It is no secret that Taylor Swift writes her music based on her past relationships. From the countless references to her ex-boyfriends to the memes and jokes about her songwriting that plague the internet; it’s a phenomenon that we all know a bit too well.
Taylor is a lot more famous now than she has ever been, and her music and image have gone through some changes as well. Taylor has gone from being the curly-haired, bright-eyed country girl singing tunes like You Belong With Me to being a badass, revenge-seeking diva murmuring tracks like Look What You Made Me Do.
But at the heart of it all, Swift is just a girl who uses her music to get through things in life. Speaking about her writing process in a Netflix special, she claimed that she uses her songwriting to understand and get past any pain she’s feeling.
And Taylor has definitely been unlucky in love (before she met her current beau Joe Alwyn), so it’s not surprising that so much of her music is about her exes. But here, we break it down.
Which song or songs are about which ex? Let’s get into it!
All Too Well and We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together
Taylor Swift has written not one but two songs about one of her most famous exes: Jake Gyllenhaal. Even though Taylor only dated the Nocturnal Animals actor for a few months at the end of 2010, things seemed to have been quite serious.
Taylor spent a lot of time with Jake and even with his sister Maggie. Jake once reportedly spent thousands of dollars to fly her out to him for a date, but then ended things over the phone (he’s not alone there, but more on that later). Wow, Jake!
The first song Taylor wrote about Jake was All Too Well, which became the first single on her album Red. She calls the actor ‘exhausting’ which makes sense given the on-and-off nature of their relationship. She also calls him out for being pretentious with his music tastes. The smoking gun, however, was when Taylor mentioned how she left her scarf at his sister’s house, and this was what helped fans figure it out.
We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together, also in Red, is also about Jake and again mentions his self-righteous attitude about his music that made Taylor feel that she wasn’t good enough for him. It is also said that The Last Time is about Taylor feeling hurt for not being a priority in Jake’s life.
Back to December
Back to December is arguably one of the best tracks on Taylor’s album Speak Now, but did you know that the song is about none other than Taylor Lautner? That’s right, Twilight’s heartthrob werewolf earned himself a place in Taylor Swift’s discography.
The two Taylors dated, again, for just a few months in 2009, so just before Jake made an entrance in Taylor’s (Swift, not Lautner) life. The romance began after the pair met on the set of Valentine’s Day, but sadly things did not work out.
The timeline of these events made fans think that Back to December might be about Taylor Lautner, and we think so too. He confirmed it himself in 2016, in a hilarious livestream with Lea Michele and John Stamos.
In the song, Taylor Swift finds herself feeling apologetic when she receives a belated apology from her ex. She references missing his “tan skin and sweet smile” as well.
All in all, Taylor Lautner remains one of the few men who have had a relatively positive review in a Taylor Swift song, so kudos to him!
Dear John And The Story of Us
In 2009, Taylor began dating John Mayer, who is about eleven years her senior, and who can rival her with the number of famous exes he has. After they broke up, Taylor wrote Dear John, which describes the way he treated her. Dear John is one of those songs where Taylor just stops caring and straight-up starts dropping names!
Dear John details how unpredictable and unhealthy the relationship was (“And I lived in your chess game, But you changed the rules every day”). Taylor said that he had “humiliated” her at a time when she’d already been down. John responded calling her songwriting “cheap” and claimed she was “abusing her talent”.
The Story of Us is also likely about John Mayer, because it’s about running into an ex at an awards show, and the timeline adds up here as well because both Taylor and John performed at the 2010 CMT Awards.
I Knew You Were Trouble, Out of the Woods And Style
Taylor Swift dated One Direction member Harry Styles for a few months at the end of 2012, much to the envy of fangirls! Despite not being with her for long, Harry Styles is rumored to have inspired most of her album 1989.
Since it’s hard to differentiate between fact and mere speculation in situations like this, we’re going to stick to a few of the main songs about Harry, the more obvious ones. Take Style, for instance (more name-dropping!).
In most of her songs about Harry, Taylor paints him as a bad boy that she should never have been with, which might explain why this particular relationship ended quickly. In Style, she alludes to the paper airplane necklaces that these two were rumored to have swapped.
