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"Dear John" vs. "Paper Doll"

Updated on November 11, 2013

How "Dear John" is a Dig at John Mayer

Taylor Swift, 23, and John Mayer, 36, had a highly publicized relationship back in 2009. Mayer's reputation as a "love 'em and leave 'em" kind of guy led fans of each music star to wonder how long this relationship would last. These buzzing questions were answered when the relationship crumbled and we now seem to be gaining even more insight into the burnt-out flame through each musician's songwriting.

In Taylor Swift's hit album, Speak Now (2010), she wrote a song called "Dear John." So what clues does she give that this song is about John Mayer? Here are some striking examples:

1. The Title

Okay, okay, so this is an obvious one but we can't let it slip by.

2. John Mayer-Sounding Guitar Chords Ring Throughout the Song

Quintessential John Mayer guitar chords, similar to those from his hit song "Gravity," provide the groundwork for the song's melody. Swift even adds a short guitar solo that is characteristic of most Mayer songs (and highly uncharacteristic of her own sound.)

3."And I'll look back in regret how I ignored when they said, 'run as fast as you can.'"

This line could refer to the fact that people warned her about Mayer. They told her to "run as fast as she could," presumably because he's a well-known player.

4. "Don’t you think nineteen’s too young to be played by your dark, twisted games?"

Swift was 19 when she and Mayer dated. The "dark twisted games" is yet another piece of evidence attesting to the fact that Mayer treats love as a game.

5. "The girl in the dress wrote you a song, you should’ve known."

Swift may be referring to herself since it's a well known fact that she writes songs about her break ups and exes. (This also isn't the first time she's named names in a song.)

This is by no means an exhaustive list of the clues Swift uses to tip off fans about her inspiration for this song (*cough* John Mayer.) Although she never confirmed that the song was written for Mayer, she does confess to writing songs about her personal experiences. I think it's safe to say that whoever "John" may be, he was an older man who toyed with her emotions and let her down in a heartbreaking manner. Or is that just her own take?

How "Paper Doll" is a Fire Back at Taylor Swift

John Mayer appears to have taken the opportunity to answer Swift's "Dear John" in a song from his new album, Paradise Valley (2013), called "Paper Doll." Like Swift, Mayer refuses to disclose who this song is about about, but we're all thinking it's about Swift, anyway. Here's why:

1. Mayer was hurt by "Dear John"

According to Rolling Stone magazine, "Dear John" really hurt and angered John Mayer. All this emotion may have catalyzed the songwriter to compose "Paper Doll" as a response to Swift's harsh words.

2. Taylor Swift Resembles a Paper Doll

She's tall, thin and has a pale complexion - all features characteristic of a paper doll.

3. "Step out of that black chiffon; here’s a dress of gold and blue"

This could be in reference to Taylor Swift's new style. For her "Red" Tour (2013), she primarily wore black and white with red accents. John Mayer may be suggesting that she step out of her new style (black chiffon) and return to her old roots (a dress of gold and blue - perhaps even the one that "the girl in the dress" wore in "Dear John.")

4. "You’re like twenty-two girls in one, and none of them know what they’re runnin’ from."

One of Taylor's hit songs from Red (2012) was titled "22," which also happened to be her age at the time. Did John Mayer really pull the number 22 out of thin air? I think not.

Another clue in these lyrics is "and none of them know what they're runnin' from," which may be a dig at Taylor's string of failed relationships in the past few years. He's suggesting that she's the one running away, not the men who she's been singing about.

5. "Fold a scarf, Moroccan red"

Her newest album is entitled Red and it has also become her signature color in the past year.

6. "And if those angel wings don’t fly, someone’s gonna paint you another sky"

This seems to be a direct response to Taylor's words in "Dear John:" "You paint me a blue sky, then go back and turn it to rain." Mayer may be suggesting that if Swift isn't completely satisfied with a man, she quickly goes in search of a new one.

This song presents a fresh perspective on the relationship that went down between Swift and Mayer. In this presentation, Mayer treated Swift well, but she was the one who was unready for a relationship, not him.


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