Every Taylor Swift Song From Speak Now And Which Ex It Might Be About

As most Taylor Swift fans probably already know, her songwriting tends to be fairly confessional and intimate. The singer often writes about her own life — particularly when it comes to her past relationships. Exes like Harry Styles, Jake Gyllenhaal, John Mayer, Taylor Lautner, Tom Hiddleston, and now, Joe Alwyn, have all been the subject of her music over the years. 

In 2023, Swift announced that her next re-recording would be her 2010 album, "Speak Now." The album features classics like "Enchanted," "Haunted," "Mine," and "Sparks Fly." As Swift wrote in her liner notes for the album, the songs are "open letters" to people she loves or has loved. "Each[ song] is written with a specific person in mind, telling them what I meant to tell them in person," she wrote.

But even the biggest Swifties may be wracking their brains wondering, "Which exes are these songs actually about, again?" As it turns out, the "Speak Now" era featured a couple of significant exes for Swift. So, ahead of the re-release of the album on July 7, 2023, let's go all the way back to 2010 to take a look at the inspiration behind Swift's third album.

Mine - a boy she had a crush on

The first song on "Speak Now" is called "Mine," and tells the story of two childhood sweethearts who get past hurdles in their relationship. While we don't know the exact identity of the person who inspired this love song, Swift has dropped a few hints over the years. 

During an interview with Rolling Stone (via Sounds Like Nashville), Swift confessed, "I was reflecting back on a boy I liked at a certain time. The song is about what it would be like if I actually let my guard down." In other words, it sounds like Swift wrote this song about an imagined relationship with a boy she never actually dated in real life. In fact, based on Swift's commentary for the music video, it does seem like this song is about a fantasy relationship. "In the end, you realize, was it a flash forward? Did it happen? Is it something she daydreamed happened?" Swift said. "You don't know, none of us know. I don't even know." 

The hidden clue in the liner notes for the album suggests that the song is about a boy named Toby. However, Toby Hemingway is also the actor who played her love interest in the music video.

Sparks Fly - Jake Owen

The second song on the album, "Sparks Fly," is another love song — this time, an ode to the exciting chemistry — or flying sparks — she feels for an unnamed crush. Once again, we don't know exactly who this song was written about. However, some fans have guessed that the song was inspired by Jake Owen, a country singer.

As one fan noted, Swift might have written "Sparks Fly" days after she opened for Owen during his tour in 2006 — she first performed the song in 2007. At the time, she wrote a gushing blog post about him. "I've had his album on repeat for the past couple of months.. It's an amazing album and I literally cannot stop listening to it," she wrote (via Sounds Like Nashville). "I've got every line memorized." And, of course, Owen has the same green eyes that Swift mentions in the song. 

In the "Swiftly Spoken" podcast, another fan explained the theory in more detail, noting that Swift did actually meet Owen at a bar — another clue that "Sparks Fly" is about him. One final clue: her liner notes include the hint "Portland, Oregon" — and as it turns out, that's exactly where she first met Owen.

Back to December - Taylor Lautner

In "Back to December," Taylor Swift sings about her regrets regarding a relationship that is falling apart: "So this is me swallowing my pride/Standing in front of you, saying, 'I'm sorry for that night,'/And I go back to December all the time." Since the song's release, it has been confirmed that it was written about Taylor Lautner. The pair dated for several months in 2009 and the song seems to reference their breakup in December of that year. 

One lyric — "I miss your tanned skin, your sweet smile/So good to me, so right/And how you held me in your arms that September night/The first time you ever saw me cry" — is widely thought to be a reference to the night of the VMAs when Kanye West interrupted Swift on stage. Lautner and Swift were dating at the time and he was actually the one who presented the award to her — so the lyric could be a reference to what happened later that night. Her liner notes include the hint "Tay" — which, it seems, is a reference to Lautner.