She also references paper airplanes in Out of the Woods (“your necklace hanging from my neck”) and in the music video she wears a blue, princess-style dress. This dress is similar to one she was photographed in very soon after the breakup.
I Knew You Were Trouble puts the cherry on top of Taylor’s Harry-inspired-music cake. Taylor admitted to this to the Sunday Times after performing the song in front of Harry at the British Music Awards in 2013, claiming that, “it’s not hard to access that emotion when the person the song is directed at is standing by the side of the stage watching”.
Last Kiss, Better Than Revenge, and Forever and Always
Joe Jonas is the ex-boyfriend who infamously broke up with Taylor Swift over a 27-second phone call. Joe and Taylor dated for a few months in 2008, and he was one of her earliest public relationships.
Forever and Always was the first track about Joe, and is a part of the album Fearless. Taylor took a Jonas song and turned it into a cold diss. The song When You Look Me In The Eyes (“When you look me in the eyes / And tell me that you love me”) came out around the same time, and Taylor references it in Forever and Always (“You looked me in the eye / and told me you loved me”).
Additionally, Last Kiss references the date July 9th, when Taylor attended a Jonas Brothers concert but left early. The liner notes spell out Forever and Always as well!
The song Holy Ground seems to reference Joe Jonas as well. But most importantly, the song Better Than Revenge talks not only about Joe but actress Camilla Belle, who came between Joe and Taylor. This is one of those songs that has not aged well, because Taylor’s blatant slut-shaming of Camilla is just not okay, and we all know that now!
Speaking about the song later, Taylor claimed that being only 17 when she wrote it, she was too young to realize that it was wrong.
This one might be the shakiest of all our statements so far but just bear with us a moment. The late Cory Monteith supposedly dated Taylor Swift for less than a month in 2010. Now let’s say that this is true. Even then, it seems strange to write a song called Mine about a guy you barely know.
But that’s exactly what the song is about, and Taylor has explained this when talking about the album it was included in, Speak Now. She said it was about a situation where a guy she barely knew put his arm around her, and she saw the whole relationship flash before her eyes, like a “weird science fiction movie”.
The shoe fits so far (“Do you remember we were sitting there by the water / You put your arm around me for the first time”). Taylor then went on to say that things fell apart pretty quickly as it sometimes happens. But when she wrote the song a few months later, Cory contacted her via email.
Taylor also went on to say that the song is a sort of “half-confession and half-prediction” of what she saw in the relationship. All in all, Mine is a sweet melody, and if anything, it makes the early passing of Cory Monteith even sadder.
Look What You Made Me Do
Look What You Made Me Do is a much-generalized revenge song, and people had a lot of arguments about the subject when it came out. The song could be about two of her exes, but it also likely references her feud with Kanye West. It is also possible, that this song is about all of these things, besides being an obvious “F*** You” from Taylor to her haters.
Kanye references Taylor Swift in his song famous (“I made that b**** famous.” Wow, rude, Kanye) and this revived an old feud between him and her, and of course, Kim Kardashian had to get involved as well. The “I don’t like your tilted stage,” in Look What You Made Me Do likely references the crooked picture that Kanye West painted of Taylor.
It is also likely that Taylor references her ex Calvin Harris in the song. Taylor and Calvin dated for about a year in 2015 and 2016 (making him one of her longest relationships) but the duo had a messy breakup. When it was revealed that Taylor was actually Nils Sjöberg, the writer of Calvin’s This is What You Came For, things got messier. In the music video of Look What You Made Me Do, a headstone with the name Sjöberg sits in the background of Taylor as a zombie.
The music video also features an I [heart] TS shirt like the one Tom Hiddleston was seen wearing in public, but this seems to be more of a joke than an actual diss.
The song Gorgeous from Taylor’s album Reputation is also one that rose many speculations. This seems to be a theme with Taylor’s more current music, as she isn’t as specific about the lyrics as she used to be (probably because of the kind of sexist backlash she has always received).
All in all, Gorgeous is likely about Tom Hiddleston, and not just because Tom is gorgeous. The timeline matches up as well. Taylor met Tom at the Met Gala she attended by herself (when she was still with Calvin Harris, hence the rumours of her cheating on him), and dated for a few months in 2016.
