From 'Cry Me A River' to 'Bad Blood': 15 famous songs that are actually about other celebrities.

Whether it’s about a current lover, friend, foe or past relationship, there is plenty of inspiration for musicians to draw on. And we love it. 

Let’s take a look at some of your favourite songs and the stories behind them: namely which hits are written about other celebrities.

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Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears.

What goes around comes back around...

Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears were one of the hottest celebrity couples during the late '90s, known for their iconic red carpet outfits including that denim ensemble.

But when the couple ended their three-year relationship in 2002, it took the world by surprise.

With rumours swirling around, many suggesting the relationship had ended due to cheating, next came music from both sides that can only really be described as revenge ballads.  

'Cry Me a River' was released in 2002 by Timberlake, while the 2004 hit 'Everytime' was Spears' response to their breakup.

And finally, we came full circle back to Timberlake in 2006 with the one and only 'What Goes Around... Comes Around.' 

Image: Getty.


In light of the Free Britney movement, there were calls for Timberlake to publicly apologise for his role in profiting off the cheating rumours.

Directing his apology to Spears, he wrote on his Instagram: "The industry is flawed. It sets men, especially white men, up for success. It’s designed this way. As a man in a privileged position, I have to be vocal about this."

He continued: "Because of my ignorance, I didn’t recognise it for all that it was while it was happening in my own life but I do not want to ever benefit from others being pulled down again."

It would seem that all is well and good on Spears' side too. The singer uploaded a video of herself dancing to her ex’s song in 2020. 

She captioned the post: "PS: I know we had one of the world’s biggest breakups 20 years ago... but hey, the man is a genius! Great song JT!"

Taylor Swift and Harry Styles.

When a relationship consists of two singer-songwriters, you are potentially in for a bit of a messy breakup.  

Image: Getty.


It is assumed Harry Styles and Taylor Swift were dating around the 2012 to 2013 era.

Swifty songs that fans think are about the One Direction star include 'Style', 'Out of the Woods', 'I Knew You Were Trouble', and 'Cardigan.' 

"At least they’re good songs," Styles said in an interview with Howard Stern. 

"I think about what it means to me to write a song about somebody else and for somebody else to do that, it’s like flattering. Even if the song isn’t that flattering, you still spent time on it and ultimately, using Taylor as an example, she’s a great songwriter."

Styles' track 'Two Ghosts' is speculated to be about Swift as well.

Taylor Swift and Katy Perry.

What really happened between Taylor Swift and Katy Perry?

Image: Getty.

Perhaps it had something to do with John Mayer, given they respectively dated him within a short timeframe of one another. 

It could have also been because of a supposed steal of one another’s backup dancers. 

Who knows really? 

But what we do know is that the pair wrote very popular diss tracks about each other. Swift’s 2015 anthem 'Bad Blood', starring her "girl gang" of models and celebs, was inspired by her feud with Perry. 


Perry then returned the favour with 'Swish Swish' in 2017. 

The pair have since put their differences aside, with a literal olive branch and plate of cookies.

Taylor Swift and Kanye West.

In 2016, Kanye West released his song 'Famous', a song that includes the lines:

I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex
Why? I made that b*tch famous (God damn)
I made that bitch famous.

Image: Getty.

How charming of him. We haven’t exactly forgotten the 2009 VMAs run-in between the two as well, where West grabbed the microphone from Swift's hands during her acceptance speech for Best Female Video. 

Upon releasing 'Famous', West claimed he had Swift’s permission regarding the lines prior to its release. She denied this, which led to Kim Kardashian releasing 22 videos on Snapchat that showed West on the phone to Swift.

But alas, we now know the full story. Last year, the full phone call between West and Swift was leaked, and it turns out the video released by Kardashian and West was not entirely truthful.

In true Swift fashion, she channelled the experience into a killer song, 'Look What You Made Me Do.' Maybe West has learnt his lesson now. 

Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez.

Image: Getty.


Respectively in their late teens at the time, Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez were in an on-again-off-again relationship for seven years between 2011 and 2018.

The 2020 pop song 'Lose You To Love Me' was based on Gomez’s allegedly "emotionally abusive" relationship with Bieber.

Talking to NPR about the song, the singer said: "I felt I didn’t get a respectful closure, and I had accepted that, but I know I needed some way to just say a few things that I wish I had said."

She continued: "It’s not a hateful song; it’s a song that is saying: I had something beautiful and I would never deny that it wasn’t that. It was very difficult and I’m happy it’s over."

Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding.

Ed Sheeran and Ellie Goulding are both now married to their respective partners. But before those current relationships, the pair were said to be an item in 2013.

But the relationship allegedly soured, with cheating rumours involving One Direction’s Niall Horan. 

Image: Getty.


But with a broken heart, comes some absolute tunes: including Sheeran’s 'Don’t' in 2014.

Trust and respect is what we do this for
I never intended to be next (you bastard)
But you didn't need to take him to bed, that's all
And I never saw him as a threat (you bastard)
Until you disappeared with him to have sex, of course
It's not like we were both on tour
We were staying on the same fucking hotel floor
And I wasn't looking for a promise or commitment
 But it was never just fun, and I thought you were different.

"The story in 'Don’t' is 100 per cent true. I could have gotten nastier: there was more sh*t that I didn’t put in," Sheeran said in an interview with Billboard Magazine.

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen.

