Her new sound had been billed as "purposeful pop," so who could have guessed that her new album would actually be mostly about her private life? It feels to me like there are a whole lot of Witness lyrics that are about John Mayer, or that sound like they could be referencing John Mayer, and maybe that's a good thing. If you've listened to the more obviously political tracks on the album like "Chained To The Rhythm," you'll find that the lyrics for these songs are too vague to have the same bite as other high-profile works that have taken on post-Trump America, from A Tribe Called Quest's "We The People" to YG's collaboration with G-Eazy and Macklemore "FDT (F*ck Donald Trump) Part 2."
But that's OK. Perry has always been at her strongest as a star handling interior life — what it feels like to be a teenager, the unbridled joy of a Friday night when you're young and restless — and now she adds heartbreak to her canon. But why should these songs be about Mayer as opposed to Russell Brand or Orlando Bloom? Given that the "Firework" singer claims she and Brand haven't spoken since he texted her telling her they would be getting divorced on December 31, 2011, it seems unlikely she'd look so far to the past for inspiration for her album. Meanwhile, since Bloom and Perry decided to take some space from one another in March this year, it seems unlikely the bulk of the heartbroken songs would have been written so shortly before the record's release. So Mayer it is.
1"Roll Eyes At Highs, Cheers In The Lows, And Stay In The Flow, O-O-O"
If there's one thing that defined the couple's relationship, it was its on-again, off-again vibe. In the year and a half they were together, they allegedly broke up three times: in August 2012, in March 2013 and in February 2014. This lyric, from the album's opening track, "Witness," feels like a nod to a coupling that sounded like it was more rollercoaster than relationship.
2"Saw Your Picture On Accident/Your Face Has Changed/The Lines Are Sinking In"
Could these lines from "Miss You More" be about Mayer? Given the fact that they've been separated for three years, presumably she can see the passing of time since they last were a couple in his face.
3"I Pressed Play, I Shouldn't Have/Congratulations"
This line, from the same song, suggests the person she's yearning for is a recording artist like her. And, well, like Mayer. This could be a reference to "Still Feel Like Your Man," a song he released in April 2017 and acknowledged was inspired by Perry.
4"But Do You Ever Wonder What We Could Have Been?"
Given the fact that they allegedly broke up and reconciled multiple times, it feels tempting to apply this line, also from "Miss You More" to the two musicians' relationship. If the reports were true, they clearly did often wonder about their potential as a couple, even when apart.
5"But Your Mind Plays Tricks With Distance / Always Makes Things Feel So Unfinished"
The "Your Body Is A Wonderland" singer has made no secret of the fact that he's still thinking about Perry, telling The New York Times when asked if "Still Feel Like Your Man" was about the 32-year-old, "Who else would I be thinking about?" But given all the times they've allegedly split up, it does suggest that his preoccupation with their relationship works better in his head than in reality, which lines up with this "Miss You More" line.
6"I Miss You More Than I Loved You"
I mean. They are potentially still penning songs about each other, which suggests they miss each other. But, at least according to media reports, they kept breaking up every few months. If this is true, surely this heartbreaking "Miss You More" line has to be about her dalliance with the "XO" singer.
7"I Was Fine Before I Met You"
Could the moving opening line from "Power" be addressed to Mayer? E! Online claims that the California girl met him the night before she first met Russell Brand in 2009 — if their version of events if correct, given that her romances seemed to be less dramatic (no marriages, no alleged multiple split ups and reconciliations) up until this point, this would line up with the claim.
8"Truth Is That I Lost Myself Inside You"
In July 2014, when Cosmopolitan asked her about her relationships with Brand and Mayer, she stated:
While she later emphasized she was in a good place, the description of the period following those two relationships as going "through all this sh*t" and "through the mud" seems clear. This was a difficult time for the star. Later in the interview, she said of Mayer specifically "There's no bad blood, but I'm sure there will be inspired songs." Like in this line in "Power," right?
9"You Can't Clip My Wings, Can't Wilt My Flowers"
This "Power" line seems to echo another Mayer-specific moment in the same interview, when she said: "I'm living in the now and not fantasizing about the future or [being] torn up about the past. I'm super Eckhart Tolle. I have a lot of respect for [John] still, and I know it goes both ways." She's had big feelings for him, but she's staying strong.
10"Sometimes I Swear I Pass Your SUV On Sunset Boulevard"
The 32-year-old begins "Save As Draft" seemingly addressing a man she loved. She states "I remember when you used to be my every other thought" and continues "But now my calendar's so full, it's easier to move on." While this could feasibly apply to anyone, there's literally a YouTube video of Mayer being pulled over on Sunset Boulevard in an SUV, and we know he likes buying big vehicles.
11"You Don't Have To Subtweet Me"
John here. Katy can't write because she's getting over Stevie Nicks dedicating Landslide to us at the Fleetwood Mac concert. Unforgettable.— KATY PERRY (@katyperry) December 31, 2013
The pair are both intensely active on Twitter, after all... while Orlando Bloom doesn't have an account. Sure, it could be directed at her ex-husband who also has an account, but, given they ended over five years ago, it's hard to believe he's the inspiration for this "Save As Draft" line.
12"But All's Been Said And Done, Will We Ever Really Close This Case?"
Well, I've already covered this ground. You know the drill implied by this "Save As Draft" lyric: the media alleges they've broken up and got back together multiple times (see above), Mayer himself still, in 2017, publicly confesses that he writes love songs about her. I kind of wish these crazy kids could make peace with it being over.
13"But What Good Will It Do To Reopen The Wound? / So I Take A Deep Breath And I Save As Draft "
You know what's worse than composing flirty email drafts to that one ex? Writing a song about doing so, so that now he knows you're still thinking about him. This is basically the same thing.
If you've even a scrap of affection for either of these singers, you're probably with me in rooting for them both to move on. Sadly, given that both of their 2017 releases have contained lyrics which either are (Mayer's 'fessed up, after all) or could be about each other, it looks like we're due another reunion.