10 Modern Pop Songs Stars Wrote About Their Exes
John Mayer has company
Selena Gomez has released two new songs, and there’s a lot of speculation that they’re both about her ex-boyfriend, Justin Bieber. It’s not the first time Gomez has written a song about her ex (they both seem to have inspired each other in this regard), but the song adds to the modern canon of pop breakup songs we know are about certain people.
Carly Simon’s decades-long tease about who’s at the center of “You’re So Vain” (or, well, the second verse, anyway) — maybe the most famous of that genre — ended in 2015. But since then, there have been any number of songs by pop stars that throw a little shade at exes, explicitly or not. Here are some of the more recent ones.
Selena Gomez, “Lose You to Love Me”
Gomez said of the track, “This song was inspired by many things that have happened in my life since releasing my last album,. I thought it was important to share the music, as I know many can relate to the fact that the road to self-discovery generally comes through the scars in one’s life. I want people to feel hope and to know you will come out the other side stronger and a better version of yourself.”
The lyrics themselves are pretty straightforward: “I saw the signs and I ignored it / Rose colored glasses all distorted / Set fire to my purpose / And I let it burn,” seemingly a direct reference to Bieber’s Purpose album.
Gomez also sings about reuniting with Bieber, only to break up months later and watch him move on with his now-wife Hailey Bieber (née Baldwin). She sings, “In two months, you replaced us / Like it was easy / Made me think I deserved it.”
Miley Cyrus, “Slide Away”
When Cyrus and her husband of less than one year, Liam Hemsworth, announced their separation (and, a few weeks later, divorce) back in August, there was much speculation about what caused their split. Days after announcing the news, Cyrus dropped “Slide Away,” a song that seems to answer that question … sort of. Sources told PEOPLE that Hemsworth’s partying was a source of contention for the couple. Cyrus seems to address this in the song, saying: “I want my house in the hills / Don’t want the whiskey and pills / I don’t give up easily / But I don’t think I’m down.”
The chorus of the song includes references to the ocean, saying that Cyrus’ love will “slide away / Back to the ocean” while she goes “back to the city lights.” Hemsworth is an avid surfer, and fans were quick to point out that the pair met on the beach while filming The Last Song.
In the outro of the song, Cyrus sings, “Move on, we’re not 17 / I’m not who I used to be / You say that everything changed / You’re right, we’re grown now.” Cyrus was around 17 when she met Hemsworth in 2009.
John Mayer, “Still Feel Like Your Man”
John Mayer has said that his song “Still Feel Like Your Man” is explicitly about Katy Perry. You can add it to Mayer’s back catalog of breakup songs. He said of the song in 2017, “Who else would I be thinking about? And by the way, it’s a testament to the fact that I have not dated a lot of people in the last five, six years. That was my only relationship. So it’s like, give me this, people.”
John Mayer, “Paper Doll”
Taylor Swift, “Forever & Always”
Swift admitted to Ellen DeGeneres that this song was about Joe Jonas’s 27-second breakup phone call to her.
Selena Gomez, “Love Will Remember”
Gomez called this “the most personal track” on Stars Dance when she confirmed it was about Bieber, adding “I’m sure he’ll love it, too.”
Miley Cyrus, “7 Things”
With lyrics like “Your friends, they’re jerks / when you act like them, just know it hurts,” “7 Things” doesn’t mince any words, and the video’s director, Brett Ratner, confirmed that it’s about Cyrus’s ex Nick Jonas — Cyrus even wears Jonas’ diabetes necklace in the video for the song.
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Katy Perry, “By the Grace of God”
Though Perry said she doesn’t want “to hand over a specific story about each and every song,” she confirmed to Entertainment Weekly that “By the Grace of God” was indeed about her divorce from Russell Brand.
Justin Bieber, “Nothing Like Us”
Bieber confirmed to Billboard that “Nothing Like Us” is about Gomez. At the time, he said, “I’m not in the happiest place that I’ve ever been.”