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Dear John

Speak Now (2010)

“Dear John” is track five on Taylor’s third studio album, Speak Now (2010). It is a heartbreaking song about her short-lived relationship with fellow singer-songwriter John Mayer and discusses manipulation and betrayal by a loved one. “Dear John” used to be Taylor’s longest song, up until the release of “All Too Well (10 Minute Version)” in 2021.
Generally speaking, a “Dear John” letter is an old expression referring to a wife or girlfriend writing to inform their partner their relationship is over, usually because the author has found another lover. It is possible the song takes its title from the phrase, but unlikely as Taylor had a very good reason to call out the song’s subject directly.

Lyrical Theme

In the lyrics, Taylor conveys her feelings of frustration and hurt over the way she was treated by John Mayer and how she disregarded the warnings from others. Besides the obvious song title, there are multiple references to Mayer directly, including the mention of their more than ten-year age gap. She was 19, Mayer over 30 years old. Sonically, Taylor purposefully added guitar slurring to the background instrumentals, a guitar playing technique seen all throughout Mayer’s music. She said:

«The song 'Dear John' is sort of like the last email you would ever send to someone that you used to be in a relationship with. Usually, people write this venting last email to someone and they say everything that they want to say to that person, and then they usually don't send it. I guess by putting this song on the album I am pushing send.»

Taylor Swift

A Toxic Relationship

Mayer, who is well-known for publicly talking about his relationships with various famous women in the press, has whined in an interview with Rolling Stone about Taylor writing the song about him. In an issue of Glamour magazine, Taylor called Mayer “presumptuous” for saying that he was “really humiliated” by the song’s lyrics. She went on to say that she did not want to hear his comments about the song, because of her desire to stay happy:

«I know it wasn’t good, so I don’t want to know. I put a high priority on staying happy, and I know what I can’t handle. It’s not that I’m this egomaniac and I don’t want to hear anything negative, because I do keep myself in check, but I’ve never developed that thick a skin. So I just kind of live a life, and I let all the gossip live somewhere else. If you go too far down the rabbit hole of what people think about you, it can change everything about who you are.»

Taylor Swift

Other Songs About the Relationship

Taylor and John Mayer notably collaborated on his 2010 song “Half of My Heart,” which was released four months before “Dear John”. Besides Mayer’s public statement to Rolling Stone in 2012, he also replied to “Dear John” three years later in his 2013 song “Paper Doll.” In the song, he directly replies to Taylor’s line, “You paint me a blue sky then go back and turn it to rain” with, “And if those angel wings don’t fly, someone’s going to paint you another sky.”

Taylor supposedly also wrote the songs “I Knew You Were Trouble.”, “The Story of Us“, “Ours” and “Superman” about her relationship with John. The latter has a lyric that connects to the secret message of “Dear John”: “Loved you from the very first day.”

Lyrics

[Verse 1]
Long were the nights when my days once revolved around you
Counting my footsteps praying the floor won’t fall through, again
And my mother accused me of losing my mind
But I swore I was fine

[Verse 2]
You paint me a blue sky, then go back and turn it to rain
And I lived in your chess game, but you changed the rules everyday
Wondering which version of you I might get on the phone tonight
Well, I stopped picking up and this song is to let you know why

[Chorus 1]
Dear John, I see it all now that you’re gone
Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with?
The girl in the dress cried the whole way home
I should’ve known

[Verse 3]
Well, maybe it’s me and my blind optimism to blame
Or maybe it’s you and your sick need to give love and take it away
And you’ll add my name to your long list of traitors who don’t understand
And I look back and regret, how I ignored when they said,
“Run as fast as you can”

[Chorus 1]
Dear John, I see it all now that you’re gone
Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with
The girl in the dress cried the whole way home

[Chorus 2]
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?
I should’ve known

[Bridge]
You are an expert at “Sorry” and keeping lines blurry
Never impressed by me acing your tests
All the girls that you’ve run dry have tired, lifeless eyes
Cause you burned them out
But I took your matches before fire could catch me, so don’t look now
I’m shining like fireworks over your sad empty town

[Chorus 1]
Dear John, I see it all now that you’re gone
Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with?
The girl in the dress cried the whole way home

[Outro]
I see it all now that you’re gone
Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with?
The girl in the dress wrote you a song
You should’ve known
You should’ve known
Don’t you think I was too young?
You should’ve known

General Information
AlbumSpeak Now
ReleasedOctober 25, 2010
Recorded2009–2010
GenreCountry Rock
Length6:45
LabelBig Machine Records
SongwriterTaylor Swift
ProducersNathan Chapman
Taylor Swift
SPEAK NOW CHRONOLOGY
Speak NowDear JohnMean
Hidden Message
Loved you from the very first day
Song Covers
Live Performance
Official Audio
Official Live Version