Finally, a song not about heartbreak!

Of course, musician extraordinaire John Legend’s song 'All of Me' is about wife Chrissy Teigen.

Image: Getty.


I cannot tell you how many weddings I’ve been to with this song playing in the background. And there’s a good reason why.

"The more you know someone, the more you’re inspired by your relationship," Legend told the LA Confidential.

"Also, I grew up just learning what it means to be in love with somebody... because I had never really been in love before. I guess you have to grow enough to be able to write that song with sincerity and authenticity."

Miley Cyrus and Nick Jonas.

A bit of a throwback to the Disney child star days, Miley Cyrus and Nick Jonas were dating on and off for two years until 2008. And soon after came '7 Things.'

In her autobiography Miles to Go, Cyrus shared the back story behind the song.

Image: Getty.

"I was angry when I wrote '7 Things.' I wanted to punish [Jonas], to get back at him for hurting me," she wrote.

"It starts with a list of what I hate. But I'm not a hater. My heart knew from the start that it was going to turn into a love song. Why does he get a love song? Because I don't hate him. I won't let myself hate anybody.

"It’s about forgiving and forgetting. But you know, at least I'm getting some good songs out of it."

Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth.

Together on and off from 2008 until 2019, songs of both heartache and love were based on the relationship between Miley Cyrus and Liam Hemsworth.

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The loved-up ballads inspired by Hemsworth include 'Adore You' and 'Malibu.'

On the other hand, her songs like 'Midnight Sky', 'Slide Away', and 'Wrecking Ball' are about the couple’s chaotic moments.

I was born to run, I don't belong to anyone, oh no
I don't need to be loved by you. 

I want my house in the hills
Don't want the whiskey and pills.

So won't you slide away
Back to the ocean, I'll go back to the city lights.

We clawed, we chained, our hearts in vain.

Image: Getty.

Mariah Carey and Eminem. 

There’s a bit of drama to unpack between these two.

There has been public tension since the rapper alleged the pair had a relationship in the early 2000s: something that Carey has always staunchly denied.

In 2005, Eminem played her alleged voicemails in the middle of his concert. According to In Touch Weekly, the messages allegedly included Carey saying, "Why won’t you see me? Why won’t you call me?" Carey's team claimed that the woman on the tapes wasn't her.

But it seemed that Eminem couldn’t let it go.

Image: Getty.


In 2009, some seven or so years after the rumours first started, he spoke about her yet again on the song, 'Bagpipes From Baghdad.'

In retaliation, Carey’s 2009 song 'Obsessed' was incredibly successful on the charts, namely because it painted Eminem as an infatuated, and you guess it, obsessed boy.

Billy Joel, Christie Brinkley and Elle Macpherson. 

Imagine your boyfriend writes a song about you, the two of you decide to break up soon afterwards, and then your ex’s new partner features in the music video.

Well, this is exactly what happened with Billy Joel’s 'Uptown Girl.'

In the early 1980s, Elle Macpherson and Billy Joel dated. But once the pair split, Joel soon became involved with American model Christie Brinkley, who then appeared in the song’s music video.

Image: Getty.


Carly Simon and Warren Beatty

'You're So Vain' by American singer-songwriter Carly Simon has been one of pop music’s most enduring mysteries with fans always trying to uncover who the song was really written about.

The hit gained even more popularity through the cult rom-com How Lose a Guy in 10 Days, with the iconic scene between Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey sledging one another through song.  

As for who the song is inspired by? American actor, director and producer Warren Beatty, who was an ex-lover of Simon’s in the '70s.

According to the singer herself in an interview with People, the second verse of 'You're So Vain' is about Beatty. 

"I have confirmed that the second verse is Warren," she said. "He thinks the whole thing is about him!"

Image: Getty.

INXS and Kylie Minogue.

In 1989, Kylie Minogue, who was in a relationship with her Neighbours co-star Jason Donovan at the time, met Michael Hutchence after an INXS gig.


After Hutchence invited the couple to an after party, the INXS frontman reportedly began flirting with the pop star.

Speaking on A Current Affair in 2014, Minogue shared that their chemistry was instant. When Hutchence approached Minogue, he said: "I don’t know what we should do first, have lunch or have sex."

"He did ask to kiss me numerous times, and I did say no numerous times," Minogue said.

Just months after the party, Donovan was no longer in the picture, and Minogue and Hutchence’s relationship began.

Fans have long believed Minogue was the inspiration behind INXS hit song, 'Suicide Blonde.' And rumours were confirmed by Minogue in 2020 when she spoke to News Corp in an interview.

Image: Getty.

"'Suicide Blonde' came from me talking about my character in The Delinquents. We met just after that. My hairdresser called the [colour of the] wig I had to wear suicide blonde."

Lily Allen and George W Bush.

'F*** You' was quite the expletive anthem in the late 2000s. Lily Allen went political with her lyrics for the dance pop track, speaking out against then-US President George W. Bush.

So, you say it's not okay to be gay, well; I think you're just evil
You're just some racist who can't tie my laces
Your point of view is medieval

You say, you think we need to go to war, well, you're already in one.

And the message most definitely got through. 


Other performing artists such as Pink with 'Dear Mr. President', and 'Holiday' and 'American Idiot' by Green Day were songs influenced by George W. Bush as well.

Image: Getty.

Feature Image: Getty / Mamamia.

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