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taylor swift on the eras tour
taylor swift on the eras tour
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Culture > Entertainment

Here’s Who These ‘Speak Now (Taylor’s Version)’ Songs Are About

If you’re a diehard Swiftie like myself, you have been counting down the days until the Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) re-release on July 7. The 2010 album is a fan favorite, featuring some of Swift’s most iconic songs like “Dear John,” “Better Than Revenge,” and “Enchanted.” It’s definitely my most anticipated Taylor’s Version, and is considered a turning point where she came into her own as a songwriter. Her lyrics in songs like “Haunted” and “Back to December” showed how much growth and introspection she was capable of.

However, as impressive as the pieces are on their own, understanding the context makes them all the more amazing. And as we all know, Swift often pulls from her personal life and relationships for inspiration in her music. But who was Taylor Swift dating during Speak Now when these songs were originally written? In honor of these songs making a comeback, I’m going to break down what we know about the real-life inspirations for these songs. 

Joe Jonas

joe jonas in 2008
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Swift and Jonas, or as he is better known to Swifties, “Mr. Perfectly Fine,” dated from July to October of 2008 — technically before the Speak Now era. She had already written a few songs about him on her 2008 album Fearless, mainly “Forever and Always,” which Swift confirmed was about Jonas in an interview with People in November 2008.

Their breakup was tense, to say the least, and led to a great deal of public outcry after Swift revealed that Jonas had dumped her over the phone in an interview on Ellen. So brutal! Swift kept it together for a public appearance alongside Jonas on Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve in 2008, where she performed “Love Story” and “Forever and Always.” On the other hand, Jonas chose to perform his breakup track, “Tonight.” I swear, the audacity of this man!

Swift also references Jonas in another Speak Now track, “Last Kiss.” The song contains a few covert references, and the liner notes, which you can also find on Genius, read “Forever and Always,” seemingly confirming that Jonas was the inspiration. And while it’s not specifically about Jonas, it’s believed that the Speak Now track “Better than Revenge” is about Camilla Belle, who dated Jonas directly after Swift.

However, despite all the drama, the two have patched things up though in years since, and Swift now has a good relationship with him and his wife, Sophie Turner. One of the most touching lines in “invisible string,” “For the boys who broke my heart, Now I send their babies presents,” is also believed to be about the couple’s child. 

Taylor Lautner

taylor lautner in 2009
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Swift and Lautner dated briefly in 2009, and the relationship inspired the song “Back to December.” They met on the set of Valentine’s Day, a romantic comedy where they played childhood sweethearts. Their relationship overlaps with some of Swift’s most iconic moments: He was her date for the 2009 MTV Music Awards, where Kanye West famously upstaged Swift, and he’s referenced in her Saturday Night Live monologue from the same year, the unforgettable “Monologue Song.”

In a 2010 interview with Yahoo! Music, Swift elaborated on her inspiration for the song, a strong stylistic departure from the past breakup songs she had written. Its melancholy lyrics are an apology to the Twilight star. “​​Up until now, I haven’t really felt like I really needed to apologize to someone,” she said. Lautner also confirmed that the song was about him in a Facebook Live with Scream Queens co-star Lea Michele in August 2016.

John Mayer

john mayer and taylor swift
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Mayer and Swift dated from the end of 2009, after her breakup with Lautner, until February 2010. The relationship has been steeped in controversy due to their extreme age gap. At the time, Swift was only 19, and Mayer was a decade her senior, 32 years old.

Unlike Lautner, the two still do not appear to be on speaking terms and have not had any public interactions since, with the exception of Swift’s reference to him during the Eras Tour in Minneapolis on June 24. At the concert, she told fans not to be too harsh on the fellow musician (though without naming him) after Taylor’s Version drops. She then performed an acoustic version of the most popular song about their relationship, “Dear John.” 

It’s also implied that “The Story of Us,” a song about an awkward encounter post-breakup, is about Mayer as well. Who Magazine reported the liner notes, secret messages in the lyric booklet that comes with her CDs, hinted that the event in question was the 2010 CMT awards. The two were seated in close proximity.It’s also widely believed that “would’ve, could’ve, should’ve” from Midnights is also about this relationship. The lyric, “I should have never danced with the devil at 19,” is some of the strongest evidence. Thats the same age Taylor was when they dated. 

Yet Swift isn’t the only one who’s written songs about this relationship, either. Honorable mention here is ”Half of My Heart: from Mayer’s album Battle Studies. He tweeted Swift asking her to collaborate, and they did one public performance of the song at the 2009 Jingle Ball. The song “Paper Doll” is theorized to be a direct response to “Dear John.” It included several motifs from some of Taylors’ biggest hits, such as the number 22, the name of one of the biggest singles from her album Red, and a red scarf, pulled from “All Too Well.”

Alexa Wilson is a culture and entertainment writer in the Her Campus National Writers Program. She writes articles based on current events in pop culture through the lens of Gen Z. This includes celebrity news, TV, film, and literature. Beyond Her Campus, she works as managing editor for Loyola Marymount University’s The Lion, an online publication covering Los Angeles. She oversees the scheduling and communication of an 18-person student team and fact check and formatting articles. She is also the treasurer of the LMU Women in Politics Organization, a student advocacy group promoting young women's involvement in politics. She also oversees planning and budgeting for fundraisers and events. In her free time, Alexa enjoys doing pottery and going to the beach. Her favorite guilty pleasure is watching Below Deck with her friends.