John Mayer “Paper Doll” Lyrics Breakdown: Is He Taking Shots at Taylor Swift?

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Posted on 06/18/2013 at 4:40 PM

Related To: Lyrics, News

The Popdust Files: john mayer, Paper Doll, taylor swift

There may be no colder war in music that the one currently being waged between exes Taylor Swift and John Mayer. It’s never erupted into a full-on feud, but every year or so, something so horrible and passive-aggressive will come bubbling up that reminds us: Oh yeah, these two really don’t like each other.

When we last left our bickering pair, Swift was waving aside Mayer’s claim that her seven-minute long anti-Mayer screed “Dear John” was “humiliating,” saying it was “presumptuous” of him to think that the song, which alluded to specific details of their relationship and used his own name, was about him. Ice cold!

Now Mayer has struck back, in song. “Paper Doll,” the latest single from the adult-contemporary star, isn’t officially about Taylor Swift, but certain lyrical references (as well as the tracks’s general old-dude condescension) hint that it totally, deliciously is. We’ve enlisted our no. 1 Taylor Swift superstan Christina Drill to break down each and every T-Swift reference on the song. When John Mayer writes a diss song, he is compre-freaking-hensive.

—Nate Jones

Paper doll, come try it on

The comparisons between Tay and a paper doll are super obvi IMHO: thin, fragile, slight, pale. And then also, because she has an endless stream of appearances to make and award shows to go to, he’s comparing her to a faceless paper doll. Look, you can trust me—I took an English class once, I know my symbols.

Step out of that black chiffon

Tay wears a lot of chiffon. (See here, and here, and here.) This is the first of many mentions of dresses in this song, all of which call back to “Dear John,” in which Taylor refers to herself as “the girl in the dress [who] cried the whole way home.”

This one we made just for fall
And winter runs a bit too small

Another dress reference!

You’re like 22 girls in one

The “22″ is most likely a reference to Tay’s song “22.” Note the fact that “twenty-two” isn’t spelled out in the lyric video; instead it shows the number 22. Is he following AP style, or is this Mayer’s most obvious clue?

And none of them know what they’re runnin’ from

This is a direct response to a line in “Dear John” about beginning a relationship with Mayer: “I look back in regret / How I ignored when they said run as fast as you can.”

Was it just too far to fall?
For a little paper doll

Pretty harsh, John! Here Mayer is basically undermining Tay’s emotional depth and maturity. He’s saying that whatever fling they had wasn’t that serious, which makes Taylor a wimpy fragile little paper doll who couldn’t handle a fun fling. Sounds pretty Tay-hating to me, but to be fair, she was 19 at the time.

Fold a scarf, Moroccan red

WHOA! This is what Moroccan red looks like, and this is the shade of red on Taylor Swift’s album cover. Also, in “All Too Well”,  Tay’s song about Jake Gylenhaal off Red, there is a lyric that goes “Left my scarf there at your sister’s house,” which has made scarves a big Swift symbol among her fans.

And tie your hair behind your head

Tay has been wearing her hair in a ponytail all the time recently. Even on stage.

Strap into some heels that hurt

We’ve known that Tay hates high heels since “She wears high heels / I wear sneakers / She’s cheer captain / And I’m on the bleachers,” and look, she doesn’t even wear them when she’s performing. But we also know that she’s not averse to strapping on a pair for a first date—particularly if she’s trying to get revenge on an ex.

Cut the cord and pull some strings
And make yourself some angel wings

Taylor Swift’s public persona relies on her morally angelic image. If Tay feels something has wronged her, it is never her own fault—she’s always out there standing up for good and punishing bad.

And if those angel wings don’t fly
Someone’s gonna paint you another sky

This one’s great! It’s a direct reference to the Dear John lyric “You paint me a blue sky / Then go back and turn it to rain.” It zings the same way that Swift’s lyric “I’m shining like fireworks / Over your sad empty town” does at the end of “Dear John.”

In conclusion: I automatically hate anybody who criticizes Tay but I have to give JM credit cuz this comeback song is smart, subdued, fair, and incorporates Prancersize. Tay probably did overreact. I can’t wait to see how she responds! Stay strong babygirl!

The full lyrics are below. You can listen to the song at the bottom of the post.

Paper doll, come try it on
Step out of that black chiffon
Here’s a dress of gold and blue
Sure was fun being good to you

This one we made just for fall
And winter runs a bit too small
This mint green is new for spring
My love didn’t cost a thing

You’re like 22 girls in one
And none of them know what they’re runnin’ from
Was it just too far to fall?
For a little paper doll

Fold a scarf, Moroccan red
And tie your hair behind your head
Strap into some heels that hurt
You should’ve kept my undershirt

You’re like twenty-two girls in one
And none of them know what they’re runnin’ from
Was it just too far to fall?
For a little paper doll

Cut the cord and pull some strings
And make yourself some angel wings
And if those angel wings don’t fly
Someone’s gonna paint you another sky

‘Cause you’re like twenty-two girls in one
And none of them know what they’re runnin’ from
Was it just too far to fall?

‘Cause you’re like twenty-two girls in one
And none of them know what they’re runnin’ from
Was it just too far to fall?

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