights when my days once revolved around you
Counting my footsteps,
Praying the floor won't fall through, again
My mother accused me of losing my mind,
But I swore I was fine, you paint me a blue sky
And go back and turn it to rain
And I lived in your chess game,
But you changed the rules every day
Wondering which version of you I might get on the phone
Tonight, well I stopped picking up, and this song is to let you know why
Dear John I see it all now that you're gone
Don't you think I was too young to be messed with?
The girl in the dress, cried the whole way home, I should've known
Well maybe it's me and my blind optimism to blame
Maybe it's you and your sick need to give love then take it away
And you'll add my name to your long list of traitors who don't understand
And I'll look back and regret how I ignored when they said "run as fast as you can"
Dear John, I see it all now that you're gone
Don't you think I was too young to be messed with?
The girl in the dress, cried the whole way home
Dear John, I see it all, now it was wrong
Don't you think nineteen is too young
To be played by your dark twisted games, when I loved you so?
I should've known
You are an expert at sorry,
And keeping the lines blurry
Never impressed by me acing your tests
All the girls that you've run dry
Have tired, lifeless eyes
'Cause you burned them out
But I took your matches before fire could catch me,
So don't look now, I'm shining like fireworks over your sad empty town
Dear John, I see it all now that you're gone
Don't you think I was too young to be messed with?
The girl in the dress, cried the whole way home.
I see it all now that you're gone
Don't you think I was too young to be messed with?
The girl in the dress wrote you a song
You should've known, you should've known
Don't you think I was too young? You should've known

 

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'Dear John': Is Taylor Swift's Scathing Song about John Mayer?