Heartbreakingly Lyrical by Lily Murphy

I was laid across the couch the other day, nursing an infection in my leg and high on anti biotic drugs and partly stoned from pain, I switched on the TV where Taylor Swift was on VH1 Storytellers. On any other normal day I would have quickly switched it off but in my predicament I left the program on and watched it.

I always knew Taylor Swift was some sort of mega-slut, but watching her on VH1 Storytellers I realized that the majority of her musical career has been built on songs about ex-boyfriends. Swift described where the inspiration for her songs came from and the people who inspired her lyrics were nearly always former flames.

“Teardrops On My Guitar” was written for a high school crush while “Forever And Always” was penned for Joe Jonas who used a twenty second phone call to Swift to affirm his decision to dump her. Swift didn’t leave it at just one song for the guy who dumped her, hell no! She also wrote “Last Kiss” about him and wait for it she doesn’t stop there, she penned a third song aimed at Camilla Belle who reportedly was the cause for the Swift/Jonas break up and for this she got the song “Better Than Revenge” written for her.
Watching Swift harp on about various songs written out of break-ups I wondered what sort of guy would want to date her for fear he end up being part of her heartache-heartbreak lyrics. John Mayer knew what he was getting himself in for when he tangled with Swift. She made public their brief but blustery relationship in songs “Dear John” and “The Story Of Us.”  “Back To December” was written for Taylor Lautner while another teen heart throb, Cory Monteith of Glee fame, had the song “Mine” composed for him.

Apart from some well known names Swift also targeted non famous former lovers. “Should’ve Said No” is a song based on an ex boyfriend of Swift who cheated on her. While she can be fast to scribble songs about her exes, Swift also writes songs about friends who have experienced similar break-ups. “Speak Now” was written by Swift for a friend whose ex boyfriend married another woman and Swift wrote about how it would feel to go and stop the wedding nuptials from going ahead.

Her more recent song “Never Ever Getting Back Together” has the clue in its title as to what it is about. The song bubbled up out of a discussion in the studio between Swift and some friends who had heard she was getting back together with a former boyfriend but she quickly put to bed all rumors in typical Taylor Swift fashion by writing a song declaring that she would never ever get back together with the unnamed former boyfriend.

Listening to Taylor Swift sing about her ex boyfriends got me thinking about other people who became targets of singers done wrong, the foremost that came to mind was Adele. Adele’s Album “21” came out of a rocky relationship and subsequent break-up. The relationship between Adele and her former boyfriend sparked songs such as “Someone Like You” and “Turning Tables” which emerged after a fierce fight between Adele and her ex. Her album “21” stands as a fuck you album to the former beau and after all it was all her anger and heart break which gave the album its ultimate stature as one of music’s greatest.

Katy Perry is also a scorned girlfriend who wrote a stinging song about an old boyfriend. “Your So Gay” is about a former lover who she described as an emo indie type and whom she claimed borrowed her make one too many times.

I could go on and on about women done wrong by their men but there have also been many a man done wrong by his woman and many have written and sung about it. Take the great Bob Dylan for example. He wrote “Ballad In Plain D” after splitting with Suze Rotolo who appeared with Dylan on the album cover of “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan.” He also took a shot at Rotolo with “Don’t think twice its alright” a song which is full of complete and utter bitterness against a backdrop of a soothing folksy sound.

Gregg Allman of the Allman Brothers wrote “It’s Not My Cross To Bare” and “Black Hearted Woman” about a not so amicable break up with his girlfriend.

Another rocker to kick his girl to the curb was Robert Plant. She made him chose between his road to legendary rock status with Led Zeppelin or a life of married bliss with her. Of course we all know who he chose. Plant wrote the song “Ten Years Gone” about the former girlfriend who had demanded ten years previously “it’s the music or me.”

Jackson Browne wrote “Sky Blue And Black” about his break-up with Daryl Hannah while Justin Timberlake’s “Cry Me A River” is supposedly about his break up with Brittany Spears. Even the video for the song dug that Mickey Mouse club relationship deep in the ground. Bon Jovi sticks it right in the gully with “You Give Love A Bad Name” which fire balls through a heart break suffered by a man cheated on by his woman.

After watching Taylor Swift rip into her exes on VH1 Storytellers I came to the conclusion that her songs are mere featherweights against what I determine a great parting shot at a former lover. In 1964 Johnny Cash came out with “Understand Your Man”, a song telling the tale of a man escaping a ’bad mouthing’ woman. The song goes on to make it clear to the woman that what she needs to understand is that her man is never coming back. In an ironic twist “Understand Your Man” was the last ever song Cash performed in public in July 2003 before departing eternally some months later.


Lily Murphy comes from Cork city, Ireland. She graduated last year from University College Cork with a B.A in history and politics. She can be reached at Lilymurphycork@gmail.com