If you’re in need of inspiration, then there’s a good chance you’ll find some in your own experiences. Singers and songwriters often use their own lives as inspo for lyrics, especially when it comes to songs about relationships and breakups. And when two musicians get together, there’s double the chance those love songs (or not-so-loving songs) will get personal. There are more celebrity couples who wrote songs about each other (or are rumored to have written songs about their relationships) than you may realize, and while some are mushy and romantic, many others are more sour than sweet.
As the queen of personal song lyrics Taylor Swift explained during an interview with NPR back in October 2014, writing about her own life is cathartic for her. "People have essentially gotten to read my diary for the last 10 years," she said. "I still write personal songs, and sometimes people like to put a very irritating, negative, spin on that — as if I’m oversharing, as if it’s too much information — when this has been the way I’ve lived my life and run my career the entire time." And I’m here for it. Here are just 13 celeb couples who got personal about their past or current relationships in their music.
Taylor Swift & Harry Styles
Though Taylor Swift only dated Harry Styles for a few months between 2012 and 2013, he reportedly inspired multiple songs on her Red and 1989 albums, including "I Knew You Were Trouble," "Style," and "Out of the Woods." Though she’s never confirmed whether or not though songs are, in fact, about her ex, Styles told Howard Stern during a March 2020 interview he doesn’t mind being her muse. "I think it’s flattering," he said. "Even if the song isn’t that flattering, you still spend time on it, and ultimately, using Taylor as an example, she’s a great songwriter."
It’s also rumored Styles’ 2017 song "Two Ghosts" from his debut solo album is about Swift. When asked whether the song was written about his ex during a May 2017 appearance on BBC 1 Radio, Styles gave a coy response. "I think it’s pretty, like, self-explanatory," he said. "I think, y’know, it’s about sometimes things change and you can do all the same things, and sometimes it’s just different, y’know?" Not really, but sure.
Taylor Swift & John Mayer
Swift’s 2009 romance with John Mayer was also short-lived, but it was reportedly significant enough to inspire her 2010 song "Dear John." During a June 2012 interview with Rolling Stone, Mayer made it very clear he wasn’t pleased with the song. "It made me feel terrible. Because I didn’t deserve it," he said. "I’m pretty good at taking accountability now, and I never did anything to deserve that. It was a really lousy thing for her to do." Swift has never responded to the claims or Mayer’s criticism.
Mayer’s own 2013 song, "Paper Doll," was reportedly written as a response to "Dear John." When asked during a July 2013 appearance on the Today show whether Swift inspired the song, Mayer said, "Yeah, songwriters write songs because of people, about people. Anything someone else wrote is their reception of a song. I don’t get involved with [it]. It’s none of my business."
Miley Cyrus & Cody Simpson
Miley Cyrus and Cody Simpson dated for 10 months between 2019 and 2020, and not long after their split, Cyrus released a new single, "Midnight Sky," which sure seems like a breakup anthem. Though Cyrus never confirmed the song was actually about her breakup with Simpson, fans couldn’t help but make the connection.
However, before they broke up, Simpson released a much more romantic song about his relationship with Cyrus called "Golden Thing." Simpson first wrote the song to help Cyrus recover from tonsillitis surgery, and she encouraged him to release it to the public. As he explained to People during an October 2019 interview, "I wrote her a song this week that she’s pretty much forcing me to put out. She was like, ‘If you don’t put this sh*t out, I’m getting your Spotify login and doing this sh*t myself.’"
Miley Cyrus & Nick Jonas
Long before she dated Simpson, Cyrus was loved-up with Nick Jonas in 2007, and after they split, she reportedly penned "7 Things" about her ex in 2008. Though Cyrus never explicitly said the song was about the youngest Jo Bro, video director Brett Ratner seemingly confirmed that it was in August 2008, telling MTV News, "The necklace she’s wearing in the video is the necklace he gave her. She’s wearing his diabetes or medical necklace."
