Taylor Swift and a very pointed song title: Why everyone is talking about John Mayer.

It's not a great weekend to be John Mayer.

Despite pleas from Taylor Swift herself, the musician's third re-recorded album, Speak Now (Taylor's Version) has been released and Mayer, the presumed but not confirmed muse of the album's most talked about tracks, is facing a lot of blowback.

The long story short is that Mayer and Swift were linked in 2009, when she was 19 and he was 32. Based on music released on the original Speak Now, he's since become a major online enemy of many Swift fans.

The longer story is, well, this:

Okay, some quick context.

On July 7, Swift dropped Speak Now (Taylor's Version), the re-recording of her 2010 third album. As is the case with her re-recording project, this included the tracks from the original album, plus songs she wrote during that time in her life that we haven't heard before.

Speak Now (Taylor's Version) was highly anticipated by fans because it is a fan favourite album that Swift wrote on her own aged 19-20, with no co-writers.

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The album is wide-ranging and covers a lot of Swift lore from the early days of her stardom – from her response to the 2009 VMAs ('Innocent'), to a terribly unfeminist banger about a girl she blamed for stealing her boyfriend ('Better Than Revenge') to an apology to an ex she regretted hurting ('Back To December').


But the more dominating narrative from Speak Now is that it is also the album where she released the 'John Mayer songs', especially 'Dear John', an eviscerating near seven-minute power ballad about a 19-year-old's tumultuous relationship with an older man.

And it is styled like a John Mayer song, guitar solo and all.

An abbreviated history of Taylor Swift and John Mayer.

In March 2009 — a few months after Swift's second album Fearless was released, after 'Love Story' was blowing up but before 'You Belong With Me' did the same — Mayer tweeted about wanting her to collaborate on a song he had written called 'Half of My Heart'.

Two months later, Mayer joined Swift onstage during her tour stop in LA, and she also gushed about his collab request in an interview with Elle.

"I freaked out when I heard, because I've been such a big fan of John for such a long time," she said. "I'm really excited about just the idea that he would even mention me in his Twitter!"

'In this Twitter'? It's so painfully 2009.


In November, 'Half Of My Heart' was released as a duet on Mayer's fourth album Battle Studies, and they performed it at Z100's Jingle Ball in New York City a month later.

From here, romance rumours spread although, of course, no one confirmed anything.

Fast forward to October 2010 and Swift releases Speak Now, featuring 'Dear John'.

'Dear John'.

Obviously, 'Dear John' contains John Mayer's name, so it made sense that people latched on to the fact that the song was about him. But Swift maintained plausible deniability by leaning into the double meaning: a Dear John letter is a letter written to a man by his romantic partner to inform him that their relationship is over.

It gets much harder to deny once you notice 'Dear John' opens with a guitar and contains Mayer-esque licks all through it.


It's almost a parody of how Mayer structures his guitar in his music.

As for the lyrics:

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

And in the second chorus, she sings: "Dear John, I see it all now, it was wrong, don't you think nineteen's too young to be played by your dark, twisted games when I loved you so? I should've known."

So yeah, it's brutal.

The song is a kiss-off about a relationship where the younger party feels manipulated by an older man and ends with Swift deciding to move on but hold him accountable.

In an interview with Rolling Stone in 2012, Mayer said the song "humiliated" him and dismissed it as "cheap songwriting".

"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?" he said.

'Dear John' was a staple on Swift's set list throughout the Speak Now tour, but she then put it back on the shelf – where it sat for more than 11 years.

"I'm not putting this album out so that you should go and feel the need to defend me on the internet."

On June 24, 2023 during the surprise acoustic segment of her Eras Tour, Swift performed 'Dear John' for the first time since March 2012.


On stage, she explained she was excited to release the re-record of Speak Now, but she also had a request for fans.

"I was hoping to ask you, as we lead up to this album coming out, I would love for that kindness and that gentleness to extend onto our internet activities," she said, referencing the fact that she saw fans spark friendships and trade bracelets each night during the tour.

"I'm putting this out now because I want to own my music and I believe that any artist who has the desire to own their music should be able to. That's why I'm putting out this album.

"I'm 33 years old. I don't care about anything that happened to me when I was 19... I'm not putting this album out so that you should go and feel the need to defend me on the internet against someone you think I might have written the song about 14 million years ago.


"I do not care, we have all grown up. We're good."

With that, she said she was playing the song after so long because she was proud of it.


Based on how out of control the negativity around Jake Gyllenhaal got when she released Red (Taylor's Version) in 2021, most people considered this Swift trying to get in front of any upcoming Mayer backlash and try to shift fan's focus from the people they think wronged her to a celebration of her owning her music.

During the Red (Taylor's Version) kerfuffle, Mayer actually responded to a person who had sent him a death threat – which shows how extreme this stuff can get.

Image: Twitter.


Obviously, stuff like that is seriously messed up. 

Two years on, Swift's on-stage plea hasn't stopped Mayer's social media comments from being absolutely flooded. But at least she tried?

The other Mayer songs.

Just in case you're still feeling nosey – there is more (presumed) Speak Now x John Mayer content.

'The Story Of Us' is almost certainly about Swift and Mayer feeling awkward when they saw each other at the 2010 CMT Awards, and songs like 'Superman' and 'Ours' are clearly from the relationship's initial days, where Swift sings of idolising a man who everyone in her life warned her about.

Mayer released a song called 'Paper Doll' in 2013. He has said it's not about the person people think it's about, but it contains the lyric "you're like 22 girls in one", and I don't know about you but I'm feeling (like) 22 (is a painfully obvious nod to Swift).

On the bonus 3am Edition of her 2022 album Midnights, Swift released a song called 'Would've Could've Should've', about ruminating on an age-inappropriate romantic relationship that still haunts her.

If clarity's in death, then why won't this die?
Years of tearing down our banners, you and I
Living for the thrill of hitting you where it hurts
Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first

Her collaborator Aaron Dessner told the Broken Record Podcast that they wrote the song after winning Album of the Year at the 2021 Grammys, in which both Mayer and Swift also performed.

Feature image: Getty.

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