Speak Now - inspired by a friend's story

The title song of the album, "Speak Now," follows a girl who crashes a wedding to proclaim her love for the groom. "Don't say yes, run away now," Swift sings. "I'll meet you when you're out/Of the church, at the back door." As far as we know, Swift has never crashed a wedding! However, it turns out this song was inspired by real events.

On her website (via Last.fm), Swift wrote that the song was actually about something that happened to one of her friends. "This song was inspired by one of my friends who was telling me about her childhood sweetheart, crush guy," Swift wrote. "They were kind of together in high school and went their separate ways, and it was kind of understood that they were gonna get back together. Then, she one day comes in and tells me he's getting married." Swift apparently asked her friend if she would go to the church to "speak now."

In fact, Swift even offered to go with her: "Later I had a dream about one of my ex-boyfriends getting married, and it just all came together that I needed to write this song about interrupting a wedding."

Dear John - John Mayer

One song that we definitely know the truth about is "Dear John," the fifth song on "Speak Now," which details a traumatic relationship with an older man named John. We now know that the track was written about her relationship with singer John Mayer. The two artists dated briefly before "Speak Now" was released.

After the song was released, Mayer told Rolling Stone, "It was a really lousy thing to do. I never got an email. I never got a phone call. I was really caught off guard." When later asked by an interviewer about Mayer's comments, Swift replied with an eye roll, "Oh, come on." In another interview with Glamour, Swift said of his comments, "How presumptuous! I never disclose who my songs are about." Still, it's pretty clear that this one was about Mayer. Mayer later wrote a song called "Paper Doll" that many fans speculate was about Swift as it contains references to "Dear John."

Mean - Bob Lefsetz

In her song, "Mean," Taylor Swift sings to someone who is unnecessarily cruel with their words. In the song, she states, "Someday, I'll be livin' in a big old city/And all you're ever gonna be is mean." While this song may initially sound like it's about an ex-boyfriend, most fans agree that the song was actually inspired by music critic, Bob Lefsetz. In an interview at the time, Swift explained, "When you do what I do, which is you put yourself out there for a lot of people to say whatever they want about it, there's — there are a million different opinions from a million different people. There's constructive criticism, there's professional criticism — and then there's just being mean."

According to The San Diego Union-Tribune, Lefsetz was initially a fan of Swift, but after a performance at the 2010 Grammys, he claimed that she was a bad singer. Most believe that "Mean" was a response to his comments. When asked about his comments, he said, "This is show business, not show friends." Lefsetz also wrote a blog post in response to the song, concluding, "She still can't sing. And if this song is really about me, I wish it were better."

The Story Of Us - John Mayer

In "The Story Of Us," Taylor Swift sings about a relationship that seems to have fallen apart. "I used to think one day, we'd tell the story of us/How we met and the sparks flew instantly/And people would say, 'They're the lucky ones." Later in the song, Swift sings, "I don't know what to say since the twist of fate/When it all broke down/And the story of us looks a lot like a tragedy now."

While it has never been confirmed, most fans agree that this song is likely about her relationship with John Mayer. As Swift once explained to MTV, the song was inspired by the experience of bumping into an ex at an awards show. "It was a guy I had been in a relationship with, falling out, then we end up at the same awards show," she said. "Both trying to act like we don't care ... both like, you know, chatting up the people next to us."

She went on, "Afterward, I just felt so empty, like we were both fighting this silent war of pretending we didn't care that the other was there." The clue in her liner notes reads, "CMT Awards." As it turns out, Swift did end up bumping into Mayer at the CMT Awards shortly after their break up.

Never Grow Up - about Taylor's own experience with growing up

Unlike many of the songs on "Speak Now," "Never Grow Up" isn't about an ex-boyfriend. Instead, it's a personal reflection on getting older. "'Never Grow Up' is a song about the fact that I don't quite know how I feel about growing up," Swift wrote on her website at the time (via Song Facts). "It's tricky. Growing up happens without you knowing it." 

