From burning pictures to embracing bad blood...
2008 MTV Video Music Awards - Arrivals
Credit: Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

Taylor Swift has never been afraid to address some pretty messy breakups in her lyrics. But over the course of her career, she's expanded her lyrical content to shade those who publicly feud with her, those who've wronged her, and those who shame others for no justifiable reason.

With over 200 Swift songs to go through, EW looks back on some of her best kiss-off anthems.

“Picture to Burn”

Swift started early in warning the boys not to mess with her. In the fourth single from her 2008 eponymous debut album, the singer literally burns photos of her ex-boyfriend. Check out this savage lyric: "I'm just sitting here, planning my revenge/There's nothing stopping me/From going out with all of your best friends/And if you come around saying sorry to me/My daddy's gonna show you how sorry you'll be."

"Cold as You"

We can all learn a lesson from this one. Swift picks the wrong guy and realizes he's not so great — but maybe she's partly to blame since she made excuses for him for so long. However, in the end, she realizes she's never been as cold as him. Burn?

"Forever & Always"

"Did I say something way too honest?/Made you run and hide/Like a scared little boy?" Enough said. See Swift's SNL monologue song for more details. Hey, Joe! She's doing real well.

“White Horse”

Swift's the victim of being naïve and new to love in this one. "Stupid girl, I should have known, I should have known," she says, berating herself. She ultimately comes to the realization that fairy-tales aren't real, but she does learn a valuable lesson about giving players a second chance. Onward and upward!

“You’re Not Sorry”

Maybe she didn't quite have it cracked. Here's another ditty about giving out too many chances, dealing with disappointment, and calling out the perpetrator.

“Dear John”

"Dear John, I see it all, now it was wrong/Don't you think 19 is too young to be played by your dark twisted games, when I loved you so?" crooned Swift in her 2010 song allegedly about John Mayer. He later told Rolling Stone the song lyrics left him feeling "really humiliated" and that he "didn't deserve it."


Please welcome to the stage, passive aggression. This one is a truly great takedown. Swift details all the ways in which the culprit is so terribly mean, but, in doing so, kinda-sorta comes across that way herself. Then she delves into a heavily detailed revenge fantasy where she's living it up in a big city and her former crush is yelling about football in a dive bar and, you guessed it, is still mean. Turns out Swift realized pretty quickly that she's more or less a pro when it comes to revenge. Speaking of…

“Better Than Revenge”

It's probably wise if we all bear in mind there's nothing Swift does "Better Than Revenge." She spells it out for us in this album track from Speak Now. Swift tells off a woman for stealing her boyfriend — but warns the unnamed offender she has underestimated Swift herself. This line is particularly scathing: "She's an actress, whoa/But she's better known for the things that she does/On the mattress, whoa" Ouch. The song also starts with: "Now go stand in the corner and think about what you did." If that's not a good, old-fashioned telling-off, we don't know what is.

“I Knew You Were Trouble”

This one could be more of a self-rebuke for falling for the bad guy she saw coming than pointing the finger at others. Still, that troublemaker doesn't get off without some reproach. Just look at this line: "And the saddest fear comes creeping in/That you never loved me, or her, or anyone, or anything." Eek, sounds like Swift was lucky to leave this unfeeling dude behind.

"We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together"

If there's one sure-fire way to drive home a message, it's repeating it again, and again, and again. If the man on the other side of this relationship (rumored to be Jake Gyllenhaal) had any doubts about its status, he sure as heck got the message by the end of these three minutes and 12 seconds. They are never, ever, ever, ever getting back together, like, ever.

“Shake It Off”

Haters gonna hate. Swift knows that refrain better than anyone, but the best way to clap back at those naysayers is to let it go and rise above, and that's just what she did with the lead single from the excellent 1989.

“Blank Space”

Taking down popular opinion and media speculation has rarely been achieved so effectively (or catchily) than in Swift's "Blank Space." Turning every rumor and assumption made about her love life into a satire with herself at the center, Swift truly triumphed with this 1989 single, not only by putting the press in their place and reclaiming that particular narrative, but also by creating — arguably — her best song to date.

“Bad Blood”

Do. Not. Cross. Swift. This may be a lesson Kim Kardashian and Kanye West eventually learned and we can't say there wasn't a fair warning. "Bad Blood" sees Swift team up with pretty much every other woman in Hollywood to spell out what happens if you steal her backup dancers betray her friendship.

"All You Had to Do Was Stay"

It was simple: All he had to do was stay. He didn't and now he needs to know it's his fault things ended. Who among us hasn't wanted to say something similar to an ex?

“New Romantics”

"People like you always want back the love they gave away," but you can't have it, okay? Swift stands up for all of us who've had to deal with those crawler-backers and stays strong in her resolve to not be re-wooed.

"Look What You Made Me Do"

"The old Taylor can't come to the phone right now. Why? Oh...'cause she's dead!" Rising from the grave, Swift debuted her ultimate tell-off song to set the venomous tone for her sixth studio album, Reputation, and sings about what she's best at: revenge. Alongside this track are Swift's meta visuals that call back to her being labeled a "snake;" her feuds with Katy Perry, Kim Kardashian, and Kanye West; and the media's mixed portrayals of her. Let's just say, we wouldn't want to be on her list of names.

"This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things"

Referring to her shady phone call with West, Swift sings: "And therein lies the issue, friends don't try to trick you/Get you on the phone and mind-twist you/And so I took an axe to a mended fence." Take it from Taylor and start thinking of which parasitic, toxic relationships in your life you'd also want to chop off.

"The Man"

In this track, Swift calls out the double standards of being a female entertainer compared to her male counterparts and gives one big "f--- you" to the patriarchy.

"You Need to Calm Down"

Swift manages to tell off homophobic bigots in a gleeful track while also presenting a more cheerful, rainbow-paletted music video — packed with cameos of LGBTQ+ public figures.

"Vigilante S---"

In this Billie Eilish-esque ditty from Midnights — Swift's 10th studio album — the record-breaking musician sings about getting revenge on an enemy, who many fans speculate to be Scooter Braun, the man who bought her whole music catalog in 2019. She's on her vigilante s---, again, and we're not mad about it.

1989 (Music)
2015 Ryan Adams album covering Taylor Swift
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