When Swift was working on her third studio album, she had been linked to Joe Jonas, Taylor Lautner and John Mayer. Her relationship with her Valentine’s Day costar has been long rumored to be the inspiration behind the album’s second single.
Swift and Lautner dated for several months in the fall of 2009, calling it quits that December. “He liked her more than she liked him. He went everywhere he could to see her, but she didn’t travel much to see him,” a source told Us Weekly at the time. “They decided they were better as friends.”
When the musician released Speak Now in October 2010, she explained to Yahoo! Music that “Back to December” had a different message than her other breakup anthems.
“Up until now, I haven’t really felt like I really needed to apologize to someone,” she admitted at the time. “It’s just necessary.”
In the track, Swift sings, “You gave me roses and I left them there to die / So this is me swallowin’ my pride / Standin’ in front of you sayin’ I’m sorry for that night / And I go back to December all the time.”
The lyrics also address Lautner’s “tan skin” and “sweet smile,” their “beautiful times” in the summer of 2009 and realizing she “loved” him that fall.
“It’s almost word-for-word. It is a song and a conversation that needed to happen because I don’t want to hurt people. If you unintentionally do so, you’ve got to make that better,” Swift told USA Today at the time of the track. “I feel so comfortable singing about these details and these relationships and listing times, dates, details, names. But when it comes to an interview and they say, ‘Are you dating this person?’ or ‘Did you date this person?’ or ‘What’s your current relationship status?’ I suddenly feel very shy.”
Lautner, for his part, was forced to address the song when his Scream Queens costar Lea Michele brought it up during a Facebook Live. “Didn’t she write a song about you?” the Glee alum asked in August 2016.
“That’s what she does,” he replied. “She writes songs.”
Michele pushed harder, asking, “I think it’s something about a sweater and a hat, right? … It’s like, your hat in December!”
Lautner gave in and said, “It’s called ‘Back to December.’”
Scroll through to revisit Swift and Lautner’s timeline: