13 Times Taylor Swift’s Ex-Boyfriends Inspired Her Music

taylor swift taylor lautner boyfriend

by Katie Rosseinsky |

They say 'write what you know,' and over her ten-year songwriting career, Taylor Swift has definitely done just that, infamously mining her personal life for lyrical inspiration. Happily, it's a tactic that has brought us break-up anthems like 'We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together' and 'Forever & Always' - and has given us plenty of opportunities to do some digging and discover which relationship inspired which song...

The moral of the story? Don't break Taylor's heart, because she will use your relationship as material for a Grammy-winning mega hit. Men of Hollywood, consider yourself duly warned.

Back To December

Who's it about? Taylor Lautner

Key lyrics: 'So this is me swallowing my pride / Standing in front of you saying, "I'm sorry for that night"'

Usually, Taylor's songs see her on the receiving end of a belated apology from an ex, but in Back To December, it's the singer who's doing the grovelling. Dating from the Speak Now era, this ballad is supposedly directed at Taylor Lautner (aka, the werewolf from Twilight), who dated Tay after starring alongside her in the film Valentine's Day. The actor joins the elite group of Swift exes who actually walk away with a positive write-up. Top marks, Jacob.

We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together

Who's it about? Jake Gyllenhaal

The most explicit takedown of Jake, who Taylor dated in 2010, is reserved for the first single from Red, in which she calls out the actor for his 'exhausting' changes of heart - and his pretentious musical tastes. This one's for everyone who's ever dated a boy who is ever so self-righteous about their choice of music (and definitely wouldn't ever dream of getting down to this. sick. beat...)

Key lyrics: 'You would hide away and find your piece of mind / With some indie record that's much cooler than mine'

Dear John

john mayer taylor swift relationship
John Mayer and Taylor Swift perform at the Jingle Bell Ball, 2009 ©Getty Images

Who's it about? John Mayer

No prizes for guessing who this one's about. Taylor's take on her brief relationship with fellow musician (and notorious serial dater) John Mayer pulls no punches, deploying some classic Swifty imagery in the line 'I'm shining like fireworks / All over your sad empty town.' John later claimed that the song made him feel 'really humiliated.' Boo hoo.

Key lyrics: '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?'


Who's it about? Harry Styles

Once again, the clue with this one is in the name. While the lyrics to 1989's standout track refer to a 'James Dean'-style bad boy, the video lays the Harry allusions on thick, with the appearance of the paper aeroplane necklaces that Swift and Styles reportedly swapped. Remember those, they'll prove important next...

Key lyrics: 'You've got that long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt / And I've got that good girl thing in a tight little skirt'

Out Of The Woods

Who's it about? Harry Styles

Another post-Styles song, and another reference to aeroplane-based statement jewellery. The accompanying video once again ramps up the references to the ex-Directioner: Taylor wears a princessy blue dress that recalls the one she was pictured in straight after the pair's break up.

Key lyrics: 'Remember when you hit the brakes too soon / Twenty stitches in a hospital room?'

Better Than Revenge

taylor swift joe jonas ex boyfriend
With Joe Jonas in 2008 ©Getty Images

Who's it about? Joe Jonas

OK, this one is directed less at JJ than at actress Camilla Belle, who dated Jonas straight after he broke up with Swift. With lyrics like 'No amount of vintage dresses gives you dignity' and 'She thinks I'm psycho 'coz I like to rhyme her name with things,' it's a song which now sits oddly with Taylor's #girlsquad persona. Addressing the song's apparent slut-shaming in a later interview with The Guardian, Swift argued 'I was 18 when I wrote that. That’s the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend.'

Key lyrics: 'She's not a saint and she's not what you think, she's an actress / She's better known for the things that she does on the mattress'

I Knew You Were Trouble

Who's it about? Harry Styles

Trouble, trouble, trouble. Taylor's 2013 single refers to the first time she crossed paths with Styles, and was written during one of the pair's (multiple) break ups. '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,' she later said of her performance at the BRIT Awards in 2013.

Key lyrics: 'I heard you moved on from whispers on the street / A new notch in your belt is all I'll ever be'

All Too Well

Who's it about? Jake Gyllenhaal

Rewind to 2010, and Taylor was pictured out on a wintery stroll with Jake Gyllenhaal, wrapped up in a black striped scarf and clutching Starbucks maple lattes. Fastforward to the release of Red in 2012, and that very scarf crops up again, this time as a throwaway-but-actually-significant lyric in All Too Well, a song which Swift has since described as being extremely difficult to write. 'All Too Well' was the hardest to write because it took me a long time to filter through everything I wanted to say,' she told Good Morning America.

Key lyrics: 'I left my scarf there, at your sister's house / And you've still got it in your drawer even now'


Who's it about? Corey Monteith

While neither Taylor nor Corey ever confirmed that they were 'a thing,' rumours emerged that the pair were dating in the summer of 2010 - which lines up perfectly with the arrival of Mine, a track which Taylor described as being about the moment when a guy 'that I just barely knew put his arm around me by the water, and I saw the entire relationship flash before my eyes.'

Key lyrics: 'Do you remember, we were sitting there by the water? You put your arm around me for the first time'

Forever & Always

taylor swift joe jonas
Taylor Swift and Joe Jonas ©Getty Images

If there's anything that our close research into Taylor's ouevre has taught us, it's that you do not trifle with Swifty's emotions without paying the price. After Jonas Brother No. 2 dumped Taylor in a 27 second (yep, less than half a minute) phone call, the singer hit back with one of her most emotionally raw tracks to date. And Joe does not come out of it well. Advantage, Swift.

Who's it about? Joe Jonas

Key lyrics: 'Was I out of line? Did I say something way too honest? Made you run and hide / Like a scared little boy?'

Teardrops On My Guitar

Who's it about? Drew Hardwick

Who? Like most of Taylor's early material, 'Teardrops' takes inspiration from her high school days - and in this case, her unrequited crush on classmate Drew Hardwick, who gets name-checked in the verses. OK, he doesn't exactly count as an ex, but this is another classic example of Tay having the last laugh. According to Swift, Hardwick showed up at her house two years after she wrote the song. Her response? 'Wow, you're late!'

Key lyrics: 'Drew talks to me, I laugh 'cause it's just so funny / That I can't even see anyone when he's with me'

The Story Of Us

Who's it about? Joe Jonas. Or is it John Mayer?

This one's a classic tale of awkwardly bumping into your ex - although for Taylor, this takes place at major awards shows, rather than in your local Tesco Metro. 'I was at an awards show, and there was a guy there, obviously — it all starts there, doesn't it?' she later explained. The album booklet for Speak Now alludes to the CMT Awards, meaning this could possibly be directed at Joe Jonas, or John Mayer.

Key lyrics: 'How'd we end up this way? See me nervously pulling at my clothes and trying to look busy / And you're doing your best to avoid me'

Begin Again

Who's It About? Conor Kennedy

A tale of picking yourself back up after a horrible break-up and dragging yourself out on a date, or, as Taylor told Ryan Seacrest of 'when you've gotten through a really bad relationship and you finally dust yourself off.' At the time of writing, Taylor was dating Conor Kennedy (yes, as in, the Kennedys). Bonus points for the sideswipe at 5' 11 Jake Gyllenhaal in the line 'He didn't like it when I wore high heels, but I do.' Ouch.

Key lyrics: 'You throw your head back laughing like a little kid /

I think it's strange that you think I'm funny 'cause he never did'

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