Taylor Swift’s new song “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” is about a relationship she had at 19 years old, and eagle-eyed fans were all too quick to remember that she quietly dated John Mayer at that time. On the 2010 track about John, aptly titled “Dear John,” Taylor sang, “Don’t you think 19’s too young,” and this new song calls back to that. “I damn sure never would have danced with the devil at 19,” Taylor sings on “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve.”
The song is fully about regretting a relationship that once was, and there are multiple clues that it could be about John. “If I was some paint, did it splatter on a promising grown man? And if I was a child did it matter if you got to wash your hands?” she sings in the first verse, referencing the pair’s age difference. Throughout the song, Taylor makes it clear that this relationship changed her, and not in a good way. In the bridge, she continues, “I miss who I used to be, the tomb won’t close, stained glass windows in my mind, I regret you all the time.”
The biggest punch, though, comes right before she sings the chorus for a final time. “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first,” Taylor sings, which could be a reference to just how far things got between her and John when she was just a teenager. Immediately after the song dropped, fans began commenting on Twitter about how John must be the subject, and they praised Taylor for finally writing another scathing song about him.
“Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve” was part of the 3 A.M edition of Midnights, which Taylor released three hours after the original album on Oct. 21. The original version included 13 songs, only to be followed up with seven more at 3:00 in the morning. “I think of Midnights as a complete concept album, with those 13 songs forming a full picture of the intensities of that mystifying, mad hour,” she wrote on Instagram. “However! There were other songs we wrote on our journey to find that magic 13. I’m calling them 3am tracks. Lately I’ve been loving the feeling of sharing more of our creative process with you, like we do with From The Vault tracks. So it’s 3am and I’m giving them to you now.”