"Never Grow Up" was largely inspired by Swift's experience moving away from home. Her liner notes for the track read, "I moved out in July." Swift did move in July 2009, relocating to a condo in Nashville. As the song goes, "So here I am in my new apartment/In a big city, they just dropped me off/It's so much colder than I thought it would be/So I tuck myself in and turn my nightlight on."

Enchanted - Adam Young

In "Enchanted," Taylor Swift sings about a magical first-time meeting. "And it was enchanting to meet you/All I can say is I was enchanted to meet you," Swift sings. As the song goes on, it becomes clear that Swift never confessed her feelings to the man in question. "I'll spend forever wondering if you knew/I was enchanted to meet you." "It was about this guy that I met in New York City, and I had talked to him on email or something before, but I had never met him," Swift later told Yahoo! Music (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Most fans believe that the song was inspired by Adam Young, the frontman of U.S. group, Owl City. For one thing, the liner notes spell out the word, "Adam." Young himself actually responded to the song. "I decided to record something for you–a sort of a 'reply' to the breathtaking song on your current record," he wrote on his website (via Buzzfeed). "You are a true princess from a dreamy fairy tale, and above all, I just want you to know...I was enchanted to meet you too." He then released his own cover of the song on Valentine's Day.

Better Than Revenge - Joe Jonas and Camilla Belle

Taylor Swift's song, "Better Than Revenge" is about a girl whose boyfriend is "taken" by another person. "I had it all, I had him right there where I wanted him/She came along, got him alone, and let's hear the applause/She took him faster than you can say 'sabotage,'" Swift sings. Swift then calls her an "actress." "She should keep in mind, she should keep in mind/There is nothing I do better than revenge."

Many believe that these lyrics are a reference to actress Camilla Belle who dated Joe Jonas after he broke up with Swift in 2008. Swift later backtracked on the song, telling The Guardian, "I was 18 when I wrote that. That's the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and realize no one can take someone from you if they don't want to leave."

Years later, Belle supported Katy Perry when she tweeted about Swift during their iconic feud. "Finding it ironic to parade the pit women against other women argument about as one unmeasurably capitalizes on the take down of a woman...," Perry wrote, referring to Swift. Chimed in Belle, "Couldn't have said it better."

Innocent - Kanye West

Every Taylor Swift fan remembers the historic day when Kanye West interrupted her VMA acceptance speech to state that Beyoncé should have won instead. The moment was traumatic for Swift, who later explained that she thought the crowd was booing her for winning. "For someone who based her whole belief system on getting everyone to clap for you, the whole crowd booing is a pretty informative experience," adding that it was a "catalyst for a lot of psychological paths that I went down [...] that were not all beneficial," said Swift in her documentary "Miss Americana" (via Complex).

In "Innocent," Swift calls West an "innocent," taking the higher road. "Time turns flames to embers/You'll have new Septembers/Every one of us has messed up, too," she sings. As she later told New York Magazine, "Innocent" was inspired by the incident at the VMAs. "I think a lot of people expected me to write a song about him. But, for me, it was important to write a song to him," she said, adding, "It doesn't really add anything good if I start victimizing myself and complaining about things. Because I'm proud of that performance at the VMAs last year, where my fans helped me get through it."

Haunted - John Mayer

In the song, "Haunted," Taylor Swift sings to a lover who has seemingly ghosted her: "Come on, come on, don't leave me like this/I thought I had you figured out/Can't breathe whenever you're gone/Can't turn back now, I'm haunted." While we don't know for sure, a lot of fans are convinced that "Haunted" was inspired by John Mayer.

"I honestly think it is for John Mayer, it is very dramatic and in the prologue she wrote how this song is for a person who made her feel dark for a while," wrote one fan on Reddit. Another fan even guessed that the song was inspired by the "Twilight" series. However, according to others, the song is actually about several of her exes. In the liner notes, Swift leaves the clue "Still to this day," so, whoever the song is about, they were clearly still haunting her at the time!

