John Mayer

What is John Mayer saying about Taylor Swift in "Paper Dolls"?

June 19, 2013 at 1:08 PM ET

John Mayer and Taylor Swift Song
Theo Wargo/WireImage for Clear Channel Radio New York /
John Mayer and Taylor Swift Song

"If I'm gonna write songs about my exes, they can write about me," Taylor Swift has said. To our knowledge, none of Taylor's famous exes have accepted her challenge—until now. John Mayer's new single "Paper Doll" appears to be a direct response to Swift's 2010 song about Mayer, "Dear John." Watch the lyric video below!

The accompanying footage, if you didn't recognize it, is taken from a viral video promoting a workout called "Prancercise." It's as if John asked his producers: What can we show that's the furthest possible thing from Taylor Swift?

The song, however, is full of Swift references. If you didn't catch them all, let us help you out with our handy guide. Based entirely on speculation and song lyrics, here's what we think John is trying to say with "Paper Doll!"

1. Taylor wasn't honest with him.
Mayer sings about the girl in the song trying on different dresses like different identities: "Paper doll, come try it on/ Step out of that black chiffon/ Here’s a dress of gold and blue/ Sure was fun being good to you." The implication: as soon as they broke up, Swift became somebody else. (Related: in her song "Dear John," Swift calls herself "the girl in the dress" who "cried the whole way home.")

2. Taylor doesn't know herself, let alone him.
"You're like twenty-two girls in one/ And none of them know what they're runnin' from," Mayer sings in the chorus. There are two likely Swift references in here: the single "22," and a lyric in "Dear John:" "I'll look back and regret/ How I ignored when they said/ Run as fast as you can." 

3. Taylor uses men for inspiration, then dumps them—and pretends to be the innocent one.
In "Dear John," Swift sings, "You paint me a blue sky/ And go back and turn it to rain." Mayer suggests that the girl in "Paper Doll" pretends to be an angel, singing, "If those angel wings don't fly/ Someone's gonna paint you another sky." 

John Mayer made no secret of his feelings when Swift released "Dear John" in 2010, telling Rolling Stone, "It made me feel terrible... I never did anything to deserve that. It was a really lousy thing for her to do." Swift, in turn, called Mayer "presumptuous" for assuming the song was about him—which was a total cop-out, because his name is in the title.

Is "Paper Doll" supposed to Mayer's revenge? Seems kind of petty, honestly—especially coming from a 35-year-old man to a 23-year-old girl. Still, it's interesting to see another singer-songwriter try to beat Taylor at her own game. Wonder if Harry Styles will take a shot next?

A version of this story originally appeared on iVillage.

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