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Kanye West's "Famous" — Taylor Swift
Kanye West hardly veiled his reference to Taylor Swift with the 2016 release of "Famous," a cut off of the rapper's The Life of Pablo album. Rather than making insinuations or dropping hints, West name-dropped his former enemy-turned-friend, rapping, "I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex / Why? I made that bitch famous." After the song made its way to listeners, Swift released a statement, telling EW through a rep, "Kanye did not call for approval, but to ask Taylor to release his single 'Famous' on her Twitter account. She declined and cautioned him about releasing a song with such a strong misogynistic message. Taylor was never made aware of the actual lyric, 'I made that bitch famous.'" For his part, West maintains that Swift was in the know and even thought of the lyric herself, tweeting, "I did not diss Taylor Swift and I’ve never dissed her... I asked my wife for her blessings and she was cool with it... I called Taylor and had a hour long convo with her about the line and she thought it was funny and gave her blessings... I’m not even gone take credit for the idea… it’s actually something Taylor came up with... She was having dinner with one of our friends who’s name I will keep out of this and she told him 'I can’t be mad at Kanye because he made me famous!'"
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Carly Simon's "You’re So Vain" — Warren Beatty
Well, Warren Beaty, as it turns out, this song is about you — at least somewhat. Simon admitted in November that the second verse in her famous hit is indeed in reference to the famous actor. Simon said the other verses were directed toward two other men, but she’s not saying who until those individuals figure it out for themselves. Meanwhile, “Warren thinks the whole thing is about him!” she told People.
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Justin Timberlake’s "Cry Me a River" — Britney Spears
Justin Timberlake and Britney Spears ended their three-year relationship in 2002, and that same year, Timberlake released "Cry Me a River," a song many assume is about Spears. “You don’t have to say what you did,” he sings. “I already know, I found out from him.” While he never explicitly confirmed the song was about his ex, Timberlake did enlist a Spears look-alike for the accompanying music video.
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Britney Spears' "Everytime" — Justin Timberlake
In 2004, Spears released "Everytime," her own take on the failed relationship with Timberlake. “My weakness caused you pain, and this song's my sorry,” she sings.
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Bob Dylan’s "Like a Rolling Stone" — Andy Warhol
Many believe that Dylan’s biggest hit actually includes some barbs at famed artist Andy Warhol. Around the time of the song, Warhol’s relationship with his muse Edie Sedgwick had deteriorated, and she began spending more time with Dylan. As the story goes, Dylan blamed Warhol for allegedly mistreating Sedgwick, and listeners have theorized that some lines from “Like a Rolling Stone” — like “He took from you everything he could steal” — were directed at Warhol.
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Taylor Swift’s "Bad Blood" — Katy Perry
Back in 2014, Taylor Swift told Rolling Stone that "Bad Blood" was about "another female artist" who tried to "sabotage an entire arena tour" by hiring a people away from her. Speculation ran rampant that "Bad Blood" was about Katy Perry, but Swift has never confirmed the rumor.
"You’re in a Rolling Stone interview, and the writer says, 'Who is that song about? That sounds like a really intense moment from your life.' And you sit there, and you know you’re on good terms with your ex-boyfriend, and you don’t want him -- or his family -- to think you’re firing shots at him. So you say, 'That was about losing a friend,'" Swift told GQ last year. "And that’s basically all you say. But then people cryptically tweet about what you meant. I never said anything that would point a finger in the specific direction of one specific person, and I can sleep at night knowing that. I knew the song would be assigned to a person, and the easiest mark was someone who I didn’t want to be labeled with this song. It was not a song about heartbreak. It was about the loss of friendship.”
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Taylor Swift’s "Style" — Harry Styles
Swift didn’t even pretend Harry Styles had no part in inspiring "Style." "We should’ve just called it 'I'm Not Even Sorry,'" she told Rolling Stone. Come to think of it, Harry does have that "long hair, slicked back, white t-shirt" vibe.
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Taylor Swift’s "Dear John" — John Mayer
Another Swift song, “Dear John,” from her 2010 album Speak Now, is rumored to be dedicated to John Mayer. “Don’t you think I was too young to be messed with?” she croons on the track.
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John Mayer’s "Paper Dolls" — Taylor Swift
John Mayer has never fully admitted that he fired back with “Paper Dolls” after Swift’s “Dear John,” and yet, speculation continues. He has said, however, that he was not a fan of “Dear John.”
"I will say as a songwriter that I think it's kind of cheap songwriting," he told Rolling Stone in 2012. "I know she's the biggest thing in the world, and I'm not trying to sink anybody's ship, but I think it's abusing your talent to rub your hands together and go, 'Wait till he gets a load of this!' That's bulls--t."
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John Mayer’s "Your Body is a Wonderland" — Jennifer Love Hewitt
It’s widely rumored that “Your Body Is a Wonderland” is an ode to Jennifer Love Hewitt, but the actress wouldn’t bite in an interview EW did with her in 2007. “My body is far from a wonderland,” she said. “My body is more like a pawnshop. There’s a lot of interesting things put together, and if you look closely you’d probably be excited, but at first glance, not so much.”
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John Lennon’s "How Do You Sleep?" — Paul McCartney
Urban legend associates John Lennon’s “How Do You Sleep?” with Paul McCartney, although Lennon insisted that it was really about himself in his film, Imagine. The song was released in 1971, after the historic breakup of the Beatles and after Paul McCartney released Ram, which Lennon believed included several slights toward himself.