Four years later, Jonas wrote and released the song "Wedding Bells" with his brothers in 2012, not long after Cyrus announced her engagement to Liam Hemsworth. During an October 2012 interview with Ryan Seacrest, Cyrus said it seemed pretty obvious the song was about her. "I don’t know who else is getting married … so I feel like that’s pretty blatant," she said. Jonas later confirmed his ex’s suspicions during his own interview with Seacrest, saying Cyrus was "absolutely right" about being the inspiration behind the song.
Selena Gomez & Justin Bieber
Selena Gomez’s tumultuous relationship with Justin Bieber spanned over seven years, so it’s not a surprise several of her songs are reportedly inspired by the singer. Those songs include "Love Will Remember" (which includes a voicemail from Bieber), "Nobody Does It Like You," "Forget Forever," "The Heart Wants What It Wants," "Same Old Love," "Back to You," "It Ain’t Me," and many of the songs on her Rare album, among others, though she’s never actually confirmed any of those songs are about Bieber.
Likewise, over a dozen of Bieber’s songs were reportedly written with Gomez in mind, including "Bad Day," "Nothing Like Us," "Heartbreaker," "All That Matters," "Hold Tight," "Where Are Ü Now," "Mark My Words," "What Do You Mean?," "Purpose," "Love Yourself," and "Sorry," among others. During an April 2015 appearance on On Air With Ryan Seacrest, Bieber even opened up about Gomez’s influence on his Purpose album. "A lot of my inspiration comes from her," he said. "It was a long relationship and a relationship that created heartbreak and created happiness, and a lot of different emotions that I wanted to write about. So there’s a lot of that on this album."
Selena Gomez & The Weeknd
Bieber isn’t the only ex who has possibly inspired Gomez’s music. Two-and-half-years after she and The Weeknd ended their 10-month-long relationship in 2017, Gomez released the song "Souvenir," which fans suspect is about her relationship with The Weeknd. However, she’s never commented on the rumors.
Fans also think many of the lyrics on The Weeknd’s My Dear Melancholy album are inspired by his ex, including "Call Out My Name," "Privilege," "Wasted Times," "I Was Never There," and "Hurt You." The Weeknd confirmed the 2018 album was about his own personal experiences, but when asked by Esquire in August 2020 who those songs were about, he replied, "No comment."
Camila Cabello & Shawn Mendes
Unlike many other exes in the music industry, Camila Cabello and Shawn Mendes have penned some pretty sweet songs about each other during their year-long relationship. Basically all of the songs on Cabello’s 2019 Romance album seem to be about her boo, including "Shameless," "Should’ve Said It," "Liar," "Bad Kind of Butterflies," "Feel It Twice," "Easy," "Dream of You," "First Man," and "Used to This." She told Ellen DeGeneres in December 2019 the album was all about "falling in love and what that feels like," though she didn’t name Mendes explicitly.
In turn, Mendes’ self-titled 2018 album and 2020 Wonder album are also heavily influenced by Cabello. Some of the songs fans believe to be about Cabello include "Why," "When You’re Ready," "If I Can’t Have You," and "Wonder," among others. In his Netflix documentary, In Wonder, Mendes said Cabello inspires everything he writes. "They’re all about you," he told Cabello. "Like, every song I ever wrote." Aww.
Demi Lovato & Max Ehrich
Soon after Demi Lovato and Max Ehrich broke off their two-month engagement in September 2020, Lovato released a breakup anthem entitled "Still Have Me." The lyrics def seem to allude to the whirlwind relationship, though Lovato has never confirmed as much.
Ehrich also debuted a breakup song, "Afraid," which a source for TMZ reportedly claimed is "all about his relationship with Demi." However, like Lovato, he’s also remained mum about the inspiration behind the song.
Ellie Goulding & Ed Sheeran
During a Click 98.9 radio interview in September 2013, Ed Sheeran said he and Ellie Goulding briefly dated earlier that year. The following year, he released the song "Don’t," which was reportedly written about Goulding cheating on him with Niall Horan, and Sheeran seemingly confirmed the rumors during an October 2014 interview with The Sun. "I got over the anger the moment I wrote the song," he said. "That’s the end of it. I’m grateful I could get a song out of it, to be honest." However, he later denied saying "Don’t" was about Goulding during a May 2015 interview with Entertainment Tonight.
