The Meaning Behind Taylor Swift's "Better Than Revenge" Lyrics, and Why She Changed Them

EAST RUTHERFORD, NEW JERSEY - MAY 27: EDITORIAL USE ONLY Taylor Swift performs onstage during
Getty/ Kevin Mazur
Getty/ Kevin Mazur

It's been a Taylor Swift takeover this year. Apart from taking over the world with her Eras Tour — which is now a concert film — "Cruel Summer" single, and making headlines with her high-profile romances, Swift also returned with another rerecorded album: "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)." The record dropped on July 7 — 13 years after Swift released the original version of "Speak Now" in 2010. Swift is also set to release her rerecorded "1989 (Taylor's Version)" album on Oct. 27.

In a May 5 Instagram post, Swift described "Speak Now" as a project full of "brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions, and wild wistfulness." Notably, it's rumored to include lyrics referencing some of Swift's most famous exes.

"Better Than Revenge" — which is speculated to be about Joe Jonas — is considered to be one of the pop star's most unfiltered tracks since it's believed to not only allude to the pair's messy breakup but also Jonas's old flame Camilla Belle. So, what's the story behind the song? Let's unpack the rumored meaning behind "Better Than Revenge."

What's the Meaning Behind "Better Than Revenge"?

In "Better Than Revenge," Swift recalls an ex-boyfriend who suddenly broke up with her and then got into a new relationship right afterward. Swift says she "never" saw the breakup coming and didn't "suspect" her lover was developing feelings for someone new behind her back.

In the lyrics, she partially blames their split on her ex's new girlfriend. "She came along, got him alone, and let's hear the applause," Swift sings on the track. "She took him faster than you can say 'sabotage.'" As a form of "revenge," Swift shades the woman throughout her song with brutal lyrics like, "She's not a saint and she's not what you think."

Who Is "Better Than Revenge" About?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - NOVEMBER 15: Joe Jonas attends the Los Angeles Premiere Of Sony Pictures'
Getty | Albert L. Ortega

While Swift never names her ex-boyfriend or his girlfriend at the time in her song, "Better Than Revenge" is believed to be about Jonas and Belle. After Swift and Jonas briefly dated from July to October 2008, the "Not Alone" singer moved on with Belle later that year.

In "Better Than Revenge," Swift mentions her ex moved on with an actress who once attended a prep school, so because Belle fit both descriptions, fans naturally assumed she was talking about the "Carter" star.

To add to the theory, Belle starred in the Jonas Brothers's "Lovebug" music video, which was released around the time of Swift and Jonas's breakup in October 2008.

Did Joe Jonas and Camilla Belle Respond to the "Better Than Revenge" Rumors?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 22:     Camilla Belle attends the The Last Ship Opening Night Performance held at Ahmanson Theatre on January 22, 2020 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jean Baptiste Lacroix/Getty Images)
Getty | Jean Baptiste Lacroix

According to People, Jonas alluded to the rumors that he blindsided Swift in a November 2008 MySpace post. "Several things I will state with all my heart. I never cheated on a girlfriend. It might make someone feel better to assume or imply I have been unfaithful but it is simply not true," he wrote. "Maybe there were reasons for a breakup. Maybe the heart moved on. Perhaps feelings changed. I am truly saddened that anything would potentially cause you to think less of me."

Years after Jonas and Belle broke up, the latter seemingly responded to "Better Than Revenge" by seemingly shading Swift in 2016. In the midst of Swift and Kanye West's reignited feud that year, Belle posted a cryptic quote on her Instagram and Twitter that reportedly read, "No need for revenge. Just sit back & wait. Those who hurt you will eventually screw up themselves & if you're lucky, God will let you watch."

Why Did Taylor Swift Change Her "Better Than Revenge" Lyrics?

"Speak Now (Taylor's Version)" features an updated version of "Better Than Revenge" with new lyrics in the song's chorus.

In the original song, Swift sings, "She's an actress, whoa. She's better known for the things that she does on the mattress, whoa." However, in the new version, Swift swaps the final line for, "She's an actress, whoa. He was a moth to the flame. She was holding the matches, whoa."

While Swift hasn't explained the meaning behind the change, it could be due to the fact that the original lyrics were criticized for being misogynistic. In a 2014 interview with The Guardian, Swift expressed regret over centering "Better Than Revenge" around her ex-boyfriend's new girlfriend rather than the guy himself. "I was 18 when I wrote that," she told the publication. "That's the age you are when you think someone can actually take your boyfriend. Then you grow up and realize no one [can] take someone from you if they don't want to leave."

While announcing "Speak Now (Taylor's Version)"'s release on X (formerly Twitter) back in May, Swift noted that the album's self-written songs that "came from this time in my life were marked by their brutal honesty, unfiltered diaristic confessions, and wild wistfulness."

Where Is Camilla Belle Now?

In 2022, Belle starred in the Tubi original film "10 Truths About Love," as well as the Netflix movie "Carter." She's also appeared in TV series like "Dollface" and "Law & Order: Organized Crime." As a member of SAG-AFTRA, Belle also picketed during the actors' strike this past summer, per several Instagram posts.