Some songs were quite obviously written as part of a well-publicized celebrity feud (Taylor Swift's “Bad Blood” almost certainly calls out Katy Perry, for instance). But then there are songs that are secretly about other stars. It's not surprising that there are so many - musicians hang out with other famous people and write songs about what they know. But once you learn who the lyrics are really about, the songs about other celebrities take on a whole new meaning.
A number of these songs about famous people are not-so-subtle diss tracks, like "Cry Me a River" by Justin Timberlake or "Obsessed" by Mariah Carey, which is a musical eye roll directed at Eminem. Others are tender love songs – try to listen to Coldplay's "Fix You" without tearing up after you learn its real message. Just don't expect to see any songs about Taylor Swift here. She's had enough to earn her own list.
Aerosmith's "Dude (Looks Like A Lady)" has a very specific origin story. In an interview with SongFacts, co-writer Desmond Child said that lead singer Steven Tyler showed him a song he was working on called "Cruisin' For The Ladies." Child thought it was a boring title and wasn't into it:
And then Steven volunteered, sheepishly, and said that when he first wrote the melody he was singing "Dude Looks like a Lady"... He got the idea because they had gone to a bar and had seen a girl at the end of the bar with ginormous blonde rock hair, and the girl turned around and it ended up being Vince Neil from Motley Crue. So then they started making fun of him and started saying, "That dude looks like a lady, dude looks like a lady, dude looks like a lady." So that's how that was born.
In an interview with Seventeen magazine, Courtney Love reportedly said, "Being famous is just like being in high school. But I'm not interested in being the cheerleader. I'm not interested in being Gwen Stefani. She's the cheerleader, and I'm out in the smoker shed."
Stefani told NME that this comment inspired her to write "Hollaback Girl":
Y'know, someone one time called me a cheerleader, negatively, and I’ve never been a cheerleader. So I was like, ‘Okay, f*ck you! You want me to be a cheerleader? Well, I will be one then. And I’ll rule the whole world, just you watch me.’
Artist: Gwen Stefani
"Like A Rolling Stone" is essentially six minutes of Bob Dylan throwing shade at some unnamed another person. Although it does not appear to be 100% confirmed, it's widely believed that the song is chiefly aimed at actress and model Edie Sedgwick. She was a former debutante, and lines like "Once upon a time you dressed so fine, threw the bums a dime in your prime, didn't you?" seem to reflect that.
Specifically, Dylan was apparently upset that Sedgwick had ditched his crowd to hang out in the art world of Andy Warhol. Dylan reportedly believed Warhol was mistreating her, and the lines, "Ain't it hard when you discover that he really wasn't where it's at, after he took from you everything he could steal," might be aimed at Warhol.
Artist: Bob Dylan
Since Billy Joel was dating supermodel Christie Brinkley at the time of the release of "Uptown Girl," it was only natural to assume that's who the song was about. Brinkley even appeared in the music video. However, in an interview with Howard Stern, Billy Joel suggested he was first inspired to write "Uptown Girl" while dating another supermodel, Elle Macpherson. But the song was actually about a number of women and originally titled "Uptown Girls."
Artist: Billy Joel