In 2015, Goulding released "On My Mind," which fans interpreted as a response to Sheeran’s "Don’t." During a September 2015 interview with MTV News, Goulding said she didn’t mind fans speculating about the song’s meaning, though she claimed it wasn’t about a particular person. "I’m sorry to all the people that want it to be about someone — it’s not, it’s like a myth," she said, adding, "People can read into it however they want. It’s fun to do that. I would do that, too."
Britney Spears & Justin Timberlake
Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake’s relationship lasted for three glorious years, and after they split in 2002, Timberlake responded with an epic breakup anthem. In his 2018 book, Hindsight: & All the Things I Can’t See in Front of Me, the former NYSNC member all but confirmed "Cry Me a River" was about his breakup with Spears. "I wrote ‘Cry Me a River’ in two hours. I didn’t plan on writing it," he explained, per People. "The feelings I had were so strong that I had to write it, and I translated my feelings into a form where people could listen and, hopefully, relate to it."
When Spears released "Everytime" the following year, fans interpreted it as a response to Timberlake’s "Cry Me a River." Spears never confirmed this herself, but her co-writer and friend Annet Artani claimed Timberlake was the inspiration during a February 2010 interview with MuuMuse. It’s also possible Spears’ never-released song 2004 song "Mona Lisa" was a response to Timberlake’s ballad.
Beyoncé & JAY-Z
Like Cabello and Mendes, Beyoncé and JAY-Z have sung plenty of romantic songs over the years that seem to be about each other. Beyoncé rumored love ballads for her husband include "Halo," "Signs," "Love on Top," "Mine," "Countdown," and, of course, two of her songs featuring JAY-Z: "Crazy in Love" and "Drunk in Love." It’s also widely believed her 2016 song "Sorry" alludes to JAY-Z’s reported infidelity, though Beyoncé has never confirmed this herself.
JAY-Z has released his fair share of love songs as well, including "’03 Bonnie & Clyde" (which features his wife), "Public Service Announcement," "Lost One," "Glory," and "Part II (On the Run)," among others. His 2017 songs "4:44" and "Family Feud" also seems to be a direct response to Beyoncé’s "Sorry," as they address the cheating rumors. In his footnotes discussion for 4:44, JAY-Z confirmed the album was inspired by his martial troubles. However, if their 2018 joint album Everything Is Love is any indication, these two are doing just fine now.
Ariana Grande & Mac Miller
Not long after Ariana Grande and Mac Miller started dating, the late rapper dropped his love ballad-filled 2016 album The Divine Feminine, which many fans believed to be entirely inspired by Grande. However, Grande later confirmed in a May 2018 tweet only the song "Cinderella" was written about her, not the whole 10-track album.
Following Miller’s tragic overdose in September 2018, Grande has reportedly released several songs inspired by Miller, including "Imagine," "Better Off," and "Everytime," as well as a handful of tracks from her latest album, Positions. Grande never confirmed whether any of these songs were actually written about Miller, though she does explicitly refer to the late rapper in her song "thank u, next."
Perrie Edwards & Zayn Malik
A year after Perrie Edwards and Zayn Malik called off their engagement in 2015, Edwards’ band Little Mix released the song "Shoutout to My Ex," and the lyrics seemed to take allude to Edwards’ messy split. Though fans still think the song was penned with Malik in mind, Edwards told E! News during a December 2016 interview the song was more about breakups in general. "We just thought, ‘You know what? Women need to feel empowered,’" she said. "Everybody needs to feel empowered after a breakup, and we feel like this song can relate to everyone because everybody’s had an ex."
Later, when Malik dropped his 2016 debut solo album, Mind of Mine, fans were quick to look for lyrics potentially written about Edwards. During a January 2016 interview with Zane Lowe, Malik hinted at least one of the songs on the album is about his ex-fiancée. "It was a form of therapy for me, and it did help me get through some sh*t," he said about writing the song, though he never confirmed which song he had in mind.
I hate to say it, but the best part about two musicians breaking up is getting not one, but two breakup anthems out of the split.
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