Radio stations have long been saturated with the kind of generalized "ooh, baby" love songs that could essentially be applied to anyone (see: "I saw your face in a crowded place") — which makes sense from a marketing standpoint, as it allows each fan to believe that, say, Zayn Malik and his product-saturated pompadour are singing for us and us alone. Meanwhile, however, we also have a seemingly unquenchable thirst for details of pop sensations' actual beaus — if only, perhaps, so we can ritually burn magazine cut-outs of them. So when a young acoustic-slinging singer-songwriter like Ed Sheeran comes out with a track like "Don't," which describes, in painstaking specifics, his ill-faring tryst with a young lass — and especially when he drops in the scintillating detail that the two "make money the same way," a.k.a., she is also a touring musician of some stature — the entire Internet is bound to explode with the same interrobang-laced question: Who could it be?!
Because the two have toured together, and/or perhaps because she's written a confessional ditty or two in her day, public imagination immediately jumped to Taylor Swift. However, in an interview with Parade, Sheeran claimed "Don't" is not about Swift and insisted for the hundredth time that the two are just friends. Really though, guys, this one was kind of a no-brainer: "It's not like we were both on tour," he chides his betraying lady in the lyrics, when it's clear that he and Swift were.
Still, Sheeran also admits to Parade that the song is "about someone well known" — leaving us to head-scratch and Tumblr-scan another day. In that spirit, herein lies some wild speculation as to who this mystery woman of the song below might be (the best version, by far, live at BBC Radio 1 with a looping machine — check it):
According to various gossip blogs and those who follow them — as well as the Parade article itself, in a subsequent parenthetical — Goulding is considered the "Don't" frontrunner. Indeed, a Hollywood Life headline from this past April goes so far as to state, "Ed Sheeran’s New Song Reveals Ellie Goulding Cheated With Niall Horan," as if it were already proven. Sheeran and Goulding did reportedly date, at least in/around the 2013 VMAs, at which they were spotted canoodling. Indeed, the timeline fits — plus, Goulding does strike one as the type of girl who would proposition a dude with "a lemon and a bottle of gin," right? The Niall thing, though, has yet to be explained. Still, there are no givens at this point. It could also totally be...
In a 2012 article on FanShare, Sheeran recalled the early days of his career, in which he and Jessie J would perform on the same bill, "doing shows ... where there'd be 30 people in the audience." That level of "started from the bottom"-style camaraderie is bound to lead to a pretty strong bond — and maybe even a romantic one? After all, Sheeran's song mentions his ladyfriend "singing out Aretha, all over the track like a feature," a timbre J's soulful voice certainly hits (okay, maybe not in "Do It Like a Dude," but elsewhere, surely). Then again, his other lyrics are pretty set against us: "I met this girl late last year" the song begins. Sigh. It'd be sweet, though, right?
About a year ago, reportedly fed up with Justin Bieber following their widely publicized split, Selena Gomez was rumored to be mid-liaison with Sheeran — who, though he denied it, admitted he "wouldn't complain" were the twain ever to actually meet. Still, maybe it's all the Disneyfied marketing, but I personally find it difficult to believe that Gomez is the brash temptress described in his lyrics. This theory, too, looks like a dead end.
Instead, I'd like to focus on the other face in the above picture — that of 1D frontman Harry Styles. Because he certainly is brash, adulterous, seems like the type to "drink away the days with a take-away pizza." Sure, there's the small problem of pronouns, but artists have been employing similar tactics for centuries (see: Shakespeare) — and "she" or no, Styles is certainly in the picture. Literally: Here he is again, sidling up to Sheeran and Goulding.
Guys, I'm calling it. "Don't" is totally about...
Cue the slashfic.