The 45-year-old singer-songwriter played the tune during a concert at Golden 1 Center in Sacramento, California, on Saturday, April 8. The performance was part of his ongoing solo tour, which kicked off last month.
The “Gravity” musician then conceded, “There’s something about it that’s a little bitchy,” and called out his own song for having “sarcastic bitch vibes.”
Released as the lead single for Mayer’s sixth studio album, Paradise Valley, “Paper Doll” has long been rumored to be a musical response to Swift’s 2010 track “Dear John.” Although neither artist has ever confirmed the inspiration for their respective tunes, fans have pointed out lyrical similarities.
“You paint me a blue sky and go back and turn it to rain,” Swift, 33, sings in the ballad, which is listed as the fifth track on her album Speak Now.
Mayer seemingly replied to the “Anti-Hero” musician with his songwriting, crooning, “And if those angel wings don’t fly, someone’s gonna paint you another sky.”
Some fans have also interpreted the “Paper Doll” refrain as a nod to Swift’s 2012 song “22.” The Dead & Company musician sings: “You’re like 22 girls in one and none of them know what they’re running from.”
“Fame factored into their split,” a source exclusively told Us of Swift and the Conversations With Friends actor, 32, on Tuesday, April 11. “Joe is very shy and never liked all of the attention that came with dating one of the most popular singers in the world.”
The insider added that Alwyn never “blamed” the Grammy winner for her popularity. “He just didn’t like having to be on all the time,” the source explained.
Swift — who is currently on her Eras tour — was linked to Mayer in 2009 and 2010 after the duo collaborated on the “New Light” musician’s single “Half of My Heart.” By February 2010, their rumored flame had fizzled out.
Although neither of the singers has ever publicly addressed their relationship, Mayer told Rolling Stone in 2012 that he was “humiliated” by the “Dear John” lyrics, calling it “cheap songwriting.”
The Connecticut native previously defended “Paper Doll” via Instagram Live in March 2019, saying that the track “didn’t get the credit it deserves” due to the speculation surrounding its origin story.
“One of the tenets of being a singer-songwriter … is: We don’t talk about who the songs are either inspired by or reference,” he said at the time. “And when ‘Paper Doll’ came out, 100 percent of the people believed it was about somebody and the person that they thought it was about brought a certain amount of a superficial pop culture back and forth.”
Swift, for her part, has been outspoken about receiving disproportionate criticism for penning songs about her exes compared to her male contemporaries.
“You’re going to have people who are going to say, ‘Oh, you know, like, she just writes songs about her ex-boyfriends.’ And I think, frankly, that’s a very sexist angle to take,” she said during an October 2014 appearance on the Australian radio show Jules, Merrick & Sophie. “No one says that about Ed Sheeran. No one says that about Bruno Mars. They’re all writing songs about their exes, their current girlfriends, their love life, and no one raises the red flag there.”