Taylor Swift finally calls halt to Swiftie aggression, grants John Mayer reprieve

Before playing "Dear John" on the Eras Tour, Taylor Swift asked fans not to cyberbully anybody (hint, hint: John Mayer)

Taylor Swift finally calls halt to Swiftie aggression, grants John Mayer reprieve
Taylor Swift; John Mayer Photo: Monica Schipper; Jason Kempin

Even Taylor Swift thinks Swifties need to calm down. The fanbase is famous for mobilizing against their queen’s enemies, and sometimes that’s a net good for society, like when they take on Ticketmaster or when they all register to vote at her urging. But all too often the fandom, as fandom often does, tips into the toxic when it comes to dealing with Swift’s many exes and nemeses. With Speak Now (Taylor’s Version) imminent, the pop star finally called her militia to heel in an attempt to spare one notorious former paramour, John Mayer.

Swift didn’t name names, of course, but her plea for peace came just before performing the Speak Now track “Dear John” during the Minneapolis stop on her Eras Tour (According to Entertainment Weekly, she hasn’t performed it live since 2012). This song is understandably assumed to be about Mayer, despite Swift’s paltry attempts to deflect (she once called Mayer “presumptuous” for taking offense to the track). Mayer has already been catching heat in the lead-up to the re-recorded album’s release; even another Swift ex, Taylor Lautner, posted a joking TikTok offering prayers for Mayer’s wellbeing in the wake of the announcement.

But Swift wants better from her acolytes. “I get to stand on this stage every single night of this tour and watch some of the most beautiful things happen,” she said in her pre-surprise song speech, citing the Eras Tour tradition of trading friendship bracelets as a marker of her fans’ kindness. “I see so many beautiful interactions happen, and I hear so many stories about friends that were made at these shows. I watch it happen, and it’s the most unbelievable thing to watch.”

She continued, “And so, I was hoping to ask you that as we lead up to this album coming out, I would love for that kindness and that gentleness to extend onto our internet activities. Right? So what I’m trying to say is, I’m putting this album out because I want to own my music, and I believe that any artist who has the desire to own their music should be able to. That’s why I’m putting out this album.”

To make it more explicit: “I’m 33 years old. I don’t care about anything that happened to me when I was 19, except the songs I wrote and the memories we made together,” she said.

Fans might be forgiven for thinking Swift still does care about things that happened when she was 19, given her most recent album contains the searing lyric: “Give me back my girlhood, it was mine first.” (Many fans assumed “Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve,” which specifically name-drops the age 19, was also a retrospective about Mayer.) But given her devotees’ tendency to become bloodhounds on her behalf, it makes sense that she would downplay a past relationship’s impact even as she revisits it musically.

“So what I’m trying to tell you,” the Grammy winner spelled it out, “is that I’m not putting this album out so that you can go and should feel the need to defend me on the internet against someone you think I might have written a song about 14 billion years ago.”

This marks perhaps the first time Taylor Swift has ever dissuaded her fans from one of their infamous coordinated attacks. The same courtesy was not extended to the rumored inspiration behind “All Too Well,” Jake Gyllenhaal (“I haven’t thought about their experience, to be honest,” Swift shrugged when asked about her exes’ response to the re-recorded Red). Nor did she come to the defense of the poor Ginny & Georgia actor who was deluged with racist hate comments after Swift criticized her Netflix show, nor any of the other various targets of her ire (Scooter Braun, Kanye West, Kim Kardashian, and etc.).

The proposed armistice is better late than never, one supposes, but it remains to be seen if her loyal cult will take these words to heart and actually leave Mayer alone—unfortunately, the actions of the fandom may have at this point spun too far out of Swift’s control.

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