Taylor talks about her boyfriend being older than her and spending a lot of time apart from him despite the relationship having an intense start. This all adds up because Tom was away shooting Thor: Ragnarok at the time.
It was reported that Tom wanted to go public with the relationship which consequently ended their relationship because Taylor didn’t agree with this. Some also suggest that Gorgeous is about Calvin Harris or Joe Alwyn, but the shoe fits best with Tom.
Begin Again is about Conor Kennedy. That’s right, Taylor once dated an actual American royalty! Taylor and Conor dated for a short while in 2012. Begin Again was also released in 2012, as part of the album 1989. In the song, Taylor talks about dating Conor, and about having high hopes for the relationship despite ending quickly.
In an interview with Ryan Seacrest on Good Morning America, Taylor explained that the song was about starting fresh after going through a horrible breakup. It didn’t take long for fans to figure out that the breakup referred to ex-boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal, because Taylor says “He didn’t like it when I wore heels,” further implying that she does now, and Jake was 5’10” whereas Conor was 6’2″.
A bit of a low blow by Taylor, but understandable. She also went on to say that the song was about “the vulnerability that goes along with” breaking up with a bad boyfriend and learning to trust the new one.
Jake, zero. Conor, one.
Teardrops On My Guitar
Teardrops On My Guitar is probably the most obvious and honest song Taylor has ever written. Not only is the guy’s name (Drew) right there in the lyrics, but Taylor has also been quite vocal about why she wrote a song about him, and under which circumstances.
Drew Hardwick is a former classmate of Taylor’s, and unlike the other men on this list, he did not ever date her. In fact, this was a classic case of unrequited love. Taylor had a huge crush on Drew, who only saw her as a friend.
Taylor spoke about how Drew would sit with her and talk about another girl he liked, about how “how beautiful she was, how nice and smart and perfect she was,” and Taylor would just have to smile and pretend to be happy about it (“I fake a smile so he won’t see,” the song checks out again).
Drew did not know about Taylor’s feelings for him and only realized when the song was released, after which he showed up to her house to find out what was going on.
Unfortunately, Drew did not turn out to be the guy that Taylor (and all of us as a result) thought he was. In 2015, Drew Hardwick and his wife, Joni, were arrested for child abuse, and on a three-year-old. With this horrible news coming out, we really can’t blame Taylor if she chooses never to perform Teardrops On My Guitar again.
Love Story and White Horse
Taylor Swift dated Martin Johnson, lead vocalist of Boys Like Girls, for a brief period in 2008. The two fell for each other when recording the song Two is Better Than One for the Hannah Montana movie. Apparently, the two of them were really into each other, but Taylor decided to end things. She was still at the start of her career at the time, and she thought that his punk-rock background wasn’t good for her image.
All else aside, Taylor’s feelings for Martin are clear in the three songs she wrote about him, the most potent ones being Love Story and White Horse. Talking about Love Story, Taylor said she could definitely relate to the Romeo and Juliet situation of not being able to be together, and having to sneak around (read: hide their relationship from the public or should we say publicists. Taylor’s publicist advised her to stay away from him).
Besides White Horse (which is more of a post-breakup song), If This Was A Movie is also about Martin Johnson.
Tim McGraw, Our Song and Fifteen
Brandon Morello was Taylor’s first high school boyfriend, and she ended up writing three songs about him. Let’s look at them one by one, the first being Tim McGraw. This song talks about ending a relationship with a high school boyfriend who goes off to college, and Taylor wishing that some things will remind him of her.
Brandon was a Tim McGraw fan, and Taylor admitted that she wanted Brandon to think of her every time he heard a McGraw song.
Next, we have Fifteen, which is a sweet song about being a teenager who doesn’t understand all the feelings and drama that comes with young love. In addition to being about Brandon, the song also includes another real person: Abigail Anderson, Taylor’s high school BFF (whom she’s still friends with!).
Our Song is also reportedly about Brandon Morello. This is another sweet little tune about a relationship that just had to end, and it was neither party’s fault.