Last Kiss - Joe Jonas

In "Last Kiss," Taylor Swift sings to an ex-boyfriend, mourning their relationship: "I never thought we'd have a last kiss/Never imagined we'd end like this." Swift later wrote about the song on her website (via Song Facts), describing it as a "love letter." "You say all of these desperate, hopeless feelings that you have after a breakup," Swift wrote. "Going through a break-up you feel all of these different things. You feel anger, and you feel confusion, and frustration... There are times when you have this moment of truth where you just admit to yourself that you miss all these things. When I was in one of those moments I wrote this song."

We don't know for sure who the song is about, but all the clues point to Joe Jonas. For one thing, the liner notes clue is "Forever and always," which is also the name of a song Swift wrote about Jonas on her previous album, 2008's "Fearless."

Long Live - her band and her fans

In "Long Live," Taylor Swift celebrates her career in a song dedicated to her band and her fans with lyrics like, "Long live the walls we crashed through/How the kingdom lights shined just for me and you/I was screaming, 'Long live all the magic we made.'"

As Swift explained on her website (via Song Facts), "This song is about my band, and my producer, and all the people who have helped us build this brick by brick. The fans, the people who I feel that we are all in this together, this song talks about the triumphant moments that we've had in the last two years." She summed up, "It's sort of the first love song that I've written to my team."

During one live performance of the song, Swift noted that, contrary to popular opinion, she didn't just write songs about boys. "I write songs about things that I find to be romantic and magical," she said. In another live performance, she noted that she came up with the song while listening to her fans backstage. Clearly, Swift's relationship with her fans and her collaborators is just as magical as her romantic relationships.

Ours - John Mayer

As someone in the public eye, Taylor Swift has constantly had to deal with other people's opinions about her love life. In the song, "Ours," she sings to a love interest about shutting out all of the noise. "So don't you worry your pretty little mind/People throw rocks at things that shine/And life makes love look hard/The stakes are high, the water's rough/But this love is ours," she sings. Swift later explained in a behind-the-scenes video for "Ours" (per YouTube): "The fact of the matter is when you have a relationship it's only between two people, and this song is really about that and about keeping it between two people and not letting anybody else's opinions matter."

Many fans believe that this song was written about John Mayer in the early days of their relationship. For one thing, Mayer has several tattoos and also has a gap between his lower teeth, which matches up with the song's lyrics.

If This Was A Movie - John Mayer

"If This Was A Movie" was first released on the deluxe edition of "Speak Now." The song is about wishing an ex-boyfriend would "come back" after a terrible fight. As Swift sings, "Come back, come back, come back to me like/You would, you would if this was a movie." However, by the end of the song, she has realized that their relationship isn't like a movie because her love interest can't apologize.

One fan guessed that the song is a reference to her relationship with John Mayer, who famously had a toxic relationship with Swift the year before "Speak Now" was released. However, the song could be about a number of different people from her past. The track was re-released on Swift's album, "Fearless (Taylor's Version)". At the time, a fan wrote for Fansided that "If This Was A Movie" was finally getting the attention it deserved.

Superman - John Mayer

In another track that was included in the deluxe edition, "Superman," Taylor Swift sings about falling for a guy who is just like Superman. "Tall, dark and superman/He puts papers in his briefcase and drives away," the song begins. Many again believe the song to be about John Mayer. "Thinking about how Taylor wrote 'Superman' about John Mayer LMAO," wrote one fan on Twitter. Another wrote, "I am so distraught after knowing that Taylor Swift wrote 'Superman' about John Mayer." One line, in particular, seems to point to Mayer: "Something in his deep brown eyes has me sayin' He's not all bad like his reputation," Swift sings.

Swift has never confirmed whether the song really is about Mayer or not. During one performance, Swift noted (via Song Facts), "This is about, well, a guy, as usual. This was a guy that I was sort of enamored with. This song got its title by something that I just said randomly in conversation. [When] he walked out of the room, I turned to one of my friends and said, 'It's like watching Superman fly away.'"