Pop Culture Debate: Who Is Taylor Swift’s ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” About?

Taylor Swift

Tonight is the first of the 2012 Presidential Debates between President Barack Obama and the Republican Presidential Nominee Mitt Romney. The country will watch on — and learn things — as the two share their positions on domestic issues. While Obama and Romney answer important questions about health care, reproductive rights, and the state of the economy, we at Hollywood.com are staging debates of our own. Today, we decided to argue the subject of Taylor Swift’s song, “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” Writers Kelsea Stahler and Abbey Stone square off on this vital issue.

Opening Argument from Kelsea Stahler:

The hot debate over Taylor Swift’s latest song about an ex-boyfriend ignited when the Internet began to notice the remarkable resemblance between Adam Levine and the “never ever, ever, ever” again ex in Swift’s “We Are Never Getting Back Together” music video. Look, we can all admit this guy looks like he came straight from shooting the latest wind-blown promo for The Voice. I can just see him getting knocked over by Christina Aguilera’s impossibly platinum, hairspray-coated locks right now. But there’s a problem: Does anyone remember Taylor Swift dating Adam Levine at all, let alone long enough for her to leap into a tirade about never (ever, ever, ever) getting back together with him? To say the song is about Jake Gyllenhaal is a knee-jerk reaction: “It’s not this musician guy? Clearly, it’s the older, boring actor-man of the many sweaters and levels of beardedness.” But nay. There is another possibility: John Mayer.

Let us look at the evidence:

1. The man in the video is clearly cooler than Gyllenhaal. Out all night at a club? John Mayer. Ignoring her during their morning coffee (when she clearly woke up early to get into that tiny little pin-up girl costume) so he can listen to his own album, the cover of which makes him look oh-so pensive and deep? John Mayer. A scarf with a T-shirt? Come on. John Mayer.

2. Swift confirmed that her song “Dear John” was about Mayer when she refused to deny that it was about Mayer back in 2010. Lyrics like “Don’t you think nineteen’s too young / To be played / By your dark, twisted games” and “Don’t you think I was too young / To be messed with / The girl in the dress / Cried the whole way home” certainly suggest a level of hurt that goes with the sort of adolescent heart break and stays with a girl, even after dating Beardy McGee. The kind of lingering hurt that would elicit the snap reaction: No way are we, like, ever, ever getting back together. No. Way.

3. Mayer recently went public with how “humiliated” he was by Swift’s song, saying he was made to feel “terrible” and that Swift’s practices were “cheap songwriting.” Yep. Those are the kinds of things you say right before you stay up until 2 AM drinking single malt scotch, reach for the phone, and start talking about how you want to give it another shot.

4. We all know Jake Gyllenhaal loves sweaters. Comfy, cozy sweaters. So why then, would the haven away from her ex Swift created in her music video basically be a giant sweater-lined apartment full of yarn-covered creature comforts? If anything, that’s a Gyllenhaal trap. Clearly, the only answer to the “who’s this song about” question is Mayer.

Opening Argument from Abbey Stone:

Taylor Swift’s single “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” can be about no one except for Swift’s ex-boyfriend Jake Gyllenhaal. This is supported by myriad evidence, including the timeframe during which the two dated, Gyllenhaal’s reputation as a puppy dog, and the fact that Swift has said that she was inspired to write this song while in Nashville, a place where the two were spotted having coffee together. I will now address these points one at a time.1. Taylor Swift and Jake Gyllenhaal were first spotted together in October of 2010, and then dated for approximately four months before splitting in January 2011. Therefore, Swift’s relationship with Gyllenhaal began after the release of her 2010 album Speak Now, and coincided with the period of time she spent writing her next album, Red. This makes their relationship fodder for her latest album, while previous boyfriends were reincarnated in Speak Now and before. 

2. Swift has a long string of ex-boyfriends, including big names like Taylor Lautner, Joe Jonas, and John Mayer. Swift notoriously aired her gripes about Jonas (and his phone call breakup) in her song “Forever and Always,” and Jonas recently told 94.7 Fresh FM radio, in reference to “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together,” “I can say it’s not about me, because I don’t think we’ve ever tried another time.” Lautner, meanwhile, has been credited with the inspiration for “Back to December,” a rare song in which Swift is the dumper. She has then gone on to apologize for the way she treated Lautner — she has no anger towards him, only remorse. Mayer, meanwhile, is far too much of a playboy badass to go crawling back to a 20-year-old, begging to be taken back. Gyllenhaal, on the other hand, is Hollywood’s sweetheart. He seems just nice enough to want to give a relationship with a butterflies and rainbows girl like Swift another (and another and another) go.

3. Lastly, Swift said in an interview on Good Morning America that the inspiration for “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together” struck when she was recording her new album in Nashville. She said a friend of her ex’s interrupted their session. “He starts talking about how he’s heard we were getting back together and that was not the case,” said Swift. “When he leaves, [songwriters] Max [Martin] and Johan [Shellback] are like, ‘So what’s the story behind that?’ And so I start telling them the story of break-up, get back together, break-up, get back together, just, ugh, the worst.” And you know who was spotted spending time with Swift in Nashville? Gyllenhaal. After spending so much time in the city, it makes sense that Gyllenhaal would have friends there. 

While the lyrics of the song may not reference Gyllenhaal directly, the circumstantial evidence is hard to argue with.

Rebuttal from Kelsea Stahler:

These are all great, valid points. But let us look again at the conversation Swift had when she decided to write the song. According to Swift, who spoke about the song’s inspiration during a webcast from Nashville, she was in the studio with two songwriters and a friend of her ex’s, which prompted her companions to float the idea that she was getting back together with this masked ex-boyfriend. “So I start telling them the story of break-up, get back together, break-up, get back together, just, ugh, the worst,” says Swift. Then they wrote the song. Now, Gyllenhaal is certainly more prone to this sort of back and forth, but let us think about how young Swift is. Listen to any of her songs, and it’s clear every little gesture speaks uncanny (almost worrisome) volumes to her, so we need not take the reality of that “back and forth” too seriously. Finally, the catalyst for the conversation is the ex’s friend. How likely is it that Gyllenhaal knows a music industry guy so connected he can just waltz in and out of recording sessions without question? Pretty unlikely. You know who does seem to be friends with every single musician and producer ever? (Even after he pissed everyone off with that image-killing Rolling Stone article?) Johnny Mayer.

Rebuttal from Abbey Stone:

Well argued, Kelsea. However, you seem to have made an argument for the wrong song. Based on your evidence, it is obvious that Swift wrote “Dear John” about John Mayer — those quotes you pull from Rolling Stone in your third point are of Mayer talking about “Dear John,” not “We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together.” So, that raises the question, why would Swift put so much anger and energy into writing another scathing review of her relationship with Mayer? The answer is simple: She wouldn’t. She would, however, be willing to air her grievances about a new (at the time) relationship that left her feeling annoyed.

Closing Remarks from Kelsea Stahler: 

The lyrics tell you all you need to know about the subject of this song. John Mayer is the only one of Swift’s past boyfriends with a personality volatile enough to elicit all the “screaming” the song speaks of. And that “indie record cooler than mine” lyric seals the deal. 

Closing Remarks from Abbey Stone:

Lyrics, shmyrics. For Swift, the circumstances are everything. And in this case, the timing and location all points to Gyllenhaal.

[Photo Credit: Big Machine]


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