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Gwen Stefani’s "Hollaback Girl" — Courtney Love
Evidently, Love once called Stefani a "cheerleader" in the press, which — to the public eye — sparked Stefani’s hit response, “Hollaback Girl.” It may also have something to do with the fact that Love claimed to have slept with Gavin Rossdale, Stefani’s then-husband, before their relationship took off. "I kind of envisioned that me and Gavin Rossdale would end up on the French Riviera, like, taking tennis lessons and f---ing our respective polo teachers," Love told ABC back in 2013. B-A-N-A-N-A-S.
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Nirvana’s "Heart Shaped Box" — Courtney Love
Courtney Love has been the muse for a few songs, but the most famous one may be Nirvana’s “Heart-Shaped Box” from husband Kurt Cobain. When Lana Del Rey covered the Nirvana hit in 2012, Love took to Twitter to inform the singer of what the song is really about. “You do know that song is about my vagina right?” she wrote. “On top of which some of the lyrics about my vagina I contributed. So umm next time you sing it, think about my vagina will you?”
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Selena Gomez's “The Heart Wants What It Wants” — Justin Bieber
Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber's on-again, off-again relationship was given the break-up song treatment by Gomez with 2014's "The Heart Wants What It Wants."
"Everybody wants to form their own opinions anyway. I think the biggest problem I had this year -- even with [Justin] and on his side -- is identity," Gomez told Ryan Seacrest after the song was released. "I was trying to figure out what I’m doing, and that was the first time I was constantly being kicked down for doing that. When I didn’t know, I just wanted to say, ‘This is what I want, this is where I am in my professional life, things changed in my personal life, things changed in my heart -- everything.’ And people just thought, ‘All right, this is what we think.’ And yeah, I made some decisions that weren’t great as well, and so did he and that’s why we went through all that to only make us better. And he has heard [the song] and he has seen the video, and it’s something that I feel like girls need hear, and it’s something I’m willing to share with people.”
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Amy Winehouse’s "Me and Mr. Jones" — Nas
Nas and Winehouse’s relationship is well-documented, and the two frequently collaborated on music. Nas’ last name is Jones, and the lyrics suggest that Winehouse wasn’t letting anyone come between their relationship. In 2012, the Amy Winehouse Foundation honored Nas at the Amy Winehouse Inspiration and Award Gala. “She was like a little sister to me,” said Nas in a press release.
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Elton John’s "Candle in the Wind" — Marilyn Monroe
The subject of one of Elton John’s most well-known songs is obvious from the get-go, with the opening lines of "Goodbye Norma Jean." John was inspired by the short yet illustrious life of starlet Marilyn Monroe when writing "Candle in the Wind," but later rewrote the song for Princess Diana after her death in 1997.
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Billy Joel’s "Uptown Girl" — Elle Macpherson/Christie Brinkley
Billy Joel’s pop song about a “backstreet guy” yearning to date a high-class woman is semi-autobiographical. At the time, Joel was dating supermodel Elle Macpherson, and the singer said that the song was about her at first -- but it also became about his future wife, and the star of the track's music video, Christie Brinkley.
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Kanye West's “Blame Game” — Amber Rose
“Blame Game” was one of the most notable songs from My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy for featuring comedian Chris Rock, but it also stood out for being an apparently not-so-veiled attack on West's ex-girlfriend Amber Rose. The song disparages an ex who’s now dating a new man, supposedly also taking jabs at Rose's then-boyfriend Wiz Khalifa.
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Aerosmith’s "Dude Looks Like a Lady" — Vince Neil
Fun with '80s hair: Aerosmith singer Steven Tyler saw a person at the bar with long blonde hair and assumed it was a woman. It wasn't: Tyler actually apparently saw Mötley Crüe frontman Vince Neil. Thus, a song was born.
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Miley Cyrus' “7 Things” — Nick Jonas
Still in her Disney days, Cyrus predicted listicle culture by unleashing a countdown of things she hated about a certain ex-boyfriend. Cyrus wasn’t going to reveal which ex the song was about, but inadvertently made it clear by sporting a diabetes necklace in the video. The director said the necklace was given to her by the song’s subject, which seemed to point to Nick Jonas, who has Type 1 diabetes and became a spokesperson for the illness.
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N.W.A.’s "Message to B.A." — Ice Cube
Ice Cube got his start as a part of the rap collective N.W.A., but when he left the group in the late ‘80s, the remaining members weren’t happy. Their first full-length release after Ice Cube’s departure features numerous digs at their former member. Most scathing was the interlude “A Message to B.A.,” which refers to Cube as Benedict Arnold and lists various threats to him. Cube blasted back with his own diss track, "No Vaseline."
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Coldplay's “Fix You” — Gwyneth Paltrow
Before the “conscious uncoupling,” Chris Martin was inspired by then-wife Gwyneth Paltrow to write one of Coldplay’s most famous songs. After the death of Paltrow’s father, Martin wrote “Fix You” as a testament to his devotion to the Oscar-winning actress.
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Mariah Carey's “Obsessed” — Eminem
The feud between pop star Mariah Carey and rapper Eminem has been going on for years. Eminem continually claims that the two once dated, which Carey continually denies. Her song and video for “Obsessed” was rumored to be a dig at Eminem’s constant assertions. Carey even dressed up like Eminem to stalk herself in the music video.